WHO WERE THE ROUSE BROTHERS?
Article by Jake Katel
The Rouse Brothers were hard drinking fiddle demons who lived in the Everglades amongst the outlaws and wetlanders, shack shakers, and juke jointers. They were party lifers, and money spenders. 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 included in the Smithsonian Museum’s music library.
Ervin T Rouse (sometimes spelled Erwin Rouse) is the man responsible for the “Orange Blossom Special,” covered on over 200 records and made most famous by the man in black, Johnny Cash, but also by hillbilly hall-of-famer Bill Monroe and His Bluegrass Boys.
The earliest known recording was cut by Ervin with backup fiddle from his brother Gordon Rouse, and lyrics from his brother Jack Rouse. This record by The Rouse Brothers came out on RCA’s Bluebird Records 8218 in 1939.
The song is a frenetic archetype of bluegrass virtuosity; a fast and furious sonic rendition of the great train ride south on the Florida East Coast railway built by Flagler and the black Americans and Bahamians who set their forces of construction into making Miami the bold metropolis it is today.
Although they may have been born hillbillies, they moved to, lived, grew old, and died in the hardened soul of the flatlands, Miami’s own Everglades.
The Rouse’s cut lines on the edge of society, blowing their royalty checks on trashing new Cadillacs every quarter, and hellraising their way into the city for meetings and recording sessions with Henry Stone.
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 I took her home and bathed her, well I didn’t, but I had her bathed, anyway, 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.”
However, in the 1950’s the Rouse Brothers recorded a series of classic cuts for Henry Stone’s Rockin’ and DeLuxe labels.
Some of the 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.
Thanks to Andrew “DJ Le Spam” Yeomanson, Henry Stone Music USA Inc. the HistoryMiami museum, and the Knight Foundation, some of these recordings will finally see the light of day at Gramps in Wynwood.
ANALOG ARCHIVES: A NEW EVENT SERIES PRESENTED BY HISTORYMIAMI MUSEUM
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 by City of Progress Studio with a Knight Foundation grant, these recordings showcase Miami’s dynamic music history and include rock and roll, bluegrass, soul, and country western artists and songs.
DJ Le Spam (City of Progress Studio) will spin vintage music by Johnny and Marsha, Ervin T. Rouse, Sonny Thompson, Johnnie Mack, and more. Presented with HistoryMiami Museum, Henry Stone Music USA, Inc., and Gramps.
Free to the Public