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Remembering Allen’s days on radio

By By Lowell McGill
This will be the last in a series of columns on people, places and events in 1973.
SAMCO announced plans for a $300,000 building in Atmore Industrial Park. The structure would house machinery to convert non- woven fabrics into semi-finished products. The operation generated 35 new jobs.
Lynn Lufkin, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Lufkin, was selected as Teenager of the Year. The former ECHS and Auburn grad is now a successful judge in the state.
Karen Beasley, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Beasley of Bratt, was named Who’s Who at Jefferson Davis Junior College. She was also the editor of “Beauvoir,” the college newspaper.
Our 13-year-old Babe Ruth Baseball team competed in the state tournament against East Morgan County near Huntsville that year. That tournament went down to the wire with the home team winning the tournament in the final game.
There is a unique lore about northwest Alabama.
For several years many of our teams played tournament games in north Alabama. I remember one of our senior baseball teams played in a state tournament in Elkmont. My oldest son, Steve, played in that tournament along with several other local players. Tony Albert was the League president during this time.
A man we all had come to know over the years. was Rueben Sims, who was a native of northwest Alabama and an official in the State Baseball organization. He was also very knowledgeable about the geography and its people there. He probably did more for senior baseball in the State of Alabama than anyone else.
During those great baseball years, we could always expect to see Mr. Sims at those state tournaments. For some reason most of those memorable tournaments were played in the north Alabama area.
I often talked with Mr. Sims about this area, and I learned much from him.
Of course it was common knowledge that the Alabama Music Hall of Fame is now located in Tuscumbia. Mr. Sims used to tell us that a great Hall of Fame building would be constructed in that area because there were so many well-known musical personalities from there. Well, his predictions were correct. The famous hall is now, indeed, in full operation.
Sam Phillips, a friend of Mr. Sims, hailed from Florence. He later went to Memphis where he founded Sun Record Company. This is the record company that introduced Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and several other well known singers and performers.
Tammy Wynette was a native of Red Bay, a city located south of Tuscumbia near the state of Mississippi.
Sonny James, a crossover singer was born and raised in Hackleberg, a small town on Hwy. 17, also south of the Tuscumbia-Muscle Shoals-Florence area.
Jake Hess, the late lead singer with the Statesmen Quartet was from Limestone County, the home county of Athens and Elkmont.
The great W.C. Handy was from Florence. He wrote countless songs that were sung by many singers over the years.
The Delmore Brothers, a well-known singing pair who became famous in early years of the Grand Ole Opry were natives of Elkmont.
All these are now enshrined in the Alabama Music Hall Of Fame. The amazing thing about these Northwest entertainers is the fact that Mr. Sims was personally acquainted with many of them.
The Hall not only included those mentioned but many other entertainers from the State of Alabama.
There is Randy Owen and the group “Alabama” from Fort Payne. Nat “King “Cole was from Montgomery and Hank Williams from either Georgiana or McWilliams, depending with whom you are talking.
The Louvin Brothers were from Henagar, a small town in northeast Alabama.
Other performers include The Commodores, Rick Hall, William Levi Dawson, Erskine Hawkings, Martha Reeves, Percy Sledge and many more.
Finally, I want to add a personal note to all the recent excellent stories written about the Rev. Dewitt Allen.
You may recall I wrote about him on a couple occasions. But, I want to tell you again about the first time I knew about him.
It was in 1949 when he worked as an announcer at WALA Radio in Mobile. This was the station where several great sounding announcers were household favorites to all us in south Alabama. Ross Smitherman, Jim McNamara and Al Holman were just some of these radiomen. And Dewitt’s resonant voice blended in with them.
One of the shows he hosted was “Coffee With The Parson,” which was an early morning program with the Rev. Bob Barker, a pastor of a Mobile church. He also hosted a mid -morning show featuring Monte McGee, a talented piano player.
He told me about his role in the song, “The Death of Hank Williams.” He was on duty that night when the Alabama singer died in the backseat of his automobile while traveling to a singing date. After learning of Williams’ death, Dewitt called his friend Jack Cardwell, a Mobile songwriter-singer, Disc Jockey and part time minister. Within an hour after Cardwell arrived at the station he composed the music and lyrics to that famous song. Dewitt said he and the engineer on duty sent that song up to the network where the final touches were made and it was later released on record.
Yes, as a boy and young teenager, I listened to him on the radio many, many times. He and all those fine announcers on WALA radio inspired my wanting to sound just like them. Had it not been for listening to him, I may have never made it through college. Because of this inspiration I was able to get a job at WATM and work my way through four years of school and several years there after with the station.
After he died, I called around to some of my friends and to other Mobile old time radio people. I think it is safe to say that he was the last of those 1940-1950 WALA radio announcers.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at exam@frontiernet.net