Wesley Tuttle

The brevity of the 1940s and '50s country charts did a disservice to artists like Wesley Tuttle, who enjoyed wide exposure on radio, television, and film but had few chart hits. If country music's Top 100 had been compiled in those early days, Tuttle's popularity would be more apparent to present-day chart perusers. Tuttle was an important figure in the West Coast country music scene, but his retirement from secular music in 1957 contributed to the low profile from which he suffers, even though he remained active in sacred music throughout the '60s. Born Wesley LeRoy Tuttle in Lamar, CO, on December 30, 1917, he gained an early exposure to phonograph records in the cafe where his parents worked. The Tuttles relocated to San Fernando, CA, just before Tuttle's fifth birthday, and there he learned to play the ukulele and acquired an interest in singing and performing. At the age of eight he lost the middle three fingers of his left hand in an accident at his father's butcher shop, which forced him to chord his ukulele (and eventually, guitar) with his right hand. While recovering from the accident, Tuttle received a radio as a gift and took an interest in Jimmie Rodgers, who inspired Tuttle to learn how to yodel. By the age of 12 Tuttle could play guitar, sing, and yodel with enough proficiency to earn a spot on KNX in Los Angeles. In the early '30s he caught the ear of Stuart Hamblen, who invited Tuttle to appear on his radio show, "The Family Album," the most popular country music program in southern California at the time. From there Tuttle obtained other radio and film work, such as performing Dopey's yodel in the Walt Disney film Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs. Success emboldened Tuttle to quit high school and pursue a music career in earnest. In 1939, Tuttle moved to Dayton, OH, and worked at WLW in Cincinnati, where he married his first wife and met Merle Travis. Tuttle returned to California after a dispute with WLW, resuming radio work and meeting Johnny Bond. Through Bond's connections, Tuttle joined the Jimmy Wakely Trio and, in 1944, backed Tex Ritter on the recording session that yielded the hit "Jealous Heart." Tuttle also appeared in a number of western films starring Jimmy Wakely, Charles Starrett, and Tex Ritter. The success of "Jealous Heart" led to a contract with Capitol Records, and Tuttle cut his first sessions in 1944. Tuttle brought in Merle Travis, who had moved to California, as his guitarist and backing vocalist -- a role that Travis would fill for several years. Tuttle made a handful of significant hits, including the chart-topping "With Tears in My Eyes" in 1945 and one of four hit versions of "Detour" in 1946. The demands of Tuttle's career contributed to the breakup of his marriage, and in 1946 he married Marilyn Meyers, who became his duet partner. As Wesley & Marilyn Tuttle, the couple made Tuttle's final chart hit, "Never," in 1954. In the '50s Tuttle worked as a writer and host on the country music television program Town Hall Party, but he quit television and canceled his contract with Capitol in 1957 after converting to Christianity. He enrolled in a Christian college to become a minister, and in 1959 made his first gospel album for Sacred Records. Tuttle served as Sacred's musical director and recorded a number of religious albums -- with and without Marilyn -- through 1969 before retiring from music altogether. He passed away September 29, 2003. ~ Greg Adams

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