Date News Posted: November 24, 2009
“Old Rivers” is gone: Cliff Crofford who wrote one of the greatest songs ever and produced by the one and only Snuff Garrett passed away Saturday November the 22nd and the year of twenty o’nine from a massive stroke.
Most songs are written about any and everything that sounds good but “Rivers” was a real old sharecropper who lived behind Cliff’s aunt and uncle’s place in Texas and Cliff, as a kid loved to walk along behind “Rivers” while he was out there plowing the fields with his mule “Midnight”.
Snuff Garrett just had that knack of picking the right people to record the songs that he found and Walter & “Rivers” was a match made in heaven as far as that song went.
Snuff said he knew the song was a hit and was positive it was a hit when Walter uttered those last six words with a crackling voice, “That mule, Old Rivers, and me.
We have received emails wanting to know if Midnight was really “River’s” mule’s name. Yep it was, in fact Cliff named his dog Midnight after that old mule.
After “Old Rivers” became the hit that it did Cliff returned to that little town in Texas and looked up Rivers, when Cliff and his wife pulled up in Rivers front yard and ask a couple the ole boys that were standing out there if Mr. Rivers was there they hollered into the house “Rivers, are you in there, there’s a guy out here wants to see you?". Rivers crawled out the front window of that little old sharecropper house onto the front porch. I guess the window was closer then the front door.
Cliff told him who he was, they shook hands and Cliff stuck a hundred or two bucks in Rivers shirt pocket.
Maxine, Cliff’s pretty wife of fifty some odd years said Cliff continued sending “Rivers” money out of every Royalty check ‘till “Old Rivers” death.
I guess when you think of a singer or recording artist, Walter Brennan would be the last you thought of and even though “Rivers” was not the only album released by Walter Brennan it was such a hit with that unique voice of his that the song still echoes all over the world all these years later.
Good friend Hugh X Lewis and I were talking one day and he knew that Walter Jr. and I were good friends so he asked me, “do you know that Dell Reeves is probably one of the best Walter Brennan impersonators around” I said no, even though I had about all of Dell’s music I didn’t know he was a Brennan fan and could sound like him and knowing that Walter Jr. was a great western artist, Hugh said if you have another one of those posters that Jr. did of his dad why don’t you send it to Dell, so I did.
About a week later my phone rang and it was Dell, and I could hear a teardrop in his eye as he told me how much he appreciated that picture and had cleared a special place on his living room wall for that picture of Walter Brennan or as he called him, my friend “Old Rivers”.
You never know how much each of us impact another person’s life one way or another and according to some of Dell’s friends like Jan Howard who gave Dell a ride from a show they had done in Michigan back to Nashville, no sooner had Dell got in the car he started talking like Walter and reciting “Old Rivers”. Needless to say by the time they reached their destination Jan was ready to leap off the bridge. Bless his heart he sure loved ole Walter.
Sometimes the right combination comes along, a good writer (Cliff Crofford), a good song (Old Rivers), a super artist (Walter Brennan), some great musicians (Glen Campbell & a few others), and a great producer. Snuff Garrett, and a couple hours of God’s time and history was made.
If you were living on the west coast during those 50's years then you probably remember “Town Hall Party” which came out of Compton, California>>Cliff was a regular on that show and sang many duets with his friend Billy Mize.
Many more artists came out of “Town Hall” that went on to become known around the world. Freddie Hart, Tex Ritter, Joe & Rose Maphis, Skeets McDonald, Johnny Bond and many more.
The guests that appeared on “T.H” during those years included about every artist that had a record at that time including Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two, Bobby Helms and a list to long to remember them all but nevertheless some great “Classic Country Music”
I guess you would call this a little bit of trivia but Old Rivers was meant to be the “B” side. Most people have no idea what the “A” side was or even heard it, but so you won’t have to go looking in your history books it was “The Epic Ride Of John Glenn”.
“Old Rivers” was one of those songs I always called a “Pull Over” song, meaning if you were headed down the road and it came on you had to pull over and listen to it, same the first time I heard Cal Smith and “Country Bumpkin” and the first time I heard Hawkshaw Hawkins sing “Lonesome 7-7203 I did a U turn and headed for the record store.
I am sad clear up to my heart how, what used to be country radio, has done or not done to some of the greatest artists and people in this world and after getting my ears tested the doctor gave me another test, he said I could hear a honeybee fart at twenty five yards yet I can’t hear or don’t understand half the words that so- called country radio is playing these days.
Anyway, this ain’t about my hearing it’s about my good friend Cliff Crofford, this is not over between us old friend, we’ll start it all over again when I get there so take with you my love and respect for all you did and for making a better place to live in this world with all your great music.
And like I always say, I’ll see ye later, but just in case I don’t, take care of yourself.
God Bless America