Click on the names below to read the full biographies.
Albert E. Brumley was born on a cotton farm near Spiro, OK on October 29, 1905; two years before Oklahoma gained it’s statehood. His parents, William and Sarah Brumley were sharecroppers working in the fields picking cotton to make a living. Life was difficult working on the farm. The days consisted of long working hours for low pay. His parents made the best of the situation, which shows in the music that Albert wrote over his career. Many of his songs refer to a cabin, love for his mother and the beauty of nature.
Music was a part of Albert’s life from an early age. His father William played the fiddle and his older brother Tom played guitar. When Albert was a teenager, he was able to attend a traveling singing school sponsored by the Hartford Music Institute. It was at this singing school that Albert began to dream of leaving the farm to pursue a career in music. Due to the financial needs of his family, Albert was only able to finish school through the 10th grade. In 1926, Albert left his family farm for the Hartford Music Institute with hopes of enrolling in classes. He left Spiro, OK with $3.00 in his pocket and after walking most of the 26 miles; Albert arrived in Hartford, AR with just $2.50 to his name.
Albert met with E.M. Bartlett to see about enrolling in classes. Mr. Bartlett must have seen something special in Albert. He didn’t have enough money for tuition and so Albert made a deal with Mr. Bartlett. Albert would board with Mr. Bartlett’s family and receive free tuition for the music classes, so long as after his graduation from the Hartford Music Institute, Albert would travel teaching singing schools and selling the songbooks put together by the Hartford Music Company that Mr. Bartlett also operated. Albert would also write songs for the Hartford Music Company in his spare time.
In 1927, Albert’s first song titled “I Can Hear Them Singing Over There” was published in a book by the Hartford Music Company. During this time he continued to write songs and travel around the Ozarks teaching singing schools and selling books. Albert also became a member of the Hartford Quartet singing bass and on occasion playing piano for the group.
It was in 1929 that Albert began writing his most famous song “I’ll Fly Away”. He was back at his family farm near Spiro, OK assisting them in picking cotton and singing the popular song, “If I Had The Wings Of An Angel”. He suddenly thought about flying away. Albert was quoted as saying, “actually, I was dreaming of flying away from that cotton field when I wrote I’ll Fly Away”. Albert worked on the song until 1931 and it would eventually be published by the Hartford Music Company in their songbook “The Wonderful Message” in the fall of 1932.
While Albert was traveling and teaching singing school in the Ozarks he met Goldie Edith Schell in Powell, MO. The two had an instant romance. Albert continued to travel teaching singing schools and selling songbooks. The two wrote letters back and forth. On August 30, 1931, Albert and Goldie married and settled in Powell, MO where Albert began to work in his Father In-Laws General Store earning one dollar per day. He continued to write songs and was a staff writer for the Hartford Music Company earning $12.50 per month. The couple would go on to have six children. William (Bill), Albert Jr.(Al), Thomas (Tom), Robert Bartlett (Bob), Jackson (Jack) and Betty.
In 1937, Albert moved the family to Harrison, AR and began playing piano with the Melody Four Quartet. He also stopped writing songs for the Hartford Music Company and signed a contract to write songs for the Stamps-Baxter Music Company. While writing for Stamps-Baxter, he wrote songs such as “Turn Your Radio On” and “Rank Strangers To Me”. Albert’s contract specified that he was to write twelve songs per year for a $20 per month salary.
Albert left the Melody Four Quartet and moved his family back to Powell, MO in 1938 and lived the rest of his life in the home that he built for his family. He continued writing songs for Stamps-Baxter and for a short term, served as the Circuit Clerk & Recorder in McDonald County Missouri.
In 1944, Albert opened Albert E. Brumley & Sons Music across the street from his family home. He had purchased used binding equipment and began to publish his own songbooks. With the help of his children, they also printed books for many other companies and organizations. In 1948 Albert purchased the Hartford Music Company. He did this to expand his company and to regain control of the songs that he wrote while working for the Hartford Music Company at the beginning of his writing career. He would finish paying off the payments for Hartford by 1952. At that time, royalty collection for record sales would also start to bring income to Albert E. Brumley & Sons. The song to take off was “Take An Old Cold Tater And Wait” written by E.M. Bartlett and performed by Little Jimmy Dickens. Soon after, the 1949 recording of “I’ll Fly Away” by the Chuck Wagon Gang would go on to sell more than one million copies. That would now be considered a Platinum Album, but at the time, that recognition didn’t exist.
Albert also began to promote concerts in the area at a few different locations in the 1950s. He promoted shows for Porter Wagoner, the LeFevre Quartet and the Speer Family to name a few. At the same time, Albert E. Brumley & Sons was working with radio personalities to print custom books that they would sell on their radio shows. The Radio Favorites songbook was used as a “stock book” and the cover would be custom based on the liking of the radio personality. Albert also collaborated with fellow songwriter Robert S. Arnold to produce convention books. Albert was a visionary, he created a system where patrons could choose from a list of thousands of songs and select up to 60 titles to be featured in their own custom songbooks.
After a coop meeting in Vinita, OK in 1968, Albert was visiting with J.D. Sumner along with two of his sons, Bill and Bob. They talked about promoting a large all night gospel sing. After some time searching for a venue, the Parsons Rodeo Arena in Springdale, AR was chosen to host the Albert E. Brumley Sun-Down to Sun-Up Gospel Sing. This one-day event has grown to the four-day festival now known as the Brumley Gospel Sing. A few local visual artists with the idea of collaborating to start an Arts & Crafts Festival also approached Albert. He agreed and added a music component and named the event the Hill & Hollow Folk Festival.
