An Autobiography: Chapter 23, The Pianist


| 8/17/2012 10:08:15 AM


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On October 11, 1940, I attended the “Food Show,” which took place at the huge tobacco warehouse in Covington. This was an annual event for some years. My school chums James Gray and Henry Zumstein went with me. I wonder now why Lee King, one of my best friends, wasn’t along. It is interesting that after a few years I lost contact with Henry, but 13 years later, he was a pressman for the Steinhauser Printing Company when we were publishing the “Country Music Scrapbooks.”

The year 1940 was the 100th anniversary of Kenton County, so that year’s event was a major one. In addition to several hundred booths, foods of all kinds, and local retailers of various products, they had a bandstand where each evening the Johnny Long Orchestra played. Johnny Long had just signed with Decca Records, and his recording of “In a Shanty In Old Shanty Town” was a hit, with more than 1 million records sold. The highlight of his career was when the band was requested to play at Franklin D. Roosevelt’s birthday ball in 1941.

Johnny Long 

I was thinking about my idea of “Pocket Celebrity Scrapbooks,” and I talked with Johnny about this. He thought it was an excellent idea because, as he said, there were no publications out there giving the kids information about their favorite singers and band leaders. He encouraged me and asked that I keep in touch with him.

But the most fun we three boys had at the show was when we recorded two songs! Tastee Bread had a booth with a newfangled home recorder, where you could record your voice on little plastic discs. The gentleman at that that booth must have been a local disc jockey, the way he talked to everyone and drew you in to test out your vocal expertise.

He saw us boys having fun, and said to everyone standing around, “What say, we hear a song from this young trio!” We had never sung together before, and I didn’t know what kind of voice James or Henry had, but, of course, we were all for it. We recorded a song on each side of a little platter, which I still have, although it’s not playable. Drat it! First we sang “Mister Meadowlark” by Johnny Mercer, which was a big hit recorded by Bing Crosby, Perry Como and Glenn Miller, and others. On the other side we recorded “Pessimistic Character,” which was also a hit by Crosby.

rusty locke
8/20/2012 9:32:46 PM

Thank you Thurston for sharing your life story. You have a sentimental heart and a fine memory. I too find the things of long-ago clearer then yesterdays meals. I look forward to your blogs.God bless. Rusty





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