My love for country music started with The Grand Ole Opry and listening to a radio station from Del Rio, Texas that advertised 100 razor blades and a picture of Jesus for a dollar. You got the impression the picture might have been autographed by Jesus himself. I never had the opportunity to try the blades but they must have sold quite a few to stay on the air. The possibility of seeing one of the singers perform in person in the 40’s and 50’s in South Dakota was slim because the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota was catering to Guy Lombardo and Spike Jones.
I found that being a country music fan in the Navy in the early fifties put me in the minority. I met a young man from Oklahoma named Billy George and I figured with two first names he had to be a fan and I was right, he was one of us. We became fast friends and would search for places in southern California where we could see and hear the singers and pickers we enjoyed so much.
Country music was just starting to get popular in California in the 50’s. A show called “Town Hall Party” in Compton, California was on TV, and Billy George and I attended or watched it every chance we got. One night after the show “Lefty" Frizzell came to our table with a bottle and said, “Have a drink on me sailors!” He inquired where we were from and how long we had been in the Navy. We were so elated to meet one of the greats and find out he was a nice man.
Brenda Lee appeared at Town Hall Party many times and we never thought the chubby 12 year old would become a big star. A man named Joe Maphis played lead guitar in the band and I later learned he was considered by his fellow musicians to be the best in the business.
We got to see Little Jimmy Dickens at a place called the Red Barn. He felt obligated to make some off-colored remarks about sailors, which didn’t help our chances with the girls at all.
Wynn Stewart Played at a place called George’s Roundup in Long Beach, California.This place was packed every night with sailors and “West Pac Widows” their husbands were overseas. Wynn Stewart’s big hit was “It’s Such a Pretty World Today” and we heard him sing it many times.
Buck Owens and his Buckaroos were getting one hit after another, and Billy George and I knew the words to all his songs. We would listen to Johnny Cash and George Jones on the radio for hours. Billy George and I wore cowboy boots and hats on occasion and the California natives called us “Tex”. We just smiled and waved.
I still like country music, but I would rather hear Kitty Wells sing her “Honky Tonk” songs than the new scantily clad gals shouting over the band. One time a fellow said to me, “You must be from the south, the way you like country music.” I replied, “You got me pegged; I’m from South Dakota.”
© Maurice D. Karst 2002
Want to know more?
Town Hall Party
Year Started: 1951
The Town Hall Party was held at the Town Hall which was at 400 Long Beach Boulevard in Compton, California.
Joe Maphis - Fire on the Strings
PopMatters Music Review
Town Hall Party & Compton, CA
Rockabilly Hall of Fame
Lefty Frizzell bio
Tribute to Lefty Frizzell
George's Round-Up in Long Beach.
Wynn Stewart - The West Coast Playboys
The West Coast Playboys: Wynn Stewart, Tony Amico, Cecil Bays and Pete Ash
Please be patient.
Honky Tonk Angels
If You've Got the Money Honey, I've Got the Time
Mitchell, South Dakota
Brenda Lee & Elvis
Porter Wagoner, George Jones, Jimmy Dickins
Under Your Spell Again
The Race Is On
Green, Green Grass of Home
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