The Shelton Brothers, a country group, consisted initially of Robert (Bob) Attlesey (b. July 4, 1909) and Joe Attlesey (b. January 27, 1911), but later other musicians joined, including a third brother Merle Attlesey (b. March 1917), in the late 1930s. All three brothers, part of a family of ten children, were born on a cotton farm in Reilly Springs, Texas. During the 1920s two brothers (Bob and Joe) played locally to help earn money for the family and styled themselves after such artists as Peg Moreland and Jimmie Rodgers, with Bob singing and playing guitar and fiddle, while Joe also sang and played mandolin and guitar. Bob, known as the “Hopkins County Firecracker,” often included comedy in his approach. The brothers sang in Longview in 1929 and performed for tips at local venues, including Clint Aycock’s café. They then relocated to Tyler, where they added another member, guitarist Leon Chappelear, who was with the group when it recorded under the name of the Lone Star Cowboys for the Bluebird label in 1933. The brothers also recorded with Jimmie Davis, who was elected governor of Louisiana in 1944, for RCA-Victor Records.
By the mid-1930s the group had relocated to New Orleans and played regularly on radio station WWL. In 1935 the Attlesey brothers began their prodigious recording career with Decca Records. They began calling themselves the Shelton Brothers (Shelton was their mother’s maiden name) at the behest of record producer Dave Kapp, who believed the group needed a more commercially recognizable name. The Decca label became successful because of its low-priced records and its aggressive recording efforts in the Southwest, and the Shelton Brothers soon became one of Decca’s most prolific Texas groups, recording some 150 sides for the label. The band recorded traditional country music generally reflective of hillbilly styles, but also incorporated blues and eventually some swing. With a wide-ranging repertoire which included such songs as “Just Because,” “Deep Elem Blues,” “Sitting On Top of the World,” “Matchbox Blues” and numerous others, the Shelton Brothers also represented the nascent honky-tonk sound that was developing at the time.
In addition to recording for Decca, the band also made regular appearances at radio stations in Shreveport and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. At the time the Shelton Brothers mostly played on KWKH Shreveport, where they also went by the name of the Sunshine Boys, and on WFAA in Dallas, which became a mainstay for the group after 1941 for nearly a decade. It was also during the late 1930s that the third brother, Merle, joined the band on guitar. For nearly a decade the group, which included Bob, Joe, Merle, Joe Molina, Preacher Harkness, and Bernie Harkness, remained popular with radio audiences. However, by the end of the 1940s the band’s popularity had waned, and it eventually stopped recording altogether, although Bob and Joe continued performing on KWKH in Shreveport (made famous by its association with the Louisiana Hayride). Bob later went into comedy, but both Joe and Merle continued to play music in the Dallas area. Bob died in November 1986 in Savoy, Texas. Joe passed away in December 1980 in Yantis, Texas, and Merle died in June 1997 in Dripping Springs, Texas.
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All Music Guide (www.allmusic.com), accessed December 17, 2009. Alan B. Govenar and Jay F. Brakefield, Deep Ellum and Central Track: Where the Black and White Worlds of Dallas Converged (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1998). Bill Malone, Country Music, U.S.A. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968; rev. ed., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985; 2d rev. ed., Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002).
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 26, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 6, 2015
Most Recent Revision Date:
October 26, 2015
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: