Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Loving Elvis

My cousin, Johnnie, loved Elvis Presley. Her adoration for him started brewing in 1954 after Sun Records released the songs "I Love You Because," "That's Alright (Mama)," and "Blue Moon." It went to a whole new level on March 3, 1956 when his new record label, RCA, released “Heartbreak Hotel.” As the song raced up the Billboard Top 100 singles chart, out came his RCA debut album. It contained songs like “Blue Suede Shoes" and “Blue Moon.” The magazine announced, “A Red Hot Star is Born on RCA Victor Records!”

At the beginning of 1956, Elvis, having just recently signed with RCA Records, was still just a regional sensation, best known in the South. By the end of the year, he would become the labels best-selling artist.

So, what was the phenomenon surrounding Elvis in 1956? Some might say it was his landmark and controversial national TV appearances on Ed Sullivan, Steve Allen and Milton Berle. Others might say it was his new songs (all certified gold) "Heartbreak Hotel," "Hound Dog," "Don't Be Cruel" and "Love Me Tender," which had received more than a million advance orders after Elvis performed it on Sullivan on Sept. 9th.

For Presley's female fans, the phenomenon surrounding Elvis was based largely on something else: his deep, rich and incredibly sexy voice, his thick hair and his dreamy eyes, all combined with the way he performed on stage. It was a sentiment echoed by girl fans all across America and around the world...and even here at home.

On Nov. 25, 1956, just ten days after the movie release, Elvis appeared for two shows at the Louisville, Kentucky armory (see photo). With him was his backup band - Scotty Moore on guitar, Bill Black on upright bass and DJ Fontana on drums, and his backup singers, The Jordanaires. The afternoon matinee drew a sellout crowd of 8,500 people. The evening show at 8pm, with more of an adult crowd in attendance, and slightly more sedate, drew just under that. Elvis, though, was livelier. He wore a satiny gold jacket that evening.

Four members of my family hired taxi cab driver Earl Pierce to take them to Louisville that morning. On the way, whenever an Elvis song came on the radio Earl said the girls would scream and carry on. It was the same reaction anytime they saw a picture of Elvis on a billboard. That afternoon in Louisville, Johnnie and her sisters, Betty and Fay, their cousin, (and my aunt) Patsy, and a friend, Neta, attended a viewing of Elvis' first movie, "Love Me Tender," at the Rialto Theater. That evening, at the armory, they saw the future king of Rock and Roll.

The following week, our local newspaper ran a story about the girls seeing Elvis in concert. He had sang all of his hits, they said. His rendition of "Peace in the Valley" even seemed to 'win over' some of the skeptical adults at the evening show. "It was the most thrilling show of our lives. We will never forget it as long as we live," they reported to the newspaper. The girls took photos of Elvis on stage that evening. Some were of him standing beside his Cadillac. They would remain Elvis fans the rest of their lives, the biggest by far being Johnnie Means. A visit to her home easily told you that.

I will spend my whole life through
Loving you, loving you
Winter, summer, springtime too
Loving you, loving you
Makes no difference
Where I go or what I do
You know that I'll always be loving you

Elvis Presley at the Louisville Armory

(For Johnnie Mack)

Friday, January 8, 2021

In Memory of Ed Bruce

One of my all-time favorite singer/songwriters has died. Arkansas native Ed Bruce, who co-wrote the 1978 hit, “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” for Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, died of natural causes today (Jan. 8, 2021) in Clarksville, TN. He was 81.

In 1979, Tanya Tucker scored a major hit with his song, “Texas (When I Die).”

Bruce's deep, yet tender voice is what caught my eye (and ear) many years ago. He was an obvious choice to do radio and TV commercials, which he did to supplement his income.

In 1981, his own recording of “You’re the Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had” went #1 and was his biggest success as a singer.

Bruce was also an actor. His biggest role was on the TV series, "Bret Maverick," starring James Garner, which ran on NBC-TV during the 1981-82 season.

