If you think back to the last time that you went grocery shopping, chances are you did your best to stay out of people’s way while getting the items that you needed. But what if someone there had a really interesting story to tell? Would you stop and chat with that person?
It turns out that one employee as a Kroger store in Decatur, Georgia, has a pretty amazing musical past. Her name is Virginia Carllile.
The energetic, friendly 86-year-old with the sweet and charming demeanor works the help desk at the large grocery store. It might come as a surprise to learn that Virginia – a singer-songwriter and musician – once enlisted in the Air Force. The decision paid off, because she met her future husband, Kenneth Carllile, while overseas.
Country music star Kenneth Carllile and his wife Virginia were once a musical dynamo. He died in 1987 and she now works at a Kroger in Decatur, Ga., where she says she likes it and is glad for the work.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Kenneth, he was a celebrated musician from 1948 until his death in 1987. He earned the nickname “Thumbs” because he played the guitar in an unorthodox manner. Interestingly enough, it was the late Little Jimmy Dickens who coined the moniker, as the two played together onstage at the Grand Ole Opry as part of the country group Dickens’ Country Boys.
“When he was young, his older sister had a dobro, which played like a Hawaiian guitar,” Virginia told decaturish.com of how her late husband discovered his musicianship and developed his unique style. “[It was] played with a bar, and she wouldn’t let him play it. One day he kicked in her door while she was gone and took it, only to find out she had hidden the bar.”
Since Kenneth’s sister hid the bar – which is used to hold down notes on the dobro – he, got creative and, instead, used his fingers to play the notes. He then carried that unusual style of play onto other instruments.
After meeting each other in Stuttgart, Germany, where they were both stationed and involved in the military music specialty services, Virginia and Kenneth bonded over their respective guitar playing, as well as her songwriting skills. After serving overseas, they returned to the U.S. and got married. They then brought their music to stages and recording studios, where Virginia went by the stage name Ginny O’Boyle. One of the songs that they recorded together is called “Now that You’re Leavin’ Me.” You can check that song out in the clip below.
Aside from recording music and performing together, Virginia and her husband also shared the stage with the late Country Music Hall of Famer Roger Miller, who is known for Grammy-winning songs like “King of the Road,” “Dang Me” and “Husbands and Wives.” Thumbs also appeared on “The Tonight Show” five times, one of those with Virginia.
Despite her past career and accomplishments, Virginia seems to love and enjoy the current work that she’s doing these days.
“I’ve worked here four years,” she said about her role at the store. “I’m very happy with how Kroger takes care of its elderly workers. No age discrimination here.”
So, next time you stop and get groceries you might want to take a look around you, because you never know who you might meet.