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3 “If you take Marvin, I’ll break up the “If you take Marvin, I’ll break up the band!”

John Mark Dempsey University of North Texas Press PDF

CHAPTER THREE

Mill kept the band going, long after the company sent O’Daniel packing.

In fact, it may be argued, the Doughboys enjoyed their greatest popularity without Wills, Brown, and O’Daniel. Many band members would come and go in the years and decades to come. They would create their own Doughboys legacy, in much the same way that new generations of athletes have added to the heritage of the

New York Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys.

It was radio’s “golden age.” The Light Crust Doughboys would ride the crest of the wave that carried radio to the apex of its cultural importance in the heady years after World War II. But then that wave came crashing down, taking the Doughboys and many other radio stars with it. Almost overnight, television replaced radio in the nation’s living rooms.

To understand the steadily growing popularity of the Doughboys, even after the departure of seemingly indispensable members of the group, remember that many parts of rural Texas in the early 1930s were, in effect, still mired in the 19th century. And so, while the

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4 “Seems to me I heard a piano “Seems to me I heard a piano player”

John Mark Dempsey University of North Texas Press PDF

CHAPTER FOUR

you could have all this movement, and you can have slurred notes.

In my own style . . . there’s a wild banjo quality there. . . . In piano, I do the same that this little old banjo did, because Marvin Montgomery was a tremendous, tremendous virtuoso. . . . [He] was one of the greatest banjo pickers of all time, anywhere” (Oral history, 4, reel two; 7, reel one).

Knocky Parker showed remarkable musical aptitude from a very early age. He learned to play from piano rolls. “I was four years old,” he remembered. “Mama was on the phone one time, and she heard something. But she knew this wasn’t exactly the roll because it wasn’t quite as full as that. . . . I was playing the piano, the same little piece we had on the roll. . . . Kids play with toys, you know, and they tear down bicycles and put them back together. Well, my world was the player piano rolls.” Soon thereafter, his parents took him to play at church camp meetings around Central Texas (Oral history, 1–2, reel one; Interview).

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Postscript

John Mark Dempsey University of North Texas Press PDF

“I’LL DIE

WITH

T H E M , I F T H E Y ’ L L K E E P M E T H AT L O N G ”

Postscript

An account of key members of the Light Crust Doughboys and those closely associated with the group whose later years and deaths are not covered in the main text:

Herman Arnspiger, one of the original Light Crust Doughboys, also played with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys from 1934–1940.

Arnspiger had a second career in Tulsa as a pilot. He worked as the chief pilot and instructor at the Spartan School of Aeronautics, and later became a test pilot for Douglas Aircraft. Arnspiger established the Sunray Oil Company’s aviation department. He retired in 1964, and died in a Tulsa nursing home at the age of 79 in 1984 (“Last original member”).

Cecil Brower played for Leon McAuliffe and on Red Foley’s television program following his service in the Coast Guard during World

War II. Brower followed Foley to Nashville, and became a much sought-after session musician. In the 1960s, he joined Jimmy Dean’s band. On November 21, 1965, Dean performed at Carnegie Hall in

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photo gallery

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6 “I’ll die with them, if they’ll keep me that long.” “I’ll die with them, if they’ll keep me that long.”

John Mark Dempsey University of North Texas Press PDF

“I’LL DIE

WITH

T H E M , I F T H E Y ’ L L K E E P M E T H AT L O N G ”

many of the trips then, but I was doing the payroll and turning the bills into the mill,” Smokey remembered. “Jerry Elliott did a lot of those [trips]. And Bill Hudson, who played the guitar, and Paul Blunt.

Lefty Perkins made a lot of those trips” (Montgomery oral history,

168; Elliott interview, March 8, 2001).

The arrival of Jerry Elliott signals the beginning of the modern period of the Doughboys. Jerry joined the Doughboys as a substitute for Smokey during Smokey’s Levee Club days. Elliott is a distant second in seniority with the Doughboys, at a considerable 40plus years of service. “In any other group, that would sound like a very long time,” he said with a smile (Smith, 19).

Elliott was working as the manager of a Fort Worth music store.

Doughboy Johnny Strawn, a fiddler modern-day Doughboy Art

Greenhaw calls “a great artist,” actually invited Elliott to join the group.

“Johnny came by out at the store one time, and said, ‘Hey, Smokey is going into the Levee Club, and we need somebody to go on the road with us and play banjo.’ And I said, ‘I don’t play banjo very much. I play a few chords well enough to sell ’em across the counter.’ And he said, ‘Well, that’ll do. You sing and sing parts, so come to work with us on the road with the Doughboys.’ And I said, ‘Well, I said I don’t even know how to play banjo very well.’ And he said, ‘Well, tune it like a guitar.’ Well, I tried that a time or two, but that just didn’t work for me. So I learned to play the darn thing right, but I never could play solos like Smokey. But I knew all the chords and did all the vocals, so I started traveling with the Doughboys.”

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