Welcome to Mellow's Log Cabin. This blog's purpose is to supply information on a diversity of American southern music - ranging from country, blues, old-time and folk to R&B, rock'n'roll and rockabilly. I regularly present my research results about artists, labels, shows and also give guest writers a chance to publish their texts here on occasion.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Gold Coast Jamboree

The East Hialeah Rexall on E. 25th Street - Hialeah, Florida
For long virtually nothing was known about the Gold Coast Jamboree, a country barn dance type show which originated from Southern Florida. The first hint of its existence gave us the biography of rockabilly singer Tommy Spurlin, who was active in the Miami area in the 1950s. Now, after more than 50 years  since the last Gold Coast Jamboree show was put on, the complete story of this country stage show has been unearthed. The Jamboree's bandleader and emcee Kenny Lee was so kind to gave me more info in the show.

The Gold Coast Jamboree was held at the Hialeah City Auditorium in Hialeah, Florida, a suburb of Miami. It was started by promoter Ben Yearty (who was also involved with the Town Hall Party) around May 1956 and was partially broadcasted by WMIE. After the show, also a barn dance was held, which also aired on radio WMIE. The Gold Coast Jamboree was one of the first Country & Western shows in the Miami area, since the more popular music style was Big Band music.

The cast of the show was made up by several local and regional artists. The only nationally known musicians were Wesley & Marilyn Tuttle, who were maybe brought on the show through the connection of Ben Yearty.

Kenny Lee (seen left) was born on May 10, 1935, in Georgia, and started his music career in Atlanta. He was discovered by Bill Lowery, the most powerful man in the Atlanta music scene during the 1950s, and soon after, Lee had a recording contract with RCA Victor, spots on WGST and an own television show called the "Kenny Lee Show". After his RCA contract ended around 1955, Lee stopped his TV show and moved to Miami, Florida, where he performed in nightclubs. One evening, he was spotted by Ben Yearty, who worked at that time with Arthur Gordfrey and he got Lee a spot on Arthur Godfrey's TV Talent show that was broadcasted from Miami. Yearty also persuaded Lee to help him starting a new Country & Western show called the "Gold Coast Jamboree" and so did Lee. He became the leader of the show's house band and also the emcee of the show.

Jimmy Hartley also did some of the emcee work, too. Hartley was a local Miami based country singer and was also a member of Cracker Jim Brooker's "Big Orange Jubilee" that started in November 1956 on KITV in Miami. Hartley was the leader of the backing band, the "Orange State Playboys". He also had two releases on the De-Luxe label, whose Miami burea was headed by Henry Stone. The first of two singles ("Don't Dropt It" b/w "Cold Moods", De-Luxe 2013) was issued in the summer of 1954, while the second came out in the fall of 1954 ("Cinnamon Sinner" b/w "Jennie from Jamaica", De-Luxe 2026).

Billboard reviewed Hartley's singles in August and September 195



Hear "Don't Drop It"

Hear "Cold Moods"


Marilyn Tuttle during an appearance on the Gold Coast Jamboree - Kenny Lee is far right on guitar
Wesley and Marilyn Tuttle were household names in the Californian country music scene when they arrived in Miami. Wes had several hits during the 1940s and was playing the Town Hall Party with Marilyn every Saturday night but in 1956, they left Los Angeles for Miami. Soon, Yearty got them on the Gold Coast Jamboree (Wesley also took over the functions of the show's director) but the couple returned to California possibly in 1957.

Tommy Spurlin should be familiar with most of the rockabilly collectors. His "Hang Loose", originally issued in 1956 on Perfect, became a revival hit in the UK during the 1970s. Spurlin was born on January 12, 1928, in Elba, Alabama, and grew up in Alabama and Louisiana.  In 1948, he moved to Miami, where he formed the "Southern Boys" in 1952, featuring himself (guitar/vocals), his half brother George "Benny" Dumas (bass), Virgil Powell (fiddle), Jimmy Slade (lead guitar), and Bill Johnson (steel guitar). Jimmy Slade had previously worked for Martha Carson as a guitarist. When rockabilly captured most of the teenagers' ears, Spurlin and the Southern Boys decided to go with the trend and dropped fiddle and steel guitar. Their first singles were made for Harold Doane's Perfect label in 1955 and 1956, which were pure country. It was not until summer 1956 that "Hang Loose" b/w "One Eyed Sam" appeared on Perfect. They also incorporated other rock'n'roll numbers such as "Long Tall Sally" into their stage shows. Kenny Lee remembers Spurlin as follows:
On the Gold Coast Jamboree Tommy performed primarily as a rock & roll artist.  [...] The producer (Ben Yearty) used to let teenage girls into the show without paying admission so that when Tommy came out to sing the girls would holler and clap at the foot of the stage.
Spurlin and the Southern Boys had one last release on Art Records in Miami. Spurlin then went out of the music business. He died in 2005 in Gulfport, Mississippi.

