Hillbilly-Music.com - Keeping Country Music History Alive
Hillbilly-Music Folio Display


Dick Hamilton
Born:  July 6, 1915
Died:  February 9, 1993
KGGF Coffeyville, KS
KGNO Ft. Dodge, IA
KIUL Garden City, KS

About The Artist

In progress...

Dick Hamilton Hams Harmony Pals Dodge City, KS His name was Richard Alexander Hamilton from Cherryvale, Kansas. During his musical career, he was known as Dick Hamilton. While his name may not be recalled by many, what he left behind can only be described as a priceless memento of the people and places on the Los Angeles hillbilly music scene. He left behind a collection of black and white negatives, carefully sorted and labelled of the people he encountered and the places he visited. We 'introduced' Dick Hamilton to the world so to speak at a presentation at the International Country Music Conference held annually over Memorial Day weekend at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Richard Alexander Hamilton was born to Gail (Perico) and Dick Hamilton in July of 1915. He had a brother, Bob and a sister, Clover. Dick wrote of both his parents being buried in the Cherryvale Cemetary.

We know from the numerous Letters to the Editor he wrote to the Cherryvale Citizen newspaper that he attended Cherryvale High School and graduated in 1933.

At some point, music must have attracted him and he learned to play the guitar.

At some point in the 1930s, he found work at local radio stations. We have a letter from Jack Todd of radio station KGNF in Coffeyville, Kansas dated April 30, 1936 indicating Dick was scheduled for a 15-minute program on Sunday afternoon May 3 at 4:15pm. In the letter was mention of something that would become a bit of a sidebar in Dick's history and recollections. The station was going to look into interurban passes between Cherryvale and Coffeyville. At the time there was an electric trolley going from points in Kansas to Oklahoma.

He was working at radio station KIUL in Garden City, Kansas when he received a letter from Station Director, Herschel Holland of radio station KGNO in Dodge City, Kansas dated March 13, 1941. Mr. Holland mentioned that after he had talked with Mr. Denious (presumably the manager of the station), he felt that Dick could work at their station and they were prepared to offer him 35 cents an hour to start.

Dick gained some local hometown fame back on July 4, 1936. It seems he had won the heart of one Mary Demarius Fisher of Neodesha, Kansas and were married in a public ceremony in Cherryvale, Kansas. He wrote in 1985 that they had been married 49 years and had three children, Richard Jr.; Donald and Laurie.

Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys with Dick Hamilton KMTR 1943-1944

Dick Hamilton Bob Wills Suit Circa 1943 We do not know what prompted Dick to move to Los Angeles, California. It appears to be perhaps in the late 1930s or early 1940s. There is evidence in his collection that he was finding work as a musician on the scene during that time. Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys band were based in Los Angeles for a time. Dick worked as a member of the Texas Playboys playing guitar. He appeared at Bob's first concert at a Foreman Phillips County Barn Dance at the famed Venice Pier venue. He left behind a portrait of himself in the suit he wore as a member of Bob's band, sitting on the edge of a bed. While Dick dates the picture to be around 1942, Bob Wills did not end his military service until 1943.

When Bob returned, he wanted to put his band back together. It was also a time when the American Federation of Musicians union was in a dispute with recording companies. Bob's label, Columbia, had not settled with them at the time. However, that does not mean no recordings were made. Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys recorded several Armed Forces Radio Service transcriptions in Hollywood, possibly at radio station KMTR. We found some of these released on a CD published by Interstate Music Ltd, a European label.

On that CD are three recordings that included Dick Hamilton as rhythm guitarist with Bob and the Texas Playboys. The booklet with the CD mentions that "...Dick Hamilton would shine on numerous late 1940s Hollywood recording sessions with various western artists, but Wills appears to have used him primarily as a rhythm guitarist..."

We think one of the more enjoyable musical endeavors for Dick may have been the time he was a part of the T. Texas Tyler band. We think that due to quite a handful of pictures of the group in a relaxed setting at the Hudkins Ranch in what is now the Forest Lawn Cemetary in Hollywood.

