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|Date News Posted: February 15, 1999
Those great 50's years in Southern California kept Country Music artist a' hoppin' with all the good clubs and ballrooms to play in. Compton had the Town Hall Party shows, Cal Worthington had his shows in Huntington Park, the Squeekin Deakin had his show in the Compton Ballroom, Wade Ray was at Cowtown, Long Beach had George's Roundup and a short distance away was Bonnie Price's Foothill Club, where like George's place, dang near every body worked at one time or another, North Hollywood had the Palomino Club owned by the Thompson Brothers, up in New Hall was Tex Williams Ballroom, up around Modesto were some great clubs like Lloyd Hickey's 40 Grand Club and several other good ones where Cal Smith, Hank Cochran, Eddie Cochran and well you name it, played show after show.
I know we shouldn't name names because I always leave some body out then I feel bad about that because I really liked them all back then and it would be impossible to name every artist that worked these clubs, things back then were not like they are now in a lot of respects, one thing was, the artist were more family then what is now called a "Star" all the Country Radio Stations played their records, we went to hear them sing on the week ends, and if they had cut a new record since the last time you saw them and you were down around the Compton, Long Beach area, most of us would make the trip home the next night via: Biff Collie's record shop and buy it..we gave them a jump start in the parking lot if their car wouldn't start, and invited them to dinner now and then, so asking them for an autograph would be like asking your brother for one, they were family, anytime something happened to any one of them we all knew about it and we either laughed about it, cried about it or held a benefit show to help him or her out, anything it took, that's what we did, fans and artist alike.
Cutting a record back them was almost as simple as pickin' up the phone, Hey Tom, I just wrote a new song how about coming over and help me work it out ? and the next thing you knew Bill and his buddies were in Gold Star or Sage and Sand or one of them other little studios in a garage some place and it didn't take long, the song was on tape and the local pressing plant would press it in a few days and that was that, who cared about a label, if they were not already on a major label they just made up a name and pressed that bugger and the radio station would play it because almost all the D.J's were personal friends to the artist, and if the D.J was not on the air, he most likely was at the club or part of the band anyway. So like we said, it was a good family.
Song writing in those days like days gone before, for the most part, were written with pure feeling, Good or Bad, they were not written and again I use the words "for the most part" with a couple of good old boys or girls just sitting down and saying "let's write a song" and start throwing lines or words back and forth at each other, not for one second do I think Hank Williams could have written the songs that he did had he been a happy go lucky guy with a good home life a good woman and a dog laying at his feet, I am not saying either that Hank had a bad woman, what I am saying is, a man could be good, his woman could be good, but not good for each other.
Some of those songs from all those artist that went through hell and high water just trying to make a living doing what they liked best "Pickin' and Grinnin' " or cryin', are still thirty or forty years later, being played on radio stations all over the world, the only sad part to the story is some of them needed money and sold them, lock/stock and barrel, and that to had a song written about it, well, not exactly about selling their song but one called "It's Nobody's Business but my Own" which pretty much covers every thing, the heart ache that must have caused over the years however had to be something hard to live with, especially if that song went on to become a million seller and your name wasn't even on it, to say nothing about never getting one more penny from it.
A young man I never got to know very well, now I wish we had of, called me one day, we had a little office over in another part of town, anyway he ask me if he could stop by on Sunday, well, I really didn't want to be there on Sunday but after he told me a story I said "O.K. I'll see you there on Sunday" on the phone he told me his name and said he was the co/writer of "Release Me" I was thinking to myself that I had never heard of this guy, close by was a record rack that was breaking down in the middle with records piled so high but we managed to find an album with "Release Me" on it, his name wasn't there. Come Sunday I was just sittin' there doing a little bit of nothing when some body pounded on the lower level door that was locked on the week end, I can not remember now if he was a crippled guy or had just hurt his leg, anyway he was walking with a cane and had a shopping bag in the other hand.
