Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
"The Smilin' Irishman of Country Music," James O'Gwynn was briefly popular between the late '50s and the early '60s. He was born a Mississippi farmboy and raised near Hattiesburg, the son of a mechanic and a talented musician. He learned the guitar as a child from his mother, and his earliest influences were Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams. He dropped out of grade school to help out at his father's business and later served as a U.S. Marine for four years. During his tour of duty, he decided to become a country singer. He made his debut appearance during a campaign rally for a gubernatorial candidate while on leave. The candidate suggested O'Gwynn contact Houston deejay Hal Harris, who in turn introduced the young soldier to Biff Collie, the producer and host of Houston Jamboree. O'Gwynn joined the show in 1954, as did George Jones. Eventually he hooked up with renowned producer Pappy Dailey and in 1956 recorded "Losing Game." O'Gwynn joined the Louisiana Hayride and released two more singles the following year. In 1958, he signed with Dailey's D label, where he finally found chart success with such songs as the Top Ten "Talk to Me Lonesome Heart" and "Blue Memories," which peaked in the Top 30. In 1959, O'Gwynn released two more hit singles, and, with the help of Jim Reeves, debuted on the Grand Ole Opry. He moved to Nashville in 1961 and appeared on the Opry for the next two years. During this time, he scored two more minor hits, including "My Name is Mud," his last chart appearance. During the 1960s, O'Gwynn worked with different major and independent labels, but to no avail; by the end of the decade, he had moved to Arkansas and gone into semi-retirement. In 1971, O'Gwynn tried a comeback, with no success.