In some of his letters to the editor we found hints that he was working at radio stations in Georgia for a time. But we don't have any details.

He left behind a couple of scripts for a television show called the Singing Rails, sponsored by Union Pacific. It starred Kirby Grant, who would later find fame as the character Sky King in a television series that was done in Nashville, Tennessee. Don Shaw and the Ranch Hands were the band for the show, of which Dick was a part of. In his collection were two photos of him with a group of gentlemen which we are presuming to be from that show.

Don Shaw and the Ranch Hands Singing Rails Dick Hamilton 3rd from Left

The Singing Rails made its debut on April 29, 1951 airing over KNXT-TV in Los Angeles, California. Billboard reported in 1951 that it was a half-hour Western musical show. Also on the show when it made its debut were Jane Davids. The Caples Company set this arrangement up and John Reynolds was handling the account.

Another letter indicates he worked with Cliffie Stone and the "Hometown Jamboree" show.

In one of his letters to the editor, Dick provides an observation from his experiences in the 1940s. He names no names, but perhaps shows a cynical view of how the business of 'fame' works. Let's read that letter and the poem he wrote to go with it.


Dear Editor,
Thought I’d send this along. Some things you don’t learn in books! This particular incident truly happened to me ‘way back in the 1940’s. I will not mention any names.

In the music game, it sometimes takes two very hip people to make money. To be a ‘Star’ takes concentration on that alone, and on the other hand, he or she could not do without the experienced ‘pro’ musicians. Very rarely have the two talents been combined in one person. This, of course, is in no way speculation.

Dick Hamilton

The “STAR”

This happened many years ago
I’d learned to play and sing
Figured I was plenty good
Had learned most everything
So one night I hired out
To play with some big “Star”
Had a style and fancy rags
To carry him real far
A really very handsome man
The people said “He sings”!


But I found at intermission
He used rubber-bands for strings
I asked about the rubber-bands
His answer with me lingers –
He said “I use them rubber-bands
‘Cause wires hurts muh fingers!”
I went on to learn lots more
Got faster and much bolder
I knew I’d only be as good
As in “The Eyes Of The Beholder”


Dick not only wrote his hometown newspaper, but it seems he kept in touch with a friend who also was a bit of a songwriter. We have seen several pieces of correspondence with Clavelle Isnard who lived in Cherryvale.

Clavelle was born on February 18, 1906 and from what we can tell, lived his whole life in Cherryvale. He died on May 28, 1982 and is buried in the Fairview Cemetary in Cherryvale.

We found that Clavelle wrote several tunes including "I’m A million Miles From Heaven", "Headin’ Back To Georgia", "You’re So Dependable", "First Come First Served", and "Don’t Go".

We found some correspondence with Harold Dixon, a music publisher based in Chicago about a tune called "Dancing with Strangers". In a letter to Dick, Clavelle expressed some angst about promoting the tune as the original version had been written with another person who had since died. He appeared to want to rewrite it to become the sole author of the tune. Other songs that were credited to Mr. Isnard included "Give It To Me Right Now", "Bullfrog Rock", "Bang Bang" (recorded by Janis Martin on RCA in 1958), "The Bender Song", co-written with Jimmy Holland for Hlllsboro Music and recorded by Sammy Marshall and the Sun-Rays on Vale Records (45-V1001) for the Kansas Centennial – a tune about a family of serial murderers. On the flip side of that 45-V1001 disc was another tune by Isnard and Holland, "Come To Kansas" by Kris Arden and the Sun-Rays.

T. Texas Tyler appearance Saddle Club

In February of 1958, Clavelle provided some 'papers' that Dick wanted. He had written a couple versions of a 'release' and hoped they were suitable to Dick but offered to rewrite them if Dick would tell him the specifics of what he wanted written. Clavelle noted the songs were 'registered' but not 'copyrighted'. And advised Dick that before recording any of them commercially, they must be copyrighted or they go into the public domain.

