1918-1980, Charleston, Kanawha County
Woodrow Wilson “Red” Sovine, best known for sentimental talking numbers like “Giddy-up Go” and “Teddy Bear,” was born in Charleston in 1918. Inspired by the legendary WCHS radio show and local artists like Buddy Starcher, Sovine appeared on WCHS in Charleston and Wheeling’s WWVA. In 1947, he formed the Echo Valley Boys, moved to Shreveport, LA, and began performing on KWKH’s Louisiana Hayride. Fellow Hayride performer Hank Williams helped land Sovine a deal with MGM Records.
After releasing 28 singles, another Hayride pal, Webb Pierce, steered Sovine to Decca Records in 1954. Two years later, his first No. 1 hit, a duet with Pierce on a version of George Jones’s “Why Baby Why,” led to Sovine joining the Grand Ole Opry. But it was in the mid-’70s that Sovine scored his biggest sides, trucker-themed recitations “Phantom 309,” “Truck Driver’s Prayer,” “Teddy Bear” and “Giddy-up Go.” Sovine died in Nashville in 1980 after suffering a heart attack.