In 1970, Albert was inducted as a charter member in the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) Hall of Fame. He would go on to be inducted into seven more Halls of Fame: Gospel Music Association, Southern Gospel Music Association, Oklahoma Music, Arkansas Entertainers, Ozark Entertainers, Country Music Songwriters and the Oklahoma Jazz.
Albert died on November 15, 1977 from an aneurysm that occurred at his home. It may have be possible that could have survived had he lived closer to a hospital. People arrived from all over the world to attend his funeral in Neosho, MO. He’s buried alongside his wife Goldie, at Fox Cemetery near Powell, MO.
After Albert’s death his songs have continued to gain popularity. His songs are still being recorded on new albums and recently have been used in movies and television. The songs that Albert wrote are bringing in awards such as platinum albums and are still nominated for Grammy’s almost every year.
Albert E. Brumley: October 29, 1905 – November 15, 1977
Albert E. Brumley: October 29, 1905 – November 15, 1977
Robert Bartlett Brumley (Bob) – December 7, 1937 – Robert Bartlett Brumley (Bob) was born on December 7, 1937 in Harrison, AR. He is the fourth child of Albert E. & Goldie Brumley and was named after Albert’s mentor, E.M. Bartlett. At that time, the Brumley Family was living in Harrison, AR while Albert played piano for the Melody Four Quartet and was writing songs for the Stamps-Baxter Company. Bob was less than a year old when his father left the Melody Four and moved his family back to Powell, MO where his mother’s family lived.
Music has been a part of Bob’s life from the beginning. At the time of his birth, his father had been writing songs for 10 years. As Bob was growing up, his father opened his own publishing company across the street from the family home. Albert made sure that each of his children had the opportunity to learn a musical instrument. Bob mostly played the upright bass, but he can also play guitar, organ and still enjoys playing the piano.
When Bob was growing up, he and his brothers helped in his fathers business assembling songbooks. Bob and his brothers Bill, Al and Tom formed the Brumley Brothers Band. Together, they played at local events such as Pie Suppers, Business Grand Openings and for Candidates running for local office. For a short time, the Brumley Brothers Band was featured weekly on the program “The Circle Seven Jamboree” in Pittsburg, Kansas on KOAM Television. The Brumley Brothers disbanded in 1950s when Bill and Tom were drafted into the Army and Al the Navy. Bob continued to play in a band. He formed the Country Gentlemen and played with them through the middle 1970s.
Bob married Deloris White (Tudy) on September 18, 1960 in Neosho, MO. They have three children: Elaine, Robert and Betsy.
In 1968, Bob worked with his brother Bill and his Dad to start the Albert E. Brumley Sun-Down to Sun-Up Gospel Sing. It was a one-day event held at the Parson’s Rodeo Arena in Springdale, AR. Bob has grown this event into a four day festival over the past forty-seven years to what is now known as the Brumley Gospel Sing. He also worked with his Dad and brother Bill to promote and manage the Hill & Hollow Folk Festival on the grounds surrounding the Brumley Music office in Powell, MO. That event ran from September of 1969 through September of 1994 missing only 1984 & 1985. This event featured hundreds of Art’s & Craft vendors from around the country and music from stars of the Grand Ole Opry such as Ernest Tubb, Lester Flatt, Little Jimmy Dickens and Kitty Wells to name a few.
In 1975, Bob and his brother Bill purchased Albert E. Brumley & Sons Music from their father. Bob and Bill continue to publish songbooks from the same office that their father built in the 1940s. In 1986, Bob purchased his brothers interest in the company and became the sole owner of Albert E. Brumley & Sons Music. He also served on the McDonald County School Board from 1980-1992.
Bob partnered with John Barker and founded Integrated Copyright Group (ICG) in 1990. ICG was a copyright administration company that worked with publishers to license and track their music. ICG also collected royalties and distributed the payments to the publishers and songwriters. Bob sold his interest in ICG to Evergreen in 2006.
In 1994, Bob along with several leaders in the Southern Gospel Music Industry, founded the Southern Gospel Music Association. The SGMA is a professional preservation association made up of artists, songwriters, industry workers and fans. It was founded to promote the history and heritage of Southern Gospel Music. Bob has served on the Board of Directors since it’s inception and was president of the Board from 2007-2009. The SGMA awarded Bob with the James D. Vaughn Impact Award in 2006 and was inducted into the SGMA Hall of Fame in 2011.
In 1999, Bob opened an office in Nashville to pitch songs to recording artists and record companies. A few years after opening the office, Bob began to sign songwriters and published their songs under a new publishing company that he named Country Gentleman Music.
Bob serves on the Foundation Board for Crowder College in Southwest Missouri. He is currently the Vice President of that board. In 2011, Bob accepted a seat on the Advisory Board of Directors of the I’ll Fly Away Foundation, founded by his daughter Betsy and her husband, Kevin Bernier. The I’ll Fly Away Foundation is the charitable giving arm of the Brumley Music Company. The Foundation partners with schools, teaching songwriting based on the curriculum, to students in the third through eighth grades. The Foundation also awards scholarships to students attending college with a major in music.
Bob still serves as president and owner of Albert E. Brumley & Sons Music where he works daily with both of his daughters and their husbands. He still lives in the same house he built for his family in 1974, just outside of Powell, MO.