Uncle Henry's Original Kentucky Mountaineers actually did come from Kentucky, unlike some old-timey music combos that simply pretended to be: Crockett's Kentucky Mountaineers, for example, was actually a Fresno band. While a legitimate locale thus lurks in the combo name chosen by founder Uncle Henry Warren, the mountain music emphasis thereby implied stands in contrast to an actually much broader stylistic range. Warren started the band in the '20s, but recording activity wasn't particularly heavy until the '40s. By then, the string band sound even included some electric instruments.

A diverse repertoire of gospel, country, novelty songs, and even instrumentals was the well-established way for a group such as this to please an audience by then, a certain violation of norms in instrumentation also standard operating procedure for popular groups such as the California Ramblers. Warren's talented collection of entertainers and instrumentalists had also followed the worn path in terms of finding employment. The group was first established in Taylor County, KY, and the big town of Louisville, hitting the road on a circuit that included vaudeville houses, a perfectly appropriate setting for an ensemble that included three front-line comedians who never picked up instruments.

One of these was Uncle Henry Warren, trying out the life of a bandleader and MC after already toiling as a blacksmith, soldier, and boxer. The group was a family enterprise including the leader's wife, Sally Warren, and brother, Grady Warren, plus an always superb instrumental ensemble in which banjo, guitar, fiddle, harmonica, and steel guitar were combined in various ingenious combinations. The bandleader continually upped the theatrical excitement, himself dressing as Abe Lincoln -- if Abe Lincoln had been a character in Deliverance -- and transforming his brother into the annoying character of Coonhunter.

In the early '30s Uncle Henry Warren got the band onto a series of radio outlets in Illinois, Tennessee, and West Virginia as well as Kentucky, a harbinger of what would be a decade-long stint on WJJD in Chicago beginning in 1941. New talent came in during the Chicago years including Uncle Henry Warren's son, Dale Henry Warren, later to become the lead singer of the Sons of the Pioneers, and it is this lineup that is featured on the Capitol recording sessions from the period, with Casey Jones as the fiddle engineer, Ballard Taylor playing banjo, and songwriter Paul Smith contributing material. Age differences in the group are used to frame the material naturally, the elders delivering the old-timey classics while Jimmy Dale Warren plays the upstart with contemporary country & western selections. Uncle Henry Warren died in 1968, 16 years after the group broke up. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi