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About The Artist
Gerald L. "Curley" Myers, former member of Captain Stubby's Buccaneers and former member of the Indiana Hoedown cast, was born April 1, 1920, on a farm approximately 12 miles east of Lebanon, Indiana. From the age of eight he was in love with music. As he progressed through school he played a bass violin in the school orchestra. Somewhere later in life he took up the banjo and guitar, and each served him through a successful career in show business.
Early on he became a part of a group of musicians in his local church that formed a band called the Woodside Harmonica Band. This lead to a group called "The Hoosier Ramblers", and they secured a radio spot on radio station WDAN in Danville, Illinois. That group consisted of Jim Stokes, John Fife, Carl Smith, Dwight Stokes and Gerald (Curly) Myers. By 1939, they had evolved into a new group of entertainers over WDAN. That ensemble included Carl Smith (not the Carl Smith), Jim Stokes, Tom "Stubby" Fouts, Jerry Richards, and Tiny Stokes.
That group appears to have been named the "Semi-Solid Ramblers", sponsored by Consolidated Products of Danville, IL. An article in August 1939 mentions the group included Tom Fouts, Gyerald (Curley) Myers, Dwight Stokes and James Stokes of Frankfort, IN, Bruce Wright of Clay City and Gerald Richards from Freeport, IL. Articles indicate the group (called the "hillbilly band of swing", or, playing hillbilly music in swing tempo) began appearing over a series of radio stations in Iowa such as WMT in Cedar Rapids, KRNT in Des Moines and in September 1939, over WIRE in Indianapolis. They also made their first television broadcast at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, IL that year.
The group continued to make a name for itself. The former Hoosier Ramblers turned Semi-Solid Ramblers were on the move again in January of 1940. A news article indicated that on February 6, they would appear three times a week over WLS in Chicago and on Saturday nights, appear on the WLS National Barn Dance program. The group had another change in personnel as the article mentions that James Stokes, Dwight Stokes, Tom Fouts, Gerald Richards, Gerald Myers and Charles Kagy were in the group.
George Biggar, program director for WLS in Chicago, passed through Danville one day and happened to hear their program. He told them he was in the process of changing jobs from WLS to WLW in Cincinnati, and if they were ever out of a job, to come on down to Cincinnati. Within a year they were on WLW as Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers. This was in 1941, and they were there until 1944, working the Boone County Jamboree and other WLW programs. Other acts on the station at that time included Doris Day, The Williams Brothers with Andy Williams, Merle Travis, The Girls of the Golden West, Lulu Belle and Scotty, Bradley Kincaid, the Delmore Brothers and many more.
At WLW, the Buccaneers consisted of Tom Fouts (musical washboard specialist), Jerry Richards (clarinetist extraordinary) and Charles Kagey, Dwight Stokes, Jim Stokes and Gerry Myers on guitars, banjos and other sundry musical instruments.
This came to an end because of World War II. Lieutenant Commander Bob Elson, a well known Chicago sportscaster contacted the group informing them he wanted them to entertain the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor. All members passed their physical except Curley. For some time he had indications of a lung problem which was confirmed during his attempt to enlist in the Navy, so he stayed behind as the balance of the group went into the service and entertained. Curley's doctor confined him to bed eventually for eight or nine months in 1945. During that time, he was on leave from the Buccaneers. During that hiatus, Curly' wife gave birth to a daughter, Connie Jo, in October.
When the Buccaneers came out of the Navy in 1946, they went to the Village Barn in New York for three years, and then to the WLS National Barn Dance for nine years. Curley's doctor advised him against getting back into show business because of the strenuous life style. He became involved in sales with the Credit Bureau of Frankfort, Indiana, but by 1949 his interest in music drew him back into the business, only in a different way.
Shady Acres Ranch Era
He located a small country setting approximately 1 ½ miles east of Mulberry, Indiana, owned by Owen Skiles. He convinced Skiles this would be an ideal location for a country music park, and Skiles agreed to provide for the construction of buildings and preparation of the ground; Curley would finance the promotion, advertising and talent search to get the park going.
The heavily shaded area became known as "Shady Acres Ranch". The first show held at Shady Acres was on Sunday, June 12th, 1949, and the featured attraction was Pee Wee King and the Golden West Cowboys.
Shady Acres Ranch enjoyed eight years of prosperity with personalities such as Roy Acuff, Webb Pierce, Hank Snow, Rex Allen, Little Jimmy Dickens, Kenny Roberts, Ernest Tubb, Homer and Jethro, Dolph Hewitt, Ken Griffin (organist), Smiley Burnette, Maple City Four, Cowboy Copas, Bob Atcher, Patsy Montana, Renfro Valley Barn Dance (Slim Miller), Hank Thompson and his Brazos Valley Boys, Herb and Kay Adams, Grandpa Jones, Uncle Bob Hardy, Tex Ritter, Lew Childre, Woody Mercer, Red Foley, Lulu Belle and Scotty, Red Blanchard, and dozens of the biggest stars in country music at that time. And it seems each summer, Captain Stubby and his Buccaneers would make an appearance and more than likely a nice reunion of the original gang for all involved.
