Friday, May 1, 2015

Little Enis (Carlos Toadvine)

Little Enis (Carlos Toadvine)
1936 - 1976
Above LP Cover Photo by John Alexander

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Back in the 1950s, When I was growing up in my hometown of Danville, Kentucky, I would often go to the Saturday night amateur contest and country music show at the old State theater there. There would be many local performers who would come to show of their talents. There was one who would often win the contest, and that was Carlos Toadvine. Carlos was a left handed guitar player. Now I know left handed guitar players are pretty common. But there was nothing common about the way Carlos played the guitar. Instead of reversing the strings on the guitar as most left handed pickers do, Carlos left them as they were, and played the instrument upside down and backwards. He chorded over the top of the neck with his right hand, and strummed or picked upwards from the bottom with his left hand. But that was only one small part of this teen’s talents. He could sing you a song that would make you jump up, clap your hands and dance a jig, or he could sing a tearjerker that would have you reaching for your hankie.

I moved away from Kentucky in 1962, and don’t know too much about Carlos’s career after that. I do know that he took on the stage name of Little Enis, with his band being “The Table Toppers. He worked the clubs in the Lexington Kentucky area, and toured for a while with Jerry Lee Lewis.
Little Enis is remembered by many as a rockabilly artist, and is listed in the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame. He is also remembered as a rocker and Elvis impersonator who could tear the house down. But I know down deep his true roots were in traditional country music, which will come out on the songs listed on this page
Carlos died in 1976 at only 40 years old while visiting his sister in Florida. He was never a major star, but he did have his fans. More than 1000 people showed up for his memorial service.
There are many of us who will never forget the little left handed boy who played his guitar backwards and upside down. And to this day, I believe he’s a folk hero in Kentucky. Especially to the folks of Hogue Hollow, Danville, Lexington, and many other Kentucky counties.

I would like to extend a personal thanks to Virgina Hammons of Kentucky and Pamela Manning of Florida for making this music available to me, so I could make it available to you. And a great big thanks to Michael Cassidy of Canada for sending me the tape of Little Enis songs. And also to Ed McClanahan for sending Michael the tape in the first place. Now I ask you, ain't this internet somthing?

Also, many thanks to Carlos' daughter Cindy Toadvine for the many photos she made available to me. Thanks Cindy, I would have never gotten them without you!

Enis' version of "So Plain To See" lots of nostalgic photos here!

Give music time to load, then click on title to listen in the MP3 format.

Photo by Guy Mendes

I searched for this record for many years, and only found it two or three years ago.
It's Enis' version of Good Old Mountain Dew. I first heard this on WAKY radio
in Louisville, probably about 1958. Not sure if it was his first single or not, but it's
the first one I recall hearing from him. When I first listened to this record, I thought
they had hired Boots to play sax, but then I remembered, Enis already had a great
sax player in the band. Give a listen, and see some great photos!


Here's a rare one I found online. It's on the Klondike label. Enis at his rockin' best!

A side

B Side

Some comments taken from my guestbooks. You to can sign the guestbook at the bottom of the page

We used to know a great left handed guitarist and singer they called Little Enis, in Lexington Kentucky. Playboy Magazine did an eleven page story on him. They wrote that he had a fine band, but the "tackiest go-go dancers you've ever seen!" 

I thought they were perfect. One day I got a call from our friend. He said, Jack, I'm dying. I'm calling to say goodbye." His real name was Carlos Toadvine. We loved him and we miss him.

Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan

Hi Gary,
I happened onto your web-site by accident, it is great. In 1976 when Carlos Toadvine died I was a Junior in high school in Lexington. My days of going to Boot's Bar to listen to country music had not arrived, but I had heard him around town a few times. Many of the men I knew were big fans. I am fairly certain that the brick building on the album cover was on South Limestone Street and once housed a small grocery and a restaurant called Alfalfa's there were apartments upstairs, it was only a few blocks from Boot's and Comer's. Last time I ate at Alfalfa's they still had photo's of Carlos on the wall nicely framed, so I suspect the connection.  Alfalfa's is now on Main Street.  The building may have been torn down, I seldom get back home anymore.
Buzz Lail

I knew Little Enis, Bucky, Frank and Johnny, mostly at Brocks also at Comer's and The Palms. I loved dancing to the Table Toppers back in the 60's. I live in Florida now, but I will never forget them.
Nancy Hamilton Reynolds

"Little Enis" Toadvine. He was one of a kind, and we miss him.
Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan

Hi Gary
I really enjoyed reading this page. So many nice things you said about him and we still miss him to this day. I'm his youngest daughter and he has one granddaughter. Her name is Hannah Toadvine. I have some old pictures that I would like to share with you if you're interested let me know. Take care and thanks again for the many compliments you made about my Father.
Cynthia Toadvine

Hii Gary--my name is Ed Mcclanahan, and i wrote the article about little enis for Playboy, back in 1974--the piece also appears, in slightly different form, in my book Famous People I Have Known--i'm aware that some members of the toadvine family disapprove of my essay, in the belief that it casts carlos in a bad light--but my motives were deeply affectionate, and i believe the essay contributed much to the longevity and durability of the enis legend, especially here in kentucky, where it continues, more than 30 years after its original publication, to be read with pleasure by a great many people--Famous People I Have Known has never been out of print--the current edition was published by the University Press of Kentucky in 2003, and is available from UPK ($20), or from friend discovered your website, and directed me to it-i enjoyed  it very much by the way, i think you're absolutely right that enis's roots were in country music; his album, I Kept the Wine and Threw Away the Roses, proves that, indisputably Little Enis Lives!
all best, Ed Mcc

Thanks for the memories. I remember Little Enis mostly from Comer's Restaurant and Bar. Best Hot Brown Sandwich ever! My Mother was a teacher at Cassidy Elementary School, and had both of Carlos' daughters in 5th or 6th grade; one in each, I think. When Donna arrived, Mom expected trouble, due primarily to the "Little Enis" reputation. She was astounded at the little girl's manners. It was always, "Yes, Ma'am",  "No, Ma'am", "Please" and "Thank you". She was an excellent student, too. Mom was better prepared when Hannah started in her class!

More photos, music and fan comments coming soon!

Please note: I realize no profit from the music on these pages. They are from my personal collection, and are here for educational purposes or to just bring back a memory.

#Little Enis, # Lexington KY, # Left Handed, # Carlos Toadvine

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