Foggy River Boys (also called Marksmen) (1954-1961)
Around 1950, the Jordanaires Quartet, a gospel group at the time, used the name “Foggy River Boys” when they made secular recordings. By late 1952, brothers Bill and Monty Matthews, two founding members of the Jordanaires, had left the quartet. The remaining Jordanaires operated under the Foggy River Boys name until they were contractually allowed to call themselves Jordanaires around mid-1953.
When the Matthews brothers organized another gospel quartet, they again used the name “Foggy River Boys.” Red Foley, who was a top country performer at the time, left the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and moved to Springfield, MO in 1954 to help organize the Ozark Jubilee television show. The Matthews brothers had worked with Foley in Nashville while prior to and during their time with the Jordanaires. Their new Foggy River Boys appeared as guests on Foley’s radio program and as regular cast members on his Ozark Jubilee which was broadcasted both on radio and television. When the Ozark Jubilee began its run on nationwide TV on the ABC network in January 1955, the members of the Foggy River Boys were Bill Matthews, tenor and manager; future Statesmen Quartet member Roland (Rosie) Rozell, who alternated with Bill Matthews at tenor; Charlie Hutton, lead; Monty Matthews, baritone; and Warren Holmes, bass. This lineup, along with pianist Bill Hedrick, continued through much of the Ozark Jubilee’s first season on ABC television.
By the end of the first season, Charlie Hodge (formerly with Bill Gaither’s Pathfinders and Elvis Presley’s future long-time sidekick) had come on to sing lead, Don Taylor had become the bass singer and Newman Miller had come on as the pianist. Bill Matthews sang the tenor part when the Foggy River Boys appeared on the Ozark Jubilee television program, but when they were touring with Red Foley’s traveling Ozark Jubilee show, pianist Miller provided the tenor vocals. Around April 1956, Miller left to join the Jubilaires in Houston. He was replaced by Livy Freeman on piano. Former Statesman Earl Terry soon joined the Foggy River Boys.
Not long after Earl Terry joined the Foggy River Boys, original member Bill Matthews left the quartet. At that point, the lineup included Terry at tenor; Hodge at lead; Monty Matthews, baritone; Don Taylor, bass, and Livy Freeman at piano. In February, 1957, they changed their name to “The Marksmen” as they had begun singing more country and popular music. By September 1957, Monty Matthews had left and had been replaced by Les Roberson, who had sung for the Weatherfords, the Statesmen and the Oak Ridge quartets.
George Richardson (later called “George Richey”) was hired to accompany the Marksmen on piano in February, 1958. Within weeks, Hodge left to join the Army. The new lineup had Terry at tenor; Roberson at lead; Richardson at baritone; and Taylor at bass.
When Roberson and Richardson moved on, Jim Hamill came to sing lead and Danny Koker came to sing baritone and accompany the group on piano. Around that time, they changed their name back to the “Foggy River Boys,” but it’s likely that they continued to use “Marksmen” for some venues. By early 1959, the group was operating from Dayton, Ohio.
In late 1959, Earl Terry, who was both the tenor and the group’s manager, retired from full-time quartet music. He turned over the management of the group to Danny Koker. Terry was replaced at tenor by “Little” David Young. When Jim Hamill left around the end of 1959, Bill Crowe joined the group. After Don Taylor left for military service in 1960, they operated for a time as a trio. They moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and after more personnel changes the group disbanded.
The Foggy River Boys/Marksmen were regulars on the Ozark Jubilee and its successors Country Music Jubilee and Jubilee USA from 1955 to 1960. They were seen regularly in millions of households. They made guest appearances on several other network television programs. They served as backup singers for a number of county music stars. They recorded on the Decca, Starday, and Foggy labels.
Some of the other members of the Foggy River Boys/Marksmen included Ron Van Horn, Mack Evans, Charles Yates, and Bob Thacker.
- - - - -
Other Foggy River Boys/Marksmen:
In the late 1940s there was a “hillbilly” duo by the name of “the Foggy River Boys.” They consisted of Luther Higgenbotham and Smiley Smith. Around 1948 they recorded a song titled “The Same Old Rut” that was very similar to some of the rockabilly sounds of the early 1950s.
In the early 1960s there was a country gospel group with a bluegrass-type sound billed as “G.M. Farley and The Foggy River Boys.”
In 1964 there was a Foggy River Boys quartet consisting of Jay Bowman, bass; Hal Tomlinson, manager and baritone; Sherrill Stewart, lead; and Charles Wilson, tenor. They continued the style similar to the Foggy River Boys of the 1950s.
In 1967, after the Foggy River Boys/Marksmen group had disbanded, original Jordanaires lead singer Bob Hubbard organized a quartet and used the name Foggy River Boys. They performed in Branson, Missouri from 1973 through 1993 and made numerous LP recordings.
From 1962-1964 there was a country/western group called Houston Wells and The Marksmen.
Around late 1965 to early 1966, Mack Sanders, owner of several radio stations and a music promoter organized a “Marksmen Quartet” in Wichita, Kansas. The group included former Plainsmen Quartet members Easmon Napier, Thurman Bunch, and Jay Simmons along with radio man Jerry Minshall. Jerry Venable and another former Plainsmen member, Erman Bunch, were also members in the quartet’s short run which ended in 1967 when Sanders gained controlling interest in the name “Plainsmen Quartet” and merged the two into a new Plainsmen Quartet.
Also in 1967 Earl Wheeler organized his “Marksmen Quartet” The quartet continues on today as a bluegrass gospel quartet. Wheeler’s Marksmen have won numerous awards and have made around forty albums.
(Larry Baker, Dave Terry, Ron Holmes, and Newman Miller contributed to this article.)
Foggy River Boys
1954 (Decca Records 29300) Company's Comin'; In The House Of The Lord
1955 (Decca Records 29481) I Wanna Go There; Troubled Rivers
1955 (Decca Records 29631) Glory, Glory, Clear The Road; Yes, I'm Satisfied (Bill Matthews; Charlie Hutton; Monty Matthews; Warren Holmes; Bill Hedrick).
1956 (Decca Records 29796) Inside The Gate; The Devil And His Old Suitcase
195? (C W Hits 338) Without Jesus I Have Nothing; Oh Yes, I'm Saved
1959 (Foggy Records 100) Get Together; How Great Thou Art (Earl Terry; Jim Hamill; Danny Koker; Don Taylor).
1959 (Foggy Records 101) Happy Rhythm; Lead Me Guide Me (Earl Terry; Jim Hamill; Danny Koker; Don Taylor).
1959 (Foggy Records 102) Last Leaf; He's Not Disappointed
1960 (Foggy Records 104) Savior Gently Take Me Home; Something Within
1957 (Starday Records 320) Don't Gamble With My Heart; You Hurt Me