Friday, October 1, 2021

RIP Betty Amos

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that my friend Betty Amos passed away yesterday morning. Betty was an accomplished singer, hit songwriter, and just the second woman recorded playing three-finger Scruggs-style banjo. She was a member of the Carlisles in the early '50s and sang on many of their hit records like "Knot Hole," "Iz Zat You Myrtle?," "Rattlesnake Daddy" and others. She was a solo star on the Louisiana Hayride in the mid '50s and made it very clear to me that Elvis Presley was a guest on HER segment of the Hayride and not the other way around. In the early '60s she formed a trio with her sister Jean and best friend Judy Lee (and sometimes a quartet with Gloria Belle) and recorded several incredible bluegrass and fuzz-country sides for Starday Records.

I first interviewed Betty and Judy and Jean back in 2005 when I was researching The Starday Story and I met up with them every year since to pick and sing and catch up on our lives. Betty was always hilarious, always immensely talented, always willing to pick and sing a few tunes, and always interested in my life and supportive of my projects.

A few years back it was a lifetime highlight when I got to sing alongside her and Judy and Jean for the Nate Gibson & the Stars of Starday project (Bear Family Records). We sang two of my favorite Betty Amos originals: "Eighteen Wheels A Rolling" and "Second Fiddle (To An Old Guitar)." I'm so grateful we got to take our private pickin' parties into the studio and I send my eternal thanks to Kenny Vaughan, Chris Scruggs, Dave Roe, and Pete Finney for helping to make it happen.

I will greatly miss Betty pretend strangling me, yodeling up a storm, harmonizing on our favorite gospel tunes, making her sister Jean drive over to Judy Lee's place to sing harmony with us (because we need the full trio!), and generally telling hilarious and amazing stories about learning karate and kicking butt while on tour in the '50s and '60s, surviving plane crashes in Alaska, touring with the Carlisles, Faron Young, Johnny Horton, and others, signing on with the Wheeling Jamboree, and playing just about every instrument with strings on it.

My many thanks (and condolences) to her best friend and manager Judy Lee for the heads up and for so many years of promoting Betty. I'm forever grateful for Betty's music and friendship and wish her unending peace and country music serenades.

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