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South Texas Living


Country music takes me back through the years




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Rainy Days and Starry Nights
July 30, 2014 | 3,539 views | Post a comment

I have been a fan of country music since I was a kid on the farm. This last weekend I was up at Canyon Lake with some of my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. We were staying at a lake house, which had a huge deck looking toward the lake.

One of my grandchildren was playing music very loud out there. I was enjoying being with all of them, watching the kids playing, the grownups laughing and talking. I asked GT if he could change the music to some country western music, so he did just that. He asked what kind of music I like, classic country, modern country, or old time country. I said old time music like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and George Jones. Then he started playing the oldies.

As I sat there and listened to the songs, which most of the people on the deck knew the words to, and began singing along with the music, I was in my element! I felt like I was young again and listening to George Jones sing, “I stopped loving her today.” And my mind went back to the olden days of the 1930s and 1940s.

Back when I was younger, Mother and Daddy would listen to the crystal radio, which had earphones. Sometimes we older kids were allowed to listen for a little bit. The Carter Family was a favorite of theirs and I got to hear them sometimes. Beginning with 1939-40, Maybelle’s daughters June (later known as June Carter Cash) and Anita joined the Carter Family on air. They went to San Antonio, where the programs were pre-recorded and distributed to multiple border radio stations. The Carter Family lived in Del Rio for three years and their music was broadcast all across America. Their haunting bluegrass songs, some spiritual, some sad, some happy, have stayed with me all these years. Songs like “Keep On the Sunny Side,” “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes,” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” are songs I still remember some of the words to.

The original “cowboy’s sweetheart,” Patsy Montana, was often featured on the program with Cowboy Slim, who was good friends with Ernest Tubbs. Cowboy Slim was the one who encouraged Tubbs to go on and make it big.

I also would tune in to San Antonio radio stations like KTSA and WOAI, and WBAP in Fort Worth. I also liked to listen to a singer called Big Bill Lister, who was touted as Radio’s Tallest Singing Cowboy. Lister was born in Kenedy, Texas, but grew up in Brady. He also sang for a while on XEG. Lister did go on to make some records.

As I grew older I loved to listen to the “Texas Top Hands,” who were featured on the hour-long “Noonday Jamboree” on KABC, along with Lister and a singer called Del Dunbar. My sister Margaret and I would always make sure we were home at noon to listen to our favorite singers. “Texas Top Hands” sang “The Bandera Waltz” and it became very popular early in 1949. I was a senior at Poth High School then. I danced to that song at many a dance at Hermann Sons Hall in Poth.

But one song I remember Cowboy Slim singing was a very sad song, like a lot of cowboy songs were back then. I used to listen to him sing this song and cry; it was about a little boy dying and telling his mother to “Put My Little Shoes Away.” It was so sad! I would turn off the radio and get ready for bed. I walked out on the front steps and listened to the night sounds, the crickets chirping, the frogs down by the tank, and I heard a coyote somewhere down in the pasture. I could see the Milky Way stretching across the sky, and even on a moonless night the starry night was so bright because the stars lit up the sky. With the Carter Family’s music still in my head, I thought about them and wondered if they sang about their own loneliness and sadness. I didn’t feel sad, but I felt a little bit lonely, and I wondered if one day I would know how sadness feels. Now I know how it feels.

I think those nights long ago were just a prophecy of things to come. I don’t mind a bit remembering those nights. I have a warm feeling in my heart when I do remember that time in my life because country songs seem to be about real life, whether it is joy or sadness.

Lois Zook Wauson is the oldest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Wilson County in the mid-20th century. After many years living in other parts of Texas, she now lives and writes in Floresville. Her two books are available from the Wilson County News office. Email her at loiswauson@yahoo.com.
 

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