Clavelle told Dick that if he could do anything with those songs, "...I can feed them to you from here on out. But let's see what you can do with these." Perhaps he was testing Dick's talents as one who could get a song recorded. Clavelle included a personal note that the family was a bit shook up due to Clavelle's wife, Leora's father was not well and at Independence Mercy Hospital. And wrote Dick that he would "...sure like to hear your tapes of the songs."

Dick Hamilton as member T. Texas Tyler band appearance Saddle Club

The two signed releases by Clavelle were for different purposes. One was an agreement to share 50/50 any money which could be earned '...due to the efforts of Dick Hamilton' for five songs: "I'm A Million Miles From Heaven", "Headin' Back To Georgia", "You're So Dependable", "First Come First Served", and "Don't Go". The second release gave Dick permission to 'exploit' those same songs over radio, TV, records tapes or whatever other media he may choose.

Clavelle wrote Dick in March of 1958 that provides some insight as to their partnership/friendship and Clavelle's dealings as well. He told Dick he had enclosed a couple of tunes, and he said, "...This is not rock bottom stuff but I've tried to make them a little different as they will have more appeal." We think the tunes were "Bullfrog Rock" and "Give It To Me Right Now" as this collection has both songs with separate sheets for just the lyrics and another with words and music.

Tommy Sands, Biff Collie and Dick Hamilton He noted that since Dick's last letter, Clavelle had signed a contract for a song with Murray Nash Associates in Nashville. He had also placed another with Rev Records (Revere Rec. Corp.), who had had the hit 'Plaything'.

The music publishing industry can be a bit of bitter pill to digest at times at the way business gets conducted when you read stories of the various artists or the discussions one hears from others. Clavelle told Dick not to 'do anything' with a couple of his tunes as he had to revise them to avoid future headaches. He did mention that Dick well with '...some good leg work' on those other tunes and hoped they connected. But he didn't mention which tunes those were.

Clavelle then ends the letter with an offer to Dick if he was interested. Clavelle had co-wrote some songs and if Dick was interested, he would go 33 and 1/3 - 33 and 1/3 - 33 and 1/3 on them. But again, he did not mention which tunes.

Dick Hamilton with Tex WilliamsFor example, one entitled "Not Recommended Cure" that appears to have been published on September 12, 1984 Clavelle wrote Dick another letter, undated, but indicating he was sending Dick a copy of "Don't Come Cryin' To Me" for Dick to promote. He told Dick it would be a real favor and would do both a favor for future efforts together if he could get some of Dick's good disc jockey friends to push the song. Clavelle indicated he was trying to get the song recorded on a big label and every spin over the air helps. He indicated it was being considered by the people who selected Teresa Brewer's material and other 'big names'. Clavelle seemed excited in this note indicating to Dick that he had '...made a pretty good connection with a Nashville publisher. He is anxious to see anything I have on tape or demo." From our research, it appears that Ms. Brewer did not record the song, but a Mary Small on the Coral label also did record a song by that title.

We would be remiss to omit discussing the many letters to the editor of his hometown newspaper the Cherryvale Citizen. They provide an insight as to his take on life, the memories they left behind and a bit about who he was. Following are some of those essays, edited slightly.

He wrote another in response to an article that brought back more memories for him and give us a glimpse into his musical career journey that took him to Georgia for a time.


California Offers Chigger Protection

Dear Editor:
I am more ethan gratified that my answering letter to Jim Clay concerning his great story of "Old Moe" in the Cherryvale Citizen was enjoyed by you so much it was published in full.

I must tell you have received an answer to the letter from Jim Clay himself, typed in fine form by his most efficient wife. He explains in his letter his handwriting is so bad, regardless of a college education, his wife was skeptical whether I could decipher it or not.

He has received innumerable requests for the "secret" cat-fish bait he tells me. It will remain a "secret" unless aficionados of Cat-fishing want to write to me personally, as Jim assures me it will remain a "secret" as far as he's concerned. He has assured me it will go no further than his sons as far as he is concerned.

