Dana Cupp Bridges the Times

Curly Dan and Wilma Ann and the Danville Mountain Boys, ca. 1961

Curly Dan and Wilma Ann and the Danville Mountain Boys, ca. 1961. From left: Wilma Ann, George Williams, Charlie Tuttle, Ronnie Ewart, and Curly Dan. Source: Keith Cady, courtesy Wilma Ann Holcomb

Last weekend I witnessed a set of music by up-and-coming bluegrass trio Behind The Times, when they played a showcase in Berkley, Michigan. Sitting in with them on banjo was Dana Cupp, who worked with Bill Monroe during Monroe’s last years. In front of a crowd of mostly twenty- and thirty-year-old suburbanites, the band tore it up.

Rachel Pearson, who plays bass with Behind The Times (all of them sing, too), reminded me of Wilma Ann Holcomb, who teamed with her husband Curly Dan during the late 1950s through the 1980s. Curly Dan and Wilma Ann helped popularize bluegrass music in the Detroit area, especially when they came up with a regional hit song called “South On 23” in 1963, originally issued by Happy Hearts records, based in Wayne, Michigan. When I mentioned this to Cupp, he said one of his first gigs, when he was a young teen-ager, was playing with Curly Dan and Wilma Ann.

This also reminded me of a 2010 blog that I came across recently. The blogger found a vintage photograph of Curly Dan and Wilma Ann in a book he purchased in a thrift store. The post includes reproductions of the front and back of the photo. Click here to check it out.

The story of Curly Dan and Wilma Ann is included in the forthcoming book “Detroit Country Music: Mountaineers, Cowboys, and Rockabillies.”


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