Charline Arthur: The Unmaking of a Honky-Tonk Star

Return to issue

Charline Arthur: The Unmaking of a Honky-Tonk Star

by Emily Neely
Southern Cultures, Vol. 8, No. 3: Fall 2002

"Charline's use of sexual innuendo clearly confused the country music media."

Like most honky-tonk musicians, Charline Arthur came from modest origins. She was born Charline Highsmith in 1929, the daughter of a Pentecostal, relatively poor couple in Henrietta, Texas. Her parents were both amateur musicians, and from an early age music and performance were central in her life. In 1945, at the age of fifteen, she left home to travel with a medicine show. Three years later she married Jack Arthur, who managed her early career and also played bass on several of her recordings. Colonel Tom Parker, the man best known for “discovering” Elvis Presley, noticed Charline during her stint as a controversial deejay and singer at kerb in Kermit, Texas. Her foray into Nashville came in 1952, when Parker introduced her to Hill and Range Publishing Company, which in turn led to a recording contract with RCA-Victor Records.