You'll never know ho much I enjoy the Cherryvale Citizen and get it here in L.A. every week. I read the article on Chigger Protection by Sonja R. Fillingsness. It triggered off many memories, not as pleasant as Cat-fishing I assure you.

We, John and I, in our quest of game, fish, berries, paw-paws, persimmons, edible nuts and wild vegetables and herbs, found one our mightiest of challenges was the lowly by potent Chigger.

These voracious creatures made such enjoyable enterprises a horrible experience. As we did not have such devices for the control of such fiendish parasites in the "early days", and of course it was hard-times also, we finally resorted to the Ol' grandma's remedy of powdered sulphur.
We found that this dusted in the cuffs, waist, under shirt sleeves, anywhere you could dust it good, kept these deplorable creatures from not only eating you alive, but in no condition either physically or mentally to undertake further excursions into the hills and vales of Cherryvale!

The chance of infection and future sores was stressed in the article in the Cherryvale Citizen to good advantage, and from most regrettable experience, I can vouch for the truth of these statements. Though you take good care of the yards, get out the powdered sulphur when you plan an excursion into the countryside. These just ain' nuthin'' as cantankerous as a good dose a'them things put here on earth to plague us humans, I guess.

In Georgia, where I was in radio, they had'em and called 'em Red-Bugs" there. Did some great Cat-fishin' in that country when the Tennessee VAlley Lakes were first established, about 1941. I found soon CHiggers were a universal plague. Even in Toccoa Georgia in those days, pharmacies had some sulphur dust.

Hope this ads some suffering humans that like to go "out", but hesitate because of the agonies that result from the inevitable assault of these insufferable pests. I fear that in those days the canned berries and such would've been rather a rarity without some powdered sulphur.

Sincerely,
One who knows!
Dick Hamilton

in response to an article "Take Precautions During Poison Ivy Season" in the August 15, 1984 issue. He wrote of an experience in his early youth that he perhaps saw was a 'cure' but not one he would recommend. Let's read an excerpt:


Not Recommended Cure

Dear Editor:
At an early age I was sure my career had ended as I found to my dismay I was violently subject to the poisons of this distinguished family of plants. When I say career ended, I mean exactly that, for by the age of six I was absolutely and irrevocably addicted to the streams and woods.

To have this affliction affect me so violently was a crushing blow. The first I remember being completed crippled by this affliction was in Chanute where I climbed upon a fence that was completely covered by poison ivy. By climbing this convenient fence, I could better see the harness races taking place at the park during the "Fair" season.

By the evening, I was a mass of great blisters and incapable of movement without breaking them. The breaking of the blisters furthered the spreading of the infection.
It got so bad I had to be taken to an old country doctor who advised using raw Linseed oil on the blisters to soften them and eventually healing them.

The next known encounter with said plants was on Cherry Creek north of Cherryvale below what was known then as "Spindle Top". While gathering wild grapes, I climbed a tall tree to get the best of the grapes. When I came down, I noticed to my horror the tree was covered with virulent poison oak! I waited for the inevitable blisters, but nothing, absolutely nothing ever happened.

Whether the extreme case I had suffered brought on an immunity I will never know, and I would hesitate at this point to offer this as a cure. All I will ever know is that to this day I have never suffered from poison ivy or oak in any manner. And you have my word that many's the time I waded and climbed through this feared plant.

Sincerely,
Dick Hamilton

Then we have another one later in the season from October. And again, we'll share some of what he wrote then.


Kansas Autumn

Dear Editor:
It has been so hot and smoggy here in L.A. it has been miserable. But now the air is turning a bit cooler and though age is creeping upon me, I certainly remember when it was coming into October weather in Cherryvale.

Out here there is a change, but the definition of changes of season is not so noticeable. There is plenty of snow, but never under at least 4,000 feet in the mountains. There is even excellent skiing, but only in the mountains of course. (There is) usually plenty of snow in Kansas, but of course no mountains.

