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Nashville, Ernest Tubb and the “Midnight Jamboree”

Nashville, Ernest Tubb and the “Midnight Jamboree”

Two years before he died in a plane crash in Alaska, the great Will Rodgers wrote about the death of his “distant son” as he called Jimmie Rodgers. “He eased the hardships of the Great Depression with his songs.”

Will’s words were sacrosanct, so it’s logical to assume that Ernest Tubb’s songs eased the hardships of World War II which could not be alleviated, expunged or erased, but just easing them helped soothe many broken hearts and dreadful memories.

I met Ernest Tubb 12 times between 1943 and 1970, enough to consider him a friend.

Saturday, March 3, 1951, was the last of a 4-day visit to Nashville with my friends Reilly Pitre, Dudley Bernard, Leonce “Fee-ran” Duet, and my manager, Harry Simoneaux, Sr.

The purpose and reason for this trip were important to me and I’ll soon write about it.

I had written my friend Mrs. Jimmie Rodgers about it to seek advice and she had replied. She also gave me a very private telephone number to call when I got to Nashville, which I did. The number was Ernest Tubb’s office and I spoke to his secretary. She looked up my name and told me I was to meet the man himself at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop at 11 p.m. on March 3.

My Cajun friends and I were thrilled and the best was yet to come.

My business in Nashville was with Troy Martin, an executive with Peer International Music Publishing Company and had been arranged a month earlier in New Orleans.

So far this day he and I had attended a formal B.M.I. event at 7 p.m. and I had been interviewed on Radio Station W.S.M. at 9:30 by a very young Ralph Emery. We were on our way to attend Ernest Tubb’s Midnight Jamboree.

My friends were leisurely dressed, but Mr. Martin and I were still in a suit and tie from the banquet with no time to change clothes.

Arriving at the packed record shop I heard on the speaker “Mr. Leroy Martin, please come to the main office.”

As I entered I faced the man himself, dressed in white from hat to boots.

“You’re Leroy Martin,” he said. “Carrie Rodgers told me we met in New Orleans in 1943. I’m sorry I don’t remember because there were so many people there, but she told me you were a singer and had a professional band, and requested I meet you personally. I told her if possible I might let you sing a song on tonight’s program.”

I froze as he handed me a guitar.
“I have to know what song and if you can carry a beat, so sing a bar or two because I don’t want to embarrass you or me.”

In a daze I began, and after about 15 seconds, which seemed like a year, he said, “That will do fine. Now go rehearse with the band, even though you seem a little over dressed for the occasion.”

There were singers before me including a very young Goldie Hill (later Carl Smith’s wife).

I was introduced and after Billy Byrd struck up my intro, something happened that I find hard to believe, even today. My mind went totally and completely blank, and I hadn’t touched a drop of liquor! I don’t remember singing or anything else until arriving at our hotel. My friends said I sang well and acted normal throughout my performance and that they had taken a picture of me at the band rehearsal. Forgotten? Unimaginable!

I never told many people about that episode since some of my friends thought I didn’t have both paddles in the water anyway. I never had another experience like that again in my life.

This particular loss of memory, as I found out many years later from a Psychiatrist friend, even has a name, Lacunar Amnesia, a short loss of memory because of a dramatic event that happened or was about to happen.

Dramatic event indeed! I had just experienced probably one of the most unforgettable moments of my life and, yes, I had totally forgotten it!

More next week.

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