Welcome to Mellow's Log Cabin. This blog's purpose is to supply information on a diversity of American southern music - ranging from country, blues, old-time and folk to R&B, rock'n'roll and rockabilly. I regularly present my research results about artists, labels, shows and also give guest writers a chance to publish their texts here on occasion.

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• Added Big Style #101 to Big Style Records discography.
• Added more information to the Bob Taylor post, thanks to Jimmy Hunsucker.

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Monday, January 31, 2022

Shelby Follin and the Memphis Four

Shelby Follin and the Memphis Four

During my research on the Snearly Ranch Boys, I was newly intrigued by another country music band, Shelby Follin and the Memphis Four. A rather unknown act like Doc McQueen or Bob Williams' Mid-South Playboys, I was able to puzzle together and create a short biographical sketch on Follin. Additions or memories on this act are highly appreciated.

Shelby C. Follin was born on April 23, 1916, in Mississippi. Details on his life are scarce but what we know is that he served in the Marine Corps during World War II in South Pacific and after his discharge, became a Tennessee highway patrol officer. Eventually, he became a special officer at Memphis Municipal Airport (now Memphis International Airport).

Kansas City Times November 29, 1951

By the late 1940s, Follin had assembled a little country band that was called “Shelby Follin and the Memphis Four”. In later literature, which mentions Follin, it was often simply referred to as “The Shelby Follin Band”. The group played Ernst Tubb like honky-tonk music around Memphis and in January 1952, Follin and the band landed a spot on local radio station KWEM, hosting a 30-minute program each day (before Howlin’ Wolf’s slot).

Billboard May 24, 1952

Guitarist Paul Burlison was a member of the band from around 1950 until the band’s break-up around 1954. Pianist Smokey Joe Baugh joined the band in 1952, playing with them for about a year before switching to Clyde Leoppard’s Snearly Ranch Boys.

The band disbanded around 1954. They left behind no recordings, as they were out of business before the Memphis recording industry had developed – the only significant labels being Sun and Meteor but they were blues and rhythm & blues based prior to 1954, likely being reluctant to commercially record amateur country music. The only possibility of recorded documents of the Shelby Follin Memphis Four would be live on-air tapes of their regular KWEM broadcasts but there are no tapes known and, to be honest, it is doubtful there ever existed some.

Being only part-time musician, Follin retained his day job at the airport until his sudden death. On January 27, 1959, Follin and a friend were driving in their car from a hunting trip in Olive Branch, Mississippi, a little south of Memphis, when Follin missed a curve and the car hit a tree. Follin was instantly dead, his friend survived. Shelby Follin is buried at Oak Hill Church of Christ Cemetery near Corinth, Mississippi.

Sources
Various books, online entries and liner notes mention Shelby Follin but mostly only refer to him in association with Paul Burlison or Smokey Joe Baugh.

Find a Grave entry
Tales from the Woods
Dorsey Burnette biography on Bear Family Records

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