October back there meant the first of ripe persimmons, usually after the second good frost of Autumn, squirrels and rabbits became better for eating because of the scarcity of green stuff, the ripening of grains and acorns. Even brer possum who was ordinarily only taken for his prime pelt was cleaned of all fat and roasted with yams for a feast. If you were of that nature, and know where and how, there were ducks on the table and even an occasional goose.
There are many who shun the carp as a food fish, but if you know how to clean out the "Mud Veins" along a carp's backbone, you'll find it a delicacy if you can only overcome your inhibitions. The depression overcame inhibitions with plain ol' hunger. You had to maintain a very deep sense of humor in those times. There was sure nothing really 'funny' about the depression, so the best thing was to make fun of it.

I'm sure the phrase "I feel like a million" was coined during this marvelous period in the change of seasons in the midwest so typified by the country around Cherryvale. Christmas, the cold had 'settled in' and of course, joy reigned supreme, but nothing can take the place as joy of Autumn coming on in the state of Kansas.

I pity the native Californian for never having experienced the exuberant uplift of spirits accompanying the coming of Autumn, the clear sparkling air, no smog and wonder why for fame or fortune or anything one could fare so such pleasure.

Sincerely,
Dick Hamilton

Dick enjoyed his memories of his old hometown. The people he knew. The places he would visit or frequent. Here is another example of his stroll down his memory lane including a small tidbit indicating he worked on the "Hometown Jamboree" for a time.


Cherryvalian Offers Apologies and Memories

Dear Editor:
The 100% Cherryvalian offers apologies for not visiting his hometown more often.

It's been so hot and smoggy here in L.A., even the chiggers are discouraged.

Back in Cherryvale, we called this kind of weather 'dog days'. There was a reason behind this cognomen — this is the time of year hydrophobia seemed rampant in animals.

In the early days, there was a tremendous population in the northwest end of Cherryvale called 'Smeltertown'. At the time the smelter in Cherryvale was the second largest zinc smelter in the world.

The inhabitants of Smeltertown were of all nationalities, and their collection of canines that was made up of animals that were large and fierce. Mad dogs were so numerous in August and September, it was customary for those that must sally forth to arm themselves with a club or board. Not in anger, but no one wanted to contract the dreaded 'lockjaw'.

Not only was the enormous canine population affected, it was the time of year when skunks especially, and squirrel and rabbit and other varmints were subject to the dread disease. The cricks and rivers became stagnant and, though fish did not seem to become infected, fishing was brought to a standstill. When colder weather came along, it seemed to stop the disease.

"Dog days" was the time to stay in, or, if you had to go out, go protected and know there was definitely danger 'out there'.

When the smelter closed down for good, the populace of Smeltertown moved out and the danger was lessened considerably.

The 'old timers' around these parts probably remember the smelter and they had a company store in Cherryvale on Main Street. You were supposed to trade at the company store if employed at the smelter. Or else!

East of the tracks of the railroad the true, let's say, Cherryvalian's resided. They were called the 'Cookie Pushers'. The westsiders were called 'Garlic Snappers' and 'way back when, there were athletic contests at the old athletic field west of the swimming pool between the two factions.

I learned the old mining song, "Sixteen Tons" in Cherryvale when I was about 7 years old. Many, many years later, while working here on a television show called "Hometown Jamboree" with Cliffie Stone in charge, Merle Travis, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Cliffie got together and recorded "Sixteen Tons", and made a fortune from it. There was nothing illegal about it, of course, as "Sixteen Tons" was a PD or Public Domain song.

As I told you, the 100% Cherryvalian knows some rare stories about Cherryvale and vicinity.

Though almost 70, my memory and sense of humor stay sharp. My penmanship I fear is unlike old fine wine; it does not seem to improve with age. (Jim Clay note).

Thanks to good friend Donald Reed and the Cherryvale Citizen, I got a picture and was kept up with the news of the 1933 Cherryvale High School class reunion. I am the 'culprit' for not being there. Circumstances just did not permit at the time.

Sincerely,
Dick Hamilton
Circa 1984-1985

Dick left behind a letter addressed to whoever next found his collection. It was undated, but we tend to think it was written in the mid-1980s when his collection of letters to the editor seemed to end. We would be remiss if we did not include his personal note attached to the collection which follows.


