Before Cledus T. Judd or even âWeird Alâ Yankovic, Homer and Jethro made fun of popular songs throughout a 35-year run as a duo that resulted in a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The late Homer Haynes (1920-1971) and Jethro Burns (1920-1989) first joined forces at the age of 16. Tennessee-born talent quickly became radio stars, starting with a stint on Knoxville radio station WNOX. From there they performed on Midwestern Hayride from Cincinnati, Renfro, Renfro Valley Barn Dance from Ky., National Barn Dance from Chicago and on a star-studded program on Springfield, Mo.’s KWTO featuring Chet atkins and the Carter Family.
As a recording act, Homer and Jethro went from a backing band for acts on King Records to full stars for RCA Victor. Famous recordings that poked fun at the duo’s “Thinking Man’s Hillbillies” characters included “(How Much Is) That Hound Dog in the Window”, “Hernando’s Hideaway” and “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyeballs” . Other favorites include the parody “The Battle of New Orleans” “The Battle of Kookamonga” and a send-off of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with the guest singer. June Carter.
Despite taking part in a musical tour with Spike Jones and creating album titles such as Barefoot walks and Songs my mother never sung, Homer and Jethro were really great musicians. Both came from a jazz background, Burns in particular setting the bar high for every mandolin player to follow. For a taste of their more serious material, search for instrumental albums Playing straight and It is not necessarily square.
At the height of their popularity, Homer and Jethro won a Grammy Award (Best Comedic Performance – Musical in 1959 for the Johnny horton– inspired by “The Battle of Kookamonga”) and landed an endorsement deal with Kellogg’s Corn flakes, which introduced viewers to the slogan âOoh, this is corny! “
Haynes, owner of the Fender Stratocaster with serial number 0001, died on August 7, 1971 of a heart attack in Hammond, Indiana. The Chicago suburbs had no idea he was an accomplished recording artist.
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After a short-lived attempt to replace Haynes with Ken Eidson, Burns became an ambassador for the mandolin while also collaborating with Steve goodman and other quick-witted folk and old-time musicians.
Beyond setting the standard for poking fun at Nashville hits and country music stereotypes, Homer and Jethro kept the jolly days of live radio performances on stages as sacred as The Johnny Cash Show until Haynes’ untimely death.