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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Le Bon, Le Mauvais et Les Vee-Lan) (E.T., me and the 3)

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Le Bon, Le Mauvais et Les Vee-Lan) (E.T., me and the 3)

“Ernest loved his fans and they loved him back fourfold.” - George D. Hay, WSMB’s solemn old judge.

“Ernest Tubb set a high bar for country entertainers: sign every autograph!” - Garth Brooks.

“No one loved his fans more than Ernest Tubb.” - Johnny Cash.

“He helped so many others in the music business.” - Loretta Lynn.

“You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” - me.

Ernest Tubb was coming to New Orleans at a nightclub I was too young to enter, but he would perform at radio station WSMB during school hours. So on March 27, 1943, I broke the law, (city ordinance 4301.2, Truancy, Playing Hooky).

That morning I took the Broad Street bus to S.J. Peters High School, fifty blocks away. Arriving, I walked, not to school but 60 feet to the Tulane street car heading downtown. I rode and transferred to the South Claiborne bus, got off at the WSMB studio and joined a large crowd of all ages packed in a small hall overlooking a glass studio.
Magic was being made! Ernest Tubb and his Texas Troubadours were on the air. We stood in awe.

Public transit in New Orleans cost .07 cents and you were given a transfer slip that allowed you on any other bus or streetcar the same day.

Who needed cars? Even today I can drive to any destination in the city if it’s on a bus or streetcar route remembered from long ago, making my journey longer, but I get there.

We met and talked to Ernest Tubb after his half-hour broadcast. He chatted and signed autographs but too soon the fire marshal escorted us out. I had broken another law, (City ordinance 3864.3 limited crowds in public halls), but I had accomplished my mission. What a day!

The next year, 1944, the “Three Stooges”, Larry, Moe and Curley, were appearing at the St. Charles Theatre, a Burlesque Theater I was too young to attend. They featured comedians and very modest strip acts. Fully stripped the girls had more clothes on than any girl on any beach today. I had not reached puberty so the Three Stooges were my only interest. Really! Honest! No kidding! So help me! (Me thinks he does protest too much … Shakespeare.)

My friend Joe was over 18 and we devised a scheme. He paid his admission, opened an exit door and got me in. Two more broken laws, (City ordinance 2836.8, limiting age for adult entertainment and ordinance 3198.2, illegal entry).

I had told Mom I was going to a show, which wasn’t a lie and she gave me 6 silver dimes she had earned pealing shrimp during a recent visit to the country. Since I paid no admission, Joe and I bought popcorn, candy and soda pop with the hard earned dimes. I felt a pang of guilt but consumed the snacks anyway. (That one I confessed to my priest.)

I had broken the law 4 times in less than two years and feared I was headed for the F.B.I.’s “Most Wanted” list with my picture in the Post Office. Didn’t happen! I got to see the Three Stooges and Ernest Tubb and hopefully all those minor infractions have proscribed because I’ve since reformed, ended my criminal activities and got on the straight and narrow path.

I was to meet Ernest Tubb many times in the next thirty years and we became friends, not as close as Mrs. Jimmie Rodgers, but he remembered my name whenever we met.

Next week I’ll conclude my series about him with happy meetings in Nashville, 1951, Meridian, 1954, six more times through the years and a final sad meeting in Galliano in 1970. It all ended with a heart breaking phone call in 1977.

I hope my self-depreciating humor, which incidentally is all true, will help you enter 2016 with a smile. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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