About The Artist
Lewis Everett Childre, or as fans know him, Lew Childre, that Boy From Alabam, was born to Judge C. T. and Ada (Atwell) Childre in Opp, Alabama. He also had a brother, Winford and a sister, Opal.
In 1923 after completing pre-med studies at the University of Alabama, Lew Childre, joined the Milt Tolbert tent show in North Carolina. He entertained by singing songs that were popular at the time. He also honed his talents as a buck dancer and comedian.
Soon Lew put together his own jazz band, The Alabama Cotton Pickers. One of the young members was Lawrence Welk. Welk would later become famous in his own right as leader of his band and television show.
About 1925 old time music was becoming quite popular. Lew decided to make a change to this type music. He learned to play the guitar using a steel bar. In 1929 and 1930 Lew worked as a solo artist on stations in San Angelo, Texas and Hot Springs, Arkansas.
In the 30s Lew Childre and Wiley Walker worked together for two years, billed as the Alabama Boys and the Crazy Water Crystal Boys. The new duo did radio work in Galveston, Amarillo and San Antonio. They also toured with the Harley Sadler troupe. A March 1946 article about Wiley and Gene by Mary Jean Shurtz indicated that Wiley had worked 'off and on' with Lew for about ten years.
In 1938 Lew began appearing on XERA a border station in worked with The Prairie Sweethearts, a female group. Lew would tour during the summer and return to XERA in the winter.
In 1939 and 1940 Lew formed a partnership with Floyd and Marge Tillman on WWVA in Wheeling, West Virginia. An old WWVA Jamboree souvenir booklet indicated that Lew came to WWVA in 1939. Lew added Mr. Pooch, a white sheltie to his act. Mr Pooch could do tricks and was a treat for children in the audience.
While with WWVA, Lew had the honors of handling the emcee chores for one of WWVA's tours, doing personal appearances in Pennsylvania and Ohio in April of 1941. That tour was notable because that was the last tour by the WWVA cast until World War II was over.
By 1943 Lew had a nation wide show on the Blue Network airing Monday thru Saturday and he did 3 daily broadcasts over WAGA in Atlanta, Georgia.
Late in 1944, Cowboy Music World was letting readers know that Lew had a show that aired over WSM at 6:00am Monday through Saturday.
Lew Childre joined the WSM Grand Ole Opry in 1945 where he head lined the Warren Paint segment of the show. He was also heard Monday thru Friday 6:30 AM on an early morning program. By early 1945, Floy Case, reporting for The Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder, indicated he also had a Saturday evening show airing at 7:45pm.
Mary Jean Shurtz told readers in a September 1945 column that Lew had written to tell her that he was touring with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys in the summer of 1945.
Lew must have made a good impression when listeners of WSM heard Lew over the air. Ms.
Shurtz did a feature on Lew in late 1945 and gave us an idea of what his entertainment style
"e;If It's good singing in an original matinee that's all his own, then you'll have to listen to Law Childre. If it's an extra special kind of yodel that tip one even bas and no one ever will imitate, than listen to how. If you want comedy that Pleases old and young, the kind that is funny without hurting someone, then you'll have to listen to Lew. If you like a bit of dancing that gives you the personality of the person who is doing it, you'll Lave watch Lew. If you'd like to meet a swell, down to earth fellow with a good dawn to earth show, then go to some of Lew's personals. I say go to Some of them, because you'll always go to mite, after the first one.
In summer 1945, Cowboy Music World listed him as one of the 24 for readers to vote upon for best male vocalist in 1945. The December 1945 issue listed the Top 10, but did not include Lew.
In 1946, Ms. Shurtz told readers that evidently the Opry was having a bit of their own "Dancing With the Stars" contest as it were back then. Lew was known to do a bit of dancing and at that time it appears that the "Talking Blues Boy", Robert Lunn was also doing a bit of dancing in his appearances as well. And Ms. Shurtz hinted they were to have a bit of a contest one night, but all in fun.
In 1946 Lew again teamed up with a side kick, this time tall, lanky comedian, String Bean "The Kentucky Wonder". The pair worked together for two years.
Lou Emerson, known as Uncle Mose, wrote National Hillbilly News in 1946 and let readers know that he worked with Lew while he was at WWVA. Ms. Shurtz tells us that Dale Goudy used to work with Lew while at WWVA also and then went on to have his own show over WWST in Wooster, Ohio.
In the latter part of 1946, we learned from Ms. Shurtz that Lew was taking a leave from WSM and the Grand Ole Opry due to a Texas tour of personal appearances.
Ms. Shurtz got to know many of the artists of that era. She also wrote for National Hillbilly News. In her "One Hillbilly Fan to Another" column, she tells readers that Lew had stopped by for a visit and they talked all night about everyone in the music business. Lew invited her to see him on the Opry and she indicated she did make a trip to Nashville and was in the audience. Before the show, she got to see Ernest Tubb and Roy Acuff at the WSM studios doing their shows. Like some of the writers of those early columns, they also dabbled in songwriting or poetry. Ms. Shurtz mentioned that Lew did one of her poems on a show she heard over WSM, "I'd LIke To Give You Christmas". She ribbed him a bit in a Jamboree magazine article in 1948 that he had written and told her he was going to visit her 'soon'; she asked him what was his definition of 'soon'?
On March 4, 1953 Lew Childre, Ernest Tubb and Hank Snow entertained the troops in Korea on a tour that lasted 28 days. The troupe flew into Tokyo, then the U. S. Army handled the logistics from there. According to a Cowboy Songs article, the artists received no pay for their appearances, it was done as a special service for the troops. They only received lodging and meals. During that tour, Erich Aberbach of Hill and Range Songs indicated that the entertainers would come within 200 yards of the front lines. Lew remained at WSM (except for a short stint with Red Foley at the Ozark Jubilee in Springfield, Missouri) until 1959 when he decided to retire due to failing health.
Lew built a home south of Foley, Alabama where he started a fishing tackle business. He invented a successful new lure.
Lew Childre recorded for Gannett in 1930, for ARC in 1934 and for Starday in the early 60s. Songs recorded or often featured in his act include, Fishing Blues, Hang Out The Front Door Key, Riding On The Elevated Railway, Alabamy Bound, Nothin' But Rain, My Red Haired Lady and When They Baptized Sister Lucy Lee.
Wiliiam Lewis Childre 60, died on December 3, 1961. At his request a private funeral was held with only his wife and: son in attendance. Interment Pine Rest Memorial Cemetery in Foley, Alabama.
After Childre's death, his son Lewis Jr. took over the fishing business and began selling products nation wide. Lew Jr. had an airplane landing strip built in the rear of his home. He used the plane for business travels. On June 26, 1977 Lew Jr. crashed his plane in that field, taking his life. He was only 47 years old. Mrs Childre and other family members continued the business until it was sold.
Credits & Sources
Appearance History This Month
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