Telling ‘Aunt Ida’ how entertainment used to be
By Lowell McGill
I received an email this week from an elderly lady from Arkansas. She asked me to write on programs and entertainment “like it used to be when I was growing up.” I told her I would try to find a subject that she could identify with. She told me she discovered my column several months ago on the Internet when I wrote about “Riding Backwards In An Ambulance.” She also followed my columns about music of yesterday and has become a regular reader. Even though she did not know me, she said she found the columns very down to earth. She said she was learning more and more each week about Atmore.
She identified herself as "Aunt Ida” and she did not tell me where her home was located in Arkansas because she did not want phone calls made to her.
Because of her request, those of you who were born after 1955-60 will probably find today’s column somewhat dull.
It just so happened that an insert was run in the Advance a couple of weeks ago about "Television, The way it used to be." The article in the insert was about RFD TV and some of the programs this network carried.
Patrick Gottsch, a 54-year-old mid-westerner, founded this network and it has become an overnight success. It not only carries farm shows about life in rural America and especially in small towns. But its Saturday night musical programs are reflective of days gone by. In addition Crook and Chase and Ralph Emery have been added to the lineup. Their reputation anchors even more viewers. This network is found on DISH, channel 231. I am not sure of its cable and Direct TV locations.
I have really grown to appreciate this network. I like the programming, music and comedy and most of all the "station breaks." Now for those of you who do not know what a station break is, it is the time space between the ending of one program and the beginning of a new program. For instance, there is one break depicting a two horse drawn wagon slowly trodding along a narrow path between two fence rows with beautiful cornfields on each side of the fences. The corn leaves toss about in the wind as the horses and wagon move along its path. Other breaks feature large farms and fields in hillsides and valleys, herds of colorful cherry red cattle and moving water in luring streams flowing in hollows and meadows.
But, back to the programs. Crook and Chase, with all their guests, can be seen several times during the week. Saturday nights has Country Classic, an hour-long 1970-80 Grand Ole Opry show. Then comes "Midwest Country." Now this show is different. Hundreds of Minnesota residents and others from surrounding states gather in a small Minnesota town to listen to the area musicians and singers. While some of the talent has a lot to be desired, there are some very good musicians and singers. Those who come to listen to these performances appear to be hardworking farmers, ranchers and cattlemen.
As I said some of these performers are very good. David Church, who dresses like Hank Williams, actually sounds like the Georgiana native. Kenny Miller sings in the same manner as Marty Robbins. There is a great steel guitar player and lead guitar player who are members of the stage band. They are very good. The lead guitar player’s last name is Glasser. I am not sure if he is one of the back up singers who recorded so many songs with Marty Robbins. (i.e. El Paso, etc.)
Then there is a very pretty young lady known as Maggie Mae. She is a yodeler. She has a voice similar to those yodeling voices you find in the renowned Swiss yodeling clubs in Switzerland. She sounds like Patsy Montana (I Want to Be a Cowboys Sweetheart) of the 1940s. But she also sounds like little Caroline Cotton, who sang and yodeled as a regular for the 1940s Spade Cooley band.
The musical entertainment is capped off with "Big Joes Polka Show." This program features many polka bands native to the midwest and some of the lyrics are native to those residents who moved there from other countries years ago. The thing that touches my heart on this show is the elderly couples, ages 50-90, who dance to the polka music of the resonant sounding bands. You listen to this music and you can understand why Lawrence Welk, who hailed from this area, was so popular, especially in his early days playing polka music. Each band will always feature an accordion or concertina button box. Many family bands are featured also. Big Joe tapes polka dancing sessions in Texas, Minnesota and Branson, Mo. for replay on RFD TV.
Just this past Saturday night Ralph Emery dedicated his entire show to Eddy Arnold, one of my heroes who passed away two weeks ago at age 90. Emery had recorded the Arnold show exactly one year before his death. They reminisced about Arnold’s 85 million records sold during his successful career. The true down to earth singer sang memorable songs back in the 1940s like "That's How Much I Love You," I’ll Hold You In My Heart" and of course his great theme song, "Cattle Call." It also brought back 1954-57 memories for me when many, many times I would come on to my 12:15 p.m. WATM shift, relieving Tom Miniard and going directly into our? Purina Checkerboard Show With Eddy Arnold."
Well Aunt Ida, I’ve tried to take you back to yesterday. I also hope many of you feel this nostalgic era as Aunt Ida and I do.
I have one more old time show that was so popular back when I was a boy. How many of you remember this famous theme song "I Was Born In Renfro Valley." Yes, that Kentucky based show still is popular today. Space will not allow me to tell you about this show today, but I will write about it in future columns.
Yes it always whispers to me, those days of long ago.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org