just kept getting better at the new radio station in West Monroe,
Louisiana. Most of the announcers arrived hours before their shifts
or stayed afterwards on their own time. No one was watching the clock.
Their main concern was to get our new facility up and running smoothly.
The enthusiasm seemed to exude in our daily broadcasts. It was probably
the most cheerful sounding radio station I ever worked for. Fifty
years have passed since then and I could possibly be remembering only
the good times. However, at most of the other radio stations I worked
for after that I seem to recall mostly bad times. I guess thatís the
nature of the beast.
It was a far cry from working late nights in a lonely building sitting
in the middle of a cotton patch across the bridge in Monroe. Radio
fans crowded the lobby most of the day. They seemed to enjoy hanging
around just to see what was going on. Musicians and singers took advantage
of our offer to let them use our equipment for recording sessions
after sign off each night. It was no where near as sophisticated as
a Nashville studio but it was fine for making demo tapes. We never
charged them anything for our services. It was a goodwill gesture
and it worked both ways.
There was an old abandoned warehouse down by the Ouachita River that
had been used for loading and unloading cargo back when shipping barges
plied the stream. It had been recently converted into an informal
concert hall. Each Saturday night performers from miles around would
take turns on the stage in one huge jam session. Admission was free
and the place was always packed. They paid for the use of the hall
by selling drinks and snacks and by taking donations. I took advantage
of their hospitality and sang with the band on occasions. It was also
a great opportunity to plug our new radio station. This all took place
in West Monroe, a totally different town from the more sedate Monroe
just across the river.
great country singer Webb Pierce was born in West Monroe August 8,
1926, the same year I saw the light of day. He was one of the most
successful country singers of all time. His most well know hits were
There Stands the Glass, I Ainít Never and Slowly. When he was
15 he had his own weekly show on the same radio station in Monroe
that I had just left. The studios were downtown in a hotel at that
time instead of out in the middle of a cotton field.
stories about him were still being passed around in West Monroe.
It was said that although Webb had a beautiful tone to his voice he
did have a bit of pitch problem. Most singers have a tendency to go
flat. Webb went sharp at the end of a sustained note. He also had
trouble with meter. I knew one of his mentors personally. He told
me he had to teach Webb how to wait and come in at the proper time
time at the beginning of a phrase. The country crooner would rush
ahead come in too early, which is common with some singers. Webb was
a good student and he soon corrected these minor problems.
He was later invited to appear on The Louisiana Hayride in
Shreveport, the launching pad for many future stars such as Elvis
Presley, Jim Reeves, Johnny Horton, Jim Ed Brown and Slim Whitman.
With this golden opportunity offered him, Webb came up with a plan
to achieve instant stardom. Before the show he went out front and
bought tickets for several young girls waiting in line. He then asked
them to sit in the first row and after each of his songs to scream
and holler and beg for more. It worked. Soon their enthusiasm spread
throughout the audience. His sky rocket to stardom had begun. He had
a talent not only for singing but knowing how to get things done.
His popularity grew week by week until Nashville took notice. It wasnít
long before he was invited to join The Grand Old Opry. Then
his record sales soared. He found that a large portion of the royalties
were going to the music publishers. Thatís when he decided to form
his own publishing company and keep the money in his own bank account.
Webb Pierce was soon to become one of the wealthiest country singers
in the business.
When a Nashville tour bus came cruising down his street he saw a way
to make even more money. He opened his own house to the public and,
for a fee, fans were allowed to tour his luxurious home and to see
his $30,000 guitar shaped swimming pool. Webb Pierce souvenirs were
available to his admiring public. This made everybody happy but his
neighbors. They sued him in order to put a halt to the nuisance. Webb
lost that lawsuit.
Somewhere in his career Webb developed a severe drinking problem.
It became very evident when the West Monroe Chamber of Commerce invited
him back home to be the marshal for their annual rodeo parade. It
turned out to be a huge mistake. On the big day Webb had to be helped
into the convertible. All during the parade, as people cheered and
threw accolades his way, it is said that he kept sipping from his
pint of bourbon, hardly aware of his surroundings. When the bottle
was empty he is reported to have tossed it to the street, causing
the spectators to scramble from the shards of broken glass. He was
never invited back.
Webb Pierce, a history making country mega star, lost his battle with
cancer in 1991. He had lived up to his song, There Stands the Glass.
Back to the radio business.
When I went to pick up my final paycheck at my previous radio station
I saw a new employee at the front desk. I found her very attractive
and while I was waiting for my check we struck up a pleasant conversation.
A few days later I called her at work and asked if we could have a
nice social get together at a place of her choosing. She agreed and
our unofficial date turned out great. It wasnít to be our last and
things escalated from there. I suppose my improved self image and
my better attitude on life had a lot to do with how smoothly things
went. A few weeks earlier I doubt if I would have gotten anywhere
Here I was with a great job and a newly found soul mate. I hoped that
this beautiful life would go on forever.
The roller coaster just kept climbing higher and higher.
When you reach top there is only one way to go.