Bud and Hazel Huddleston

Husband and Wife Bluegrass Duo, Ripley

Bud and Hazel Huddleston were working musicians in Tippah County and across North Mississippi for over 50 years. Music brought the couple together; they played country and bluegrass throughout their years together at local dances, festivals, and on the radio.

Bud was a native and lifelong resident of Tippah County. Hazel, a Tennessean by birth, moved to North Mississippi during World War II–her family locating only a short horse ride through the woods from Bud. The two met in the mid-1940s when Bud encountered Hazel playing at a dance in a band with her father and brothers. He remembers liking both her looks and her guitar playing. Despite the fact that Hazel’s father accompanied them on their first date, they continued to see one another and play together, eventually marrying in 1949.

Both Bud and Hazel played music from childhood and learned from family members. Bud first learned guitar and later picked up the fiddle after trading his brother-in-law a doghouse for the instrument. Hazel learned on the “tater bug” mandolin (so called due to the rounded back of the insect and the instrument) before switching to guitar.

The couple attributed a 1979 encounter with bluegrass musician Clarence Goodrum as having a significantly changed their career. Although the two played country music, Bud’s great love was bluegrass. Having the opportunity to spend time and play with Goodrum convinced Bud and Hazel to make the change and they have played mountain music ever since.

Despite an excellent reputation as live performers, the couple was best known for their radio work. Bud and Hazel were fixtures on the airwaves on Kudzu 102, a station that covers a large portion of North Mississippi. They hosted a bluegrass show on Saturday mornings and a bluegrass gospel program on Sundays. Bud was the voice of the program and chose the music and Hazel covered the phones, answering dozens of calls from well-wishers, truckers passing through the area, and listeners touched by their radio ministry.

The Huddleston’s influence was also felt through the numerous benefits to which they donated their time and talents. They appeared for over 20 years at the Tippah Lake festival in Falkner, Mississippi on the Saturday following Labor Day. What began as a meeting of less than 100 people under a pavilion has grown to a full festival with crowds of 700 or more. They also hosted an annual trail ride and music festival in Whittenton, Mississippi that was held in memorial of a grandson. Bud and Hazel were also regular performers at the Tippah County Fair, the bluegrass festival in Ripley, and others all over North Mississippi.

Through their radio ministry and frequent appearances, Bud and Hazel Huddleston were an important part of North Mississippi’s bluegrass scene. Hazel passed away on March 29, 2008, and Bud died on September 20, 2012.

-Scott McCraw

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