Moses Dillard

Moses Dillard began a recording career at Mark V Studios that would put him in the company of many of the legends of soul and R’n’B music and win him a Grammy and a Dove award. The bands he organized helped launch the careers of some of the biggest names in music to emerge from Greenville. The story of his life and career parallel the changes that were taking place throughout the United States. It is a life impressive in its scope and accomplishments

Dillard was born in Greenville. His daughter, SC State Representative Chandra Dillard, recounts memories of his childhood that have been shared with her.

South Carolina District 23 Representative Chandra Dillard

“He started on guitar when he was twelve and he was something like a little prodigy,” said Rep. Dillard. “He started under the tutelage of a man named Bill Dover, the Bill Dover Band. My grandmother would let him go play with Mr. Dover because my father was such a good guitar player and Mr. Dover was the adult in the situation. He could look out for him. They would play at weddings and at the country club. And even going back 70 years, the country club crowd will tell you that they knew my father. My grandmother told him, “You go play on Saturday night as long as you’re in church on Sunday.”

Church for the Dillard family was the United House of Prayer for All People. The United House of Prayer is an Apostolic Holiness denomination with a unique musical tradition. The church, founded in Charlotte, NC by the Reverend Charles Manuel Grace, arose from the Pentecostal Holiness movement of the 1910’s and 20’ s. A singular musical style developed in their worship services that centered on syncopated rhythms and emotive, trombone-led brass bands. The style is a close cousin to early New Orleans jazz, but it developed on its own and is still played in Houses of Prayer today. It is hard to imagine that his experiences with this music did not make a significant impact on the young Moses Dillard.

A Virginia United House of Prayer band

Art Adams is a Greenville drummer with a long musical resume. He played in Dillard’s groups through the 60’s and 70’s and formed the proto- hip hop/funk group Point of View in the 80’s. He continues to perform with his group, the Carolina Beach Boyz today.

 While he and Dillard were still in high school, Adams started drumming for a local singer named Cornell Blakely. Blakely had recorded a single for Barry Gordy’s other label, Rich records. Blakely enjoyed some local fame.

“At first it was just a summer job with Cornell, just me and a guitar player named Billy Joe Goodman, great guitar player and singer. Cornell took us to Cleveland, TN and then we went to play in Chattanooga. While we were there, we had to get Billy Joe a guitar because he pawned his in Cleveland and didn’t tell anybody. Anyway, when we got back to Greenville, I told Cornell that I knew a trombone player in the high school band named Moses Dillard and they say he plays guitar too.”

They added Dillard and keyboardist Jesse Boyce to the band and continued working in Tennessee. The band soon decided they could do just as well back home, though, and they left Cornell Blakely and returned to Greenville.

Back in town, they picked up Dillard’s brother Henry on saxophone and booked a regular Wednesday night gig at the Ghana Club and Sunday nights at Spartanburg’s Robin Hood Club. 

“Then we started recording at Mark V studios with Joe Huffman at the old studio that was right there by the Meadowbrook ball park. First song we recorded was with a guy named James Poole, J. Poole, and a guy named Dwight McCombs. They were both from West Greenville, young kids. Then we went to Mark V on White Horse Road after they got big and started making money. That’s when we started doing most of the recording with the Moses band.”

 The “Moses band” was Moses Dillard and The Dynamic Showmen. This group cut a handful of singles at Mark V Studios. Records like Pretty as a Picture and I’ll Pay the Price walk a line between tightly arranged soul and funky pop, somewhat reminiscent of Motown records from that period.

Jack Clark worked the boards at Mark V for a period in the mid-60’s. He remembers Moses Dillard as a talented guitarist and a consummate professional in the studio.

“Moses was a great guitar player. One day Moses just happened to be in the studio with me and he picked up an acoustic guitar. He sat there and played an absolutely great arrangement of Malaguena. Playing that on guitar is quite an accomplishment, something very few guitar players ever master.”

Pianist and engineer Jack Clark shared this track from the Mighty Silvertones at the Mark V Reunion. Dillard’s guitar soars.

Dillard and the band were around Mark V Studios a lot in those days. They backed up gospel quartets and Dillard wrote and produced for vocal talent that he brought into the studio. Studio manager Joe Huffman tells the story of one singer.

“I remember Moses brought in this one girl, Carolyn Sullivan. He said she had a great voice but he didn’t really have a song for her. Well, he started pumping on this thing on the organ, this rhythmic thing and I spewed out some words. About fifteen minutes later we had a song. We were working with a guy in Texas and he shot it out and Phillips Records picked it up. It went to number one in San Francisco for like six weeks.”

Dillard and the band moved on from Greenville to Pensacola, Florida and became the studio band there for Don Schroeder’s record label, Amy/Mala/ Bell Records. There they backed up many of the biggest names in soul music in the late 60’s and 70’s; James and Bobby Purify, Sam and Dave and others.

