Sunday, January 11, 2009


One unexpected stocking stuffer I received for Christmas was a set of video tapes of four of the old Gene Autry movies. I looked over the titles and…Wow! I was fortunate enough to have the show titled “Oh Susannah!”

I couldn’t wait to get that one home and get the cellophane cover ripped off and get it popped into the VCR. I knew this was one of the two Gene Autry movies in which the country music group “The Light Crust Doughboys” had appeared. I once met and spent half a day with Marvin “Smokey” Montgomery, one of the members of that group.

In 1931, the Doughboys were organized and sponsored by the Burris Mill, the producer of Light Crust Flour. They first performed on radio station KFJZ in Fort Worth five days a week. One of the original members of the group was Bob Wills (of “New San Antonio Rose” and “Faded Love” fame), who not only played fiddle and sang, but also drove truck for the mill, and all for $10 per week.

With the daily radio show, the Doughboys’ popularity grew, and their transcribed musical performances were soon heard on stations all over Texas and a number of the neighboring states. By that time, naturally, they were in big demand for personal appearances all over the Southland.

The group grew from three to seven members. Bob Wills eventually left to organize his own “Texas Playboys” band. As years went by other members came and went, including names like Herman Arnspiger, Zeke Campbell, Hank Thompson, Slim Whitman, and Charlie Walker. Marvin “Smokey” Montgomery and his “Smokin’ Banjo” joined the group in 1935.

The Doughboys were off the air from 1942 to 1945 because of World War II, but came back strong and broadcast regularly until 1951, when TV began to put pressure on the radio industry. They continued to make personal appearances at state fairs, rodeos, super market openings, TV shows, homecomings, etc. In 1977, the State Senate of Texas passed Resolution No. 463, honoring the Doughboys for their part in Texas history. In 1981 the group recorded an album titled “50 Years Of Texas Style Music.”

In 1982, while visiting our oldest son Mick in Texas, he and I were working on several (non-too-successful) music projects. We went to see his friend Smokey at a large recording studio in Dallas. Smokey gave us a lot of advice, and also wrote up lead sheets for two of my “creations.” He gave me a copy of the above-mentioned Doughboys’ album, also a copy of one of his own albums, “Mostly Banjo,” on which he demonstrated his almost unbelievable skill with the tenor banjo.

My career as a tone-deaf songwriter has been anything but successful. Here is an example of one of my works, a kind of lament in three-quarter-time that just “didn’t quite get published” (until now).

The stream in the valley
Runs murky and black.
Hell, yes, I am leaving
And I ain't coming back.

I’ve been here too long in
This valley of tears,
Just came for a look,
butStayed too many years

In this valley, I’ve had
To face life’s great test.
I’ve seen lots of changes,
But none for the best,

The stream in this valley
Grew old, just like me.
Now muddy and still where,
It once rippled free.

All the homes here are old
And kind of run down.
And black factory smoke
Comes filtering down

The big old machines are
All covered with rust.
In the street I’m up to
My ankles in dust

As I sit on this bench
On a moonlight night
I stare at the bars with
All their neon lights.

My stream in this town just
Ain’t pretty no more
With old dreams and beer cans
Now choking its shore

Now I have found a place
In my dreams at night
Where summers are gentle
And winters are light,

Where an old man can stay
For many a year.
The stream in the valley
There runs crystal clear.

The stream in my valley
Looks murky and black.
Hell, yes, I am leaving
And ain’t coming back

I’ve been here too long in
This valley of tears,
Just came for a look but
Stayed too many years.