Saturday, April 29, 2017

Jack Barlow - I Love Country Music

"I Love Country Music" by Jack Barlow (Dial Records/4012), written by Jack Barlow, Darrell Speck (my father) and Charlie Stewart, and produced by Buddy Killen, was on the Cash Box Country Top 50 chart for nine weeks in 1965, beginning the week of Aug. 21st and ending the week of Oct. 16th. It peaked at #21 the week of Sept. 25th.

The song was a take off of the Tareyton cigarette commercials, which featured men and/or women models sporting a black eye and delivering the line "I'd rather fight than switch."

#50 the week of Aug. 21, 1965
#44 the week of Aug. 28, 1965
#34 the week of Sept. 4, 1965
#27 the week of Sept. 11, 1965
#22 the week of Sept. 18, 1965
#21 the week of Sept. 25, 1965
#25 the week of Oct. 2, 1965
#31 the week of Oct. 9, 1965
#36 the week of Oct. 16, 1965

Barlow sang the song on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry on November 8, 1965.

Side B is "Number One In The Nation," written by Barlow and Speck.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earl Pierce Was An Icon

What is the measure of a man? Kindness? Love? Understanding? Cooperation? Commitment? Integrity? Is it what he has accomplished with the opportunities given? After all, its been said that a man is the captain of his own ship.

Actor Sidney Poitier wrote the measure of a man is in how he provided for his children. This story is about a man that many of us knew and admired. Through my early teenage years and into early adulthood, we all watched Earl Pierce provide for his wife and children; how he held down three jobs through most of those years. His mornings began with his school bus route. Us Speck kids (my niece, Johnna, included) only had one bus driver our entire school life, and that was Earl the Pearl, as we affectionately called him.

After his morning route, he drove a taxi up until it was time to take the school children back home. After a short break at home, he would leave his family and go to work overnight at Harvey Qualls' gas station, where Advance Auto is now located. This was his daily routine for several years, and this was the Earl Pierce that all of us knew.

He never forgot his school kids and I was glad of that because it helped me continue a friendship with Earl long I graduated from high school and long after he retired. The one thing I admired most about him, and what I will always remember about him, was his smile. Of course, there was that cigar he chewed on, and who can forget how we all would slam the door or make a noise when we went inside Harvey's, so he'd wake up and take our money for gas, or give us change for the soft drink machines outside.

Earl Pierce started driving a bus in 1949 when he went to work for Short Way Lines, Inc. For six years, 1949-1955, he drove the route from Albany to Burkesville, Glasgow, Cave City and Horse Cave. He operated his own taxi service, Pierce's Taxi, for several years in the 1960's. For forty years, 1968 to 2008, he worked for the Clinton County Board of Education as a school bus driver. He worked overnight at Harvey Quall's gas station from 1970 to 1985.

I like this definition of the measure of a man and I think it best defines the man, Earl Pierce. "The measure of a man is not how tall you stand, how wealthy or intelligent you are, The measure of a man, God knows and understands, for He looks inside to the bottom of your heart and what's in the heart defines the measure of a man." (4Him)

The dictionary describes a pearl as highly prized as a gem; a precious thing; the finest example of something. That was Earl the Pearl.

Earl Pierce died Thursday, Apil 20th. His funeral service will be Monday at 2pm at Talbott Funeral Home. Visitation will be Sunday from 5 to 9pm.

"We've been down at Harvey's talkin' to Earl all night" - (White Lightnin' - Clinton County Rock and Roll Roads)

Some people are born to become a legend.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Miracles and Wonders


In 2009, my son, J.D., came back from an outing with his nana with a pair of steel-toed boots. I wondered aloud why and he simply said he had always wanted a pair. "Well, I suppose that's a good enough reason," I said. And then, the very next morning, the real reason showed up.

I dropped the boys off at school and after J.D. had exited the car from the backseat, I slowly began to pull away from the curb. I had no sooner began to do that when suddenly the back door opened. I applied the brake and before telling me that he had forgotten his baseball practice gear, J.D. very calmly said, "Pull up!" When I asked why, he said - again very calmly - "Pull up Dad, the tire's on my foot!" I panicked, of course, but he just laughed and said, "It's okay, I wore my steel-toed boots this morning!" 

