Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
October is "Country Music Month." Here is smorgasbord of information from this much-loved genre of mostly-American music.
* Musician Louis Marshall Jones was 22 when he was first nicknamed "Grandpa" because of his pipey, high-sounding voice. Later, he started dressing for the role and became a regular on "Hee Haw."
* Gene Autry is the singing cowboy with the most film credits. Autry has 104 acting credits, 18 composing credits and five production credits. Roy Rogers is a close second with 116 acting credits but only one composing credit. Tex Ridder has 71 acting and six composing credits.
* Reba McEntire was discovered while singing the national anthem at the 1974 National Rodeo Finals. Reba, as she is best known, has sold over 40 million records.
* At age 19, Ernest Tubb took a job singing on a San Antonio radio station. The pay was so low, Tubb also dug ditches for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and later clerked at a drug store. He later drove a beer truck to supplement his radio pay.
* Kitty Wells was born Ellen Muriel Deason in August 1919. Her 1952 hit recording, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" made her the first female country singer to top the U.S. country charts. In 1976, Kitty Wells was inducted into the Country Music Hall of fame, and as of this year -- at age 91 -- is the oldest living member.
* In 1969 a group called Young Country formed. Later the group changed its name to Wild Country and then finally to Alabama.
* It is difficult to say just where to consider Patsy Cline's hometown -- she and her family moved 19 times before she reached the age of 15.
* Tammy Wynette's greatest hit may be "Stand By Your Man" but in reality, she has been married five times. Another one of her greatest hits was "D-I-V-O-R-C-E."
* Faith Hill sang her first gig at a Mississippi tobacco spitting contest.
* The first country music album to reach the U.S. pop album charts was Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" in 1964.
* Tanya Tucker recorded her first hit, "Delta Dawn," in 1972. She was 13. At the age of 15, Tucker recorded David Allen Coe's "Will You Lay With Me (In a Field of Stones)." The song was banned from radio and she was not allowed to perform it at shows or rodeos.
* The original Carter Family consisted of Alvin Pleasant "A.P" Delaney Carter; his wife, Sara Dougherty Carter, and his sister-in-law Maybelle Addington Carter. The trio traveled to Bristol, Tennessee in August 1927 and made their first recording. The one-time pay for each recording was $50 (total). While the group did not make much money this way, 300,000 records sold by the end of 1930.
* Jimmie Rodgers is considered the "Father of Country Music." He began performing in 1925, and along with the Carter Family, is considered to have pioneered country music. Rodgers was paid $100 for his first two song recordings in 1927.
* Brenda Lee did two command performances for Queen Elizabeth before the age of 20. Lee is the only woman to be inducted into both the Country Music and the Rock-n-Roll halls of fame.
* Inside the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Elvis Presley's "Solid Gold" Cadillac is on display. The automobile features a 45 rpm record player, refrigerator, cocktail dispenser, electric shoe buffer and six gold-plated records attached to the interior ceiling.
* George Jones had his first chart record in 1955 and is still performing today.
* Merle Haggard spent 18 months in San Quentin for armed robbery. While governor of California, Ronald Reagan granted him a full pardon.
* In 1927, country music sold about 104 million units. Fifty years later in 1997, that number had reached 652 million.
* In 1943, the U.S. Army Special Services Division hired about 25 country and western bands to entertain troops in Europe.
* Tom T. Hall, the son of a preacher, has become known as "The Storyteller." While his stories and songs have made him very successful, he has also written for other musicians. Jeannie C. Riley had a tremendous hit with his "Harper Valley PTA."
* Dolly Parton wrote the first of her 5,000 (and counting) songs to her corn-cob doll. Not yet able to actually write, her mother wrote down the words for her to "Little Tiny Tassletop." Besides being a gifted vocalist and songwriter, Parton plays the guitar, dulcimer, fiddle, drums, autoharp, piano and banjo.
* Harold Lloyd Jenkins was born September 1933. At the age of 10 he formed his first band known as The Phillips County Ramblers. In 1957, Jenkins changed his name to Conway (as in Arkansas) Twitty (as in Texas). Twitty went on to have 40 No.1 hits on the Country Billboard charts.
* Roy Rogers is the only person ever inducted twice to the Country Music Hall of Fame, first as a member of The Sons of the Pioneers in 1980 and as a soloist in 1988.
* Johnny Cash's first "non-farming" job was at the age of 14. He carried water for the men on work gangs. At the age of 17, Cash entered his first talent show and won $5, which was the same amount of money he spent on his first guitar while in the Air Force in Germany.
* Willie Nelson was given his first guitar at age 6. His first gig was playing at a dance at age 10. During his teenage years, he played dances and honky-tonks. He also earned money as a door-to-door Bible and encyclopedia salesman. Later, in high school, Nelson worked for a local radio station, and by his graduating year he had his own radio show. Nelson tried college for one year (Baylor University) but returned to his true love-music.
"Country music and blues are close, close relatives. It's the same man singin' the same song about the good and the bad times, a woman he's got, a woman he wants, and one he can't get rid of" -- Waylon Jennings.
"Nothing will prepare you for singing the truth like about 35 years in the music business, financial troubles and a couple trips to jail, ... It will get you really humble and really truthful, and gets you ready to sing out about who and what saved you" -- Marty Stuart.
"Put your trust in the Lord and go ahead. Worry gets you no place" -- Roy Acuff.
"You got to have smelt a lot of mule manure before you can sing like a hillbilly" -- Hank Williams.