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Water Valley’s Musical Roots Run Deep

By Charles Cooper

    Hello everyone, I hope you’re having a good week. It seems incredible that when this edition comes out this year will be half over.

  First, I’d like to thank Jack Gurner for coming up with a picture of the Spade Cooley Orchestra. When I mentioned that group, I was afraid that no one would know who I was talking about. The constraints of space don’t permit me to throw in personal glimpses into the lives of some of these people.

    As an example, probably during the last conversation I had with Leo Jenkins, we were discussing his time with Spade Cooley. He said, “You know he (Cooley) went to prison for killing his wife.” I remember when it happened and I also remember the day before he was to be paroled, he had a fatal heart attack. Joaquin Murphy took his distinctive steel talents and was on many of Hank’s early recordings.

  Ed Shearer was a great musician and I’ve often wondered how far he could have gone if he had chosen to go professional.

  I wonder if any of you out there remember a local dance band, prior to World War II, called the Southerners? I was too young to know any of the members, but would appreciate any in-formation.

  I know you have an excellent group now in the Sharecroppers. The only member I know is Clay Ashford. (Ed was a member of the group called The Substitutes, which evolved into this group.)

  In writing these columns I don’t know how I’ve failed to  mention Snow Samuels. Snow was older than me and I never had the privilege of playing with him. I knew him and his sister and brothers from my Camp Ground days. Geneva was his sister and his brothers were Hester, called “Heck,” and Waymon, called “Freck,” who was about my age. Their parents were Roy and Carlene Samuels and they were all good people. Snow’s name was Mel Roy, but it seems like all the boys had nicknames. Snow’s wife, Quay, was in my graduating class at Water Valley. Carlene and mother were long-time friends, and Carlene wrote a column for years about Camp Ground news. She even wrote it for awhile after going into the nursing home.

  Hubert Sanders was another local country musician who appeared in the old Country Music World and for years entertained for residents at the nursing home.

  Prior to World War II, there was a quartet called the Odd Fellows. Clinton Thomas sang tenor; Clement Henderson, lead; Eric McGonagill, bass; and I’m think “Buck” Coston was the baritone, and Ludie McGonagill was the pianist.         Clinton was the only one of this group who had sung professionally. He was with the All American quartet out of Quincy, Illinois. That group also produced Bill Shaw, who was the tenor for the Blackwood Brothers for over 20 years.     In the early years Ludie McGonagill Appleton (another great WV musician) played for the Blackwood Brothers when they were in the area. They asked her to join the group as their pianist, but her father didn’t think it would be proper for a young lady to travel with a group of men.

  Hollis Carter was another Water Valley native who sang with Buck Turner for over 20 years and founded a quartet called the Journeymen. This group  is still around, although Hollis has long since retired.

  You can see that Water Valley has a rich music heritage.

  Let me hear from you temporarily at P. O. Box 613189, Memphis, TN 38101, and have a great week.

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