By Sam McDonald
10:55 AM EDT, May 29, 2013
The list of Hampton Roads music greats ranges from Ruth Brown to Bruce Hornsby, but there not the only significant musicians who emerged from our neck of the woods. Take The Phelps Brothers, for instance.
While not nearly as well known today as the names above, they made contributions to country and western music on a national scale. In the 1930s, the three brothers from the Chesapeake area — Norman, Willie and Earl — recorded for the Decca label. According to a bio at Allmusic.com, the singing-cowboy group played the WHN Barn Dance where they got to know Tex Ritter. As a result, they traveled to Hollywood to appear with him in Western B movies. They also worked in films with Ray Whitley and George O'Brien.
In the 1950s, the brothers were back home in Eastern Virginia. Here, they founded Fernwood Farms, which included a recording studio and dancehall, and were often heard locally on WCMS-FM. The last of the three brothers passed away in 2004.
While The Phelps Brothers are something of a footnote in American music history, they're not forgotten in Chesapeake.
On June 9, the 15th annual Phelps Brothers Music Festival will take place at Lakeside Park, 1441 Bainbridge Blvd., said to be near where the brothers grew up in South Norfolk. The event, running 1-6 p.m., will feature bands playing the brothers' music as well as dancers, food from vendors and memorabilia from the group's remarkable career.
Find out more at Chesapeake50.com site.
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