Turn back the pages in time to 1954 and McMinnville, Tennesse when
a fellow by the name of Pleas Taylor told the program director
of his station, Roy Crocker, that he had a lot of talent to play on
his top ranked shows and thought they deserved a show of their own.
The show, like so many others, fast outgrew the studio as audiences
It turns out that the station's transmitter was located on a nice
piece of land, a logical place to hold the show. But station manager
had to use his powers of persuasion to get the station maintenance man,
Sam Johnson, to allow a show to originate on that piece of lawn.
Dick Davis got his engineering group to literally wire the entire grounds
This may have even been the first drive-in country music show. Fans started
discovering that they could come to the show and just sit in the comfort of their
cars and still hear and see the stars they came to enjoy. The parking area
was filled every Saturday night. Many of the fans got out of their cars and
sat in front of the stage on the grounds. They wrote that the crowds averaged
about 500 folks.
When the weather got bad, or, later in the year when winter came around, the show
was moved back into the studio.
One of the members of the Hill Family contacted us and told us a bit about
the WMMT Jamboree and its settings. Raymond Hill told us, that while the station's
studios may have been small, it was on a very large area of land of about three acres.
As mentioned above, Ray says the station built a large stage for the show
and kept the entire property mowed nicely.
"People for miles around would drive their cars and park them on the lawn
facing the stage. Some sat in their cars watching while others brought
lawn chairs or blankets to sit on. The crowds were good with maybe 50 -75 cars
parked there each Saturday afternoon to watch the show. Most people would have us
on their car radio, (1230 on the AM dial) with the volume turned on as well
as hearing us through the speakers on the stage. I guess this was the forerunner
of stereo. Tennessee has a mixed bag of weather all year long so the (WMMT) Jamboree show
(was) outside on the stage probably only about six months of the year as cold
weather would force the show back into the WMMT studios until spring."
—Raymond Hill, of the Hill Family
Ray told us that Studio A in the WMMT building was a tiny one, barely enough
room to hold the musicians and their instruments, so there was no room for a live audience
during those times when it was held in the studio. In fact, the entire facility
may not have been much more than 1,500 square feet.
Pleas Taylor handled the emcee role, leading the hour and a half show,
interviewing guest stars appearing in the area and all the regular members
of the Jamboree.
In those days, fans weren't charged any admission fees to the show or even for parking
according to Raymond Hill. Refreshements weren't available at the show. But nearby, within
walking distance was a little 'Dairy Queen' type of restuarant that probably had its
best day of business on those Saturdays the Jamboree show was held.
Back in 1955, there were three groups had been with the show since
it started in 1954.
One was the Hill Family - led by Mother Thelma, her three sons and her daughter.
Another was The Taylor Brothers, Joe and Don, who had a knack for stirring the crowds
with their gospel tunes. Finally, there was the Smilin' Hillbillies who thought that
hillbilly music was good enough to sing as much and as often as they could.
Pleas Taylor was also a bit of a musician, who played the bass fiddle and had
played with Eddie Hill and Benny Martin.
The show remained on the air until about 1960.
Some of the acts that were a part of the WMMT Jamboree
- The Smilin' Hillbillies
- The Hill Family
- The Taylor Brothers