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Listeners, Watchers and Readers

Listeners, Watchers and Readers

Before I begin, I need to make a correction from last week’s column: The publicity director of the Gheens Foundation is Kathy Knotts, not Knox. I guess her golden smile reminded me of where America keeps its gold. My bad.

Parts of today’s column recalls and adds to earlier “In a Small Pond” articles I remembered new stuff about.

I watched, again, “The Will Rogers Story” where Will is portrayed by his son Will, Jr.

Will Rogers and Jimmie Rodgers were two of my youthful idols and although I was born too late to have any memories of either one, I did become friends with Mrs. Jimmie “Carrie” Rodgers from 1948 until her death in 1961.

I remember being a guest in her San Antonio home. She showed me a picture of Jimmie and Will and said that Will had spent the night at their mansion “Blue Yodeler’s Paradise” in Kerrville, Texas in 1930. Will and Jimmie were flying across the nation with pilot Wiley Post doing benefits to aid victims of the 1930’s floods our state had been heavily affected by as described by Randy Newman singing “Louisiana, Louisiana, they’re trying to wash us away.”

Jimmie played guitar and Will wrote a newspaper column. I did the former earlier in my life and the later today.

Jimmie Rodgers and Will Rogers spelled their last names differently, but were close friends. President Woodrow Wilson described Will as “master of the word ain’t.”

Now I “ain’t” never been a big fish in either category but always a “small fish in a big pond”. I do, however, enjoy the many years I’ve been allowed to swim in it.

Jimmie died in New York of tuberculosis in 1933 after six years as one of the world’s most popular recording artists. He was only 35, but T.B. or “consumption” was a fatal disease in the 1920’s and 1930’s. He knew he was dying but wrote and recorded songs about it, like the “T.B. Blues” and “Whipping That Old T.B.” He didn’t. Today, with new drugs, the disease is curable but unfortunately for Jimmie, not then.

Will died in Alaska in a plane crash with his friend Wiley Post in 1935 after over 30 years as one of America’s greatest Broadway and movie stars. He was 56 years old. He was as popular in his era as Tom Hanks, George Clooney or Brad Pitt are today.

This is not my first rodeo as a newspaper columnist. In 1947, Joe Silverberg who had recently purchased the Lafourche Comet met me at the Teen Center in Golden Meadow and gave me my first job as the Lower Lafourche correspondent. I did not like the word “lower” and was happy when the public began calling it South Lafourche.

Since I got paid by the line, when I ran out of items like “Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Boudreaux motored to New Orleans last week”, or “congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Frank Lafont on the birth of a baby daughter, Helen to join her brothers Tom and Harry”, I started to write about events of the day to lengthen the column. One week I commented about a Joe Louis prize fight of the previous night. Mr. Silverberg said I was “padding”, which I was, and fired me. I had lost my first job and $2.50 per week.

In 1959 I was working at the courthouse when Dave Robichaux, who had recently bought the Thibodaux Commercial Journal and re-named it the “Lafourche Parish Press” asked me to write a weekly column. It was about Lafourche Parish folks and events and I called it “Gumbo File”.

But in less than a year, Joe Silverberg bought the paper and discontinued my column. So technically, I was fired twice by Mr. Silverberg, with whom I had other encounters through the years.

I also wrote columns for “Billboard” magazine and (U.K.) England’s “Blues Unlimited” and attempted radio, broadcast and cable television, emceeing, song writing, recording, producing records and country music benefits, leading bands and being a musician.

I was modestly successful in some, somewhat or mediocre in others, but in a few … Never mind!

Next week, critics, criticisms, complaints but also compliments.

Bye now!

Comments are welcomed at: leroymartin1929@gmail.com