Charles Chester Conley passed away Friday at the age of 75.
His obituary talked about his employment as a bus driver for the city of Ashland and that he was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.
But that’s far from the whole story of Charles Conley, who was half of the popular 1960s Hall of Fame tag-team professional wrestlers known as the “Scufflin’ Hillbillies.” They wore bibbed overalls and carried a moonshine jug into the wrestling ring as part of their schtick. They were part of a card that sold out Madison Square Garden on three consecutive nights in 1962 while working for the WWWF.
Conley and partner Rip Collins, who died in 1993, entertained thousands as the “Scufflin’ Hillbillies.” They performed the dreaded “’possum stomp” on opponents as fans cheered and cheered.
“They got a guy down and they’d do the ’possum stomp,’’’ said Bob Smedley, who also has some pro wrestlin’ experience in his past with the name Bobby Blaze. “They played up to the whole crowd from what I understand. Television was getting into its heydey with shows like the ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ and Westerns like the ‘The Virginian’ and ‘The Rifleman.’ They came out in the bibbed overalls with the moonshine jug that had the triple Xs on it. It was a good gimmick for the time.”
The “Scufflin’ Hillbillies” were stereotypical of the Appalachian area for the time. “Everybody thought that’s what everyone in Kentucky looks like,” Smedley said.
Conley spent his last years in nursing homes in Coal Grove and Flatwoods, according to Smedley, who came to know him through wrestling.
“He came to matches and always called me ‘The Kid,’’’ Smedley remembered. “I always called him ‘Old-Timer.’ A lot of people would get mad about that, but he liked the camaraderie we had.”
Smedley said Conley always loved to talk about his days as one of “Scufflin’ Hillbillies.” That and his service in the Marines meant so much to him. He had a plaque and letter in his room at the nursing home reflecting how he won the 1958 USMC wrestling championship in Fort Bragg, N.C. That’s what started him on the sometimes zany world of professional wrestling a few years later.
The plaque, letter and a photograph of the “Scufflin’ Hillbillies” followed him from rest home to rest home. That’s how much it all meant to him.
He was inducted into the Tri-State Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2008 along with his partner. Blaze was also inducted that year.
“When I first met Chuck, I was passing papers (for The Independent),” Smedley said. “He lived up on Winchester between 27th and 28th and had some stuff about wrestling. He started calling me ‘Kid’ then.”
Smedley and Conley struck up then what would be a longtime friendship. Smedley said he visited his friend around the holidays every year and they’d sit and talk and laugh. The subject was always wrestling.
Martha McCoy was a double-cousin of Conley and she said her father, Wayne Castle, “was a big fan of his. My dad was gong to go right into the ring on them one time. He was a hot-head. But he was going to go right in there and get them.”
McCoy, 80, said her double-cousin always loved the entertaiment part of professional wrestling.
“I followed him, but never said him wrestle in person,” she said. “I had a big family to take care of. But I kept up with him the best I could. He had so much fun with it.”
The “Scufflin’ Hillbillies” were so popular a second tag-team was started with Cousin Slim (Marvin Cheatham) and Cousin Willie (Billy Garrett). The second team was often accompanied by a manager in Cousin Alfred, who also wrestled sometimes. They often mixed and matched the Hillbillies up with Slim teaming with Rip and Chuck teaming with Willie and vice versa. It was a car accident in 1978 that ended Conley’s wrestling career, although he and Rip ran wrestling schools into the mid-1980s, Smedley said.
During the time the “Hillbillies” were in New York, they stayed a block from Madison Square Garden in a room for $25 a week. They could get a steak, potato, salad and coffee for $2.50. Their payoff for the show would be $250. Of course, in 1962, that was a lot of money.
“They didn’t get rich, but they did OK,” Smedley said.
The “Hillbillies” had enough of a name they could travel small distances for televised shows where they might make $15, Smedley said.
Besides being remembered as one of the “Scufflin’ Hillbillies,” Smedley said his friend was ordained as a minister about three years ago.
“I know that’s something he’d want people to know,” Smedley said.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2648.
Charles Chester Conley passed away Friday at the age of 75.
- Local Sports
Boys 16th Region: Tomcats enjoy Miller time (with photos, video)
It’s hard to predict how basketball teams will handle extended layoffs.
Boys 16th Region: Greenup slays Vikings, 60-54 (with photos, video)
Harold Tackett keeps telling anyone who will listen that his teams tend to peak this time of year.
15th Region: Bulldogs maul Betsy Layne, 71-52
Sophomore guard Brandon Richardson scored 14 of his game-high 21 points in the second half Saturday to lead Lawrence County to a lopsided 71-52 win over Betsy Layne in the opening round of the 15th Region Tournament at the East Kentucky Exposition Center.
Boys 16th Region: Numbers tell tale for Fleming (with photos, video)
For Fleming County, the numbers don’t lie.
Boys 16th Region: Gotta be Lion! (with photos, video)
As a scoring drought settled on Boyd County Saturday, Lewis County took advantage and then survived a frantic fourth quarter in the opening round of the 16th Region Tournament on Saturday. Lewis County won 71-66 at Morehead State’s Ellis T. Johnson arena.
- GALLERY: Tomcats move to second round in 16th Region Tournament The Ashland Tomcats out rebounded, out ran and out shot East Carter Saturday night to move on to Monday's semifinal.
- Greenup County gets by Rowan to advance in the 16th Region Tournament On the back of Gage Hughes' 22 points, Greenup County beat Rowan County 60-54 to advance to Monday night's semifinal in the 16th Region Tournament
Kentucky's Shepherd extends streak
Former Lawrence County standout right-handed hurler Chandler Shepherd is streaking again.
- Lewis county advances to Monday's semifinal Lewis County held of a late charge by the Boyd County Lions Saturday afternoon to earn a match up against Fleming County in the 16th Region Tournament in Morehead.
- Fleming County boys move to the semifinal Elliott County's Hunter Holbrook had 21 points Saturday, but the Fleming County Panthers had four players in double figures to beat the Lions 67-45 to advance to the semifinal round of the 16th Region Boys Basketball Tournament in Morehead.
- More Local Sports Headlines
- Boys 16th Region: Tomcats enjoy Miller time (with photos, video)