“In fact, Moses had to go out with Sam and Dave and sing as Dave because Dave was drunk all the time,” remembers Adams.

Amy Mala Bell Records logo

The musicians settled back in Greenville eventually and reformed their band as The Tex-Town Display, adding Bill Wilson from Charleston along with Greenville’s Peabo Bryson.

Bill Wilson still performs in Charleston and released the album Stand Up! in 2018 at the age of 76
Grammy winner Peabo Bryson

While performing at Vorhees College in Denmark, SC, The Tex Town Display made the acquaintance of a young man named Lenny Springs. Springs graduated from Vorhees in 1968, moved to Greenville and rekindled his acquaintance with Dillard and the band. He soon began to manage the group’s business affairs. He also connected with Dillard in another area of mutual concern, civil rights. The two men became leading members of the Black Council for Progress. The organization was a grassroots effort to expand voting rights and end some of the persistent segregation that still plagued some Greenville institutions. Rep. Chandra Dillard highlighted the significance of the Black Council for Progress’s work.

“They were so progressive. They are the ones who really ushered in single member voting districts like the district that I represent. So, I am able to serve as a result of the work of the Black Council for Progress. And they helped African Americans get into corporate jobs. I remember seeing golf clubs in the house and I figured that daddy was always doing strange things. But, he was actually going out trying to integrate (Greenville’s) Bonnie Brae golf course.””

Notable civil rights activist and future NAACP national chairperson William Gibson was also a member of the Council. Lenny Springs would also go on to membership in the NAACP national board and a successful business career.

 The Tex Town Display had a hit with the song Got to Find a Way to Hide My Hurt in 1970. This led to a gig performing with the Miss Black America Pageant and a tour with the winner, Gloria O. Smith. They toured the world with the pageant on a USO package, even travelling to Vietnam to perform for the troops there.

Miss Black America, Gloria O. Smith

The band moved around extensively in the early 70’s. They went to Atlanta and recorded for Bill Lowry’s Ken-Tell Records. From there they went to Chicago and recorded with Curtis Mayfield, playing on his seminal track Move On Up.

 Eventually, Jesse Boyce left the band to work at Muscle Shoals studio and perform on records by Aretha Franklin. Boyce then joined the touring band of Little Richard and performed with him for years. He and Dillard settled in Nashville later and formed the duo Dillard and Boyce, releasing a few records.

Peabo Bryson signed on with soul label Bang records, moved on to Capitol and recorded several hits before performing in Disney movie soundtracks and winning two Grammy awards.

Moses Dillard continued working in music, cutting records with Dillard & Boyce as well as performing and producing gospel and soul records. Somehow, in between all his musical exploits, Dillard found a way to attend Vanderbilt University, receive a degree in divinity and become a minister. He won a Grammy and a Dove award for a gospel record he produced for soul legend Al Green in 1983. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1993. His longtime business manager, Lenny Springs, remembers getting the news.

“I had spoken to Moses just before I left to go to the NAACP national convention in Houston. He told me that he had just finished an album for a gospel singer and that he was going to send me a track. So, I left to go to Houston and while I was there, I got a call telling me Moses was dead, that he had a heart attack. Man, it rocked me,” he pauses. “Well, when I got back (home) to Charlotte there was the track and a note from Moses in the mail. I still have it.”

The life of Moses Dillard was that of a man with many facets and a very big heart. His cultural and historical importance to Greenville goes too often unsung.

Don Dudley

Don Dudley out spreading the word for country station WESC, circa 1960 (photo courtesy of Candy Poff)

Joseph Floyd Edge, known professionally as Don Dudley, dabbled in several facets of the music business. He was a songwriter, a producer, a disc jockey and a musician. He produced country, rock’n’roll, gospel and soul records. He also played a foundational role in the early days of Mark V Studios.

“In the last half of the fabulous Fifties, Country Earl with his early morning Country Earl Show and mid-morning Gospel Train, Floyd Edge as Uncle Dudley and the Chicken Shack helped make WESC a very successful radio station.” (from the book: Tall Tales, High Towers, Simple Ideas ‘N Stuff, by Wally Mullinax, Wally Mullinax Communications Consultants Inc., 2003 p.89)

In the 1950’s Edge began his broadcasting career at Greenville station WESC. His Uncle Dudley show was instrumental in establishing the country music identity of the station.

As the station grew and rockabilly took over national airwaves, Edge adapted his pseudonym to Don Dudley to achieve a less provincial feel.

Jeremy Edge, Don Dudley’s son, sees the logic. “With his first character he played, basically, a redneck named Uncle Dudley. But then, when he switched to the rock format, in order to keep some of that name recognition and still sound rock’n’roll, he went with Don Dudley. “

Among Don Dudley’s colleagues at WESC was Country Earl Baughman. Don Dudley and Country Earl worked day jobs at WESC while running around by night in a music scene that was gaining momentum in Greenville. The bands these two put together would end up being a training ground for one of the defining groups of the rockabilly era.

