By Jack Gurner
For the past dozen years Hubert Sanders and his wife, Margaret, along with the Vallie Echoes have been entertaining at area nursing homes, churches and at benefits.
They don’t do it for money. They do it for the love of the music and the people, according to their friends.
“These folks can’t come see us so we come see them,” Sanders said as he looked out at the small, but appreciative audience at the Yalobusha Nursing Home. The six-member group had just finished playing two hours of country music for the residents on a Saturday afternoon.
The other band members are Kathleen Fly, Annie Hollinger, Lee Eubanks, and A. C. Coaten. Occasionally Alex Martin, eight-year-old grandson of Kathleen Fly, will sing with the group.
Sanders is among the best-known musicians in the area, a reputation earned over sixty years of guitar picking. “I’ve met a lot of people and made a lot of friends,” he said.
He got his start at 16 strumming with friend Bobby Butts. However, it was after he came back to Water Valley in 1955 after serving in the military that he really got a chance to play.
Early band mates were musicians like Bill Johnson, Matthew Harmon, Clinton McKinney, Eddie Eubanks, and Freeland Parker.
Among his recollections are the square dances at the VFW started by Buster Beene. Sanders said he was in the first band to play there.
Another recollection is of a benefit show in the first half of the 1960s held at Jeff Davis school auditorium. It was called a “hootenanny” after the popular ABC TV show of the same name, Sanders said.
That performance paved the way for the County Music World shows that were held various places, but finally ended up in the skating rink building. They lasted 20 years, from 1964 through 1984 with Sanders and the Tri-Lake Playboys as the house band.
Some big-name Nashville stars on their way to the top came to Water Valley including Crystal Gayle and Jeannie C. Riley, right before her song, Harper Valley PTA, hit the charts.
Music has been a part-time career for Sanders who spent 38 years at the local garment manufacturing plant. He went to work at Rice-Stix in 1949 right as he was getting out of high school. He worked his way to the top becoming manager in 1977 and remained in that position until he retired in 1988.
Wife, Margaret, also worked at the plant. She retired in 1997 after 42 years. She started out playing morocas in the Vallie Echoes and now plays a snare drum. “It keeps her straight,” Sanders commented out of earshot.
The couple has two daughters, Cindy Ross and Vivian Snider, as well as two grandchildren and two great-grands.
After the Saturday show at the nursing home, Sanders, who is humble about his talent, said, “I never did amount to much, but I made a lot of noise.”