For a while Bruce lived just outside of Monterey, Tennessee, prior to moving to Clarksville.

My favorite Ed Bruce song is "I Know."

I said God, I hurt
God said, I know
God, I’m so depressed at times
He said, that’s why I gave you sunshine
I said, God my loved one died
God said, so did mine
Oh, God, mine was such a loss
He said they nailed mine to a cross
He said I know
did I not make you
A covenant that’s sealed
I’ll not forsake you
You’re not alone, I’m all around you
My glory is revealed
my love surrounds you
I know
I said but God, your loved one lives
God said so does yours
I asked him where they are tonight
He said be at peace
they are in my life


I said, God I hurt
God said my child I know

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Paul Denney had a Fighting Spirit, full of Courage and Guts

In this week's Clinton County News, Al Gibson reports the passing of Paul Denney, who played basketball for the Clinton County Bulldogs and was a member of the 1961-62 team that was, as Al put it, "perhaps the best team that Coach Lindle Castle put together back in that time period."

Here's why he said that. The team, which consisted of starters Kenneth Conner, Jackie Sewell, Tom Neathery Sherman York and David McFarland, won 30 games and lost only four games. Two losses occured during the regular season, to Adair County and Campbellsville Durham, and two in post-season play, to Metcalfe County in the district tournament championship game and to Allen County in the region semi-finals. The two losses during the regular season occured when Sewell was out due to sickness.

The Bulldogs won their first 21 games that season, and according to Litkenhous Ratings were ranked 9th in the state going into the district tournament. The season-ending loss to Allen County in the region semi-finals, 53-to-47, has always been called a very questionably officiated game, especially down the stretch. By the way, the remaining roster that season included Kay Flowers, Wayne Cook, Babe Weaver, A.V. Conner, W.L. Sawyers, U.S. Reneau, Whiz Latham, Don McWhorter, Jim Thrasher, John Hay and Bill McDonald.

It was Clinton County's fourth straight trip to the regional tournament, a tournament we had won two years earlier. As great as that team was, this 1961-62 team was phenomenal. "It has been one of the best seasons ever witnessed by a Clinton County team and fans," wrote Clinton County News sports writer, Jimmy Huccaby.

Paul Denney was one of five seniors on that team. "He was the sixth man, who could have easily been a starter," said teammate Sherman York the day after Paul passed away. "He proved it when he went on to star at the two-year Walker Junior College in Jasper, Alabama, where family members say he led the individual scoring both years." McFarland was also played at Walker with Denney. According to York, after his second and final season there, Paul had intentions of finishing college and playing basketball at Tennessee Wesleyan, but instead wound up in Vietnam. He moved to Monticello following Army life and years later he and his wife and her brother operated Monticello Machine Shop after the original owner, Bill Crawford, retired.

Prof Robinson said, "Paul Denney is a mighty good defensive weapon with a fighting spirit, full of courage and guts. As the first player off the bench, Coach Castle used him wisely at appropriate times."

Both York and Sewell had nothing but high praise for Denney, not just as a player, but as a person, too. His funeral service will be held this Saturday at 2pm eastern time at Hicks-Vaughn Funeral Home in Monticello, with visitation beginning at 10am that morning.


Monday, December 14, 2020

Harlan Ogle, I Will Miss You

I am saddened by the death of my friend, Bro. Harlan Ogle, who died today at the age of 79. He was a big supporter of mine when i was on the air at WFLW. As a matter of fact, he often wrote that i was the closest thing to the late legendary WFLW broadcaster Eddie Neal that Wayne countians were going to hear in this life. That was huge and I was honored that he would think that.

One of my favorite things that Bro. Ogle did was he routinely portrayed Raccoon John Smith at churches and other gatherings throughout the region. Smith grew up at Clear Fork Baptist Church in Albany, KY during the very early 1800's. His father had been one of its the original members. But, in his early adult years, Raccoon John left Clear Fork and became a leading proponent of the Early Restoration Movement within the Christian church. Bro. Ogle, a lifelong member of the Christian church, and long-time pastor at Monticello, KY Christian Church, was great in his role as the legendary frontier preacher. On one occasion, he rode into Burkesville on a horse, dismounted at Veterans Park, and in full costume proceeded to preach one of Smith's sermons word for word.

