My son has the 1948 model Philco combination radio/record player sitting in his house now. It’s the the one I spent countless hours sitting in front of during the first 8 years of my life.
There were radio shows on a lot. I first remember hearing people like Sid Caesar, and Red Skeleton on the radio. I remember listening to the Lone Ranger. Then there were the local radio shows. There was lots of preaching. Here locally we had “AA Tanner” and some others who I remember preaching on the radio a lot. I was a Baptist before I ever went to the first grade and just didn’t know it. A lot of my views have altered since those early years, but I still remember the musical cadence of many of those preachers…waxing and waning, I could see them swaying out and back in my mind and jumping up into the air when the spirit moved them.
We had maybe only half a dozen 33 rpm records. A lot of Perry Como, Martin and Lewis, Doris Day, and Bing Crosby. We had classical. We had some country…actually we had Hank Williams. There was a spot on the floor in front of the radio where my Mom put a throw rug. One of those round, braided really colorful ones. This was my spot. I wasn’t a very hard child to take care of. I could just be planted in front of the radio and left there. I knew how to change the records before I was potty trained really well. I imagine that caused a few “crisis moments” but really don’t remember. I had the radio, my comic books, and a little later on an old cracked baseball that the High School coach had given me, and a couple of worn out baseballs. I would get my exercise by going outside on nice afternoons and throwing those balls up into the air and them whacking them off into the distance before they hit the ground. I got really good at it.
I learned all of the songs on all of those records by heart. I thought I was a real hot shot singer. My Dad bought an Elvis 45 sometime in the mid 50’s. It was “Hound dog” and “Don’t be Cruel” I personally liked Don’t be Cruel the best. I learned those two by heart and on the night Elvis was on Ed Sullivan in 1957 he sang “Don’t be Cruel” We hadn’t had a TV very long, and when I saw “my song” being sung I jumped up and started doing my best Elvis right there in the little back closed in porch which Daddy had converted into a “den” I thought I was something…but then my Mom laughed at me….
I’m not sure if it was because she thought I was funny, or if I was doing a good job. But it embarrassed me. I’m not really sure why. Being the boy I was though…I never sang again in front of anyone for a long, long time. I would make sure nobody was around, maybe like when I was outside hitting the baseball. Maybe in the bathroom in the evenings while the water was running. Perhaps really low under the covers at night. I didn’t want to be laughed at again. I never talked to Mom or Dad about it, and they never thought anything about it, I guess. They just thought I had turned to baseball and sports.
I got talked into joining the “glee club” in the 8th grade. I think it was because I liked one of the little girls who was singing…I’m not certain. I still liked to sing, and I thought for sure that being surrounded by 15 or so other people singing would keep me from being heard. The guy who was over the glee club was Mr. John Carruth, who was also the Band director at the time. We were preparing music for Christmas, and I noticed Mr. Carruth kept leaning over and listening in my direction. He stopped the rehearsal and said “hey Bowers…sing the next verse by yourself” and I did…and so ended up doing my first solo ever of “White Christmas” at our school musical program that year.
Mr. Carruth had me sing a couple more times before he left Trion to move on to better things. I have to really thank him for giving me the boost of confidence I needed to realize that people would not laugh at me for singing by myself.
I ended up singing quite a bit in High School. We had quite a musical group of students at that time. It was the 60’s and folk bands, rock bands, and hippies were coming of age. I remember Mack Myers, and Agnew Myers, Susan Cavin and a couple more folks had a little “folk” band. They sang some Peter, Paul and Mary on stage at school. I really enjoyed it. We had a really good piano player…Ronald Whitley I believe it was. He was really great. My old buddy Dale Rosser was a good singer, and beat me out one year for soloist at Literary meet, although me and Agnew, and Johnny Brimer, and I think Randy Orr were the “barbershop” quartet and did a pretty fair job. Agnew’s Mom Ms. Sarah Myers was our “coach”…or mentor I guess you’d say. A really wonderful woman.
We had Larry Maddux and company playing country and rock and roll…I remember singing “Your Cheating Heart” with them one time at some program we were having…and from then on that dang Johnny Suits would call me “Hank” every time he saw me. Still did it when I went to work with him in 1988 at Crown Crafts. Binky Dawson and Wayne Greene were great musicians. Several went on to become Band directors like Bill Locklear.
Yes, we had great bands, great musicians, and great individualists back then. I can’t name them all because there are so many, many more. I’m not sure if it was the times, or if there was something in the Trion water. I know that several of the above named beautiful people are gone now. I don’t know all the stories…I’m just kind of on the “edge” of things when it comes to keeping up with people. It’s a shame we have lost them, because when a musical person dies, some of the music of the world dies with them, and in this day and age, unlike the day and age we grew up in, that’s something we just can’t afford much more of…..
…..and by the way Mom…I know I took that laugh the wrong way….