Charlie Waller was born in Jointerville, Texas in 1935 but spent his childhood in Louisiana. He started playing music at the age of 10. In the early part of his career, he appeared on television with George Jones, Jimmy Newman, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and others. Charlie Waller, along with mandolin player John Duffey, banjo player Bill Emerson, and bass player Larry Lahey, formed The Country Gentlemen in 1957 in Washington, D.C. The band originally served as a replacement group for Buzz Busby and he Bayou Boys after several of their members were injured in an automobile accident. Shortly after the band’s creation, the semi-permanent lineup consisted of Charlie Waller on guitar and lead vocals, John Duffey on mandolin, Eddie Adcock on banjo, and Tom Gray on bass. This line-up is considered the “classic” one:
The Country Gentlemen toured bluegrass and folk arenas throughout the ’50s and ’60s. Other line-ups ensued, including Doyle Lawson, Bill Yates, and Ricky Skaggs at one point. While more than 100 musicians have been members of the band, Charlie Waller has remained constant and the band continued to perform until Waller’s death in 2004. Some say that he was one of the best flat pickers in Bluegrass and that his rhythm guitar playing was unmatched.
The following songs, “Doin’ My Time” and “Less of Me,” are from the Country Gentlemen’s earlier recordings:
Listening to their concert from 1972 helps one hear variation and evolution in their sound over time:
The following song, “A Miner’s Life,” is from their album “Songs of the American Spirit, released in 2004, very shortly after Charlie’s death: