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Arlie Vincent Mayfield, I, known as Smokey Mayfield (June 20, 1924–September 11, 2008), was a ranch supervisor in the Texas Panhandlemarker and a Bluegrass musician. In the late 1940s, Mayfield and his brothers played warmup for Tennessee Ernie Ford, Maddox Brothers and Rose, Hank Snow, and other Country singers.

Mayfield was born to William Fletcher Mayfield (died 1952) and the former Penelope Drake (died 1937) in rural Dawnmarker in Deaf Smith Countymarker southwest of Amarillomarker. In January 1931, he moved with his parents, three brothers, and two sisters to Dimmittmarker, the county seat of Castro Countymarker near Lubbockmarker in West Texas, where he attended school, having left high school before graduation. He served in the United States Army in the European Theater of World War II and participated, at the age of twenty, in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgiummarker in December 1944–January 1945.

A family of musicians

The Mayfields possessed a strong musical background. All played musical instruments, beginning with the mandolin. Mayfield and two brothers, Thomas Edward "Edd" Mayfield (1926–1958) and Herbert E. Mayfield (1920–2008), went on the Bluegrass circuit and opened in Amarillo and Lubbock for Tennessee Ernie Ford and the Maddox Brothers and Rose as the Green Valley Boys, named for their ranch. Edd Mayfield left the family band and played the guitar with a thumbpick for a decade with Bill Monroe, considered the "father of Bluegrass". Edd Mayfield was described as "a handsome, tought-as-barbed-wire cowpuncher, who literally grew up on a ranch, who could ride hard, lasso accurately, and literally toss and tie up a bull … and had the wiry strength of a gymnast." While he was on tour with Monroe, Edd Mayfield died of leukemia in a hospital in Bluefieldmarker, West Virginiamarker.

Herb Mayfield recalled that he and his brothers enjoyed music so much that they would race home after doing their ranch chores so that they could practice. Eventually, Smokey chose the fiddle as his instrument. He was, however, too small to hold a full-sized instrument under his chin. So he anchored the fiddle between his chest and the wall of the barn. He continued to play in that position into adulthood, with the fiddle on his chest rather than under his chin, into adulthood.

Smokey Mayfield resided in Hutchinson Countymarker near Spearmanmarker, which is the seat of Hansford Countymarker in the northern Panhandle. He and worked for a half century for the historic Turkey Track Ranch in Hutchinson County. Herb Mayfield was born in Erickmarker, Oklahomamarker, but lived in Dimmitt and graduated from Dimmitt High School. During World War II, he participated in troop lifts in Normandy and, like Smokey, the Battle of the Bulge. Thereafter, he was a welder for cattle feedlots in Dimmitt. He was for many years the president of the Dimmitt Rodeo Association and a member of the Panhandle Blue Grass Association. He died some three months prior to the passing of Smokey.

Extended family

In 1951, Smokey Mayfield married the former Mary Keenum (born August 5, 1934), originally from Hale Centermarker in Hale Countymarker. The couple met while Smokey was playing Bluegrass in Lubbock. They wed in Cleburnemarker in Johnson Countymarker in east central Texas. Mary formerly operated a flower shop. Mayfield died of a heart attack at home after fighting a long battle against neuropathy. He was Baptist, but services were held at his wife's congregation, the Church of Christ in Spearman. Interment, with military honors, was at Hansford Cemetery in Spearman.

In addition to Mary, he was survived by two sons, James Clinton "Clint" Mayfield (born February 28, 1952), a United States Postal Service employee in Amarillo, and wife Eileen N. Mayfield (also born 1952), and Freddie Calvin Mayfield (born December 28, 1949) and wife Janice W. Mayfield (born 1955) of Spearman; three daughters, Cynthia Arlece Knox and husband Ted of Stinnettmarker, the seat of Hutchinson County, Loretta Diane Reed and husband Roy of Chickaloonmarker, Alaskamarker, and Harriett Palmer and husband Charlie of Pleasantonmarker in Atascosa Countymarker near San Antoniomarker, and nine grandchildren, including namesake Arlie Vincent Mayfield, II (born 1988), a student at George Washington Universitymarker in Washington, D.C.marker; fourteen great-grandchildren; and one brother, James F. "Jim" Mayfield (born 1917), a retired rancher from Playasmarker in Hidalgo Countymarker in southwestern New Mexicomarker. Fred Mayfield, a ranch manager himself, was actually the birth son of Edd Mayfield and his wife, the former Jo McLain, since Jo Butler of Atwatermarker, Californiamarker, but Fred was reared by Smokey and Mary Mayfield after the sudden death of his father.

Mayfield's legacy

On May 6, 1989, Smokey and Herb Mayfield were honored by South Plains College, a community college in Levellandmarker, the seat of Hockley Countymarker west of Lubbockmarker, as "Pioneers of Bluegrass Music in the South Plainsmarker." They received plaque and belt buckles as "Honorary Bill Monroe Bluegrass Boys". The two played for decades in regional music festivals. Edd’s son, Fred Mayfield, joined his uncles for the occasion. The Mayfields are also honored through the Mayfield Bluegrass Scholarship at South Plains College, 1401 S. College Avenue, Levelland, TX 79336.

Mary Mayfield said that her husband "had perfect pitch, never had a music lesson, and couldn't read music, but he could play anything he heard." His last Bluegrass jamboree was in Amarillo in 1992. He also played in Cloudcroftmarker, New Mexico, and Nashvillemarker in a reunion concert with Bill Monroe.

The radio performances and personal appearances of the Mayfield Brothers in West Texas inspired Waylon Jennings, Sonny Curtis, and Buddy Holly of a later generation of musicians.. The International Blue Grass Museum in Owensboromarker, Kentuckymarker, is preparing a documentary on the Mayfield family.

References

  1. Obituary of Smokey Mayfield, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, September 14, 2008: http://lubbockonline.com/stories/091308/obi_331723628.shtml
  2. Google Books, Can't You Hear Me Callin'?:http://books.google.com/books?id=PXPWBLwQopEC&pg=PA121&lpg=PA121&dq=Ed+Mayfield+and+Bill+Monroe&source=web&ots=CJHKYlEu0Z&sig=_cbxLp_mIVSU5Xd2sA0MtL6m_jw&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result#PPA122,M1
  3. Joe Carr and Allan Munde, “The Mayfield Boys”, Hansford County Reporter-Statesman on Internet, undated:http://www.spearmanreporter.com/newsviews/music.html
  4. Obituary of Herbert E. Mayfield, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, June 1, 2008: http://www.lubbockonline.com/stories/060108/obi_285049864.shtml
  5. Statement of Mary K. Mayfield, September 21, 2008



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