Nostalgic notes: A country music star has roots in Atmore

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Mike Johnson, who has relatives in the Atmore area, is scoring big time in the field of country music.

He is one of the subjects in today’s column.

This Nashville-based star is regarded as probably the best steel guitar player in America. He has established a highly successful and unique business, handling musical arrangements for countless country musicians.

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The success story of this talented man is growing more and more popular each day.

Over the last couple of years, he has been handling musical arrangements for several well-known Grand Ole Opry stars.

Rhonda Vincent is currently one of his well-known clients. And, for several years, he served as band leader and musical director for the Nashville Network. Incidentally, he can frequently be seen on Saturday nights RFD TV shows.

His style of play has drawn rave notices from several country music stars. He has performed studio-recording sessions with dozens of popular bands and vocalists. This includes Faith Hill, Steve Wariner, Lee Greenwood, Trace Atkins, Randy Owens and many more.

Mike’s brother, Mark, is also a successful musician. He currently plays bass guitar for Reba’s band. He can also be seen on those RFD TV shows.

While these brothers never lived here, they are related to Jean Pennington and other Wooten family members.

Another local man whose talents and efforts should not go unnoticed is Bub Gideons.

Affiliated with real estate locally, he is equally actively involved with local community and civic affairs. His affiliation with the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce is not to be overshadowed in his efforts to “Save the Strand Theatre.” Spearheading this project with several other well-regarded local citizens, their money raising drives have gone a long way in helping preserve this Atmore treasure. Their aim is to restore the Strand and capture its memory for all of us who trekked up and down the aisles as kids back in the 40s and 50s.

Bub has also been in the forefront of other civic events, particularly the spring and fall festivals.

Hats off to you Bub for all you do.

Well, youth baseball season is just around the corner and that means Murray Johnson will once again be at the helm, leading all the activities for these youngsters and their families.

Since 1973, this spirited and community leader has directed this organization at the same time, while watching many of these young ball players move onto college and professional teams. His efforts have kept our Little League, Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken teams in success stories beyond explanation. It’s a big job, indeed, to oversee the many diversified aspects involved. But, Murray has done this and has done it well.

Let’s hope we have another successful season and we know we’ll have just that under Murray’s guidance.

A 1976 historical review of our county was published by the Atmore Advance and the Brewton Standard that year, and a copy of this review was uncovered in my files. I was particularly interested in photos and stories of merchants back then, a few of which are active today.

Maxwell-Haley Insurance and Real Estate was featured in a full-page ad in the edition. I enjoyed looking at photos of those employees. CEOs Ben Haley and Joe Maxwell caught my eye, as well as long-time employees Ruth Taylor and Helen Jones. Other employees affiliated with this firm then were Louisa Mooney, Abbie Lou Carter, Faye Cost, Hannis Byrne, Norma Daniels and Alice Salter.

A picture of Atmore Truckers stands out in the same Ridgeley Street location as it does today. The advertisement for this firm offers a vivid picture of its farm related products. Cattle auctions dates and time were outlined as well as gin and grain elevator hours. Not to be overlooked was a superimposed sign on the front of the building, “A Farm Cooperative.”

Another picture of interest were members of Atmore’s Area Chamber of Commerce. Those prominent men and women were AP Webb, Minor Corman, Fred George, B. Swift, George Bowab, Frank Currie, Clift Bethea, Eddie Staff, R B Watson, Murray Greer, H H Patterson, Jr. and Francis Henry.

I will present more items of interest from this edition in future columns.

Ernestine Miniard and WATM Radio ran a contest called “Identifying Atmore’s Most Popular Secretaries” during the 1960s. Names of ladies were called out over the air and prizes were awarded to callers who correctly identified these secretaries. These were some who (that) were called out. Molly Norris, Francis Blackburn, Marlene Forester, Jean Strength and Kathryn Lowery. Their employers were the Atmore Advance, Dee Gibbs Oil and Gas Distributor, WATM, Vanity Fair and Hoehn’s Trading Post. Can you connect them with their employees?

There seems to be a storm brewing involving panelists in the upcoming Republican Debate hosted by Fox News. Donald Trump says he may not participate if Megan Kelly is on that panel. Remember, she is the one who publicity belittled Trump in an earlier debate. It will be interesting to see what happens here. Trump has gone on record implying he does not forget those public figures who publicly belittle him. That could come back to hunt some Alabama folks if he wins the election.

More next week.