Arlie Duff, country music singer and songwriter, was born Arleigh Elton Duff on March 28, 1924, near Warren, Texas. He was the son of Adolphus Duff. Duff showed an interest in music at an early age and began singing with his father and sister Lois as the Duff Trio. They often performed gospel songs at singing conventions and school shows. He attended Nederland High School and was also athletically talented; he achieved All-State status as a basketball player during his senior year. After graduation he served for three years in the United States Navy during World War II. Upon his discharge, he attended Stephen F. Austin State College (now Stephen F. Austin State University) in Nacogdoches where he earned a B.S. degree and M.A. degree in education. He was also captain of the varsity basketball team.
Duff began a career in teaching and coaching, but during this time he also wrote songs—ballads, novelty tunes, and religious numbers. Port Arthur disc jockey Gordon Baxter, with whom Duff had worked on some college shows, encouraged Duff to continue his performing. Duff became a regular member of Blackie Crawford and his Western Cherokees, and he became known as “The Singin’ Schoolteacher.” He recorded for the Beaumont-based Starday label in 1952. He wrote the song “You All Come” (later changed to “Y’All Come”), which was released on Starday in 1953. The flip side was a song called “Poor Old Teacher.” ”Y’All Come” quickly became a hit throughout the South and rose to Number 7 on the country charts. Duff earned a BMI Music Award in 1953 for the song which went on to be covered by Bing Crosby, Patti Page, Bill Monroe, Glen Campbell, Porter Wagoner, George Jones, and others.
In 1954 Duff was the featured regular performer on KNUZ-TV’s Houston Hometown Jamboree, and “Y’All Come” became its theme song. Later that year, he performed on Louisiana Hayride and joined the cast of Red Foley’s Ozark Jubilee. Duff married Nancy White on October 10, 1954, in a ceremony that took place on Louisiana Hayride with Red Foley as best man. Wedding ushers included Porter Wagoner, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Billy Walker. The couple had nine children.
Duff also appeared on WFAA’s Saturday Night Shindig and the Grand Ole Opry. Having left teaching, he continued his successful songwriting. For Starday, he recorded “What a Way to Die”/”You’ve Done It Again” at Gold Star Studios in Houston in 1957 under the name Arlie Duff and The Duff Family. He worked as a deejay in Colorado in 1957 and 1958 and then moved back to Texas, where he worked in radio. He was a popular disc jockey on radio KOKE in Austin during the 1960s. Ernest Tubb recorded Duff’s song “Another Story” in 1966 and included it as the title track on his album in 1967. That same year, singer Sonny James scored a Number 1 hit on the country charts with Duff’s “It’s the Little Things,” which earned a BMI Music Award in 1968. Other notable songs by Duff included “Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow” (recorded by Sonny James) and “Til I Hear It From You” (recorded by George Jones). Duff released on the Decca label his own recording of “Alligator Come Across,” a rockabilly-tinged number that became a minor hit.
During his career, Duff recorded almost thirty songs for the Starday, Decca, Salvo, and Smartt labels. His autobiography, Y’All Come, was published in 1983. He died on July 4, 1996, and was living in Connecticut at the time of his death. He is honored as a music legend in the Museum of the Gulf Coast’s Music Hall of Fame in Port Arthur.