G.D. KINNEY, 1877 - 1939
G.D.Kinney, who was described as “a big, husky man who loved the outdoors, hunting and fishing”, was born in Tipton County, Tennessee in 1877. He served in the Second Infantry, Tennessee Volunteers during the Spanish-American War, circa 1898. Later settling in Memphis, he was employed by the Five Lakes Outing Club at Horseshoe Lake near Hughes, Arkansas, from 1915 to 1930. He was the club manager and a guide for the sporting elite who held membership there. Mr. Kinney was known to be an avid waterfowler and an excellent duck caller.
After a tree cutting accident in 1930 which broke his hip, he retired to Raleigh, Tennessee, where he worked from his wood shop crafting his duck, crow and turkey calls, and making decoys and gunstocks for local sportsmen. Mr. Kinney also made wooden buttons for some of the finer clothing businesses in downtown Memphis. It was also noted that he provided gunsmithing services, and repaired and repainted others’ decoys. He was so well admired by the local sporting gentry that the members of Five Lakes Club purchased the Raleigh residence and gave it to Mr. Kinney as a token of their esteem.
Contrary to the rumor that he had lost a leg, and was known as “The One-Legged Pusher”, G.D. Kinney had all his limbs his entire life. This inaccuracy was probably perpetuated from the accident that forced him into retirement from Five Lakes Club.
One Memphis newspaper article refers to him as “The Duck Call Man” and states that, “…he had few peers in the manipulation of the calling instruments”
Another said about his affinity for hunting, “…his fondness for hunting and fishing never waned and during the past few years, often accompanying Memphis nimrods into the woods where he practiced the art at which he was a master- the calling of ducks, turkeys, crows and other game with man made calls.”
Newspaper writer Frank Vestal wrote in one Memphis article, “…Among the leading makers of box turkey calls in the country are … and G.D.Kinney of Memphis. Their calls are used by sportsmen throughout the United States and are considered the utmost in box turkey calls…”
G.D. Kinney made his Reelfoot style duck calls from 1900 to 1939. Although there is evidence of his experimenting with different shaped barrels, he basically refined his calls to two very distinct patterns: his plain barrel call and an ornate four-paneled barrel with extensive carving and checkering. There is also evidence of progression from one to the other, as some plain barrel-styled calls have checkering. The stoppers were of two basic designs also: one with a finger groove and one with two lines around the bell.
Although there were countless call makers in Mid-South area, the G.D. Kinney call has a uniquely identifiable shape and style, and is highly prized among serious call collectors.