J.D.'s size 12 foot could have easily been broken or crushed had it not been for those steel-toed boots he just brought home the night before. I asked him if he had said, "Nana, I need to buy a pair of steel-toed boots because in the morning my dad is going to run over my foot!"

"...and wonders"

During one of my on-air shifts, I was distracted by the telephone and forgot to put Fox News on the air. As a song played, I just happen to glance at the clock and realized it was news time, so I hung up the phone and ran back to the control room. Just as I started to switch to the news, I heard a line in the song say, "Just one more day." When I switched to the news, at that very instant, I heard the announcer say, "Just one more day." I thought, "Huh?"

That sort of thing has happened to me more than once. The first time was when this lady from a record company was on the phone talking to me about a song, and in her comments she said the word "wonderful." At the same exact moment, over the monitor I heard the word "wonderful" in a song that was playing on the air. I lost track of the conversation trying to sort things out.

There is absolutely nothing more beautiful and amazing than the miracle and wonder of Easter. Fannie Crosby said it best in 1880 when she wrote, "Tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard."

Because of the wonders of His immeasurable passion, the unimaginable sacrifice when Jesus died on the cross and His glorious resurrection, the miracles of grace raise a man (or woman) to a life that never ends.

Happy Easter!

(Photo by Charley Neal)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Alvin C. York Was a Hero

Friday marked the 100th anniversary (April 6, 1917) of the day the United States joined its allies to fight in the war to end all wars.

Alvin York of Pall Mall, one of the biggest heroes of World War I, registered for the draft two months later.

York was a pacifist who asked to become a conscientious objector. The National Archives kept his draft registration form. The 12th line on the form asked: "Do you claim exemption from draft (specify grounds)" was the question on line 12 of the draft registration form?

The 29-year-old, a devoted churchgoer, responded: "Yes. Don't want to fight."

But, five months later, he was drafted, refusing to sign the documents that would have released him from military service. He wrote in his diary that both his company and battalion commanders persuaded him to fight, citing several Biblical passages about morality in war.

He ended up serving with his unit in the St. Mihiel offensive in northeastern France in September 1918. The attack weakened German forces in northern France and set the stage for attacks in the Argonne Forest and eventually Chatel-Chéhéry.

It would be where Alvin C. York became a hero.

On Oct. 8, 1918, his battalion moved to capture German positions near a railway. York's sergeant ordered him, along with three other non-commissioned officers and 13 privates, to infiltrate the German lines and take out their machine guns.

They moved behind the Germans and overran their headquarters, capturing a group who were planning to attack American troops. Machine-gun fire broke out as the American soldiers processed their new prisoners, killing six and wounding three.

According to his diary, York counter-attacked by taking charge of the remaining seven soldiers.

He wrote the excerpts:

"You never heard such a racket in all of your life. I didn't have time to dodge behind a tree or dive into the brush....

(1) As soon as the machine guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange shots with them. There were over 30 of them in continuous action, and all I could do was touch the Germans off just as fast as I could. (2) I was sharp shooting....all the time I kept yelling at them to come down.. (3) I didn't want to kill any more than I had to. But it was they or I. And I was giving them the best I had."

York ran out of rifle ammunition just as six German soldiers charged him with fixed bayonets, so he switched to his sidearm, an M1911 pistol, and shot each of them before they could reach him.

What he did that day was silence a German battalion of 35 machine guns, kill 25 enemy soldiers and capture 132. For his heroics, he received more than 50 decorations, was promoted to sergeant and awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest and most prestigious personal American military decoration.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Tornado at Beaty Swamps

Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, May 10, 1933, Beatty Swamps, TN ( also known as Bethsaida), a small rural community located in Overton County, Tennessee, approximately 6.7 miles from Livingston, was struck by an F4 tornado that completely devastated the community. The funnel, anywhere from one-half to three-quarters of a mile wide, destroyed every home in the community, and killed or injured virtually every single resident. Much of the area was swept clean of debris. This is the second deadliest tornado ever to strike Middle Tennessee.

There have been tornadoes that have gained greater notoriety, such as the Super Outbreak of April 3, 1974, but never has a tornado affected a community as completely as the one that struck Beatty Swamps.

