WHO WERE THE ROUSE BROTHERS?
Article ©Jacob Katel
The Rouse Brothers were American kings of country violin who lived in the Everglades amongst the natives and the gladesfolk; the outlaws and the wetlanders; the shack shakers and the juke jointers. They were hard drinkers, and party lifers. And chart topping songwriters.
Their toil produced “One of the top 10 country songs of the century” according to ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), and they are featured in the Smithsonian Museum’s music library.
Ervin T Rouse (sometimes spelled Irvin, or Erwin Rouse) is the man responsible for the “Orange Blossom Special,” covered by over 200 artists including Johnny Cash, who named a whole album after the song.
Charlie Daniels covered the “Orange Blossom Special.” So did Hillbilly Hall-Of-Famers Bill Monroe and His Bluegrass Boys. The Rouses maintained their writing copyrights so that every time Johnny Cash or anyone else sold a record, they still gets their piece of it.
There’s a book about a guy named Chubby Wise who claimed he co-wrote “Orange Blossom Special,” and some people even believe him. But the fact remains that it was first recorded by Ervin Rouse with backup fiddle from his brother Gordon, and lyrics from their brother Jack. This recording came out on the RCA Bluebird label in 1939.
The song is a frenetic archetype of bluegrass virtuosity; a fast and furious anthropomorphized rendition of the great train ride south on the Florida East Coast railway invented by Standard Oil’s own Henry Flagler; and built by a corps of Florida trailblazers: mostly Bahamians; but also Jamaicans, Cubans, Polish, Irish, Georgians, Carolinians, New Yorkers, Chinese, and other workers who set their forces of construction into making Miami the bold metropolis it is today.
The “Orange Blossom Classic” is a symbol of freedom; escaping the harsh winter of New York for the paradise of Miami and points south.
In 1953, BILLBOARD Magazine called the Rouse Brothers “Hillbilly recording artists.” In fact, the Rouses hailed from the coastal flatlands of Craven County, North Carolina. Then they hit the road as kids to play in Vaudeville shows. But after “Orange Blossom Special” some time in the 1940s they moved 25 or 50 miles west of Miami into the Florida Everglades.
In the 1950’s, the brothers Rouse traveled back and forth from the wetlands to the city to record a series of classic cuts for Henry Stone’s Rockin’ and DeLuxe record labels.
They even brought him new generations of Rouse to record. In a 2013 interview, Stone remembered, “Elaine Gay, she was a daughter of one of the Rouse brothers, about 11 or 13 years old, real country, real country folk…and I recorded her. They brought her to me dirty, bare feet, and she had a great little country sound. She had a great little country sound. I sent her up to King Records, but she never broke through.”
Some of Stone’s Rouse Brothers songs were pressed up on 78rpm shellac and introduced to distribution. Others never left the confines of the magnetic Scotch recording tape that houses their ever wailing souls even today.
Come hear some of these great sounds live at Gramps in Wynwood !!
February 24, 7:00pm. Gramps, 176 NW 24th St, Miami, Florida 33127
Discover Miami’s musical roots with classic analog recordings by the legendary Henry Stone in the 1950s. Digitized from original tapes, these recordings showcase Miami’s dynamic music history and include rock and roll, bluegrass, soul, and country western artists and songs.
Free to the Public
From 1946 to 2014, Henry Stone ruled the Florida music industry with an iron fist, a brick of cash, and a warehouse full of vinyl. HSM is the last of over one hundred record labels he personally founded. This record label includes works from every decade in his sixty-five year career right up until today. Licensing available for film, samples, advertising, movies, video games, and more. Family owned and operated.