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One of the flashiest country guitarists of the 1950s and 1960s, Joe Maphis was known as The King of the Strings. He was able to play many stringed instruments with great facility. However, he specialized in dazzling guitar virtuosity.
Maphis was born in Suffolk, Virginia. Later based in Bakersfield, California, he rose to prominence with his own hits such as "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (and Loud, Loud Music)" as well as playing with acts like Johnny Burnette, Doyle Holly, The Collins Kids, Wanda Jackson, Rose Maddox and Ricky Nelson. His playing was an influence on such greats as Merle Travis, Jimmy Bryant and Chet Atkins. He was known for his use of a double-neck Mosrite guitar, specially built for him by Semie Moseley, which was a boon to Moseley's fledgling career as a guitar builder. This guitar can be now viewed at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville; it has two six-string necks, with the shorter neck tuned an octave higher than standard.
Maphis' guitar hero was Mother Maybelle Carter, matriarch of the Carter Family. Maybelle's daughter June Carter Cash and June's husband Johnny Cash so admired Maphis' guitar playing that Maphis is buried in a Hendersonville, Tennessee cemetery next to Maybelle, her husband, Ezra Carter, and her daughter, Anita Carter. The Cashes personally chose the spot, buried Maphis and covered his grave themselves.
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