I have always meant to ask some of the old timers that worked the clubs if they remembered him, he probably told me at the time if he was a member of the band but I have just plum forgot, any how, he said that on the way home from a club one night he and Eddie Miller were just driving along when Eddie said, "You know, it is to bad that when people can't get along and instead of paying lawyers a lot of money, that they could just get a release and not go through all that court stuff of a divorce" And I guess you know that, that night "Release Me" was born, he said that Eddie and him wrote the song on the way home that very night. Even though his name will not appear on the record, his name was on the four BMI awards that he carried in that old shopping bag, he had sold his part of the song.
Remember up above we said, back in the good old days artists and fans were like family, every one cared, well not much has changed with those still around today, most of them would rather tell you stories about those they played for, or with, than give you a story about themselves
Talking with Ralph Mooney is like watching the wind blow backwards, a sweet friendly man with a guitar case full of yesterdays dreams , taking me with his stories and him with his memories on a trip through yesteryear.
We asked him for a little story about himself and maybe a picture or two if he had an extra one laying around, he sent us both, a story and some pictures, the pictures all but a couple were of some one else, someone he obviously cared a lot about, almost I would say, like a father talking about his son, Ralph sent us this story hand written on a paper pad like my Mother used to write letters on, about a young man that Ralph said "Was the best singer I ever played for
I met him (Wynn) when he was just about seventeen, I was playing with a band in California and on Sunday afternoon" we would back amateurs for the "Squeekin Deakin' " in the Compton ballroom. His Dad would would always follow him in, carrying his guitar. He would politely get up on the stage with us and sing up a storm, he won that contest every time he would get up there.
One time he showed me his arm and he had a whole bunch of wrist watches on it that he had won in the amateur contest. Soon, I and the band, Joe Sisk, Buddy Huston and Ralph Mooney went to Las Vegas, Nevada, we got a letter from Wynn, at that time he was called Winford, he said "I'll be glad when you guys come on back home. We did pretty soon, while I was in Vegas I wrote a song called "Crazy Arms" so it wasn't a total loss. But somehow I got with Wynn and made some demo records and the rest was history.
Now old Winford would rather fish than sing or eat or anything, In 69 we moved to Texas to pick and grin with Wynn, we toured in a Chrysler station wagon and pulled our instruments in an old trailer that we called "Walter" because it kinda jumped up and down on the left side, one morning Wynn saw a stock pond with old green slime on top of it, he had to stop and fish even though we had a long way to go and would barely make the show if we hurried. The pond was only a few hundred yards from these people's house and it was about five in the morning, I couldn't get him to quit fishing, wasn't nothing in that water but frogs and skeeters, I remembered seeing a bunch of fire crackers in the glove box, I got them and set them all off at the one time. Now that got him moving real fast, I was rolling around on the ground like I had been shot, he said "Moon, you old fool, you're going to get us in jail" I said "well, we have to make this job tonight, we're dern near broke. We made it.
The band at that time was Moon, (Ralph Mooney) Hap Arnold, Jodie Payne, Kenny Smith and Wynn, We were on our way to Nashville and we always played a game called "Password", Hap Arnold was our main driver and he got so caught up in the game, that he drove us to Nashville, Arkansas, that was before we had the interstate highway.
The band would always play a song or two before Wynn would come up on the stage, we would start looking for him and getting nervous, he liked to sneak in and hide in the audience about three rows back so we couldn't see him, then at the last minute he would run up on the stage laughing up a storm.
We were working in New Jersey and there we had a week off, so Hap and I stayed in a cabin on the lake, Wynn flew home to Texas, when he came back he had new fishing gear, rod, tackle box, bait and a large bottle of gin, he walked out on a boat dock with all that stuff and the gin bottle opened, the dock broke off and he fell in the lake and lost everything but the the bottle of gin, but he put his thumb over the hole and held it over his head and yelled, "I didn't lose a drop y'all.
