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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

No Country Music For Old Men



            My father used to tell me stories about how when he was a kid he and his friends would go to the movie theatre on a Saturday and, for a nickel or a dime, spend the afternoon watching cowboy movies.  He might have mentioned the stars of these movies, but if he did the names never really registered with me. 

         I had grown up with Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry-- the cowboys that were on early television. Then later I might have watched Wagon Train, Gunsmoke, or Bat Masterson.  The cowboy stars of my father's day had fallen out of favor in the early network television days and had been replaced with the new guys in town.

          When my dad heard that Colonel Tim McCoy was coming to town with the Tommy Scott Caravan and Wild West Show, he was enthused about it.  I was not able to share his enthusiasm because I wasn't familiar with Tim McCoy and even after my father told me who Tim McCoy was I was not very interested.
         Tommy Scott's Wild West and Medicine Show, as it was also known, passed through Maryville, Tennessee every year and would play in the old armory building in Alcoa, which is a city which borders Maryville.  Each year I would go with my parents to see the show.  In one sense I feigned interest in these shows, though on the other hand my love of show business couldn't keep me away.  Since our family was known in the entertainment business we would be always be welcomed to visit the show and spend time with the entertainers.

          The show was mostly country music interspersed with cornball comedy skits and variety acts. Tommy Scott's show was very much like Hee-Haw, the country comedy TV variety show that was popular at the time, except Tommy Scott had been doing it long before the television show had ever aired.  The highlight of Scott's show would be the headliner, who this year was Colonel Tim McCoy.  He would come out and talk about being a cowboy and present his expertise at fast-draw and gun slinging and then give a demonstration of his skills using a bullwhip.

         After the show, my parents and I visited with the performers and met Tim McCoy. Neatly dressed in a black cowboy outfit, he was a very polite man in his seventies.  His demeanor was dignified and robust.  He seemed like a real gentleman cowboy.  He seemed more than willing to be engaged in conversation and I suppose my father spoke to him a bit, but I wasn't paying attention to what was said.  My curiosity about the show and it's folk had been satisfied and I was ready to get on my way.

         Now I look back wishing I had tried to establish some kind of relationship with this elegant, legendary cowboy star.  This man is a genuine American legend.  He had ties with the real West and actually was a real cowboy before he went to Hollywood.  He had an actual working relationship with Indian tribal leaders and had gained their respect.  He had actually been a Colonel in the U.S. Army.  He was once a marquee idol and has a star on Hollywood Boulevard.  His wife had been at one time associated with Adolf Hitler and John F. Kennedy.  The man had an extraordinary history and hundreds of stories to tell and now toured the country with a country music circus and I didn't even ask for an autograph.
        
             For that matter Ramblin' "Doc" Tommy Scott came to town every year and I passed him off as some country yokel who put a silly old time medicine show together.  Actually he is a figure of country music history who wrote many songs and was an entertainer, recording artist, television personality, and author.  His show was a springboard for future talents as well as a forum for nearly forgotten stars like Johnny Mack Brown, Clyde Moody, Gabby Hayes, and many others.  He was a man who respected legendary talent because he was one of them.  To see an early Tommy Scott performance check out his  She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain  video on YouTube.  If you remember Hee-Haw I think you'll see the influence from this video that is probably from the late 40s or early 50s.  Why didn't I get to know Tommy Scott?  I was around him every year.

         So perhaps I'll blame my indifference on my youth--I was in my early twenties at this time.  But what excuse do I use when I was in my late thirties and early forties and was around Lash La Rue on many occasions.  Lash La Rue was working with the company that owned the show I managed at that time and on several occasions I was right there working side by side with him.  Somehow I guess I was thinking he was just some weird old guy that my boss was helping out.  Now that I'll never have an opportunity to be around Lash La Rue again I realize that Lash was once a huge cowboy star famous for his skills with a bullwhip.  He's the one who trained Harrison Ford for the Indiana Jones role.  He was also a poet and a wonderfully witty raconteur.  And yet at the events I attended where he was speaking I essentially ignored him, absorbed with my own thoughts.   Couldn't I have just listened for a short while? 

          There have been so many lost opportunities.  I think back once again to that Tommy Scott show passing through town --every one of the entertainers with stories to tell and with talents to exhibit.  And like any one of the other faceless members of the audience I sat dutifully through the program and soon forgot what I saw.  Except I had the opportunity that most of them did not have --I was able to meet with the performers and spend time with them.  I could actually visit with a cowboy star like Sunset "Kit" Carson and shake his hand.  But I squandered my opportunities. Sunset rode off into the sunset and I didn't even say so much as good-bye.

           Cowboy stars were once heroes to Americans, and they sometimes were literally real life heroes.  Do we have any real celebrity heros now and who are they?  Who were your heros when you were a kid?  As you look back were they really heroes and what did they do to deserve that label?  
 

15 comments:

  1. Wow this is just up my street, as you know I'm Nasville bound in June all being well and it has given me a taste of things to come.

    As for childhood hero's I enjoyed all types of films and music but now I am older my one hero is Daniel O Donnell the Irish singer, his shows are wonderful and you get to meet him after the show.

    A wonderful post Lee you sure did have a very interesting life with your dad.

    Have a lovely day.
    Yvonne,

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  2. I love western movies- so I think I still love cowboys. Oh and I grew up with Country (Western) Music. That's what we called it. I would have loved to have met a cowboy star. i would have fainted at meeting Tim.

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  3. Hopalong Casady was my childhood favorite. Still have the mug back from those days. Cowboy "values" were a big part of my growing up period.

