Pick Your Community: | Hopkins | Muhlenberg | Daviess | Christian | Henderson | Lakes | McCracken | Webster
Impressions pre-reset: 420826 Clicks pre-reset: 872

SurfKY Exclusive - John Prine's Brother, Billy, Recalls Early Days in Muhlenberg

billy-prineBilly Prine performing in concertMUHLENBERG COUNTY, Ky. (6/24/14) —  Much like Muhlenberg County's Everly Brothers, brothers Billy and John Prine have much in common when it comes to a deep love for western Kentucky and its musical history.

The Prine brothers' musical tastes differ, but they share a deep love of the Muhlenberg sound created by the likes of Merle Travis, Mose Rager, and Don and Phil Everly.

Although John and Billy Prine were raised in Chicago, they still cherish their Muhlenberg musical roots and the time spent with their many relatives in the county. Billy Prine, the youngest of the four Prine brothers, told SurfKY News that he still loves spending time in Muhlenberg County, and hopes to return soon.  

"I'm the youngest of four siblings," Prine said. "John is next, then my brother Doug, who passed away. Doug was a policeman in Chicago for over 30 years. David Prine, the oldest of the brothers, still lives in Chicago. My father's name was William. I'm actually named after him but he didn't want any 'juniors', so I have always been called Billy Prine. As the song 'Paradise' says, 'Grandpa was a carpenter'. Mom and Dad moved around quite a bit because of that. They met in Kentucky, moved to Indiana and ended up in Chicago. Dad lived much of his life in a suburb of Chicago called Maywood. He made many trips to Muhlenberg County, and met our mom there. He would go from Chicago to western Kentucky every summer, for Memorial Day and reunions. Our mother, Verna Hamm Prine, lived in Nelson Creek in the 1920s. The family then moved to Paradise around 1930. Like many other residents of the small town, her family was paid to relocate when the TVA plant was built. They were married at the county courthouse in Greenville."

John-Prine-and-brothersJohn, Doug, Billy and Dave Prine, circa 1970s

John and Billy both now live in Nashville, and both have their own unique Prine musical style. John leans more toward acoustic tunes and writes most of his own music sometimes with a humorous twist as in the song "Dear Abby."

"Unlike John, I am more into the rock and blues music," Billy said. "There are a lot of writers' nights here in Nashville, but I'm not into that as much as John was when he was starting out. I used to play at the Blue Bird Cafe, and a place called Bogey's. Then I worked for John's music and management company, called Oh Boy Records. John got the idea for starting his own label from Steve Goodman, who was a very close family friend and most famous for writing 'City of New Orleans'. Steve was something else. He died when he was just 36 years old. He and John had the same manager. John started on Atlantic Records, and then moved to Asylum Records. He got tired of the big record companies and started his own label."

Billy Prine can still recall Paradise fondly, and visiting the general store there.

Billy-Prine-SacramentoBilly Prine at his aunt's house in Sacramento"Sherman Tunstill owned the Paradise General Store," Prine said. "Smith Tunstill inherited it, and Delmer Tunstill then owned it just before Paradise was bought out and leveled. The Hamm family reunion started up again in the 1960s, and we'd have that every year. All my aunts and uncles are gone now, so it's up to my cousins and me to keep that tradition going. I always loved it. I couldn't wait to come to Muhlenberg County. It's a lot different from Chicago, that's for sure. Our roots go deep in Muhlenberg County. Smith was my grandmother's maiden name on my father's side of the family. In fact, William Henderson Smith fought in the Civil War, and owned a farm in Paradise. We are also related to the Tunstill family. On mom's side of the family, she had nine siblings. I had two aunts out by Sacramento and one outside of Elizabethtown."

Prine noted that although his parents didn't play musical instruments, they did love country and folk music, and took the family to many concerts.

"Mom and Dad didn't play music," Prine said, "but they had a lot of good music in the house. And they took us to see a lot of great concerts - Johnny Cash, Earnest Tubb, Buck Owens and Loretta Lynn. I saw a lot of the huge stars then. It was sort of a caravan type show."

Billy said that John really didn't brag about the songs he wrote, but by the time he was performing at local clubs in Chicago, much of his highly acclaimed first album was already completed.

