Monday, April 29, 2013

Hampton Roads Magazine: Singing It Pretty

My latest feature in Hampton Roads Magazine, "Singing It Pretty," is a look back at the career of the Phelps Brothers, the country and western performers from South Norfolk (now Chesapeake) who started the Tidewater area's first recording studio, Fernwood Farms.

They also ran a popular dance hall with the same name that once boasted the largest dance floor on the East Coast -- an early stamping ground for Patsy Cline, Link Wray, Jimmy Dean and many others. The article is in the magazine's May/June issue.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame is hardly the place you’d think of finding a trio of singing South Norfolk country cowboys. But among the recent additions to the Cleveland music museum’s collection is the original recording console that the Phelps brothers—Norman, Willie and Earl—used in order to capture a slew of area rockabilly artists in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll, right here in Hampton Roads.
“It had been sitting for years in my dad’s garage, and when he passed away it sat in our garage,” says Bobbie Beard, the daughter of Willie Phelps. “I was pleased that anyone wanted it.”
It’s one more reminder of how, starting in the late ’40’s, the Phelps Brothers transformed sleepy South Norfolk—now Chesapeake—into a musical hotbed.

Read "Singing It Pretty" by clicking right here.

And here's a plug for the Phelps Brothers Music Festival, an annual country music showcase at Chesapeake's Lakeside Park that pays tribute to the brothers and their legacy. For more on the festival, which happens this year on June 9, go here.

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