|Author: Rhynes, J.D.
|Country music on television in the middle 1950s
I was raised in Stockton California, a wonderful place for a
teenager to grow up in the 50's. That was such a wonderful carefree
time for young boy to grow up in the Central Valley of California.
Especially after I got my drivers license and my 1936 Ford four-door
sedan, what with gas being $.19 a gallon, and I had a job after
school making $2.10 an hour. I was working two or three hours a
night at Sisting's Bakery cleaning pastry pans and sweeping up. On a
really good week I would make 20 bucks, I thought I was richest kid
in school. After I got off work at nights I would go cruising
drive-ins with my buddies. There was the Red Rose, Dick's, Newby's,
the Miracle,Toppers,George's, A&W, and DeBono's, drive-ins, all just
part of Stockton's history by now. The last one to close was Georges
drive-in on California Street which closed about 10 years ago or
more. Me and my buddies spent the majority of our time between the
Red Rose, Dick's, and Newby's. If we weren't spending time in one of
our favorite drive-ins we were out "cruising the drag" which was
Main Street, "Theater Row" in downtown Stockton. That was a lot of
fun back in those days and some my favorite memories revolve around
those times. Even as good as those days were, my favorite part of
that period of my life was the country music I got to enjoy and be a
California was a hotbed of country music back in the 50s and on
Friday and Saturdays there was a lot of country music live on TV.
One of the biggest and most popular country music shows was the
California Hayride, which was hosted by Cottonseed Clark, a genuine
country music icon back in those days. Cottonseed was also quite a
country poet as well, and every week he would recite one of his
compositions on the show.
During the summertime the California Hayride would broadcast from a
different city in the Central Valley. It might be Stockton one week,
then Modesto the next weekend, and Sacramento the week later. Along
with the show they would have a big dance, and if it was fairly
close to Stockton, usually three or four of my buddies and our
girlfriends would go to the dance and have a good time. A few of the
performers on the California Hayride went on to become big names in
country music. The two that really stand out in my mind are Cal
Smith, and the Collins kids, Larry and Lorrie, twin brother and
sister who could really pick and sing.
I was watching a rerun of the Porter Wagoner show on July 23, 2010
and lo and behold who was on there but Cal Smith, singing one of his
number one hits,Country Bumpkin. I got acquainted with Cal back in
1954 at one of the shows held at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds.
Seems as how we both shared an affinity for some of "Kentucky's
finest", which I just happened to have a little bit with me, and we
shared a sip or two behind the band stand. Over the years we shared
quite a few sip's together and he would always dedicate a song to
his good buddy JD, whenever I was at the show. My parents watched
that program religiously every week, and it took a couple of years
for my mom to catch on that Cal was dedicating me a song whenever I
was at the show. My family always called me by my given name,Jerrell
Don, instead of my initials. I had mentioned to my parents that I
got to know Cal at those shows, and one evening while watching the
show my mother asked me if Cal called me by my initials? When I said
that he did, she wondered out loud why he would always sing a song
dedicated to me when I was there? It was then that my dad chimed in,
it's probably got something to do with that empty pint bottle of Jim
Beam I found under the front seat of his car last week. Empty, I
thought in my mind. There was about a quarter of that bottle left
when I got home that night but the next day it was empty. AhHa I
thought, I just discovered who was drinking my leftovers! My dad!
But I couldn't own up to it in front of my mom, and said the bottle
belonged to one of my buddies. My pop was pretty foxy in that
respect. That had been going on for two or three years before I
finally wised up. I always wondered why my dad had that smug look
every time he looked at me on Sunday morning. About 20 years later
he owned up to the fact that he would go through my car every
Saturday and Sunday morning, and get rid of the evidence before my
mother found it. Which was a weak excuse of his part because my
mother never went through my car.
I think the last time I seen Cal in person was about 1957 or 58, and
he had a hit record that was climbing the charts, with it finally
ending up about number two or three. I can't remember the name of
the song. Little did I know back then that Cal Smith would go on to
become a great big country star like he did. He was a great talent
and a hell of a nice guy and I'm glad I can say that he was my
friend. Just a little history from this old country boy from back in
the early 1950s. That is the one periodin my life that I would go
back and relive given the chance. Cruising the drag in my 1936
four-door Ford sedan, with about six or eight other young teenagers
in there, heading to one of our favorite drive-ins to have a Cherry
Coke, along with a big order of french fries and a hamburger all for
$.75. Man alive did we have it made!
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