Remembering The Dismembered Tennesseans

  • Thursday, March 16, 2023
  • Earl Freudenberg
Dismembered Tennesseans
Dismembered Tennesseans

The original Dismembered Tennesseans were a Chattanooga bluegrass quartet made up of some of the city’s most well-known businessmen. Ansley Moses, lead singer and bass player, died this week after an extended illness. The only original member of the band alive is Doc Cullis, who still plays his banjo occasionally with the new group.

The exact date the group was formed isn’t certain, but it is believed to be about 1945. The original members were Chattanooga News Free Press President and former grocery man Frank McDonald, realtor Fletcher Bright, Lookout Mountain Mayor and retired banker Moses and orthodontist Cullis.

Mr. McDonald said in a radio interview the group started playing together when they were serving detentions at McCallie School. He said, “We got permission to bring our musical instruments to school and pick.” One teacher asked another one where the music was coming from and the teacher responded “that’s just those Dismembered Tennesseans.” Fletcher Bright was asked about the story and responded, “That’s just as good as any, I never try to outdo Frank.”

Frank McDonald died in early 2,000, Fletcher Bright passed away in 2017 and now the death of Ansley Moses in 2023.

Ansley Moses didn’t say a lot but was the group’s lead singer. Mr. McDonald would joke that Ansley needed to turn up his hearing aid when he’d start off on the wrong song. Mr. Moses was asked if he was hard of hearing and he responded, “That’s what Frank says.”

Frank McDonald said, “The Lookout Mountain mayor knew just about any bluegrass tune that had been written. He would teach us the new ones; he was the best.”

Louie Wamp, who played dobro with the group in later years, said the mayor performed his wedding. He said it was the only wedding Mr. Moses every did and he would joke it better not fail. Louis Wamp said he knew Mr. Moses singing in the choir while attending the Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church.

Louis Wamp said there was a serious side to the retired banker, but one wouldn’t know it while he was on stage. He said, “Ansley loved to perform; sing and play that upright bass. Picking with the Dismembereds was some of the best times of my life.”

When ABC news did a feature on the Mountain Opry in January, 1988, Ansley Moses was asked by the network's Charles Murphy if he was nervous. He said, “When our group appears on Peter Jennings evening news, we’ll get phone calls and be singing all over the United States, we are just that good.” The reporter laughed real big.

The Dismembered Tennesseeans were always available for benefits; Forgotten Children Fund, Drug Prevention programs in the schools, and Bethel Bible Village and they sang every year at Ketner’s Mill Country Fair.

At a Bethel event, the group sold their records, tapes, t-shirt and pictures and raised over $300. Frank McDonald put the money in his cowboy hat and gave the hat and money to Executive Director Ike Keay.

The new Dismembered Tennesseans continue to sing and perform every fall at the Three Sisters Bluegrass Festival on Ross’ Landing. That festival was started by the late Fletcher Bright, original member of the Dismembered Tennesseans.

Louis Wamp now lives in Florida and is still making music. The brother of former Congressman Zach Wamp said, “I’ll never forget the days of performing with the Dismembered Tennesseans. They were some of the best. They didn’t need the money - just wanted to have fun making their favorite music.”

Ansley Moses and Zach Wamp
Ansley Moses and Zach Wamp
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