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About The Artist
Hank Stanford was born David Everett Stanford in Mexia, Texas. He was best known in West Virginia as Hank the Cowhand where he worked on radio for some two decades after World War II. He apparently had sung on small stations in Texas and may have even worked on cattle ranches.
Hank definitely had been a member of the western swing group, Zeke Williams and his Rambling Cowboys and may have even played bass on their American Record Company recordings in 1937 under the name Hank Holland. Further research indicated that Zeke and Hank worked together in St. Louis in 1939 with programs airing over KXOK in St. Louis and KFRU out of Columbia, MO. Hank led a group called the "Dude Ranchers" at the time. A group photo with a 1939 article indicated the group then consisted of "Handsome Harry" Rice; Hank the Cowhand; Sleepy Rice; Zeke Williams, "Jolly Dan" Brown, "Bashful" Famuliner and Bill Haley, perhaps the emcee.
In 1938 and 1939, Hank participated in a couple of "Radio Star Jamboree" contests that were sponsored by Larry Sunbrock. In 1938, the Yodeling contest was seemingly a tie between two members of Pappy Cheshire's troupe - Skeets Yaney and Loyce (Tex) Waterbury. But the crowd of over 10,000 people began booing the lack of a decision by the judges which at one point wanted to call it a tie or just flip a coin. The fans would not let the other contests go forward and the judges heard another round of audience applause to determine the eventual winner, defending champion Skeets Yaney. The judges included Pepper Martin and Bill McGee of baseball's St. Louis Cardinals and David Morris and Bill Overbeck.
The band contest was won by Pappy Cheshire's Hillbillies. Second place went to Bill Haley and his Barn Dance group of radio station KFRU out of Columbia, MO. That group inlcued Dynamite Jim (Fiddler), Hank the Cowhand. The Texas Bluebonnets, Jolly Dan the Accordion Man and Fiddlin' Sheriff. Best banjo player award went to Banjo Murphy McClees, with second place awarded to Ted Painter - both of Pappy Cheshire's group. The fiddling contest was won by Natchee, reported to be Apache Indian of the San Carlos Reservation of Arizona for the eighth consecutive year while Curley Fox of Nashville finished second.
After wartime military service, Stanford joined the musical staff at WMMN Fairmont and their Saturday night Sagebrush Roundup. He headed a group called the Foggy Mountain Boys (this preceded Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs using this as a band name).
A frequent member was Blaine Stewart, a mandolin picker from New Martinsville, West Virginia who also worked with Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper. For a time Colleen and Donna Wilson, known as the Beaver Valley Sweethearts, also worked with Hank at WMMN.
When the Sagebrush Roundup terminated as a live show, Hank maintained use of the name for his daytime programs which continued at WMMN until 1955.
Hank's recording career in West Virginia was exclusively with John Bava's Cozy label. In fact, Bava referred to Hank as his main artist. His repertoire included new songs, older western-flavored numbers such as "My Brown Eyed Texas Rose" and eventually up-tempo numbers with a rockabilly flavor such as the old Jimmie Davis number "She's a Hum-Dum Dinger" and his own "Popcorn Boogie."
Sentimental poems with musical background seemed to be atypically popular in West Virginia and Hank did an entire LP of such numbers.
In 1955, WMMN phased out their country music and Hank went to WKYR in Keyser, WV and then WMSG in Oakland, MD.
Musicians in this area did disc jockey work and still advertised and played live shows.
At some point he may have briefly returned west to Oklahoma.
However, Oakland was his last stop where Dusty Shaver also did deejay work and John Bava preached.
Hank died just after finishing a live show in Petersburg, West Virginia on October 2, 1966. The obituary indicated he was stricken by a heart attack while in his car after the show. He was rushed to the Grant County Hospital in Petersburg where he was pronounced dead. The obituary indicated he had started his career as a radio entertainer when he was just 17 years old in Lubbock, TX. It was reported that he worked with Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys on the Grand Ole Opry as well as working with Eddy Arnold on the Camel Caravan. Mention was made of his working on a station in Wichita Falls, TX. He was survived by wife, Ruth and a son, James.
Credits & Sources