Shady Acres Ranch drew from several of the big radio shows that were on the air at the time as well. The WLS National Barn Dance, the WLW Midwestern Hayride, WSM's Grand Ole Opry, WOWO's Hoosier Hop.
Indiana was also home to several other venues that allowed the country music stars to often schedule multiple appearances over a week or two's time to reduce their traveling. In addition to Shady Acres Ranch, there was Buck Lake Ranch in Angola - near Fort Wayne. Ideal Beach at Schaffer Lake was another resort, near Monticello, IN. Indianapolis had its Indiana Hoedown show. The stars could also make appearances on the other local barn dance type shows as well.
Billboard reported in July of 1951 that Hank Snow and his Rainbow Ranch Boys had drawn over 7,000 fans to the venue. It was the largest crowd seen there since Roy Acuff's visit in August 1950. The 1950 Acuff appearance was also marked by an ad that ran in the local newspaper on August 4 - it called attention to Sunday drivers and Curious Sightseers. It implored folks not to travel State Road 38 between Lafayette and Frankfort the Sunday Acuff would appear. Why? "This road will be highly congested with SHADY ACRES RANCH patrons on their way to the big ROY ACUFF—GRAND OLE OPRY show."
By 1957 things were changing in the entertainment industry. With the gaining popularity of television, people became captives to their television sets as they stayed home on Sunday nights to watch Milton Berle, Ed Sullivan, Steve Allen, and the attendance at the park started dropping off. Curley says, "Seemed like the more I'd spend on advertising, the less effect it would have, so I finally through in the towel."
WFBM-TV Indiana Hoedown
On January 3, 1955 Indianapolis TV station WFBM channel 6 began airing the Indiana Hoedown, starring entertainers who had been on WLW in Cincinnati, including Charlie Gore and the Rangers, Herb and Kay Adams and Lee Jones. Curley Myers and the Ranch Boys soon found a spot on this show and Curley used his influence to bring Louie Innis over from Cincinnati to be master of ceremonies. Curley and Louie had worked together on WLW when Louie was a part of Hank Penny's band.
The stars of the Indiana Hoedown did a number of personal appearances in Indiana as one might expect.
In November 1955, WFBM-TV perhaps had seen the popularity of the show and perhaps thought they could come up with a similar idea, but in a larger venue. The station had become the new majority stockholder in the Indiana Coliseum Corporation. Station president at the time, Harry M. Bitner Jr. stated that the thought was to stage weekly shows at the Coliseum similar in nature to the Indiana Hoedown show, then being seen on Saturday nights. He cautioned however there were 'many problems' that needed to be worked on, but he thought a weekly show at one end of the Coliseum would have 2,500 or 3,000 seats.
Mel Ross, who was general manager of the corporation was to remain in that role and was given a five year contract. Mr. Bitner also indicated that if any shows done at the Coliseum would utilize 'name talent' and supplemented by WFBM-TV staff.
December 1955 saw a small tidbit in a TV-Radio column that indicated Herb and Kay Adams would be leaving the show and moving to California.
All Hands On Deck - Children's TV Show
WFBM-TV (Channel 6) in Indianapolis went against the train of thought that a children's show should be cartoons with maybe a 'live' comic or two that would do some silly comedy. They went with their own version of "The Three Stooges" — Curley Myers, Jerry Vance and Hal Fryar with a show called "All Hands on Deck" in 1962.
It becomes more interesting when one realizes that the show was the first time the three guys worked together. But each had done their own children's show. Curley Myers had his "Curley's Cowboy Theater", Fryar (as Harlow Hickenlooper) did a Saturday "Three Stooges" stint and Vance did a short-run educational series as a character named Cap'n Star.
Jerry Vance said they only had two days to get ready to do their first show together. "It was rough until we knew which way it was going to go," added Hal Fryar.
The three of them did the show just about completely adlib. Sure, they had a story conference each day, but a script was never used. They would come up with an idea, have it play out over several days and try to have some kind of hook to get the audience to tune into the next show.
While it was called a kids show, their audience were the range of ages, young and old.
One gimmick they tried was a 'bowlful of singing fleas' which was accomplished by taping Hal Fryar's voice, then playing it back in a higher speed to give them the high-squeaky pitch.
The show took place on a ship that had Cap'n Star (Jerry Vance) at the wheel. The three of them would also create other characters as well to do on the show.
Each of them had a varied background before their show. Curley had his start at WLW in Cincinnati. Hal Fryar started in Youngstown, OH playing a character named "Horseshoe Hal." Jerry Vance had the lest on-camera experience of the three, but had done 18 years of work with professional and amateur theatrical gropus. His first job? Eight lines in a play with Kirk Douglas on Broadway in New York. He laughed and noted they only played two nights.
