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As I See It: Tuned in to hear Roy Acuff

As I See It: Tuned in to hear Roy Acuff

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In March, 1960 my cousin and I visited his brother stationed at Maxwell Air Force base near Montgomery, Ala. One day we went to the Oakwood Cemetery where I took a photo of Hank Williams’s tombstone.

I remembered that when I watched the recent Ken Burns eight-part “County Music” documentary on PBS.

It also reminded me of when I was a boy on a farm near Lester Prairie, a small town in Minnesota 27 miles east of Cedar Mills, when my parents and I spent Saturday nights listening to the “National Barn Dance.” We heard the husband and wife singing duo Lulu Belle and Scotty, (whom Burns didn’t mention), a comedian named the Duke of Paducah who ended his shtick by saying, “I’m going back to the wagon. These shoes are killing me,” and Roy Acuff singing “The Wabash Cannonball,” which remains one of my favorite songs.

It also reminded me of when my late bride and I played a CD by the former Virginia Patterson Hensley — well, Patsy Cline — on the long annual road trips to and from Arizona and Las Vegas. I learned from Burns that Patsy swore like a sailor and her hit song “Crazy” was written by Willie Nelson.

The documentary also showed Nelson at a young age when he looked presentable.

And I learned that Gene Autry recorded songs in Chicago before heading for California to own the Los Angeles Angels. I don’t think he rode Champion all the way.

People who know me may be surprised I watched not only the first show but all eight. They know if I made a list of things I like to do, listening to country music would be far down the list, one line above experiencing a root canal procedure. But I wanted to hear Acuff.

As the show focused on various early singers including Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family and Williams, it eventually got around to Ernest Tubb. The interviewed people said Tubb did not have a good voice. I said, “It’s no worse than the others.” Later I heard Tubb on a radio program and said, “Hey, he was an early Johnny Cash.”

The shows often noted that many of the singers, Williams and Cash among them, were heavy drinkers. That didn’t surprise me. If I lived on a steady diet of country music, I probably would be driven to drink, too.

I don’t think the documentary mentioned one singer I liked, Tennessee Ernie Ford, but it did mention two others, Charley Pride and Eddie Arnold. I read once that Arnold sold more records than Bing Crosby.

I thank The Almighty that Burns did not mention that god-awful song “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes.” When I was in basic training in 1952, one of the southern lads had a radio which he turned on the moment we woke up. Every morning, without fail, the station played “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes” I think it was sung by Slim Willet. Some of us wanted to smash that radio onto the floor.

Then I received a letter from my mother.

“I bought a nice record,” Mom wrote. “It’s called ‘Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes.’”

I stopped hyperventilating when I learned it was the more tolerable Parry Como record.

Emmert Dose may be reached by writing to him at The Journal Times, 212 Fourth St., Racine, WI 53403 or emailing

Emmert Dose may be reached by writing to him at The Journal Times, 212 Fourth St., Racine, WI 53403 or emailing


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