My friendship with Hal Benson continued through 1954. As my mentor he taught me broadcasting tips for “The Leroy Martin Show” on KTIB, the “Voice of The Golden Delta.” Five hours on Saturday afternoons and it lasted from 1953 to 1983. Unfortunately, my teacher’s term was short, but that’s another story.
In 1954 records were still 10-inch, 78 revolutions per minute (RPM) shellac discs but the 45 RPM would soon enter. It had a big hole in the middle into which an adapter called a spider with a small hole had to be inserted.
By 1958 the 78 had joined the Edison Cylinder in the phonograph museum. No, by cracky! I don’t remember the cylinder but the first one played “Mary had a little lamb”.
These changes proved expensive to collectors like me because by 1964 I had bought, begged, borrowed or stolen, (that is … borrowed and not returned), over 3,000 78-RPM records by searching over 100 atics, garages and barns in South Lafourche. In 1964 Hurricane Hilda flooded us and fused them together into one giant round block of shellac. I cried a lot.
My Bob Wills, Jimmy Davis, Jimmie Rodgers and Rex Griffin 78 collections were gone but I bought them on 33 LP, then cassette, then 8-Track and finally, I hope, CD. I got all the Bear Company box sets but the valuable (to collectors) original 78’s were gone.
Back at KTIB Hal brought me to remote broadcasts of high school football games as his color announcer, a sidekick who commented between plays about the band, cheerleaders, the crowds and little dogs loose on the field. I was terrible. Music was my thing, not sports. Hal acquiesced.
Every Friday after work I would pick up 2-quart bottles of beer at Hosea Hill’s and join him at the station playing guitar with Hal on the bongo drum as we sang, sipped and talked. We bonded. He was the big brother I never had, 6 years older, and I was the kid brother like George that he had left behind in New Orleans.
At the time my job, my band and my radio program were all successful and I was full of the “joie de vivre” of youth.
I wondered why Mr. Hill never charged me. I never asked, but Hal would often phone Mr. Hill racing results from the AP teletype and would announce on the air the bands playing at the Sugar Bowl Lounge that night. That’s when I learned about “Due Bills”.
Trading of commodities is called bartering and values of those exchanges are kept in statements called “Due Bills”. It was so common in radio that it was sometimes negotiated between an owner and manager as part of the salary. Example: $100 worth of radio commercials was exchanged for motel rooms or a bar or grocery tab.
I never knew or asked if that was the case, but a due bill came in handy on my October, 1954 Memphis honeymoon, but that is another story.
On Friday the week before May 26, 1953, while sipping a quart beer I told Hal “get someone to do my show next week. Johnny Schouest and I are going to the first “Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Day” in Meridian, Mississippi and I will have tickets for the “Guest of Honor” banquet from Mrs. Jimmie Rodgers who, by the way, IS the guest of honor.”
H replied “you got tickets from WHO?” Then I told him the story about my pen pal, phone pal and good friend since 1947, Mrs. Jimmie “Carrie” Rodgers. He was floored.
“I’ve known Johnny since a Columbia Record convention in Memphis in 1952 when I met his prodigy Vin Bruce. We still keep in touch. You think I can hitch a ride?”
“I’m the Captain, and it will be a pleasure” I replied and we began to make plans, two Cajuns and a former New Orleans “Who Dat”, (although the term was not yet in use,) who had sat in on up right bass with some of the great Blues” musician of Memphis. This would be a historic trip, and I’ll tell you about it. BYE NOW!
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