I used to stay in Chula Vista with my Grandmother in the summer months back in the 1950s and that’s where I got acquainted with the Maddox Brothers and Rose. They owned a club in National City (I think it was called Club Twenty-One). At any rate, they played there quite a bit.
Now, I was too young to go in the bar but I did stand in the alley and listen to America’s Most Colorful Hillbilly Band and heard them at their best. Brother Henry called and me and my friend Dexter Sykes the “little bastards.” Years later when I was booking Rose at the San Diego State Folk Festival I mentioned to her about Henry and she said “You were one of the little bastards. Well, I’ll be damned!”
I guess I got hooked on country music on the radio. My folks listened to country a lot. In the 1940s they’d listen every night to Buck Ritchy on KVI in Tacoma, Washington. I remember he’d play the latest 78rpm record and if he didn’t like the tune he’d break the record over his knee and say “I guess the morning DJ will never get to this one.” In the afternoon my folks listened to Shorty Long on KXA in Seattle. That was the station that sold baby chickens that you could get via mail order from Wapahochie, Texas. Shorty Long also dedicated each song he’d play to someone in the listening audience. My folks didn’t like Shorty much so they let me have the radio for my serials after school. I listened to Bobby Benson and His B-Bar-B Riders, Tom Mix, Captain Midnight, I Love a Mystery, and others.
In 1952 we moved to San Diego, California and my folks bought a house in Imperial Beach. It wasn’t long until they discovered the country music scene. The Bostonia Ballroom (one mile north and one mile east of the city of El Cajon) had lots of live country music. On the radio music mostly from the border blaster stations coming out of Rosarito Beach in Mexico. There was Tex Williams, Spade Cooley, Cowboy Slim Reinhardt, Jessie Rogers, Patsy Montana, Mainer’s Mountaineers, Okie Bob, Smokey Rogers, the Maddox Brothers and Rose, T. Texas Tyler, and so many others. And you’d have to listen to folks like Curtis Springer from Miracle Valley, California, who’d sell you his Andalusian herb tea, or some real poor country like Don and Earl, but most of it was pretty good. TV was coming into place and in San Diego we had Smokey Rogers General Store on every day featuring Roy and Don Hogsed and whoever was playing at the Bostonia. I remember seeing Hank Snow, Webb Pierce, Ray Price, Kitty Wells with Johnny and Jack, Lefty Frizzell, and a good lot of them I saw at the Bostonia also. For the sake of this column things end here. Country music went a bit further for me than for my folks.
I got into the Bakersfield sound somewhat but like my dad I more or less believe that Nashville is just another city–nothing country about it! and, as someone else said, country music is rock with cowboy hats!