published Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Dalton museum will showcase bluegrass music memorabilia

Otis Head, 92, on Thursday plays the harmonica at Big O's House of Tanning where a small museum of his life was put together and is now on display for the public in Dalton, Ga. Head is a locally known radio personality and important member of the bluegrass community who has collected quite a bit of memorabilia over his career.
Otis Head, 92, on Thursday plays the harmonica at Big O's House of Tanning where a small museum of his life was put together and is now on display for the public in Dalton, Ga. Head is a locally known radio personality and important member of the bluegrass community who has collected quite a bit of memorabilia over his career.
Photo by Alex Washburn.

IF YOU GO


What: Plainview Museum opening

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Big O's House of Tanning, 3552 Cleveland Highway, Dalton, Ga.

For more information: Visit www.otishead.com or call 706-277-0079

DALTON, Ga. -- From farmwork to boxing to Western-style shootouts to shopkeeping to radio personality, Otis Head has done a lot of things in his 92 years.

But it is the friendships he made and the people he worked with in the entertainment and music worlds that he remembers best.

"I can't believe everything that has happened, and sometimes I wonder how I got to where I am today," Head said, leaning on his cane in his Dalton business. "I've met so many people and I'm just thankful I'm alive today."

On Saturday, Head will open his Plainview Museum to showcase memorabilia he has collected from bluegrass musicians and other friends, such as autographed photos and records. It also contains pictures of Head performing in fictional shootouts in Western-style tent shows and his awards.

His list of music friends and people he's interviewed on his radio show includes Raymond Fairchild, Randall Franks, Clyde Beavers, Abigail Moore, the Bell Brothers, the Fort Mountain Brothers, Arnold Sanford and Carl Story. Head also has been inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame.

A Dalton native born in 1919 on his grandfather's farm just north of Prater's Mill, Head is most well-known for his 56 years of radio broadcasting and involvement with bluegrass music. He still performs a weekly "Otis Head Radio Show" on WTTI-AM in Dalton.

Dressed in a white cowboy hat and black jacket, Head tells story after story about his life and detailed accounts of his adventures. He is legally blind but stays active, mowing his yard and growing a garden.

Bluegrass is the music he heard as a child, Head said. He began playing a harmonica as a teenager but he was grown before he really learned to play well.

"We used to sneak around the back of the houses and listen to the music -- banjos, fiddles and harmonicas. They wouldn't let the kids in, but we'd stay outside and listen," he said, laughing at the memory. "I started playing a harmonica because that was all I could afford at the time. We was poor country."

After working about five years packing military shipments in Detroit during World War II, Head returned to Dalton in the 1940s. As he drove through the area just north of Dalton, someone was holding a land auction.

Head bought the land six miles north of Dalton, built a store and a boxing ring behind the store, beginning his long career as a business man. He named the area Plainview.

Soon Head was involved in local bands and musicians, and he became friends with Clyde Beavers, a songwriter and guitar player who performed on Head's radio show.

Years later, Beavers described that friendship in a letter sent to a friend, describing one particular incident in the 1950s.

“Otis Head is a legend in country music. ... Otis was the man who helped me get the old mule on a cold Oct. and ride to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville,” Beavers wrote.

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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