According to the National Weather Service, it had been a humid evening in the rural Cumberland Plateau community. In nearby Allardt, the temperature that Tuesday afternoon had climaxed at 82 degrees, a warmer-than-normal reading for early May. Haze was said to be thick, and "the storm was preceeded by a flashing electrical storm and a high wind," wrote correspondent Samuel K. Neal in the Livingston Enterprise newspaper.

"This little mountain settlement bore the brunt of Tuesday night's storm when it climaxed into a tornado early Wednesday morning, leaving more than a score dead and as many or more injured," he wrote.

The tornado struck with terrible suddenness. Beginning at Eagle Creek, northwest of Bethsaida, the twister moved in a zig-zag line three-quarters of a mile wide, spent its fury here, and ended near West Fork, a distance of about eleven miles from its beginning. In its wake it left the worst destruction this section of Tennessee has ever seen.

Neal wrote, "While natives of this vicinity, two miles East of Monroe, searched the wooded hills of eastern Overton County for other bodies, residents predicted more deaths would be registered by the week-end. It will be impossible to make an accurate check of the death toll for some days, on account of the inaccessibility of the region."

Houses were torn down wholesale. Barns with their contents, including farm machinery, were swept away as if they had been match boxes. A farmer's binder was blown from his barn to a field 500 yards distant, and was left a worthless scrap of twisted iron. A new automobile was swept along for hundreds of feet and left a wrecked mass.

The horror of the storm was emphasized by the broken, twisted, torn bodies lying in a morgue at the Blount Funeral Home in Livingston. The most touching scene of all was the family of Eunice Cole, man, wife, and seven children, ranging in age from two to fourteen. All were killed, probably in their sleep. They were found near their home site in their night clothes, their bodies covered with grime and scraps of debris.

"More horrible was the manner in which some of the bodies were found," wrote Neal. "Their bones broken into an incongruous mass, and on two, body parts were missing."

The tornado brought its share of freaks. A square of floor linoleum was found driven into a tree; a two-by-four plank was driven completely through an automobile tire; a millet straw was found driven into a fruit tree.

But most peculiar of all was at the home of Will Crawford, whose house was blown away, as were all his outhouses and his barn. "In his chicken house," wrote Neal, "two hens were setting, and they were found this morning complacently perched in their nests under a pile of debris, busily hatching their eggs, oblivious to the destruction around them."

The Ewing Hull cabin was blown away that night. The family woke up on the ground.

A few days later, coffins for the Una Cole family - nine in all - lined up for burial in a neighbor's yard near the cemetery. The entire family was buried in a mass grave under one tombstone.

Ultimately, the tornado at Beaty Swamps caused 33 fatalities and $100,000 in damages. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $1.87 million in damages in 2017.

After the tornado, Beaty Swamps ceased to exist. The only landmark that alludes to the former community is Beaty Swamp Road, which intersects Highway 111, 8.7 miles north of Livingston, 12 miles south of Byrdstown.

In 1993, meteorologist Tom Grazulis, who has written extensively about  tornadoes and is head of the Tornado Project, a company that gathers, compiles, and makes tornado information available to tornado and severe weather enthusiasts, the meteorological community and emergency management officials, noted that the Beaty Swamps tornado tracked northeastward for twenty miles, from near Livingston to near Byrdstown. However, in 2006, Mark Rose, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service at Old Hickory, Tennessee wrote that the twenty-mile tornado track asserted by Grazulis, does not appear possible, as the eleven mile path given by the Livingston Enterprise would have carried the tornado very close to Byrdstown. A twenty-mile track would have put the storm into Kentucky before lifting. Thus, Rose asserts the Beaty Swamps tornado tracked northeastward for eleven-miles, not twenty.

The day before the Beaty Swamps tornado, an F4 tornado swept through southern Kentucky, from southwest of Tompkinsville to northeast of Russell Springs. 36 people were killed, 18 in Monroe County, 14 in Russell County and two near Columbia from an F2 categorized tornado.

After May 10th, the next deadly tornado in the region was the outbreak on April 3, 1974.

Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but after voting to approve it, a draft do...