Two-time music hall of famer Alvie Self still playing at 75
RIMROCK - Growing up in the Verde Valley, Alvie Self never thought he would one day become a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Self also didn't grow up thinking he would become a member of the Greater Arizona Country and Western Swing Music Association Hall of Fame.
People just don't grow up thinking they will be inducted into a hall of fame.
Or two halls of fame.
Growing up, Self wasn't even thinking about a career in music.
"I just wanted to do something I enjoyed," says the guitarist, who makes his home in Rimrock. "And that was playing music. People encouraged me, so I decided to keep on truckin'."
In 1950, Self played the accordion. He was 12 years old. Self says it didn't take long to want to play something else.
"I was running across other guys who were playing the guitar," Self says.
In 1952, his father traded in the accordion for a Gibson acoustic/electric guitar with a Magnetone amplifier. His brother Lloyd taught him to play the guitar, as well as the banjo, fiddle and mandolin. By 1954, Self was playing lead guitar in a country band with Carl Sobley, playing shows in the Verde Valley. Because his family was in the construction business, Self mostly played on weekends. For about 10 years, off and on, Self also worked in construction.
But Self couldn't imagine a life without music. He worked his share of odd jobs, he says. Mostly, music has been his living.
"Somebody always wanted me to play," he recalls.
After playing in Sobley's group, Self eventually formed his own band, and played shows in Flagstaff and Prescott. Self has played shows with Country Fire, Bob Cox and the Alibis, and Buddy Long, the bass player for Waylon Jennings.
"He was a good entertainer and a good singer," Self says of Long.
Self also played at Matt's Saloon and the Palace in Prescott, and both the Rusty Spur and the Museum Club in Flagstaff. Robert Morritt, author of "Rockin' in the Desert," first met Self at the Palace.
"I am proud to say I have known Alvie Self since 1961," Morritt says. "Alvie is still an excellent guitar player."
In the late-1980s, Self played tenor banjo and guitar with Joe Wolverton at the Page Springs Restaurant and the VFW in Cottonwood.
"I also did all the singing," Self says. "I never did hear Joe sing a song."
Self also says Wolverton played a Yamaha, which was a "lighter guitar."
Says Self, "I learned that after seeing a chiropractor for a year."
Wolverton, who died in 1994, was one of his favorite musicians.
"I liked his talent, the way he played his guitar," Self recalls. "And as a person, he was a real cool guy."
Self writes and records his own music, more than 100 songs at last count. Self recorded his most recent full-length album, Arizona Country, in 1988. But he continues to create music in his home-studio. Because it is in his heart.
"I'm expressing myself through my music," he says. "And I feel that God has given me the talent. Even though it hasn't made me rich. It's what I like. I'm not concerned about being rich and famous."
In 1960, Self wrote a hit rockabilly song called Let's Go Wild. According to Bob Timmers, the song earned Self his place in the Hall.
"We are proud to have him onboard," says Timmers, founder and curator of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Though Let's Go Wild brought him acclaim, If Always Means Forever is the song he is most pleased to have written.
"It's probably my best," he says. "Some others maybe went over better, but that one is my best. I wrote it for my first wife."
Rimrock resident and historian Bill Cowan has known Self since the late 1980s. At that time, Self, Ray Sealing and Aha Allen "were creating and preserving local country music here in the Verde Valley," Cowan says.
"There has always been a unique tradition of country music in the Verde almost from the very beginning with the Missouri settlers mixing with the Texans and other pioneers going back to the 1870s," Cowan says.
Now 75 years of age, Self isn't thinking about retirement. For more than 10 years, he has been playing evening cookouts several times each week at the M Diamond Ranch in Rimrock. Peggy Ingham, owner of the M Diamond Ranch, says Self had been playing the ranch for many years before she learned he is in the Rockabilly and Western Swing halls of fame. "And I did not learn it from him!"
At the M Diamond, Self begins playing when the guests arrive on a horse drawn wagon after their horseback ride, and stops when they leave a few hours later.
"He usually plays cowboy classics and requests and a few of his own songs, including The Old M Diamond Ranch which he and his brother wrote," says Ingham. "We have guests who come back year after year, largely to see and hear Alvie. He is undoubtedly unlike anyone many of them, largely tourists from Sedona, have ever met. And our guests appreciate that."
On March 29, Self will help the M Diamond Ranch celebrate Turkey Buzzard Day and Western History and Heritage. Self will join Lyn and Ken Mikell of Harpy Trails, as well as members of the Verde Valley Fiddlers on stage. For more information, call (928) 300-6466.
Though inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2009, Self no longer plays the musical style.
"When I was younger, I played rockabilly," he says. "Now, my voice has gotten lower. People compare me to Johnny Cash. I think that's a real good compliment. I like a lot of his songs."