Once we went to Canada and after
having lots of fun getting through Canadian customs, we got to the club where we were
going to pick and grin , the people there said "we don't know anything
about this, we'll call the boss, He came running in the club and said
"What-the-sheet-ees-thees", I said "theese-ees-a
There was a lot of lack of communication between OMAC booking agency and us, once we went cross country to a gig and the club was out of business, at least we got to play "Password" a lot.
Wynn Stewart was the best
(and then Ralph signed his story) Shore Nuff Moon
A thousand times better then the first time it happened is telling the story about it for the rest of your life, I never once heard my old friend Steve Stebbins say anything bad about an artist, but he used to tell stories of him and Lefty on the road, like when checking into a hotel or motel he would switch rooms with Lefty so the girls wouldn't bother Lefty's rest, but Steve wouldn't tell the motel owner that he was switching. So in the middle of the night some sweet young thing would come pecking on what she thought was Lefty's door because she had bribed the owner or manager to give her Lefty's room number. Good ol' Steve would open the door in a night shirt, horn rim glasses and puffing on a six inch ElProducto cigar, Steve said them girls would scream and burn shoe rubber 'till they were clear out of sight.
More than once, Steve put me on the floor my belly hurtin' because I couldn't quit laughin' at his tales, I wonder how many times Ralph has told that great fire-cracker story. A couple of folks have written wanting to know if Ralph Mooney played the steel guitar on Wynn's "It's Such A Pretty World Today" Ralph said he played on almost all Wynn's recordings but, he did not play on "Pretty World".
The Eddie Dean fund raisin' week end went great, we are still getting things tallied up but it looks like shortly, there will be a Star in the Walk Of Fame for Eddie, we sure want to thank every single person that sent a dollar or a check or a letter or for just remembering Eddie Dean, as bad as he felt, he was there and his fans really paid him a lot of respect for all the entertainment he had given them over the years. According to the new owner of the "Iverson Movie Ranch" we will be breaking ground shortly for the Eddie Dean "Golden Cowboy" Museum, we will keep you up on that also.
We will also let you know the date the Star will be placed into the walk and like Eddie's fund raiser, you are all invited.
While we were doing this news page the phone rang and it was Cal Smith and I am sure that every one knows the "Country Bumpkin" >> This past Wednesday his son was coming home to his house in Springfield, Mo. when his car went out of control and he went head on into a mountain, he is in very serious condition, slipping in and out of a coma but Cal says he opens his eyes now and then and can sometimes understand things.
Cal ask, if you will, and you are a country music artist, if you would just sit down and make a little tape talking to him and well, you know what to say, and if you are not an artist if you could send him a get well card or a nice letter or something like that, his Dad and Mom could tell him about, it would sure be appreciated. You know sometimes just knowing people care can do more than all the medicine or treatment in the world > Cal and Darlene's son is also named Cal so if you could do that, it sure would be appreciated.
You know as far as money goes, we buy an artists record if we like it and the record company pays them their royalties and so money wise we don't own them anything, but the love of the music they have given us all these years and the special times they have stopped in their tracks bone tired to sign a picture for you or a little child, no money in the world could buy that or that hand shake or hug when you wanted one, Cal ask me a year or so ago if we could maybe have some of the artist out here sign a picture for a little girl with cancer in Arkansas, we ask I think it was fifteen or twenty artist, we got signed pictures back from all but a couple, Cal made sure the little girl got them.
So a little piece of tape with your words on it to Cal Jr. or a card would mean so much for their Son, a little prayer wouldn't hurt either. We will overnight anything you send straight to Cal and Darlene, they are going back and forth day and night between Branson and Springfield and so that nothing gets lost you can send it to Cal Smith Jr. c/o Bradley Brothers Records, Box 1515, Simi Valley, CA 93062
To all our friends that helped Mickey and I out this past week for Eddie Dean, we want you to know how much we appreciated it.
So for now, we will see you next time, but just in case we don't, take care of your self.
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