This April the Crossroads Music Archive at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library is excited to debut their exhibit, “Odis ‘Pop’ Echols.” It highlights the life of the titular Echols, whose influence on music in the United States was tremendous.
Odis Echols, known as “Pop,” was born May 7, 1903 in Enloe, Texas. In 1922 he moved near Clovis, New Mexico, with his bride Grace Traweek. There he taught shape-note singing, formed the Echols Brothers Trio, and joined The Plateau Quartet. In 1926 he won a spot with Frank Stamps’ original Stamps Quartet, which traveled the South singing gospel and popular music of the day (while selling Stamps-Baxter songbooks…) Echols often got standing ovations for his baritone rendition of “ol’ Man River.” In 1927 the group recorded for Ralph Peer of Victor Records and their “Give the World a Smile” became the first gospel record to sell one million copies! Echols formed his own quartet and opened a songbook store in Lubbock, Texas, organizing singing schools at churches across West Texas all the while.
Soon Echols had moved his Stamps Melody Boys to CBS affiliate WHAS in Louisville, Kentucky, where he convinced Mutual Radio Network to broadcast the first coast-to-coast gospel music show. In the meantime he built Hartford Publishing into the second-largest gospel publisher, sold his interest in the company, and moved to Shreveport, Texas, where his Melody Boys sang on KWKH’s Red River Valley Roundup, the forerunner of the Louisiana Hayride.
He moved back to Lubbock, where he worked as a radio announcer at KSEL and mentored entertainers including saxophonist Bobby Keys and vocalist Charlene Hancock. Never one to stop pushing forward, Pop then purchased station KCLV in Clovis in 1953, and settled there.
In 1957 Pop appeared on national television’s This is Your Life at the request of teen idol Tommy Sands, who credited Pop with starting him in show business. But his biggest success came a year later when he met Charlie Phillips and collaborated on the song “Sugartime.” You know the song: “sugar in the mornin’ / sugar in the evenin’ / sugar at suppertime.” (Enjoy the earworm!) Released with McGuire Sisters’ vocals, in 1958 “Sugartime” went gold and reached Number One on the pop charts. Pop Echols continued to work in the music business until his death on March 23, 1974.
While the exhibit is only up from early April until the early fall, Echols’ Papers are forever available for research at the Crossroads Music Archive here at the SWC! Contact our ever-helpful Reference Staff if you’d like to take a peek at them.
– Curtis Peoples, Associate Archivist, Crossroads Music Archive