Robert Nobley of Roanoke, Alabama, passed away on November 19, 2005. He worked in area textile mills and as a coffee salesman, but his strongest interests were playing and singing old-time music and collecting records. He was born in 1934 and began playing guitar as a small child. His father was a Church of God preacher and in church he sang with Claudine Owen, who became his wife in 1956 when she was 15 years old. She learned to play the autoharp and together did harmony singing in the styles of the Carter Family and Delmore Brothers. They entered and frequently won the singing competition at the Tennessee Valley Old-Time Fiddlers Convention and when not competing, they often served as judges at the large contest. As a judge, Robert tolerated no deviance from what he considered pure old-time music. He and Claudine also performed with a local group, the Randolph County String Band, and with their son Bobby, an excellent mandolin and dulcimer player.
Speaking of his record collection in 2004, Nobley told a reporter for The Randolph Leader, “It’s not a hobby, not just something I do; it’s who I am.” He started in 1959 with 78s by Jimmie Rodgers and over the years amassed thousands of vintage recordings which he generously copied for all who were interested. He supplied recordings, lyrics, and information about musicians and band personnel to producers of old-time reissues. He contributed to reissues of Darby and Tarlton recordings and most recently he helped with the Bear Family box set of Uncle Dave Macon recordings and the Allison Sacred Harp Singers CD produced by County Records. Though few Old-Time Herald musicians may have known Robert Nobley, it’s likely that they benefited from his efforts to preserve and support the music that we love.