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Lonnie Glosson
Harmonica Ambassador

By Marcella Pry
 
 
Lonnie Glosson

"Arkansas native Lonnie Glosson is a legend in country music for his superb harmonica playing, his wonderfully diverse repertoire of songs, and his stories about performing live radio shows and hopping freight trains. In the 1920s and 1930s, Glosson was a popular harmonica wizard on the radio, making his harp talk, and imitating the sound of the train, the steamboat, the Model T Ford, and the fox chase. In the 1940s and 1950s, he was a recording artist, working with the Delmore Brothers (including the seminal 'Blues Stay Away From Me'), and under his own name. 'Lost John,' his 1948 recording, appears on the CD box set 'Fifty Years of Country Music from Mercury.' With his partner, Wayne Raney, another harmonica great, Glosson sold millions of harmonicas by mail, and together they wrote the hit 'Why Don't You Haul Off and Love Me.' Glosson's composition 'Matthew 24' has been recorded by Kitty Wells and also George Jones. Active in music his whole life, Glosson has touched countless listeners with his heartfelt talent and his humorous wisdom."

Craig Morrison, author of Go Cat Go! Rockabilly Music and Its Makers (University of Illinois Press)


The following article was written for the 2001 edition of White County Heritage by Lonnie's long-time friend Marcella Pry, a member of the White County Historical Society. Lonnie died a few months after it was published.

Trains were an important part of Lonnie Glosson's life. Trains were the lifeblood of his little hometown of Judsonia. They brought excitement. They took him out of town and over the rainbow. Each day there were eight fast passenger trains. When they stopped, food vendors went up and down alongside the trains, selling their wares through the windows. The most popular of these were the homemade hot tamales. Just the smell of tamales would take him back to the anticipation and excitement of those early days. At 92, Lonnie could make tamales from scratch.

Seeing the trains come and go only strengthened the wanderlust that seemed to mark the Glosson family. Mainly it was to look for work but with Lonnie in later years, it was more – a desire to try something new. The early times were hard for the Glossons and they had to move around to find work other than picking cotton or strawberries in White County, which was seasonal. They always kept in touch with Moma and she with them.

Born on Valentine's Day in 1908, Lonnie was the seventh of 11 children. His parents were Cora Busby Glosson and George H. Glosson. The family was what Lonnie calls "dirt poor." It was the third marriage for George, whose first two wives had died, and it was the second marriage for Cora, whose husband had died. George tried hard to make a living for his family. He had a boat dock where he rented boats and sold minnows. He also picked up mussel shells in the White River to sell to the button factory in Newport.

George Glosson's parents, Joseph and Mary Glosson, came to Prospect Bluff from North Carolina. They arrived shortly after the census of 1850 in a wagon train of 18 families. They are mentioned often in W.E. Orr's history "That's Judsonia." Joe opened a very successful blacksmith shop and owned the land that is now Orr Park. He also acquired the land that now faces the park and had several hundred acres of good bottomland. He donated the park land to the city, with the provision that if it is ever used for commercial purposes, it reverts to his heirs. The rest of it went to George, who was born in 1867, although there was another son, Jim – who wound up in Little Rock and had three daughters, all who settled in Nashville, Tennessee. Joseph and Mary were gone by the time Lonnie was born, and "Poppa didn't talk about them much," Lonnie says. "He did say they were well educated."

George lost all the land to the state because he didn't feel that he should have to pay for what was his, an argument heard more than once during the Depression. The state took the land for back taxes. George's first marriage had produced a son, Boss, and a daughter, Mary "Sis;" the second produced a son, Jim. Cora had married a brakeman named Blackwell (Lonnie never knew his first name.) When he was killed in a train accident she was suddenly a young widow with a young son, Colonel Blackwell, to raise. "Poppa hired my mother to take care of his children," Lonnie says. "She had the boy of her own, so they got married. Things were very different in those days." George was struggling to provide for the family and moved from one empty house to another, most probably abandoned. Cora was a good manager but jobs were hard to find. Cora was a strong-willed, remarkable woman. She was one of six children of John and Emaline Busby, who came from Texas: Marvin, George, Will, Myrtle, Rosie and Cora. The family loved music – John played the fiddle and several of the children played instruments, including Cora. With three children in the house already, George and Cora began to add others about every two years – Johnny, Lonnie, Violet "Tootsie," Buster "Buck", Pansy, Esther and Louise. Cora made her growing brood feel loved and safe, even when there was not enough to eat – which was often. If there was only one egg, she made egg gravy so that all would benefit at least a little.

