June Webb to be Inducted in the Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame
[LeMars, Iowa] “The prettiest Smokey Mountain boy, sounds pretty modern,” says Bob Everhart, President of the National Traditional Country Music Association, “but back in the days of Roy Acuff, and his kind of music coming from the Smokey Mountain area, most mountain-music bands were made up of males. When June Webb joined the group, Acuff called her the ‘prettiest’ of the Smokey Mountain boys, and it stuck. We’re really happy that we are in a position to install June Webb, who wore that Roy Acuff title so bravely, into America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame this year, in LeMars, Iowa.”
June Webb was born into a musical family in L’Anse, Michigan. At an early age the family moved to Miami, Florida, at which time the parents got June and her siblings (Shirley and Ford) involved in singing, dancing, and playing various musical instruments.
June teamed up with her sister Shirley, when June was only six, and were known as the “Harmony Sweethearts.” They were very successful, and found themselves performing in some of the swankiest hotels and other venues in and around Miami. Being a quiet , private, girl, even at a young age, ‘fame’ was never a pursuit of June. Good country music and good country singing, however, was her goal. By the time she was fifteen her family decided to make the difficult decision to go full time in the entertainment world, but keep the family together and perform as a family. They toured the country, and started being opening acts for a number of Grand Ole Opry stars.
When June emerged as a ‘solo’ act, she had many memorable experiences in show business, not the least of them being signed with Roy Acuff as the group’s lead female singer. She recorded for RCA-Victor in the mid-50’s, and found herself singing on the Grand Ole Opry. She was booked into the top venues of country music, and performed with the top country music stars of the day. Roy Acuff took a special liking to her talent, and signed her to Hickory Records, his own company. This led to her traveling around the world with Acuff’s show, even to Europe, Australia, the Caribbean, and Hawaii. It was at this time that Ms. Webb received Billboard Magazine’s prestigious “Most Promising Female Country Singer of the Year.” award.
Chet Atkins was June’s record producer, and part of the ‘package’ was going on tour with other stars to perform and promote her new records. Some of her fondest memories was opening for Jim Reeves. One of the other opening acts was Don & Phil Everly. She made close friends with the Everlys, and in her own words. “Here’s something you probably don’t know about the Everly Brothers, and ‘Bye Bye Love.’ The song was rejected by over 30 other recording artists, including Elvis Presley, but the Everlys turned it into a 2-million sold hit for Cadence Records.” June was the lucky female to sing that song with the Everlys before it was released. After touring with Jim Reeves, and becoming good friends, June was asked to join Reeves on the “Country Style USA Radio-TV Show,” which was a country music variety show produced by the U.S. Army.
Hank Williams, Sr., did not make his New Year’s Evening Show in Charleston, SC in 1953. An enormous blizzard canceled the show. From there he was to go to Canton, Ohio, the next day, and that’s where his story, and life, ended. Both shows were booked together, utilizing the same performers and opening acts. On the bill with Hank, was Homer & Jethro, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Autry Inman, Red Taylor, Jack & Daniel, and at the top of the list, the Webb Sisters. Buddy Killen was Hank’s bass player, and the legendary steel player was Don Helms. Helms recalls he drove to Charleston on the day of the show, but there was an ice storm in Nashville too, and it took him all day to complete the drive. He pulled up to the auditorium in time to see the other musicians packing up their equipment. “You missed a good one,” he recalls one of the musicians saying, indicating to him that a performance had already taken place. Don then got back in his car and continued driving to Canton, where he learned his friend, Hank Williams, had died in the night. “It capsized me when I heard that Hank had died,” Don said.
Buddy Killen was scheduled to play bass in Hank’s band. An Alabama native living in Nashville, Buddy was on his way to a very successful career in country music, first as a musician and later as a music publisher. In 1952, Buddy was 19 years old. He had already played bass with Hank Williams many times, as well as with other artists. In September of that year, he married 17-year old June Webb. June and her 15-year old sister Shirley, performed as the Webb Sisters, and A. V. Bumford had booked the sisters as part of the Hank Williams Charleston-Canton package. The promoter asked Buddy to drive June and Shirley to the shows, and play bass. To sweeten the deal, Buddy says, the promoter even bought a new set of tires for Killen’s 1951 Pontiac. En route, Buddy and the Webb Sisters encountered icy conditions and freezing rain. “We slid off the road several times,” Buddy recalls of that drive. Arriving at the auditorium at around show time, Buddy recalls seeing the musicians milling around on the sidewalk. He and the girls were told that the show had been cancelled due to the extremely bad weather, so they drove on to Canton, Ohio, only to find that show had been cancelled too. “The weather was so bad, only a few people had even showed up in Charleston,” Buddy said. “It wasn’t the same in Canton.”
June Webb’s life in country music is one of those we seldom get to hear about. She’s a very ‘private’ person, and though she enjoyed her moment in the spotlight, it wasn’t until now that her music has been made available again. Not only will she be inducted into “America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame” during the 36th annual Old Time Country Music Festival, in LeMars, Iowa, on September 3, Main Stage, CD Universe Records has announced a reintroduction of her work via a new CD release that contains many of her hits, “Mansion On The Hill,” “To Be Lonely,” “Conscience Set Me Free,” “Love Has Come My Way,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Sweeter Than Flowers,” and many more. June was also an accomplished songwriter, and co-wrote many great country songs with Justin Tubb, son of Ernest Tubb.