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About The Artist
Along with his sometime partner Wayne Raney, Lonnie Glosson ranked as one of the two great harmonica legends of the mid-decades of the 20th century. Born in rural Judsonia, Arkansas, Lonnie hopped freight trains a bit in his teens. He first played on radio at KMOX in St. Louis about 1925 or 26. He later worked regular at WLS and did his initial recordings for Paramount's Broadway subsidiary in 1931.
Later in the decade he met another aspiring harmonica genius, Wayne Raney, who became his protégé and they teamed off and on over the years working at a variety of stations throughout the country.
In November of 1938, complete with the reputation he had gained in Chicago on the WLS National Barn Dance, Lonnie and his group then named His Sugar Creek Boys, were being promoted for a performancein Grove Hill, AL. Part of the act was "Big Eared Jake" and "Pappy Slats" offering up comedy aspects. Lonnie was already famous for his "Fox Chase" and "Fast Train Blues" on the harmonica.
In 1939, Lonnie Glosson and his Sugar Creek Gang were quite popular with their programs over KWKH in Shreveport. They were on the air each day but Sunday from 6:00am to 6:30am. A fuzzy picture accompanying one article did list the members of the group then. The Sugar Creek Gang included: Sonny Haley, vocals and guitar; 'Ol' Crazy Bubb' Busby on harmonica; "Rabbit" Walters on bass; Buck Glosson, mouth organ exponent; and the Sugar Creek Kid himself, Lonnie Glosson. On the fiddles were Cricket Walters and Zedrick Tennis.
In November 1944, a large full page ad in the Richmond Times-Dispatch promoted an appearance by the Renfro Valley Barn Dance group at the Mosque Theater in Richmond for a war bond drive. One of the featured acts was Lonnie Glosson and his dog "Polka Dot."
He later went to WNOX in Knoxville in 1946 and became part of the WNOX Tennessee Barn Dance cast. The summer of 1948, he returned to WVOK in Birmingham, AL, doing two programs a day.
Often he worked as part of a larger group. For instance at WWVA Wheeling, West Virginia about 1936-1937, he was a member of Hugh and Shug's Radio Pals.
When Wayne and Lonnie worked together they often sold mail order harmonicas (immortalized in the Johnny Cash song "Please Don't Play Red River Valley"). According to some reports they also sold as many as five million of the pocket-sized musical instrument. Another favored radio home for Glosson was WHAS Louisville and the Renfro Valley Barn Dance where he sometimes helped host/owner John Lair with the emcee work for four years. At times Lonnie also worked as part of a family unit which included his harmonica playing brother Buck and sister Esther which act terminated when Esther married and left radio.
Except for his first session in 1931 and another single disc in 1936, Glosson was not especially known for recording, but in the 1940's he did several singles on the major labels Mercury and then Decca on which he sang as well as played. The most memorable was likely the train song "West Bound Rocket." Sometime in the fifties he recorded the song/recitation "Gospel Snakes" (aka "The Old Dutchman's Prayer") for Clifford Spurlock's Acme label which may have been his best known vocal.
Short news blurbs seen during research indicate that Lonnie made his first guest appearance on the WSM Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night, October 23, 1948 at9:30pm (CST) and was to play "Fox Hunt."
From 1948 until 1960, Lonnie and Wayne were closely associated with WCKY Cincinnati and numerous transcribed shows selling harmonicas. As a composer, Lonnie's millennial hymn "Matthew 24" became popular in 1947 through recordings by both Molly O'Day and Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper. Ironically, Lonnie seems not to have recorded it himself until later years when most of sessions took place for Raney's company Rimrock.
From the 1960s onward Glosson launched a whole new career by giving programs in schools. He showed what could be done with the harmonica musically. He also promoted anti-alcohol and anti-drug themes, sometimes accompanied by such tear-jerker songs typified by "Papa, Why Don't You Stop Drinking?" and "Story of the Street Girl," respectively.
Lonnie continued to do such programs into the 1980's, did a reunion album with Wayne Raney, and played an occasional bluegrass or folk festival. Late in life his legs were amputated, but he continued playing for a time.
Finally, he retired. He died at the age of ninety three of congestive heart failure in March 2001.
Lonnie married the former Margaret Ruth Moore (Born: April 26, 1912; Died: November 6, 1995) on September 7, 1931 and they had six children.
Credits & Sources