Lonnie started life as Lonnie Marvin Glosson, named for his mother's brother. But when he got old enough to talk, he let everyone know he didn't like his name or his uncle. "When we were living near Newport, Moma ran out of groceries. There was a black man and his wife living about a half mile from us, so Mama sent me down there to borrow some lard and flour, which they gave me. I don't remember their last name, but the man was named Elonzo and I liked him. So I changed my name from Lonnie Marvin to Lonnie Elonzo Glosson. I didn't like Uncle Marvin because he spanked me when I was little."

There always seemed to be something a bit special between Lonnie and his mother. He was a carefree child with a rich imagination. A chair turned on its front legs became a locomotive which would entertain him for hours at a time. School was for playing. Better than going to the fields to hoe strawberries or pick cotton. So he passed himself into the third grade but found out that he had to pick cotton anyway. That was the end of school for him. Cora played the "French harp" for her own pleasure. When Lonnie was about 9 years old she showed him how to play "Home Sweet Home" on her harp. He quickly picked it up a note at a time and was so interested in the instrument that his mother caught him playing in a cotton field when he should be picking. She told him that if he would pick 200 pounds of cotton that day, on the following Saturday she would give him a quarter to go to town and buy a harp of his own. By 2 o'clock he had the 200 pounds and the beginning of a long and illustrious career in music. He got his harmonica – M. Hohner Marine Band model – and had to pick 200 pounds every day after that. The harmonica totally fascinated him. He experimented with sounds. Railroaders and hobos coming and going on the nearby tracks spent a lot of time alone, and many played harmonicas to pass the time. Young Lonnie listened and learned. He also learned how to hop trains – and they became his magic carpet to faraway places and opportunity. His first trip was to Little Rock, about 85 miles away. He was 14 and living in Newport at that time.

When he reached Little Rock, one of the first things he encountered was a fire station and he went to see what it was all about. Judsonia didn't have one. He played for the firemen and ate dinner with them also. On the same trip, he simply walked into a couple of restaurants, pulled out his harmonica and played for those who were there. The customers donated some change and the owners offered food. A man who owned a theater heard him play. He said he was having a contest at his theater that day and invited Lonnie to enter. Lonnie did – and won first prize of $25. What a wonderful feeling – food and $25 for doing what he liked to do best.

The trip home was different, though. "I went down in the railroad yards to catch a freight back home and there was a big ol' black fella down there and he said, 'I'm going to beat the hell out of you!' So I started out running and him right behind me. I ran across a field to a small house and just busted on in – the door wasn't locked. There was a black lady and three little kids in there. I told her that a man was going to kill me. She pulled out a shotgun, loaded it and said, 'Just let that so-and-so show his face and I'll blow his head off; he's been runnin' white kids long enough.' I stayed about 30 minutes at her house and then left to catch a freight. I found a boxcar, climbed in and was on my way, doing good, until the train pulled in on a side track to let a passenger train go by. Back in those days the freight trains all had to pull in on the siding for the passengers to pass. While we were sitting on the siding, a brakeman came by and caught me. He said, 'Kid, where are you going?' I answered, 'Newport.' He asked me how old I was and when I said 14, he got a big board off the ground and said, 'I'm going to whip you real good.' When I started crying he said, 'If you'll promise never to get on another freight train I won't whip you.' Of course, I promised and he let me ride home to Newport."

Eventually, he got over his scare and "It wasn't too long after that until I started out really hoboing and bumming my eats and roaming around all over the country. I was poor, poor, poor. By the time I was 15, I really knew how to ride and bum and get by on the railroads." When he was hopping trains on the way to a performance, he always dressed in his "show clothes" and then slipped on a pair of railroad coveralls on top. "I had me a big red handkerchief around my neck or in my pocket and a checkered railroader cap on my head," Lonnie recalls, "so I didn't look like a bum; I was a railroad man."

