Interview with Lee F. “Tip” McKinney of Pope’s Arkansas Mountaineers



Most of the groups heard on the “Echoes of the Ozarks” series had only one recording session, and then faded back into obscurity. Little or nothing was known about them at the time these albums were released, and little, in fact, is yet known about them, although some information about various groups has recently come to light. It has been discovered that two of the bands thought to be from the Ozarks (and included in the series the Weems String Band and The Perry County Music Makers, were actually from Tennessee.
One of the most popular of the groups included in the series, and definitely, at least, known to be from Arkansas, was Pope’s Arkansas Mountaineers. It was known that they were from Searcy, Arkansas (in White County), and that they had been organized by J.D. Pope, a local music store owner. They made only one trip to Memphis, Tennessee in February of 1928, where they recorded eight sides for Victor. Although their 78rpm recordings sold well throughout the South, Pope’s Arkansas Mountaineers were never heard from again.
It was a cold and rainy day in the spring of 1973; we found no Pope’s music store — there were no Pope’s listed in the phone book, and there were no old records in the junk or antique shops. Finally we wandered into the Quattlebaum Music Center and spoke to the proprietor Colonel Ivan Quattlebaum (who is also the local bail bondsman, owner of a furniture store, president of the Kiwanis Club, and auctioneer.
As it turned out, Mr. Quattlebaum was a former employee of J.D. Pope and took over his business when Pope passed away. He was familiar with Pope’s Arkansas Mountaineers and to our surprise related to us that one of the original members of the band was still alive in Searcy. He was kind enough to place a few phone calls for us and eventually came up with an address, although he was not certain whether it was correct.
After a few wrong turns, we arrived at the address, hesitated a few moments, then knocked on the door. A kindly looking old man answered: we said, “are you Mr. Tip McKinney of Pope’s Arkansas Mountaineers?” He looked somewhat surprised but pleased and said, “come right in.” In the conversation that followed Mr. McKinney took us back in time, unfolding the fascinating story of his experiences, and charmed us with his wisdom and humor.

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