Between them, they had 14 children which may have helped with their creativity for the show. But those singing fleas always haunted them. When they do personal appearances, the kids always ask, "Why didn't you bring the fleas?"
In May, 1972 word came down that the TV station had been sold and the new owners planned a change of programming formats and personalities. This lead to a kind of semi-retirement from the music business. He became employed by Culligan Water Conditioning but continued entertaining, getting together again with the Buccaneers for some shows, but performing mostly with Tiny Stokes as the Two Bucs. For a period of time in the late seventies and early eighties all five buccaneers worked for Martin Buildings, a farm pole building company, performing at state fairs throughout the Midwest, on Caribbean cruises and even one trip to London. In the mid eighties the Two Bucs were performing Wednesday through Saturday at the Best Western.
Curly did have a couple of songwriting credit that we are aware of. It is a tune called "Twenty-one Froggies" and appeared in a Chart Music song folio in 1946 called Hayride Jamboree Barn Dance Album. Another was a tune he co-wrote with Will Lenay entiled, "I'll Love You Forever" that was published in an "Old Favorites Music Book of the Sohio Hayride" from 1941.
But perhaps for some, being in front of an audience as an entertainer means you might not really retire. Folks will still remember you. The applause generates that warm feeling. And in Curley's case, he had a knack for the younger audience. Curley and Harlow Hickenlooper continued to work in their later years, sometimes together.
In 2003, Jerry Miller wrote of a new CD that the pair were issuing. They were still teaming up, recalling their routines and sometimes slap-stick comedy. One routine that Harlow mentioned was the shaving cream pies that he always had to take in the face, whether it was on television or at a personal appearance. Hal Fryar (Harlow Hickenlooper's real name) said, "They always wanted the pies. They wanted the pies at the personal appearances and you had to fulfill that part of it."
But by 2003, neither looked as they did 20 or 30 years ago when they did the show, but the two friends were still doing their signature songs and going on stage together. It was noted that since Harlow's hairline had risen, there was a larger target for the shaving cream pies. They each had their signature style - Curley with his white cowboy hat and his shamrock-green guitar. Harlow had a broken down straw hat and a striped coat of many bright colors.
Harlow had moved to Florida, but was in town visiting. Curley had gone through recent surgery. But the plan was by October to do appearances of some sort together. The CD they had made contained re-creations of the songs, jokes and riddles that entertained audiences for more than 40 years. A couple tunes mentioned were "Singin' In The Kitchen," and "On Top of Spaghetti."
Their children's show remained in the Saturday morning television schedule until 1973 when the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) issued regulations about educational content and network programming for kids eased them out of the lineup. They each went on to different things. Myers remained in Indiana, but Fryar (Harlow) moved with his wife to Florida. But they moved back to be closer to family.
Harlow told Mr. Miller, "I always loved to make people laugh. ... I wasn't good at sports, I was only an average student, so to be noticed I had to make a fool of myself."
Indeed history shows they continued to perform and would get mentioned in local news features. One occasion was the Eighth Annual Senior Expo sponsored by Columbus (IN) Regional Hospital and White River Broadcasting in May of 2004. The article mentions that Curley and Harlow were doing about three or four dates a month at senior centers, retirement homes or assisted living facilities.
The calendar pages turned and they threw a large birthday celebration on Curley's 90th birthday that was celebrated at the Health Center in Mulberry were Curley was living at the time. A thank you blurb in the local paper noted he was named "The Sagamore of the Wabash" in August of 2009. He enjoyed meeting his 'Buckaroo Buddies', friends and TV buddy, Harlow.
His passing in May of 2013 did not go unrecognized in the local paper. Memories of local folks included phrases like "When I was a kid, he was a rock star (to me)." His buddy Fryar (Harlow) noted, their chemistry was effortless, "...it just went together as milk and butter."
On the personal side, Curley married his wife Algilee on November 24, 1940. They are the parents of 5 children, Gary Von, Connie Jo, Vickie Ellen, Katina Kay and Penny Dee. Algilee preceded him in death on January 13, 2001.
He married his second wife Anne Young Gordon on December 21, 2009. In August of 2013, she wrote a thank you note to the 'Buckaroo Buddies' and shared Curley's last words.
" Thanks to all the Buckaroo Buddies and Gals for coming to our retirement home to see us and visit a while. I remember when you were 8 and up. For years, you were friends with a gentle, loving man that loved kids and helped them grow up. He helped you all grow up to be wonderful men and women. He is so proud of you all.
Anna passed away on September 12, 2018 at the age of 96.
Buckaroo Buddy Theme SongWords and music by Curly Myers
It's time to saddle up a pinto
Buckle on a gun
Let's ride for the distant hills
It's Three Star Western Theater Time
So we're headin' for lots of thrills
Hey Ho my little buckaroo buddy
Hey Ho my little buckaroo buddy
Hey Ho my little buckaroo buddy
Come along with me little guys and gals.
Credits & Sources