'Orange Blossom Boys' by Randy Noles
(Center Stream Pub, 2002) 216 pp. softbound. (comes with a CD) From Florida himself (Orlando), author Noles has put together this interesting book by weaving the lives of two country fiddlers of that state _ Ervin Rouse and Chubby Wise - around the story of the bestknown fiddle tune of our time, the ORANGE BLOSSOM SPECIAL. Though it never fully answers the question of just what part Wise had in the composition of this show piece that paid tribute to a famous New York to Florida passenger train, it does give us a good picture of the lives of Rouse and Wise and the type of life experienced by musical sidemen before and shortly after the second World War. Rouse, who only made a handful of records, was leader of a musical family that roamed the country to eke out a living over several decades, finally being recognized late in his life by Johnny Cash. Chubby Wise's story is fascinating in itself when we are reminded that in addition to being a charter member of the most famous Bluegrass group ever (Bill Monroe's band with Flatt & Scruggs), Wise had a long career with Hank Snow, played with the York Brothers and many other country groups, and was a key member of Connie B. Gay's Washington, DC country music scene. (In the latter capacity he played with Patsy Cline, Jimmy Dean, Roy Clark, the Bluegrass Champs (Stoneman Family) and others in that area including Red Allen and Frank Wakefield.) There are lots of fascinating little facts here, and the book includes a CD that contains the Rouse Brothers original recording of the train classic, along with versions by Benny Martin and several others. The author has a bit of a problem with names, referring to fiddler Tommy Vaden as Varden, Little Roy Lewis as Ray Lewis, and calling early New England fiddle champ Mellie Dunham a woman. But these are minor flaws in a generally well-written and enjoyable book.
- Orange Blossom Boys
- Chubby Wise
- Ervin Rouse