"The first place John played was at The Fifth Peg," Prine said. "But he had already written most of the songs for his first album by then. John was never one to brag, 'Hey, look at this song I just wrote'. John kept his stuff to himself. He played at the Fifth Peg on a dare, and he ended up getting a steady gig there. Kristofferson and Anka came to see Steve Goodman perform but then Goodman said, 'If you like my music, you should hear John Prine.' John got up on the stage after the place had closed for the night and played songs for them at 3:30 in the morning. The rest is history."

Prine said he would love to return to the stage and perform in Muhlenberg County.

"The only time I have played in Muhlenberg County was when I've gotten up with John during the Everly Brothers' Homecoming Festival to sing backup on 'Paradise' Prine said. "I'd love to come back and perform for my many friends and the Prine fans. That would be great."

  Billy-and-John-Prine-young-John and Billy Prine fishing near their home in Chicago

Paul McRee
SurfKY News
Photos courtesy of Billy Prine

© Copyright 2014 SurfKY News Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, or rewritten without permission. SurfKY News encourages you to share this story by using one of the social media links below.

3/13 - 16
button coupons

Stock Report

1 DOW 17,810.06
+91.06 (0.51%)    
2 S&P 2,063.50
+10.75 (0.52%)    
3 NASDAQ 4,712.97
+11.10 (0.24%)    
3/13 - 16
3/13 - 16
button classifieds

In Other News...

Hazel Man Charged with Assault, DUI

MURRAY, Ky. (11/20/14) — According to a Murray Police report, on Nov. 19, 2014 at approximately 10:10 p.m., Murray… Read More

Muhlenberg District Court Fines Handed Down

GREENVILLE, Ky. (11/21/14) ― The following fines were recently handed down in Muhlenberg District Court. Ruth Berger,… Read More
3/13 - 16

Most Read This Week

November 18, 2014 4944

Couple Charged for Concealing Food in Infant Car…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department
November 17, 2014 4484

Police Charge Woman for Drug Possession After…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department
November 15, 2014 3217

Faces & Stories: Hopkins County Tornado

in Video by Gary Gates, SurfKY News
November 17, 2014 3008

Bremen Woman Ejected From Vehicle During Kentucky…

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Trooper S.C. Recke
November 19, 2014 2945

Three Injured in Two-Vehicle Collision on South…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Gwen Smith
November 21, 2014 2918

Man Accused of Assaulting Coach During Basketball…

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Rita Dukes Smith, SurfKY News Director
November 15, 2014 2870

18-Year-Old Injured When Pickup Strikes Railroad…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Patrolman Falon Graham
November 15, 2014 2713

PSC Approves Energy Efficiency Programs for…

in General News For All Sites by Rita Dukes Smith, SurfKY News Director
November 19, 2014 2702

Two Killed When Vehicle Becomes Airborne, Strikes…

in Local (Owensboro) Top News by Daviess County Sheriff's Office
November 18, 2014 2300

Area Talent to Film Music Video at Merle Travis…

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Paul McRee, SurfKY News

Stories Trending Today

November 21, 2014 2918

Man Accused of Assaulting Coach During Basketball…

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Rita Dukes Smith, SurfKY News Director
November 20, 2014 1738

Man on Bicycle Struck by Vehicle on South Main

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Officer Jeff Miller
November 20, 2014 1620

Local Church Prepares for 'Return to Bethlehem'

in Video by Gary Gates, SurfKY News
November 20, 2014 1533

Commercial Truck Accident Closes Northbound Lanes…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Chris Rogers
November 21, 2014 1426

Crashing Dump Trucks in Work Zone Cause Pennyrile…

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Trooper Stu Recke
November 20, 2014 1366

Madisonville Police Arrest Reports - Nov. 20, 2014

in Hopkins News by Madisonville Police Department
November 20, 2014 1350

Man Accused of Kicking in Resident's Door,…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Patrolman Russell Nichols
November 20, 2014 1212

Christmas Parades Set for Central City and…

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Paul McRee, SurfKY News
November 20, 2014 1199

Muhlenberg County Educator Selected for Induction…

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by WKU News
November 20, 2014 958

Evansville Man Charged with Forged Prescription…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Patrolman Russell Nichols

SurfKY News Group, Inc.
Corporate Office & Studio
1125 Nebo Rd.  •  Madisonville, KY 42431
270.452.2727 (phone)
  •  270.452.2249 (fax)


Contact a member of our staff: www.surfky.com/contact
Copyright © 2014 SurfKY News Group, Inc.  •  Terms of Use  •  Site Map

social fbsocial twsocial yt
social gpsocial flrsocial rss