Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Music Man Hugh Ashley

My wife grew up mainly in Harrison, Arkansas, and over the years, especially early in our marriage, I've heard her occasionally mention Ashley's Music Store in Harrison, where she used to go as a teenager and pre-teen to buy records. I don't think she realized, however, that the owner, Hubert Carl “Hugh” Ashley, had a background in music that went far beyond simply owning and operating a record store. I certainly didn't until I did a little research on the man.
Born in 1915 in Searcy County, Arkansas, Ashley wrote and recorded some of the earliest known recordings of Ozarks folk music. As a teenager, he played on early radio stations in the Ozarks as a member of his father’s band, The Ashley Melody Men, and young Hugh wrote most of the group's songs.
In 1929, he became an original cast member of the Beverly Hillbillies radio program, traveling to Los Angeles for two summer seasons. Later, country music hall of famer Jimmie Rodgers would thank Ashley for helping to popularize the style of music that would become known as country.
During the early 1930s, Ashley again left home to write and record music in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for the next decade.
Ashley was drafted into the Army during World War II and served as a sergeant of entertainment in the Special Services branch. Stationed at Letterman's Army Hospital in San Francisco, he provided entertainment to soldiers who had been wounded in the Pacific Theater.
After the war, Ashley and his wife settled in Harrison, where he ran Ashley’s Music Store for many years. During the fifties, while still running the store, he wrote songs for famous country music stars like Red Foley, Brenda Lee, and Jim Reeves.
During the 1970s, Ashley got into local politics, serving as Harrison's mayor and as a member of the city council. In later years, he was active in conversation efforts but continued to run his music store. He died in 2008, but the store stayed open until 2015, when members of his family announced it was closing after almost seventy years in business.

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