To Whom It May Concern:

It has been a great many years since these pictures were taken. Of course, we are speaking of a man's life-span. In the course of musical history, a very short time. It seems much, very much, has happened in this field in such a short time. But in the eyes of a professional musician, nothing has really changed that much. At the turn of the century, the folk music as it was called could not in any way be connected with the "classics". The caste system of this country for that's what it amounted to, would permit NO intermingling of these two forms of music. The opera and classical presentations were for the upper or moneyed class exclusively. The folk music was for ignorant peasants. Never the twain should meet. But along came this country's own art form, jazz as it was, and still is called. Although it was much maligned by the upper-classes, it was only incorporated into folk music by those who felt the urge to improvise on the theme of the folk music. These artists were considered rebels and were put in the same category as men, or women, without a country.

Jazz was so low-class in those days, the name jazz itself was used for instance by the black people as the word for copulation. Therefore, the individual attempting to apply Jazz to Folk was a sort of traitor, and the appliance of Jazz, or Country, as it is called today, was not to be tolerated. But as it is the case, especially amongst people supposedly free, these were certain ones, who in the true spirit of "Jazz" applied it to all music.

The results were received by John Q. Public with enthusiasm and great enjoyment. Even to this day, there are very definite lines drawn between the three types of music. But in the recent years, the great money makers in the biz have seen fit to combine at least the "Country" and "Pop" for their schemes and the results have been Ella Fitzgerald's "Born to Lose", Ray Charles' involvement with the Country Music (I Can't Stop Loving You) and many others.

This collection of pictures is of the hardy souls that broke traditions in the 40's and 50's and through the demands of a free people in a precarious war situation, went against the "rules", combined the "Pop" and the "Country" for the people's listening and dancing pleasure.

I am thankful to the Lord I was one of the pioneers and also active in photography at the same time, keeping the results of this endeavor with fanatical zeal.

These are the ones who offered exactly what the people asked for and paid for, unknown to those listening today, and many whop play today, discounting of course those that have been incorporated into Halls of Fame and legends through the undying efforts of promoters.

The names of Bob Wills, T. Texas Tyler, Merle Haggard, Merle Travis, and many others come to certain one's minds, but these people in the pictures were doing it before them through their know-how and regardless of great odds against them. God Bless 'Em!

Dick Hamilton


And we say, God Bless Dick Hamilton for his diligence, love of the music he was a part of and the photographic collection he left behind for the world to remember those who were a part of a unique era on the Los Angeles hillbilly music scene.

Credits and Sources

  • Letter to Dick Hamilton; Jack Todd, KGNF, Coffeyville, KS; April 30, 1936
  • Letter to Dick Hamilton; Herschel Holland, Station Director; KGNO; Dodge City, KS; March 13, 1941
  • Letter To The Editor; "The Star"; Cherryvale Citizen; Date Unknown
  • Letter; "To Whom It May Concern"; Dick Hamilton; Undated
  • The Billboard; May 12, 1951; The Billboard, Cincinnati, OH
  • Cherryvale Citizen; Letter To The Editor; September 12, 1984; Cherryvale, KS
  • Cherryvale Citizen; Letter To The Editor; October 3, 1984; Cherryvale, KS
  • Cherryvale Citizen; Letter To The Editor; Circa 1984-1985; Cherryvale, KS
  • Letter from Clavelle Isnard to Dick Hamilton; February 3, 1958
  • Letter from Clavelle Isnard to Dick Hamilton; March 8, 1958
  • Letter from Clavelle Isnard to Dick Hamilton; Undated; Postmarked May 6, 1958

Printer Friendly Version


Artist Lists
                                                   

Hillbilly-Music.com

Yes, Hillbilly Music. You may perhaps wonder why. You may even snicker. But trust us, soon your feet will start tappin' and before you know it, you'll be comin' back for more...Hillbilly Music.

Hillbilly-music.com ...
It's about the people, the music, the history.