Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Guitar and Fiddle Playing Days


I shall indulge on your patience to relate some of my background. You see, ever since I was in the 7th grade, I wanted to be a cowboy singer when I grew up. During my high school years, my guitar teacher told me that KVGB radio station in Great Bend, Kansas (my hometown) was engaging local entertainers to have programs on their station. Everyone seemed to have a handle in those days so I chose 'Sunflower Wrangler'. Receiving fan mail with dedications in those days was a thrill. I was able to set up correspondence with radio stars. I obtained a copyright on a song and hoped to become a song writer. Al Clauser, of "The Oklahoma Outlaws", was working in Des Moines and Topeka at the time. He told me "it's best to write your own songs to be a success in this business."

I began playing guitar in bands doing Barn Dances that were popular in Kansas, since it was a dry state. But we had an oil boom. Consequently bootleggers were an accepted thing. The law looked the other way. Booze flowed at all the private clubs and sometimes we played three dances a week. You get the picture.

After I came home from the Army and World War II, I was back to playing in bands. My background was in high school I played violin and bass viol in our orchestra, bass viol in the concert band, and tuba and drums in marching band.


In about 1948 Cal Shrum came through Great Bend with his B-Western movie and "In Person Stage Show". His guitar player was called back to Idaho, so he needed a guitar man. He called KVGB and they told him to call me. Thus I worked with him in a 100-mile radius while I still worked my "day job" as an accountant at a meat packing plant. Cal asked me to go with him until his tour ended on the West Coast. It was career decision time. He was going to pay me more that I was making at the packing plant. My wife and I had twins, a boy and a girl, who'd been born in 1947. My wife was asking me for a divorce and I would have custody of the twins. So I had to decline Cal's offer.

During those days I listened to Wilf Carter on a short-wave radio and I said "That's for me!" I turned my violin into a fiddle and also learned to play lead melody guitar. I worshipped Eldon Shamblin, the Bob Wills guitarist, and I studied his chords. You see, our part of Kansas had an oil boom and with it came the "Okies" and Bob Wills music.


I still have my D-18 Martin guitar, my ES-150 Gibson guitar and an F-5 mandolin. We have jam sessions at our local Senior Centers. I was pretty proud of my yodeling, a la Montana Slim style.

Well, that's enough for now. Thanks for listenin'!

1 comment:

GrannyPam said...

Very cool. That D-18 is a treasure, and I know you treasure it. What kind of mandolin do you have?