MOUNTAIN GROWN MUSIC • CELEBRATING THE TRADITIONAL MOUNTAIN MUSIC OF HAYWOOD COUNTY NORTH CAROLINA

Mountain Grown Music - traditional mountain music of Haywood County North Carolina
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Jimmy Haynie

A radio personality, guitar player and folk ballad singer, Jimmy Haynie lived a full life of entertaining crowds and sharing his love for music.

Born on Dec. 19, 1924 in Canton, N.C., Haynie caught the music bug quite early. By the time he was 14 years old, he was already playing on Asheville’s WWNC radio station. Though he lost both of his legs to amputation after a train accident, Haynie built a reputation with his beautiful voice and was crowned the nation’s top ballad singer at the 1952 National Folk Festival in Warrenton, W.V. Haynie performed alongside stars such as Conway Twitty, Grampa Jones and Ronnie Milsap. In Cincinnati, he was part of the entertainment group, “Midwestern Hayride,” a TV and radio show which boasted it reached one tenth of America.

Haynie sang favorites like “On Top of Old Smoky” and “Johnson’s Old Gray Mule” and later on in his career, he took his voice to radio and became a popular deejay for the WWIT and WPTL stations in Haywood County. He also emceed the Canton Labor Day and Smoky Mountain Mountain Folk festivals.

Haynie died on Aug. 21, 1987, at the age of 62.

 

If you didn't turn on Jimmy Haynie this morning... you probably didn't turn your radio on!!

from a WWIT advertisement

 

I really revered this man. ... He played anything that had strings on it.

WPTL radio deejay Cliff Hannah

 

He couldn't read a note of music. It's just a gift from God.

Rosa Lee Haynie, Jimmy's wife

 

Jimmy was always a welcomed emcee and ballad singer. In his life, he was available to play when you called on him

Joe Sam Queen, director of the Smoky Mountain Folk Festival

 

To my friend, Jimmy Haynie who showed me (and my kids) how to find gems on this planet.

Werner von Braun, head of NASA, who presented Haynie with one of the first photos of the moon landing. The two went sapphire mining and became good friends.

Jimmy Haynie

Master of the ballad - Jimmy Haynie
By Michael Beadle


Jimmy Haynie's Gibson guitar rests in a quiet corner of his wife's living room.

Decorated with two mother-of-pearl doves on its face, the guitar was a coveted instrument in its prime, though it was nicked during a gig in Hendersonville by Ronnie Milsap.

But now the strings are silent.

Haynie, who died a decade ago in 1987, found national stardom performing ballads and folk songs during the 1950s.
Handsome and blessed with a talented voice, he became a regular personality on radio and television country shows, cut records on Columbia's OK label and entertained Western North Carolina as a radio deejay.

An accomplished singer who played guitar, fiddle, stand-up bass, mandolin and banjo, Haynie was active in the community, performing at Camp Hope, Lake Logan and Pisgah View Ranch.

He also regularly emceed the Canton Labor Day and Smoky Mountain Folk festivals.

Born in Canton on Dec. 19, 1924, and raised in nearby Fiberville during the Great Depression, Haynie caught the music bug early. At 14, he played on Asheville's WWNC radio station.

"He started very young," said Rosa Lee Haynie, his wife of 40 years who lives in Canton. "He started with a mandolin, I think."

But his musical career could very well have ended in a freak accident when Jimmy was 16 years old. He and some friends were jumping over the hitches between train cars one day as a train moved slowly down the tracks. Jimmy slipped, and the oncoming train ran over his legs.
Losing both legs to amputation, Haynie wore prosthetic legs the rest of his life. The heavy prosthetic legs were fastened to a harness, and its tight belt buckle left an impression on his skin, but he never let on about the enduring pain, his wife recalled.

In fact, Haynie would joke to friends about turning up the heat in a car because his feet were freezing.
In many photographs of him performing, Haynie stands grinning and playing a guitar with a pair of crutches propping him.

An avid trout fisherman as well, Haynie would take off his prosthetic legs, wade out into the water—actually floating downstream—and carry his fly-rod in his mouth until he found the right place to fish, his wife explained.
Jimmy met Rose in Hendersonville while on leave from the Georgia Military Academy.

People wondered why she would want to marry a handicapped person, but she had a simple answer: "They've got love just like everybody else."

Haynie may have lost part of himself in the train accident, but he never lost the love for music.

While recovering in the hospital, he'd play an accordion to get the attention of nurses, his wife remembered.
After beginning his singing career playing on radio stations in Western North Carolina, Jimmy was crowned the nation's top ballad singer of 1952-53 at the National Folk Festival in Warrenton, Va.

Playing one of his favorites—On Top of Old Smoky—Haynie found his true love as a balladeer.

"And that's what he enjoyed the most," his wife recalled.
Perhaps he is best remembered for singing Johnson's Old Gray Mule better than anybody could play it, according to Cliff Hannah, who grew up listening to Haynie on the radio and later deejayed alongside him at WPTL.

Hannah remembered Haynie as the greatest of all mountain folk singers and a man born to be an entertainer. At a time when country music was in its heyday, Jimmy could have worked anywhere, but he chose radio, Hannah said.
Haynie performed on radio shows from Opelika, Ala., to Nashville, Tenn., to Cincinnati, Ohio. He played alongside stars such as Conway Twitty and Grandpa Jones. In Cincinnati, he was part of the entertainment group Midwestern Hayride—a TV and radio show that boasted it reached one tenth of America.

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, Haynie was deejaying for two Canton radio stations—WWIT and WPTL—even though he had no previous deejaying experience. Getting up at 4:30 in the morning weekdays, he'd broadcast for a live early morning show.

"He was quite popular on the radio,"said Rose. "He liked to carry on—kid with people."

Haynie never liked reading from a script instead he talked off the top of his head, according to Bill Evans, an accomplished singer and long-time friend of Haynie.
Evans and Haynie double dated after World War II and remained close friends linked by their love for country music.

"It was a pleasure knowing him," Evans said, recalling a visit to see Haynie perform in Cincinnati and being a guest on Haynie's TV show in Asheville.

In his later years, Haynie returned to playing mountain songs with family and friends, enjoying the sing-alongs.
He scribbled down scores of ballads into a book, which his wife now keeps in a desk drawer.

Haynie was much in demand as a musician. His wife recalled how, for the Canton Labor Day festivals, he would go to play at about 10 a.m., come home for a couple of hours for lunch, go back to perform and not come home until midnight. If he got blisters on his fingers, he'd just put a Band-Aid on and keep going, Rose said.

"He always helped out wherever they needed him," she said.

One of his most treasured awards, Rose explained, was a plaque he received for playing during the Christmas holiday season for blind people in Haywood County.

Haynie also received honorary military commissions from the governors of Alabama and Kentucky.

When Jimmy Haynie died on Aug. 21, 1987, after a crippling battle with congestive heart failure, more than 600 people signed in for his funeral visitation.

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