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  4. rLEE-b ~
    "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys"

    First and foremost, when I was knee-high to a cactus, was Roy Rogers. I eventually had a chance to meet 'The King Of The Cowboys' and had my picture taken with him. A VERY MEMORABLE day.

    I'm aware of and have seen most of the others, the now lesser known (like McCoy and LaRue) and the superstars (like Cassidy and Autry).

    Lash LaRue was Waylon Jennings' favorite, and Waylon is one of MY favorites.

    Evidently, LaRue was Bruce Blackman's favorite as well. Blackman was the lead vocalist and principle songwriter of the old band Starbuck (another favorite of mine) which had a #3 hit in 1976 titled "Moonlight Feels Right."

    Well, on that same album was a tribute song to Lash LaRue. Here's the lyrics:

    LASH LaRUE
    I'm thinkin' about a long time ago
    I got my big thrill just watching the show
    Saturday mornings, me and Big Lou
    Would catch the matinee and watch Lash LaRue
    Whup up on them bad folks like you

    Ol' Lash, he faded, just like on the screen
    The best damn cowboy my money had ever seen
    He never kissed ladies or played them guitars
    But when he cracked his whip he sent my head to the stars
    And whupped up on them bad folks like you

    Lash LaRue, he gonna pop all them fools in time...

    I made me a whip, a cape and a hat
    The Yankees were winning; I didn't have a bat
    The faucets were leaking; the streets were blood red
    But Lash LaRue was in my room and tucked me in bed
    And whupped up on them bad folks like you

    Lash LaRue, you gonna pop all them fools in time...

    Well, twenty years later, things ain't so kind
    Wherever he go, they're two steps behind
    But some of us remember that some of us cried
    When Lash LaRue would lash some ass and take him some hide
    And whupped up on them bad folks like you

    Lash LaRue - Like you
    Lash LaRue - Like you
    Lash LaRue - Like you, etc.

    I listened to the whole song in stops and starts to record those lyrics for ya. Hope ya 'ppreciate it!

    You can actually hear a 40-second sound snippet of the song if you go here:

    http://www.moonlightfeelsright.com/moonlight_feels_right_online_store.html

    Lee, I don't know how I'm ever gonna get stuffs written for my own Blogs if I keep spendin' my time posting comments on YOURS. Oh well...

    Yak Later, Bro.
    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMe

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  5. Yvonne -- I think it's really important when an artist like O'Donnell does the meet and greet session with fans. He builds and strengthens the fan base and I've always admired the artists that do that.

    Teresa -- If you had fainted in Tim McCoy's presence I'll bet he would have swept up before you hit the floor. He seemed so suave and chivalrous--a real hero.

    Linda -- Hoppy was one of my favorites back then as well. Gosh, I'll bet that mug is worth something to collectors now.

    Stephen -- I remember Starbuck's "Moonlight" hit, but I never knew about the "Lash LaRue" song -- not bad- thanks for sharing the lyrics. I listened to the snippets from their album and they sound pretty good. Thanks for taking the time to read, but I know what you mean--I spend an awful lot of time reading and commenting on other blogs. But there's some pretty good information on some of them. I don't think I'll be doing all this when I find a job.
    Lee

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  6. `
    Uh... that should have been: "principal" songwriter. DOH! (Well, I was raised on cowboy movies, so whaddaya 'pect?)

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMe

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  7. Well, LD McU-- I didn't notice-- some editor I'd make. I guess I was thinking he was writing songs based on his principles. We need more songwriters like that nowadays.
    Lee

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  8. Pirates and ninjas agree: Cowboys are cool.

    I've really started loving the icon of cowboy/gunslinger since reading Stephen King's Dark Tower series. Roland is an epic character who you really form an emotional bond with over the seven books. I highly recommend them.

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  9. Don't beat yourself up - you still got to meet him in person!

    And love the title for this post. Great movie!

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  10. Geez, Lee, you have some memory. I must have been off chasing my own cowboy then or my indifference was worse than yours.

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  11. Impressive! My greatest claim to fame is meeting Night Ranger and Peter O'Toole.

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  12. Wow - you remember a lot of details. My personal memory kind of stinks - too filled with imagination I guess. :)

    I remember watching Hee Haw with my folks. My dad didn't like sitcoms, but he would roar with laughter over this show!

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  13. Interesting post. I heard some of the same Saturday movie stories from my parents. I was also big into the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Gunsmoke and Wagon Train.

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  14. B-- Ah yes, the amazing Mr. King -- maybe someday I'll get to that series.

    Diane -- I'm not really beating myself up so much as lamenting my indifference. great movie & book

    Joy -- Yeah, I'm sure you were off on some other endeavor. You didn't like to go to those shows as much as I did. I wish I could remember more.

    Alex -- Yikes! You met Lawrence of Arabia! That's pretty cool.

    Jemi -- I had to strain my brain- I wish I could remember every detail now. I used to watch Hee Haw sometimes. I preferred Laugh-In, but Hee Haw was like the country version and sometimes they had some good musical artists.

    Jane - Of all those I think Wagon Train was my favorite. I thought that show had really good stories. And I'm always partial to on the road themes.

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  15. This post reminds me of when Johnny Cash and June Carter came to my hometown to perform.

    I went because my dad really liked Johnny, and I knew it would make him happy if I tried to show interest in something he liked.

    But I was young at the time and didn't have a real sense of how big of a deal it was to see these two perform.

    If only I'd appreciated then...

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Lee