Vern Kendrick was born in Buffalo, New York on December 23, 1938 to a father who was an old Vaudevillian dancer and a Mother who was a concert pianist. Vern grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry every Saturday night on the radio, and the sounds of the Dobro and the Steel Guitar intrigued him. With his natural ability for music, he learned first to play the Hawaiian guitar but the haunting sound of the steel guitar steadily drew his attention. Never having seen a steel guitar at that time, the Hawaiian guitar was the closest instrument he could find to the sound he loved.
In 1952, and only 14 years old, he and two close friends formed his first band called “The Tennessee Ramblers.” They were known as Ramblin Ray, Driften Bob and Cousin Vern. They played the Veterans hospital every Saturday afternoon and anywhere else anyone would let them play.
His family left Buffalo moving to Atanta in 1954. This was the time of the WSB barn dance and the Peachtree Cowboys band. Country music with steel guitar was the major music in Atlanta - and Vern was determined to learn to play. Only 16 years old, he had to get his Mom and Dad to take him to clubs to hear the music he so loved. This is where he met Mac Atcheson playing at the Covered Wagon. He would sit and watch Mac play for hours. Not having the money to buy a steel, he built his first steel guitar from plywood, coat hangers and guitar strings. Needless to say the sound left much to be desired but he continued to learn and he used this to practice. Working and saving his money he finally bought a 3 pedal pink multichord steel.
In 1959, Shot Jackson and Buddy Emmons opened the doors to Shobud Steel Guitars on Broadway just a few doors from Tootsies Orchard Lounge. Buddy Emmons built 4 steel guitar bodies - the first two he set aside for himself and Jimmy Day. Mac Atcheson and Vern drove to Nashville and had the third custom made into Vern’s first Shobud Steel. This was the sound; this was the start of Vern becoming a legend of the Steel Guitar.
That same year, Vern went to work with the Smith Brothers “ Tennessee and Smitty” in Macon on WMAZ TV “The Country Carnival” where he backed acts like Brenda Lee, Red Foley, and Web Pierce.
In the early 60’s, Vern played at the Longhorn Ranch
with new budding artist such as Jimmy Dempsey, Jim Single, Jack Green,
and Bill Anderson. As he moved back and forth from Atlanta to Nashville
he picked with steel guitar greats like Buddy Emmons and Jimmy Day, where
he found his own unique style. He played on the Grand Ole Opry and backed
Artists like Little Jimmy Dickens, Farron Young, Carl Smith and others.
Between 1965 and the early 70’s, Vern was the most sought after steel guitarist in Atlanta. He worked clubs like The Playroom for Mama Winnette and the Rose Room along with his band “The Nashville Four”. He backed stars like Waylon Jennings, Stonewall Jackson, Sammy Smith, Jan Howard, Jack Green, Jennie Seely, Jerry Wallace, and many others. He was voted one of the top ten Steel Guitarists in the country by Cash Box Magazine in 1970. He played steel on the TV show “Party Line” which is still in syndication in many parts of the country.
In 1968, he moved to Smyrna and with the help of partner and friend Bob McKnight he built an eight track recording studio and formed his own Record Label “Bar-Mac”. He recorded local greats like Jim Single, Adam Gosdin, Pat Sap, The Logan Sisters, and various gospel groups.
In 1972, Vern earned his third class radio license and went to work at WYNX radio a 50 thousand-watt station in Smyrna, Ga. He worked the drive time audience for about 6 months until moving to WACX Radio in Austell for drive time and stayed with WYNX Radio as the Sunday afternoon DJ.
In 1974, when the club and studio business in Atlanta slowed down he moved to Nashville where he cut sessions and worked the road with Jay Lee Webb and Little Jimmy Dickens. Vern moved back to Atlanta in 1975 and helped opened a new Club called Country Green.
In 1979, Vern semi-retired and opened his own Music Store in Kennesaw. For the next twenty years he enjoyed his weekly jam sessions on Saturday afternoons with old friends. He retired in 1999 to his home in Acworth with wife Sandy and a new hobby. He built a green house and was enjoying growing tropical plants and working in his yard.
Vern passed away peacefully in his sleep on December 11,
2001. He was a great talent, and is sorrowfully missed by his family,
his friends, and those he touched through his contribution to country
Larry Sasser, Mac Atchenson, Vern Kendrick
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