As long as I can remember my family sang four-part harmony. I, being the baby, sang the lead. My sister sang the tenor part. Daddy sang the bass part, mostly because his voice was the deepest; and my brother sang the baritone. He called it what was left.
We usually sang at all the revivals at our Baptist Church and, of course, at the annual singing convention held each year at different churches throughout the County Ministerial Association.
Daddy would inquire as to when and where the convention was to be held, and we would practice every night after supper up until the date that the event was to take place. By the time that Sunday rolled around, I was so tired of “He will set your fields on fire” that I wanted to cuss. Of course, I had better sense than to risk the wrath of Daddy by complaining.
When we each had become proficient enough with our part to suit Daddy on that particular hymn, we were expected to be as adept with “Precious Memories” or “In the Garden.” This practicing would go on until Daddy decided that we “had them ‘down pat.’”
Even though times were hard, Daddy always managed to get us a new shirt or dress for the occasion because he didn’t want us to look too seedy. After being scrubbed good and dressed in our finery, we all loaded up in the Model A and headed for the church that was hosting the convention.
There were no programs at this affair because it was open to all singers or anyone that aspired to be one. When we got there this time we found out that we were scheduled to sing after the Benson Trio. My brother started having a fit and complaining to Daddy that they “can’t carry a tune in a bucket.” Daddy figured that if they were indeed that bad, it would make us sound that much better, so we just sat there and endured. We listened to quartets, duos, trios until they finally called our name and Daddy herded us to the front of the church where we stood, stiff and sweating, until Daddy gave us the Pitch. Then, as if everyone else had faded away, we began —
Precious memories —
How they linger —
How they ever flood my soul —
In the stillness —
Of the midnight —
Precious sacred scenes unfold.
We sang two more hymns and Daddy was pleased when they asked us to sing another one. After we had exhausted our entire repertoire we went back to our seats and endured the rest of the service, and were thankful when the moderator called for his favorite congregational hymn, “The Unclouded Day.” That signaled the end of this year’s county-wide singing convention.
Years later my brother, sister and I worked together at the same business and we rode together. As we rode the 21 miles we would sing hymns to the time of the windshield wipers. The wipers on those cars were controlled by the vacuum of the engine. Depressing the accelerator would make them slow down, or speed up if pressure was released on the accelerator. Using the wipers as a Metronome, we reached the point that we could sing in time with them and not miss a beat.
My brother and I had read of folks being discovered, and we were confident that we were STARS, just waiting to shine. We contacted musicians and singers in our community who were interested in sharing stardom; and formed a country music band.
We secured a 30-minute program on a local Radio Station at the ungodly hour of 6:30 A.M. on Saturday morning. We played and sang the songs requested by the cards and letters received during the previous week. Unlike Television of today, listeners to Radio were unable to witness our miserable attitudes at this early time of day.
We would play and sing songs dedicated to the folks that had written and requested them and assured everyone that we loved every minute of the time spent entertaining them.
The Radio staff announcer would then, praise some grocery store that chose to sponsor us, and would announce the next personal appearance of our group. Eventually we all grew tired of these early hours on our off days and the traveling to different schools for appearances and elected to chart our lives back to some form of normalcy. By agreeing to limit our picking and singing to jam sessions in the future, we all settled down to a less hectic lifestyle.
Although many members of the band are deceased, those of us who are still able to sit up and take nourishment, have fond memories of a time when the sounds of “Drifting and Dreaming” wafting through the speakers of a battery powered Radio, would announce another episode of would-be celebrities seeking stardom; “Brought to you by Hartsinger’s Stone Ground Corn Meal.”
Stardom alluded us, but we feel fortunate that we can look back upon a time when the strains of guitar music and / or the tight harmony of a quartet could entertain so many.
For this; we are thankful.
“COUNTERFEITERS” – “Workers who put together kitchen counters.” Dj.