In 1924 he hopped a freight train to St. Louis where his brother Johnny was a bricklayer. "I first got a job cleaning old bricks and then started in mixing mortar for the bricklayers," Lonnie recalls. You mixed the mortar with a big hoe with two holes in it. I got to carrying a mortar hod and then a brick hod. Some kind soul taught me how to balance a hod on my shoulder and eventually I was made head hod-carrier, making 75 cents an hour." Lonnie had listened to the broadcasts from KMOX in St. Louis on the new radio in the barbershop at Judsonia. So, he decided to call on that station. He was able to meet the station manager and tell him he played the French harp. "Oh," the manager said, "you want to play on the radio? Well, just sit down right here [in front of a big old square microphone]. When the red light goes on, start playing."

Lonnie sat there with the harp in front of his mouth and with his eyes glued to the light. The manager had neglected to explain that it would be about 20 minutes. By the time the red light came on, Lonnie's mouth was dry as cotton. But he did manage to play "The Fox Chase" and "Lost John." The latter was a tune about an old slow freight with a lonesome whistle that came through Judsonia about 2:30 every morning. The engineer was called Lost John because of that lonesome whistle. By the time he got off the air, someone was calling from the Cotton Belt Railroad in Pine Bluff. They wanted him to play at their railroad convention the next weekend. So he hopped the Missouri Pacific southbound, spent a few days at home and then played the convention. It was his first professional job. He was 17 years old and had found his way out of the cotton and strawberry fields. The bricklaying began to slow down and then all construction work just stopped.

"I fooled around and went back and forth to St. Louis," Lonnie says. His trips to St. Louis gave him access to both radio stations there. He would hop the "blinds" (a spot behind the coal car with a cul-de-sac where the railroad bull could not see him) of a fast passenger train on Saturday morning, and play on both stations that afternoon. Then he would find a few "speakeasies" (private homes that sold alcoholic beverages during Prohibition), pick up some money for playing, sleep in the railroad station until the train came that would take him home for a late breakfast.

"I did not drink," Lonnie says now. "I never knew what the stuff tasted like. There was a big crowd of men and women almost every night in there, drinking beer and whiskey. I was in there to play the harp. I would play a few tunes and then take up a collection. I would make 15 to 20 dollars every time I would go down and play. That was good money for an hour of playing. One Saturday night I was down there playing when someone knocked on the door. (They always kept the doors locked.) The lady of the house looked through the peephole then ran back and yelled 'It's a raid!' Her husband said, 'Don't get scared; I will take care of everything.' The police broke in the front door and took everyone to jail. It took three paddy wagons to hold all of us. As we were marching in, one of the men said to me, 'Sonny boy, I'll give you five dollars to play the prison song as we march in.' I said, 'Give it to me,' and I played it as we walked in.

"So we all were put in cells, three to a cell. The old sergeant took everything out of my pockets and put it in a big envelope – all but my harp. I had it in my shirt pocket. When I got back in the cell I started playing my harp. A big tall policeman came down to where I was playing and asked me, 'What's your name?' I told him, 'Lonnie Glosson.' He said, 'What are you doing in jail?' I said I was with the bunch that they had brought down and locked up and he called for the turnkey. He said, 'Open this cell and let this kid out.' Then he took me up to the sergeant and said, 'Don't you know who this is? This is the boy we listen to every night on KMOX radio!' He said, 'Give him back his stuff and let him go home.' So I did."

Lonnie the wanderer moved again, to a little sawmill town named Glenwood in southwest Arkansas.

"All the young men around Judsonia, Doniphan and Kensett kept going to Glenwood to work for the Caddo River Lumber Company," Lonnie said. "I learned all the labor jobs in the mill except to ride the carriage and set block. I stayed quite a while until I learned all the jobs and it got boring."

