The Red River Jamboree
Back in 1957 or so, they wrote that Paris, Texas was known as "The North
Star of Texas" and was even the subject of a later song by a famous
country duo by the name of George and Tammy. But back then, Paris was also
host to the Red River Jamboree, which took place each Saturday night from 8:00 to 11:00pm.
It was held over at the Fair Park Coliseum. And such was its popularity, that
there was a two hour matinee or "prevue" from 2:00 to 4:00pm each Saturday afternoon.
It's unclear from the article we have in the December 1957 Cowboy Songs magazine
whether it was the night or afternoon shows that were broadcast via remote over KFTV.
The producer of the Red River Jamboree was Roy Glenn, who also doubled up
as banjoist and comedian. The fellow handling the emcee duties was KFTV DJ,
Pee Wee Reid. The show was started by Pee Wee and Roy. Pee Wee was a Native
American and said to be a colorful character. He played bass and had his own
dance band that played in the Dallas, Texas area in the late 1940s.
Let's take a look at the Jamboree cast. The show may have been unusual in that
the headliner was a 16-year old gal by the name of Nan Castle, an RCA Victor artist
back then. She had appeared on June 24th (1957?) on the Arthur Godfrey
Talent Scout TV Show from New York. Around that time, her current release
was "Starlight, Starbright" and "I'm Not Ashamed". Her real name was Nancy
Castleberry, but it was shortened after she started getting national attention.
Joining the cast in May of 1957 was a veteran comedian and songwriter, Bob Shelton,
who was also known as "The Hopkins County Firecracker". Bob was formerly
a part of the great Shelton Brothers act with his brother Joe. They recorded
for the Bluebird label and later the Decca label. They enjoyed some bit of
success in the early days of country music history.
William Harris and the Ramblers were the most popular rockabilly act
in Northeast Texas back then. They had two groups of brothers in the band,
William and Otis Harris and Dean and Ray Martin.
Another group was the Musical Keeners, which was a family act consisting of the
father, Clinton, son, Glenn David and daughter, Yvonne. They also provided
much of the musical backing for other performers on the Red River Jamboree.
Johnny Case writes us and tell us of some of the other folks that were a
part of what some term the "house band". Clinton Keener and J.C. Case
would play rhythm guitar. Gleen Keener and Jerry Case (son of J.C. Case)
were the lead guitarists. Playing the fiddle would be Pee Wee Alharton
and Lloyd Ferguson. Jimmy Don Brown or Pee Wee Reid would be on the bass.
Roy Glenn would play tenor banjo while Jack Beard or Louis Ingrham would
be on the drums.
Here's a list we were
able to put together of the regulars on the show at that time:
- Nan Castle, RCA Victor recording artist
- Bob Shelton, comedian, songwriter
- William Harris and The Ramblers
- Dean and Ray Martin
- Don McKnight, 17-year old rockabilly artist
- The Musical Keeners (Glenn David, 16 year old electric guitarist,
Yvonne, piano, accordion and vocals; Clinton, rhythm guitar;
Jack Beard, drums)
- Floyd Ferguson and Mary Wright
- The Hammond Brothers (Jerry and Glenn)
- Tommy Holmes
- The Cases (Jerry, 13 year old electric guitarist, Johnny, 9 year old
rock 'n' roller and their dad, J.C.)
- Paul Castleberry, bass
- The Huggins Kids (Lanny, 14 guitar and vocals, Gary, 12, rhythm guitar
and Mickey, 10, drums)
- Particia Erwin, accordion and vocals
- Douglas Potts, guitar and vocals
The show did quite a bit of promotion in the local Paris newspapers as you
can see. In 1956, they were promoting a big show on
Thursday evening, October 18, 1956 at 7:30pm
that was to be held at the South Side Plaza in dowtown Paris for an event that was sponsored
by the Paris Merchants as an "Appreciation Event". In the days leading up
to the event, "The Paris News" was running feature articles on the
upcoming appearances of various artists at the gala event. On the front
page of the October 16, 1956 issue, was Nancy Castleberry of Cooper, Texas,
(who later was billed as Nan Castle) along with many of the other musicians
such as her father, Paul Castleberry, J.C. Case, Johnny Case and Jerry Case.
Riley Crabtree was also to appear and just had a song recorded by Kitty Wells
at the time that was pending release.
Bob and Joe Shelton, the Shelton Brothers
were also set to appear on the show; they were from the area, Reilly Springs.
Bob was the comedian of the group, they said he would size up the audience
before going on stage so he could decided whether to wear shoes or go
J.C. Case was to appear with his two sons, Jerry and Johnny.
Jerry's guitar playing at the age of 11 was something to behold. He was
featured in an undated article of the Fort Worth Star Telegram that told
of his meeting Ernest Tubb and Mrs. Jimmie Rodgers when they were both
in town for the Red River Exposition one year. He got so fascinated by his
guests that he started tinkering with the guitar, learning by ear as he went.
His talent was such that they said he was the "...youngest instructor giving
guitar lessons in Texas."
William Harris and his Ramblers were set to play the big event, too. They
were a rockabilly group from the Talco and Mt. Pleasant area. William
was all of 18 years old at the time and his brother was 14 and playing the
electric takeoff guitar with the group. They were also backing up Riley
Crabtree on many of his stage appearances at that time.
The October 1956 event was to also include some mean fiddle playing
by Benny Thompson, of Arlington, TX who was "World's Champion Fiddler" along
with Louis Franklin, from Whiteright, TX who was also a champion fiddle player.
Before we end this writeup on the Red River Jamboree, it would be appropriate
to include the story behind the origins of the Red River Jamboree as
related by Johnny Case.
As we mentioned above, Pee Wee Reid and Roy Glenn started the show.
A few years ago,
Johnny Case and his friend Kevin Coffey went to Paris, Texas
so Kevin could interview Pee Wee. Johnny told us Kevin asked him why he had started
the Red River Jamboree. Without any hesitation, Pee Wee replied, "I did it for those kids." I wanted those
kids to have a chance to perform and get some stage experience." And there's no
doubt there were a lot of talented youngsters in and around Paris in the mid-1950s
and many have Pee Wee Reid to thank for giving them a start.
Yodelin Jerry Hanlon
William Harris and The Ramblers