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Daisy Mae & Old Brother Charlie Arnett

Daisy Mae (Ethel Irene Reddy from St. Louis) and Old Brother Charlie (Charles Erwin Arnett from Chester, West Virginia) met on CBS Radio’s “Renfro Valley Folks” where he was the show’s chief announcer and business manager. After the couple married and moved to Tampa in the late 1940’s, they gained popularity from their morning and evening 15-minute radio shows on WDAE. Their shows also aired over a network of Florida stations, including Orlando’s WHOO. Charlie played honky tonk piano and occasionally delivered a recitation and Daisy Mae sang the songs. They were also well-known from their nationally-distributed records on the Mercury and Columbia labels.  After a couple of years appearing and performing in the Bay area, they moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, but the stay there would be a short one.

In 1953, the duo heard about television’s breakthrough in the Tampa Bay area and returned to headline a live Thursday night local country music show called “The Home Folks” on St. Petersburg’s WSUN-TV Channel 38, the first TV station on Florida’s west coast. The show also featured Sanford’s Bobby Lord, then a University of Tampa student, and hometown performer Slim Whitman. After two successful years, the TV show was over, cancelled in 1955 due to a loss of audience after WFLA-TV and WTVT went on the air earlier that year. Up until then, WSUN-TV had a virtual monopoly on local TV viewing.

Undaunted, the two continued with their daily radio programs which now aired on country daytimer WHBO. Within a year, they became players in the successful Tampa mayoral campaign of Nick C. Nuccio. Due to Charlie having worked once for a U.S. Senator from West Virginia, he was now being endorsed by a group of Tampa businessmen to serve as Nuccio’s administrative assistant. However, the appointment didn’t come through and he had his name withdrawn from consideration.

Shortly afterwards, Charlie literally packed up and left town, leaving Daisy Mae behind to continue the radio show solo. To make ends meet, she took modest jobs, including one passing out religious tracts for a church. Fortunately, L.M. Hughey of The Super Test Oil Company (her long-time sponsor) stepped in to underwrite the shows on WHBO and on his Auburndale station, WTWB. Each program began with the song “There’s A Beautiful Home,” a gospel hymn she selected as her theme song. She continued her radio shows until 1966 when she announced plans to cease performing.

Daisy Mae began performing in St. Louis at the age of 14 and was always career-oriented. She married Joseph Garcia and had a daughter, Bonita Lee, and later tied the knot with Charlie and had another daughter, Sandra Kay. Charlie graduated from high school in 1932 and spent six years in law school in Washington, D.C. He started his radio career three years later at WAJR in Morgantown, South Carolina and then moved on to WMMN in Fairmont as music director. As a team, Charlie and Daisy Mae gained national recognition from their performances on CBS Radio’s “Renfro Valley Folks,” Mutual’s “Shady Valley Folks,” “The WWVA Jamboree,” and from their many record releases.

At the time of Daisy Mae’s death in 1978, she made her home with her mother in Temple Terrace near Tampa and worked as a clerk in a card shop. Charlie passed away January 4, 2000 at Providence Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina at the age of 86.

Anyone interested in obtaining copies of Daisy Mae’s mid-60’s WHBO radio shows on CD can contact Dick Wheeler for complete details at dwtpa97@verizon.net.

Station History

1949 - 1966 Other Tampa Bay Area Stations (On Air Personality)

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