It was in 1930 that Lonnie met and married his Arkansas sweetheart, Ruth Moore. "Back home for awhile, my good friend Walter Roberts and I were playing the harmonica and guitar for a play party. There was a beautiful little ol' girl there dancing. I found out her name was Ruth Moore but I didn't meet her that night. I left town to go to Louisiana and pick strawberries. But I wrote this pretty little girl a letter. Miss Ruth Moore on Route 1 out of Judsonia, in the Providence community. I got an answer from her and wrote her right back. I got an answer right back. I went back home to Kensett. This was in June. At this time there was a carnival going on in Judsonia. I wrote and asked her to meet me there on Saturday night. This was in June 1930. She met me there. But I had my suit filled with bottles of moonshine. I asked her to wait right there for me. I didn't tell her about the moonshine but I had to go across the river and get rid of it. It took me a long time and she was really getting tired of waiting by the time I got back. She lived nine miles out in the country from Judsonia. I took her home that night. A car salesman from Searcy took me and Ruth and her sister Tina out to the Moore's house. This man had a roadster with a rumble seat in it. That's where Ruth and I sat – and I got one kiss from her that night.

"Then I went back to see her on Tuesday, walking there and back, and got another date for Thursday night. I walked and got there about 3 in the afternoon. She was hoeing cotton. I went out in the field and took the hoe to help her out, and she went into the house and cleaned up. I sat out in the swing on the porch and when she came out and sat with me, after talking awhile I said 'Honey, when are we going to get married?' She said 'Oh, you will have to ask Mama for me.' I said, 'Where is your Mama now?' and she said, 'Out in the barn milking.' So we went out to the barn and Mrs. Moore was milking with one hand. I said, 'Mrs. Moore, let me milk that old cow for you.' I milked with both hands. She said, 'Where did you learn to milk like that?' I said 'I can do anything.' She laughed and that's when I asked her, 'What would you say if me and Ruth got married?' She gave me a quick answer, 'I just don't know what I would say.' Then Ruth spoke up and said, 'Well, mother, you might as well say yes because we will get married anyway.' [Ruth's father, John Calvin Moore, had died with typhoid fever when he was 47, leaving Mattie Beyer Moore a widow with three girls and a boy – Tina, Lilly, Ruth and Carl.] I stayed until midnight, then had to walk that 13 miles home again. There was a big one-room schoolhouse about six miles from her house. It was open and had several long benches in it, so I went in, laid down and went to sleep. I woke up when the sun came up and made it on home. I walked to Searcy to the Courthouse and got our marriage license and walked back home to Kensett. I told Mama I was going to get married. 'Oh, pshaw, you're not going to get married,' she said. 'I am,' I said, and showed her my license. She wanted to know who the girl was and I told her it was a pretty little girl that lives nine miles out in the country from Judsonia. My brother Boss Glosson, who lived just across the street, let me borrow his car to go get Ruth. So we got married and thought no one knew about it. About four days later we were sitting out on the porch when her mother said, 'You kids might as well come in and go to bed, I know you are married.' So we did."

In time, Ruth was able to cure some of Lonnie's rowdiness, but not his desire to wander. They were married more than 65 years but only after a rocky start. Shortly after they were married, she left him and went home to her mother for nine months. "After we got married, Ruth went with me to St. Louis and I worked in construction for about six months. When the work shut down we went to Kensett. And in just a few days she asked me to take her home." He didn't know it at the time, but their marriage was over. After several attempts to patch things up, Lonnie caught a fast passenger train to Chicago and highballed away from marriage, just for awhile.

"I was on the Chicago Limited, on the blinds," Lonnie says, "I had been warned not to ride the blinds through Effingham, Illinois – that the railroad bulls would get me and I would have to serve 60 days in jail. I ignored the warning, and shore-nuff they caught me. Me and another guy I didn't know. They called for the paddy wagon to come get us. The train with about 20 cars started to pull out. I was standing close to the train. It was going about 15 miles an hour when the last car passed me, and I reached out and grabbed it. The bulls hollered and fired a shot but I don't think they tried to hit me.

