World War II basically ended on April 30, 1945 with a self-inflicted bullet to Adolph Hitler’s head, the best destination in the world for that bullet at that time.
The war ended for Japan on August 15, 1945, with a big bang, to say the least.
Ernest Tubb had been on a roll since “Walking the Floor” in 1941, taking the Cajuns, the nation and most of the world by storm with ten straight hit records. He made four movies, two “B” westerns with Charles Starrett, the “Durango Kid” and two as the star, “Jamboree” and “Hollywood Barn Dance”. They were certainly no “Casablanca”, but to his fans they might just as well have been.
The Cajuns had a nickname for him, “Ar-ness-la-by”, French for “Ernest, the tub”.
His worldwide appeal was phenomenal, even in countries where radios were forbidden, and there they risked their lives to hear his records by hiding under blankets with their radios. I kid you not.
Country or hillbilly music fame was not limited to Ernest Tubb. Japanese infantrymen, in suicidal charges, would yell “to hell with Roosevelt, to hell with Babe Ruth, to hell with Roy Acuff.”
A Cajun friend who lost a leg in battle swore he actually witnessed that and said, “We’d yell back, to hell with Tojo and picked them off one by one.”
As Ernest Tubb’s fame grew, so did his problems. The government limited the shellac necessary for producing records and a musician strike stopped all recordings for two years. Decca records had anticipated it and had stock piled releases to issue during the strike.
Decca records later told him that none of his releases between 1940 and 1950 had sold fewer than 300,000. But forced by the shellac rationing to pressing only 10% of its existing orders, the actual numbers boggles the mind.
Then in January of 1944, the sessions began again and he scored some of his biggest hits, beginning with “Soldier’s Last Letter”, “Tomorrow Never Comes” and “Careless Darling”. There were as many as six songs on the top hit charts at the same time, unprecedented in any music genre. A newspaper reporter once wrote “those good looking 30-year old gals would swoon when he hit a low note.”
During this time, my family had moved to New Orleans where my dad was building landing crafts at Higgins Industries and I had joined them after completing 7th grade.
I did not hear many Ernest Tubb records in New Orleans and very little country music except Elton Britt’s “There’s a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere” and “Someday”, and Al Dexter’s “Pistol Packing Mama” and “Rosalita” … all big hits.
What I did hear was the New Orleans “patois” or the “where y’at?” accent. Horrors! Within a year I was speaking just like them. I had totally lost my Cajun accent for which my new classmates had nicknamed me “Country”.
Eventually my new accent, which was somewhere in between, served me well in my later radio career.
The war ended in 1945 and I returned to my beloved Bayou Lafourche home. Upon hearing my new accent, my Golden Meadow High School classmates nicknamed me … you guessed it … “City”.
I do however, have some pleasant memories like seeing the original Three Stooges in person, my proximity to Pontchartrain Beach, Audubon and City parks, where I saw over 30 major movie and radio stars at war bond rallies, and dozens of local and downtown picture shows, all a short walk or a street car away. About 20 blocks was a short walk to us because my bayou home was located midway between The Star and Rebstock Theaters, two miles up the bayou or two miles down the bayou. We walked it often.
My best memory was meeting and talking to Ernest Tubb, the Texas Troubadour, which I’ll tell you about next week. As we chatted, he was simultaneously signing autographs, a lifelong characteristic, and he mentioned a name I knew very little about, but in time I would. The name was Jimmie Rodgers.
By the way I hope you had a Merry Christmas and will have a Happy New Year.
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Posted on Tue, December 29, 2015
by Leroy Martin, Contributing Writer