You could often find Bro. Ogle at Wayne County's museum. He loved Wayne County and put in an untold number of hours researching its history and writing many stories and newspaper articles about it. That's how i got to know him. We often talked about stories each of us had written and he was always helpful to me in my research. I will miss him, but am thankful for the great legacy he leaves behind. Maybe the city and/or county will do something in his honor, like name a street after him or something. I hope so. RIP my friend. Prayers to his family and many friends who mourn his passing.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Oh Rest Beside the Weary Road and Hear the Angels Sing

O ye beneath life's crushing load
Whose forms are bending low
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing

From an 1849 poem by Edmund Sears
"It Came Upon a Midnight Clear"

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Charley Pride: When it was Simple and Good

How sad it is that Charley Pride would leave us in 2020, in this crazy, awful year of a pandemic, instead of in his world of burgers and fries and cherry pies. It was simple and good back then, he said of that world we used to know.

Charley was one of my favorite country music singers of all-time. In the 1970's he sold more records than any other artist at RCA, with the exception of Elvis. He was country music's first black singer and he was a member of her hall of fame.

Dolly Parton said, "It's sad enough that he has passed away, and it's even worse knowing he died from COVID-19." I agree. So very sad.

I have always loved his music and i loved playing his songs on the radio. If there is one thing of his we can always be thankful for it is his songs. Kiss an angel good morning, Charley. May you Rest in Peace.

Charley Pride
1934 - 2020

Randy Speck
WANY Radio
Albany, KY

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Love of God is Greater Far

Frederick Martin Lehman was born in Germany in 1868. His family emigrated to America when he was four, settling in Iowa. Although he became a Nazarene minister, the majority of his life was devoted to writing sacred songs. Sometime around 1917, just before moving to California, he attended a campmeeting where he the preacher quoted what would become the third verse of his song “The Love of God.”

"Could we with ink the ocean fill
and were the skies of parchment made,
Were ev'ry stalk on earth a quill
and ev'ry man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
tho' stretched from sky to sky."

The preacher said the words had been found written on the wall of a patient’s room in an insane asylum after he had been carried to his grave. It was later found that the scribbled message had been adapted from a poem written sometime between 1050 and 1096 in Germany, where Lehman had been born.

Lehman was so moved by the words that he wrote them down for future use. It wasn't until after he had settled in California that his hymn would be completed. One day during a break at his job in a produce factory, he picked up a scrap piece of paper and pencil and wrote the first two stanzas and the refrain.

"The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell
The guilty pair, bowed down with care
God gave His Son to win
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin"

"When hoary time shall pass away
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall
When men who here refuse to pray
On rocks and hills and mountains call
God's love, so sure, shall still endure
All measureless and strong
Redeeming grace to Adam's race
The saints' and angels' song"

"Oh, love of God, how rich and pure
How measureless and strong
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song"

During his life, Lehman wrote many poems, published hundreds of songs, and compiled five volumes of song books with the title Songs That Are Different. “The Love of God” first appeared in Volume Two of that series in 1919, although the copyright was obtained two years earlier. The translation of the third verse was made in 1917 by Joseph H. Hertz. Lehman left his own account concerning the writing of this hymn in a 1948 pamphlet entitled “History of the Song, The Love of God.” He died in 1953. Two other well-known Lehman songs are “The Royal Telephone” and “There’s No Disappointment in Heaven.”

In the uncertain times we live in today, with all that's going on with the pandemic, the political scene and what have you, let us remember the love of God is greater far. It shall forevermore endure!

Loving Elvis

My cousin, Johnnie, loved Elvis Presley. Her adoration for him started brewing in 1954 after Sun Records released the songs "I Love You...