"The back car was an observation car – like a little glassed-in back porch with chairs on it. I sat down in one of the chairs. In about five minutes the old conductor came out on the back and said, 'Who are you?' I told him I was hoboing my way to Chicago. 'You can ride to the next stop,' he said, 'but you must get off.' About 75 miles up the road the train pulled into a little town and stopped and I got off and went up and got on the first blind behind the engine. There was a big black cat started across the track in front of the engine. I jumped off the train and chased that cat about a city block to keep him from crossing in front of that train. Just as I got him turned the other way, the train gave two big toots and highballed out of town. I was kept off the train and missed that ride into Chicago. I caught the next train out about midnight. But first I went over to a café to get a sandwich. I always played for my eats when I was going somewhere. There was a boy, looked to be about 18 years old, who came over to me and made himself acquainted. He said, 'I will take you to all the cafes in town and I have a car and you can play the harp and I'll take up a collection for you.' So we did just that and then I went on and caught that midnight train. When I got to Chicago I went out to see my cousin Virgil Busby and stayed all night. He showed me where Tom Edwards, Marcella's daddy, lived and I stayed there. I had met him at Doniphan and had stayed with him and his family back at Glenwood."

Lonnie tried to get on WLS while in the Windy City but the manager, George Biggers, wouldn't even let him audition. Finally, Lonnie enlisted the aid of Ford and Glen, a hot NBC property on KMOX. A telegram from them to Biggers did the trick. He called Lonnie into his office and told him, "You will be on the Dinner Bell program." Lonnie replied, "Don't you want to hear me play before I go on the air?" Biggers said, "No – if Ford and Glen say you are okay that is good enough for me."

"He told me that I would play two numbers," Lonnie recalls. "So I played the imitation of the fast passenger train and 'The Fox Chase.' When I started playing all the office girls and boys came out and stood looking at me. Even the man that owned the station came out and stood looking in at me. When I got through, everyone wanted to see the harmonica I was playing. The man that owned the station told Mr. Biggers, 'Keep that boy here.' Harty Taylor told me what he said."

Each time he appeared on the air, Lonnie received a check for $17, which was the union pay scale in Chicago. On Saturday he played the Dinner Bell program and that night he got to play on the WLS Barndance. Each time, he received his check – more money than he had ever expected. This was the first pay he received for playing on the radio.

One day, station officials told him that he would be put on as a regular. After getting $17 a performance, he envisioned riches untold for a week of work, however the pay was $30 a week. Still, that was a great salary. But he had other duties besides playing. He'd sit at a desk, giving out information, and go to the Weather Bureau to pick up the weather report every day. That's how he got to see the infamous gangster Al Capone. Every morning, Lonnie had to go to the Federal Building for the weather forecast then take it to all the other stations. As he came down in the elevator, Capone and a bevy of lawyers and guards would often be waiting to go up. Capone was on trial for income tax evasion at the time.

This time at WLS was Lonnie's big break, the real launching point of his career in entertainment. But it didn't help his broken marriage right away. He was wounded by the divorce but Lonnie didn't exactly sit around his room pining for Ruth. When she mailed him divorce papers, he had signed them and sent them back. It was Cora who helped put the marriage back together. She called her son in Chicago and told him, "Lon, it was mean of you to go away and leave this sweet little girl here. She's crying her eyes out." After a good bit of talk he sent the money Ruth needed to travel, and she came as quickly as she could. With Tom and Mae Edwards as witnesses, Ruth and Lonnie were married a second time, September 7, 1931, and this time it stuck. "When Ruth first left me, it hurt me," Lonnie says. "But she turned out to be the sweetest wife in the world. Had she not left me, I might not have gone to Chicago, where I got my first big break." Two years later, they had their first child, Walter Hugh Glosson, born September 13, 1932. He was named after Hugh Cross on WLS, one of the Cumberland Ridgerunners.

At WLS Lonnie worked with a cowboy singer named Gene Autry and a harmonica virtuoso named Les Paul. This was long before Gene rode his horse Champion onto the silver screen – or Les took up the electric guitar, teamed up with singer Mary Ford and pioneered putting the same voice and instrument on a sound track many times. (Remember "The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise?") Many other old-time greats were on the Chicago station at that time. Salty Holmes, Bradley Kinkaid, Lula Bell and Scotty, Karl and Harty, Doc Hopkins, the Prairie Ramblers, The Arkansas Woodchopper, Red Foley, The Three Little Maids, The Hoosier Hotshots, Mac and Bob and Linda Parker all were there during the four-year period that Lonnie played on the station. Off and on, that is.

