Breland: Teen musicians, singers bring joy to school

Published 11:51 am Friday, January 28, 2022

I really was never a big fan of country music, but it was brought home to me over the years as the wife of a true-blue country fan. Getting to know Rob as a teen was also getting to know country music.

Although we did not realize it so much, there was very little entertainment going on during our high school years. What we heard on the radio was about it and country music was very popular. If you didn’t like it, you learned to!

Some guys at school, devoted to the music, made school fun. They brought their musical instruments to school and during free time at the long recess at noon, they would gather and play and sing. They were pretty good, but not looking to be stars. They did it for the fun of it … and everybody loved it!

Rob had learned early on to play the guitar after he ordered one from Sears, which came along with learn to play instructions. Musically talented, he could play “by ear” just about any instrument, so it was pretty easy for him to learn. He always played the guitar for me.

I remember that he, Leo Kennedy and Carl Ray Crain, in particular, loved to gather and sing popular country (a.k.a. hillbilly) songs. Hank Williams was probably their favorite.

During those years, a group of guys from school gathered and chartered a school bus to go to New Orleans to be at a wedding for Hank Williams. Hundreds were there for that event. It was exciting star time!

Anytime there was a country music star performing anywhere around, they would go to the concerts … most usually held at area high school auditoriums. This was before there were lots of entertainment centers for the performances of rising stars.

I had been exposed to country and gospel music all my life, as my dad loved music and most of his family played musical instruments. We would go wherever it was played, as neighbors would gather on Saturday and play and sing songs half the night. I recall as a small child playing in the yard with other kids while this was happening.

A cousin played a steel guitar and when she was visiting, lots of singers and musicians would get together to play and sing. Family reunions often featured this type of get-together music.

I must have been in about the eighth grade at Pine school when the outside of the building was being repainted. Everyone was delighted that the painters were also local radio country singing stars, which included Pearly Bill Wheat and Mack Breland. Probably were others, but these are the two I remember.

While our teacher, Mr. Chester Riley, (whom we all loved) was attempting to teach us something, we were jotting down song requests to give to the painter-entertainers. Radio was everything in entertainment, as television wasn’t even a real word in those days.

We felt great as we listened to the radio, waiting to see if they mentioned our names and played the songs we requested. Such good, simple times to be alive. We could not have been more tickled if we had been featured on national radio.

Most of us grew up listening to The Grand Ole Opry, so that was our exposure to most music in our early lives. Not a lot of other music, except for listening sometimes with my parents to the orchestra of Wayne King — a popular musician in the 30s and 40s.

Country music today has been polished to sound nothing like that old-time hillbilly music we knew. Sweet nostalgia arises from the distant lovely sounds of all those local voices of yesteryear — now gone but not forgotten — as long as we are here to remember.

Retired as Associate News Editor, Bob Ann Breland writes a weekly column for The Daily News. You can email her at bobann70@att.net.