Drawing of Roy Lanham

Portrait of a Pioneer

Most interested fans of the Sons of the Pioneers are familiar with the professional side of the group's guitarist, Roy Lanham, from reading his story in 'Hear my Song'. Roy's colorful career dates back to the early forties when he and his group toured with Gene Austin, through the WLW days in Cincinnati where he associated with such talented people as Hank Penny, Noel Boggs, Merle Travis, the Delmore Brothers, and Grandpa Jones. Later a good portion of his career was spent as a part of the swinging "Whippoorwills." The book could not, however, cover the personal side of this very talented musician.

I first met Roy around 1965 when my lovely wife, Nora and I attended a little get together where he, current Pioneer Rome Johnson, and ex-Pioneer Hugh Farr were performing. Much to our delight we found Roy to be a very friendly, unassuming individual who is just about as funny in everyday life as he is in his comedy role with the Pioneers. I have since determined that Roy is not one to demand an inordinate share of the limelight, apparently satisfied to remain in the background.

But when called upon to perform, it is immediately evident that you are listening to one of the very best.

The best measure of a musician's talent rests in the opinion expressed by his contemporaries. Rome, who has associated professionally with Roy since the early forties, has often remarked that he considers Roy to be the best take-off guitarist he has ever heard. Compliments are freely expressed when you ask such outstanding artists as Joe Maphis and Merle Travis; and they have stated that Roy had an impact on their style of playing. Two other pretty fair country talents, Roy Clark and Chet Atkins have remarked that Roy is their favorite "picker." As the Pioneers travel around the country, the number of people they meet who are familiar with Roy and his guitar styling is most impressive.

But even a no talent individual such as myself can have favorites, and "Cousin" Roy and his charming, delightful wife, Marianne, have long been favorites of mine.

by Ken Griffis.


Pioneer News,
Volume 1,
Number 2,
May-June 1978.

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