An insurance executive named John Lair brought Foley and The Ridgerunners, Linda Parker and others to Chicago from the Cumberland Mountains of Kentucky. He seemed to have a lot of influence. And he liked Lonnie. Playing solo, Lonnie was often backed by the The Ridgerunners. Before long, they teamed Lonnie with Gene Autry. The two had compatibility. Sears and Roebuck had built a new studio at their main mail order house for Autry, and he was destined to go places. However, neither he nor Lonnie could read "continuity" that well.

"I thought all we would have to do is play and sing," Lonnie says. "But it was a whole lot different than that. We had to talk a lot. We had to read what they called 'continuity.' That was written out for us. Until that time I had never done any talking on the radio and it scared me where I couldn't sleep at night. After about a week of that I told Gene that I just couldn't do it any longer."

"Stay with me," Autry told him, "and you can be in pictures with me when Art Satherly gets me to Hollywood." Lonnie told him, "Aw, they won't send you to Hollywood," and he left WLS. He knew he always had a job there. "I was wrong again," Lonnie recalls. "In about two years Gene was in Hollywood. I kept up with him and visited him. I got ol' Gene's address and went over to see him. He and Old Frog Millhouse [Smiley Burnett] had a U Rent Truck, moving Gene to another house. This was just a few weeks after he had gotten out there. He hadn't really gotten a toe-hold yet. Gene was glad to see me. He said, 'You would have been my righthand man if you would have just stuck with me. But I have got Old Frog now. Then he added, 'If you will learn to play the bass fiddle, I will put you in my act anyway.' I didn't learn so I missed out…"

Wherever he went, Consolidated Drug Company of Chicago sponsored Lonnie. He advertised whatever patent medicine they were pushing at the time. So, Lonnie took off for Springfield, Missouri, where his buddy Clyde Copeland had already established himself. He and Clyde teamed up for the "Sendol" program for Consolidated. They also did shows promoting the "Shepherd of the Hills" country – the area around Springfield where the movie was made and where Branson is today.

Lonnie and Ruth went home to White County for the arrival of their second child, Dorothy Lee Glosson, born October 19, 1934, at Providence.

Then Lonnie took off for KNX and the Hollywood Barndance, which he played every Saturday night. There was little recorded music in those days. The station hired about 30 bands and they all worked regular hours virtually every day. Like the moonshine in his suit the night he met Ruth, Lonnie Glosson was pushing a product that was 70 percent alcohol and cheaper than whiskey. People bought it by the case. He teamed up with Clyde, a good mandolin and guitar player, and booked schools and played programs which the whole family came to see.

Harty Taylor had given Lonnie a small Gibson guitar and taught him the "G" and "C" chords and it became increasingly helpful to him. His harmonica was the most important thing in his life, after his growing family. He used the guitar to accompany himself when he sang or did recitations.

"I want to tell you about my first trip to California," Lonnie recalls. "We were living with my folks in Doniphan. I got a telegram from old friend Clyde Copeland saying he had a good job for me. So I caught the blinds of a fast passenger train, #11 on the Missouri Pacific Railroad. I made it to Fort Worth, then couldn't get a passenger train out and decided to catch a freight train to the first big town and then try to get a fast passenger train.

"So out of Fort Worth going west, I went out to where the hoboes gathered to catch a freight train. There must have been at least 25 'bos there to 'catch out'. There was a long bridge over a dry creek and all of 'em were sitting on it. An ol' tall bo came walking up and just kept walking as he said, 'Ya'll better get goin' – the cops will be here in a little bit.' Everyone left but me and I just sat there. There was a real pretty little girl came down the road and she came up and sat down by me. She had overalls and a blue shirt on. She asked where I was going. 'Hollywood, California,' I replied. 'Why, that's where I'm going, to get in the movies,' she said. I said, 'Well you might make it, you're pretty enough.' 'That's what I figured,' she said, 'and we'll be buddies all the way out there.'