Baughman’s Circle E Ranch Gang and Don Dudley’s band, The Tunetoppers, shared a cast of musicians with Gene Vincent and The Blue Caps. Greenville’s Paul Peek, Johnny Meeks, Bobby Jones and Bill Mack all played with the Circle E Ranch Gang and The Tunetoppers at various times. All of them would go on to to play with Vincent and achieve legendary status among rockabilly fans. Meeks , Jones and Peek would appear with the Blue Caps on the Ed Sullivan Show performing Dance To the Bop, written by none other than Floyd Edge (Don Dudley).

Paul Peek claps along to Gene Vincent’s right, Johnny Meeks is the guitarist on the left and Bobby Jones is the one on the right.

Jeremy Edge tells of the night the gang back in Greenville watched their friends perform on Ed Sullivan.

“I think there was some saltiness (on the part of Dudley and Country Earl) because that was half of their band. Bobby Jones was the bass player in my Dad’s band for a long time. A bunch of those guys played with him and with Country Earl. It was hard to see them hitting it big with Gene Vincent while they were still in Greenville.”

Dudley (front left) and some of the Tunetoppers during there residency at the Palomino Club. (photo courtesy of Candy Poff)

It was another set of bandmates that opened the door for Dudley’s next venture. Bill and Harold Huffman had both been Tunetoppers for a spell. Word got to Dudley that they were building a studio. He used his broadcast skills and his contacts in the radio world to help get the project off the ground.

Don Dudley’s Mark V card

Although Dudley’s time at Mark V was brief, he was instrumental in the formation of the studio. He salvaged the first recording console they used from a fire that damaged Spartanburg station WSPA . With the gear they needed in hand, the three Huffman brothers and Dudley had the makings of a recording enterprise in place.

Control Room of WMRB, circa 1960. This is the station that leased Mark V their first building. The Gates console at front left is similar to the fire-damaged model Dudley got from WSPA.

Dudley departed the new studio early on, possibly to pursue his performing career. The Tunetoppers got a regular gig at The Palomino club in Los Angeles around this time. The Edge family followed their patriarch out to California to hobnob with rock’ n’ roll royalty. Jeremy Edge recounts a story he remembers his Dad telling.

“One night at the The Palomino Little Richard came in. After the show he invited the band back to his place to party. My dad said he had the whole place done up in pink satin, and he had heart-shaped beds in all the bedrooms.”

Mr. Pink Satin, Richard Penniman

Dudley’s daughter Candy Poff and son Jeremy Edge both remember their mother being none too keen on the move to LA. The residency at The Palomino must not have produced any great opportunities, because Dudley was back in Greenville soon after.

Dudley already had a producer credit on a record by friend and WESC colleague Allan Riddle (spelled variously Allen, Alan or Allan), 1960’s The Moon Is Crying. The song had reached #96 on the national country charts. It was released on the Plaid record label out of Greenville. Plaid records was the brainchild of a gentleman named Charles Rush.

Around ’60-’61 records began appearing on the Kall label that credit Dudley as producer. Many of these sides list the publisher as Duride. Others are labelled “A Riddle-Rush Production”. A logical conclusion is that Don Dudley, Allen Riddle and Charles Rush sought to capitalize on the success of The Moon Is Crying with Kall Records. Duride Publishing could be a combination of the names Dudley/Riddle. No one knows for sure. Jeremy Edge remembers hearing that his father was, indeed, involved in a label in the early sixties.

” It was Dad, Allen Riddle and a third guy. I can’t remember who he was, but they had a little label recording country and rockabilly stuff,” Edge said.

Kall released a couple more Allen Riddle singles along with a slew of bopping country records from South Carolina musicians who are mostly lost to the ages. Taken together, the Kall Records discography is a snapshot of a time and place where honky-tonk country, rockabilly, mountain music and pop all swirled together. The music conjures images of factory workers, truck drivers and farm hands picking away on the front porches and in the beer joints of mill hill neighborhoods.

The baleful fiddle on this tune by Wallace Hooper and The Dixie Ramblers makes it hauntingly unique. Regular Mark V songwriter and musician Jesse Evatt was one of the songwriters

(For more information on Kall Records, visit Mick Cocksedge’s comprehensive site: Kall Records !: The Kall 45 rpm Discography)

The Huffman brothers do not remember any of Kall Records releases being recorded at Mark V. Some of the later sides proclaim they come from Travelers Rest, SC.

Dudley continued working in radio, bouncing around to a couple of other Upstate stations, and playing with his new group Don Dudley and The Versatiles through the ’60’s.

Joseph Floyd Edge, aka Don Dudley, was a pivotal figure in Greenville music on the ’50’s and ’60’s. His body of work is vast and varied and offers an insight into the listening tastes of the Upstate at that time. He was instrumental in the musical careers of the Huffman brothers and the formation of Mark V Studios. Here’s to him.