Growing up in the fifties in the Australian bush or city had one constant - the music of Melvin Endsley who died at 70 on Monday August 16.

In Warrnambool we first heard Melvin's career song Singin' The Blues on the wireless by Marty Robbins and then Guy Mitchell.

It was top of the 3YB hit parade a time or two before being reprised by artists diverse as George Jones in the sixties, Gail Davies on her 1982 album Givin' Herself Away and The Kentucky Headhunters on their 1997 disc Stompin' Ground.

And it was the Headhunters version that scored most airplay on Nu Country during its eight-year sojourn.

But few listeners knew much about the writer - Melvin Endsley whose song was covered by more than 100 artists.

It was the best known of more than 400 songs he wrote in a life that started in Arkansas town, Drasco.

Endsley's journey ended when he died of heart complications at a hospital in Searcy, Arkansas.

He was honoured early in his career by being named a member of Arkansas Entertainer Hall of Fame in Pine Bluff.


At the age of three he contracted polio, which cost him the use of his legs but only gave him the motivation to pursue life with even greater drive.

It was while at the Crippled Children's Hospital in Memphis, from 13 to 15, he started listening to Wayne Raney, the Delmore Brothers, and other country acts of the era.

Young Melvin began learning guitar in his wheel chair to break up the loneliness that he felt from his parents' infrequent visits.

He formed his first band after he was admitted to the Memphis Hospital when he was 11.

The major influences on his singing and later composing were the artists he discovered in his teen years, including Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, and Lefty Frizzell.

While attending high school in Drasco he began writing songs, and before he was 20 he'd already written It Happens Everytime that reached Don Gibson and Dorsey Burnette.

He began appearing on radio station KWCB in Searcy, Arkansas, while he was attending a local teachers' college.

But before he had finished there he was chosen from the pack of aspiring artists by his long time idol Raney.

Endsley introduced the biggest hit song he ever wrote, Singin' the Blues, on KWCB, and investigated having it copyrighted and published.

He did the same with It Happens Everytime and four other songs he'd written.


Endsley went to Nashville to try and sell the songs and impressed Marty Robbins with Singin' the Blues.

Robbins brought Endsley and his songs to Wesley Rose, of Acuff-Rose.

Suddenly Endsley had a publisher.

Robbins cut Singin' the Blues for Columbia in November of 1955, and the single was issued nine months later.

It was #1 on the country charts from November of 1956 until February of 1957.

And it benefited from the comfortable marriage of country and pop in the fifties.

Endsley was due for multi-layered success, as Columbia Records gave Singin' the Blues to pop vocalist Guy Mitchell best known in Warrnambool for Sparrow In The Tree Tops.

Mitchell's version, issued simultaneously with Robbins', was #1 on the pop charts.

The combined sales of the two versions were over two and a half million copies.

Don Gibson cut the Endsley song It Happens Everytime and Billy Worth covered Too Many Times.

And Janis Martin, lumbered with the tag of the female Elvis, cut Love Me to Pieces.


Endsley also toured with the Grand Ole Opry and the Louisiana Hayride and landed a recording contract of his own with RCA.

He recorded 15 songs for the label between 1956 and 1958, but none of these sold well.

Endsley was an expressive singer and an effective guitarist, leading the band in his own sessions and coming up with embellishments that producer Chet Atkins encouraged and utilised in the final versions.

His tunes had a brisk tempo and good beat with appeal to the rockabilly audience.

But Endsley believed he was allowed the recording contract as a way of keeping him happy but was only really of interest to the label as a source of songs for other artists.

He left RCA in 1958 for a contract with MGM and later recorded for Acuff-Rose's own Hickory label.

Endsley later left Acuff-Rose and briefly had his own record label, Mel-Ark, based in Drasco, but he didn't pursue recording seriously after the early '60s.

His last hit as a songwriter came from Stonewall Jackson whose version of Why I'm Walkin' charted in 1960.

But the singer is best remembered as the writer of Singin' the Blues and a half-dozen other late-'50s country classics.

His final album was I Like Your Kind of Love released in 1992 by Bear Family.

top / back to diary