"Just about that time, the cops came over the hill and I turned a flip backwards off the bridge. I went running through the woods and she had a hold of my coattail. She finally let loose of my coat and the cops caught her. Boy, it took both of them to hold her and I got away. I decided to go back to town and went up to radio station WBAP where I knew an announcer. I told him what had happened and he said, 'Why don't you drive a car out there? They are begging for drivers every day to take cars to California.' So I went down and got a car and made it there in two days."

"While in Hollywood I met a lot of important people. One of them was Hoot Gibson's daddy, who had a big Rolls Royce touring car. He wanted me to drive him and Mrs. Gibson out to Hoot's big ranch to get some important things for Hoot, who was in England making a movie. The ranch was mortgaged to the hilt and it was going into the hands of the receivers the next day. So I drove them out to the ranch, they got the things and I took them home. Later on Mr. Gibson told me that Hoot had been married three times and that he wasn't a very good husband to any of his wives. The first wife, according to Mr. Gibson, was the best of the lot. She was getting married to a millionaire and Mr. Gibson wanted Clyde and me to play 'The Wedding March' as they came down the aisle. 'You'll stand outside and play,' he said. 'I'll make sure the windows are up so they can hear you.' So we did and they were all crying, especially the lady who was getting married. Later, we played for the party they had afterwards.

"Clyde lived in a duplex owned by Wallace Berry's daddy, who lived in the other half. He had a wife and three children and I stayed there with them. Mr. Berry gambled all night, mostly with four or five women. After about a week or so I got enough money together to send for Ruth and Hugh and Dorothy. Ruth caught the Missouri Pacific and made a connection to the Southern Railroad which came out of New Orleans and ran close to the Mexican border to California. I heard on the radio that the track had washed out due to heavy rains. I worried about Ruth and the kids but people were really nice in those days and they helped Ruth a lot.

"One day Mr. Berry had me take him down to the Santa Monica Pier to go fishing. He took his tackle and spent 30 or 40 minutes with his hook in the water then he went and bought a very big halibut and we went home. Halibut are flat on one side, even their eyes are both on one side. When he saw Clyde, he started telling what a fight that fish had put up and how hard it was to land. 'Write Wally about it,' he said, so Clyde sat down and wrote the letter for him – all about the big fish and how hard it was to catch. Later I told Clyde that the old man had bought the fish and he said, 'I know, I write lots of letters to Wally about fish and what a fight they give him.' Clyde and I stayed at KNX about a year then all 28 entertainers got fired, us included. The management got the family back that had been there before we came.

"I had a bad feeling about California and decided to go back to Arkansas. Up until this time, I did not have a car and to go back I needed one. So I went down to a Used Car lot and bought an old Chrysler touring car. The tires on it were so bad they had bald spots all over them. The old man that owned the lot said that it was the best he had for $150. So me, my wife and our kids took off for Arkansas but not until I got the tires in shape. I went into a store and bought 10 pair of rubber stick-on shoe soles and a tube of rubber cement, not to stick on our shoes but to stick on the bald spots on the old tires on my old car. Most of the highways were gravel or dirt back in those days, only towns had paved streets. When I went around a curve too fast the soles on the front tires would slip off. I would get out, put some glue on them and stick them back on, and go again. Somewhere in Texas I pulled off the road to take a nap. In trying to get started again I got stuck in the sand and could not get out. In those days there was not much traffic and if someone did stop to help I did not have anything to hook to the bumper to pull me out. There was a double-strand barbedwire fence running around a huge ranch alongside of the highway. I got my wire cutters out of the car and cut a long piece out of the fence and tied it on the front of my car. I kept flagging cars and after a short time an old car stopped and the man asked what was wrong? I said I was stuck in the sand and asked if he would pull me out. He said, 'Sure, if you've got something to hook on to.' So he hooked on to me and pulled me right out. I thanked him and he said, 'You are sure welcome' and went on his way. We made it on home to my folks' house in Kensett." Lonnie then hopped a train to Chicago – but not to WLS. He went to WJJD because that is where friends Karl and Harty, "Doc" Hopkins, Slim Miller and Cousin Ervine all played The Suppertime Frolics every evening. Les Paul was there also but did not play the Frolics. He had an early program called Strawberry Red. "He could really play those breakdowns on the harmonica," Lonnie recalled. " During the day he played guitar in the studio orchestra."


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