The Country Pals had Gene Christian as a member, a Miami native who worked with Ervin T. Rouse (writer of "Orange Blossom Special"), Gordon Rouse, and Chubby Wise early on in his career. His bluegrass group, the Country Pals, appeared on Arthur Gordfrey's Talent Show in December 1955 and in 1956, they joined the cast of the Gold Coast Jamboree. Next, they moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, where they appeared on KTHS but soon returned to Miami. In the 1960s, the band disbanded and Christian switched to mainstream country music.

As of Ann Clark and the Dixie Darlings, there is no information available on them. The Dixie Darlings were a children trio appearing in fancy western costumes.

The Dixie Darlings, standing behind the microphone, appearing on the Gold Coast Jamboree
The Gold Coast Jamboree ended in the fall of 1957. According to Kenny Lee, Ben Yearty had to fight constantly with the Miami Musicians Union. Actually, they did not want country music to become a major musical style in the city, because still Big Band music was the most popular genre there. Yearty then took Kenny Lee on a tour to North Carolina and New York, before Lee joined the US Army and left for Germany in 1957. He still lives in Alabama and performs on a regular basis.


Sources:

  • Billboard August 28, 1954 - Billboard September 25, 1954 - Billboard June 23, 1956 - Billboard November 24, 1956
  • Randy Noles: "Orange Blossom Boys: The Untold Story of Ervin T. Rouse, Chubby Wise and the World's Most Famous Fiddle Tune" 
  • I wish to express my gratitude to Kenny Lee and Wayne Head, who supplied many of the information and photos.

11 comments:

Bruce said...

Thanks Mello. Ran into this trying to look up some information on Buck Trail who I suppose performed on this show. It's amazing the number of local jamboree shows that existed across the USA during this time of which little or no information exists these days. Thanks for chasing this one down!

Mellow said...

Thanks for the kind words Bruce. I'm not quite sure if Trail performed on the Jamboree since Kenny Lee didn't remember him. I think I asked him about Trail but he couldn't recall him. Have located Trail's son and hopefully I will get more insight into his career soon!

Anonymous said...

I came to this site looking for information on Happy Harrell's Jamboree tv show back in the 1950's in Miami, FL where I grew up and could not come up with anything. Can you help me? Happy Harrell (if I'm spelling his name correctly) also had a horse named Jamboree stabled at a local Dade County ranch where I rode at that time. On of Happy's band members was called Shorty and we used to talk horses a lot. I would doctor the hack (rental) horses voluntarily that had saddle sores. A polititian also stabled his horse, Jimmy James, out there. I was a young teenager at the time and eventually became a nurse and wound care has been my favorite part of nursing.

Virginia said...

This is

Anonymous said...

Still waiting for an answer regarding my question posted Oct 3,2013 about Happy Harrell and one of his band members, Shorty.

Still waiting,
Virginia, aka Anonymous

Mellow said...

Hello Virginia, do you have an email adress? I will ask Kent Westberry about Harrell. He said he knew him.

Anna said...

Virginia,
Your are thinking about
Happy Harold.
Radio, TV and stage shows all over South Florida.
He had a lot of bandmates with him over the years including Shorty that you mentioned.
Some of note: Eddie Thorpe, Charlie McCoy, Russ Samuel,
Mollie Turner and Mike Shaw.

Anna said...

Virginia,
Additionally, Happy Harold's real name: Harold Thaxton.

Charlie said...

I'm not sure what the connection is between the East Hialeah Pharmacy, (East 8th Avenue and
25th Street, Hialeah) at the top of this post and Happy Harold.
I am sure this is not the place that advertised that Happy Harold ate breakfast there. That was the pharmacy on Palm Avenue and 41st Street in Hialeah. Happy Harold was so loved and well known in the area that this pharmacy actually had a large sign over it's restaurant counter that read
"Happy Harold Eats Breakfast Here".

Jim said...

The Shorty mentioned above in connection with Happy Harold's group was the original roadie.
He drove the truck with all the tools of the trade, everything from lighting to guitar pics.
He was the set-up man, he took care of everything on the stage and above it (the lighting). The show couldn't go on without Shorty.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jim, Anna and Mello for the information. It was at the Double H ranch (I was told it was named for Happy Harold or he owned it if my memory serves me right) where I rode and also doctored the hack horses who had saddle sores. I met Shorty there and he told me I was a good nurse and did a fine job on the horses. I was about 13 or 14 years old at the time. I owe Shorty for the reason I became a Registered Nurse after becoming an adult as he recognized the nurse in me at that time. I was going to join the USAF and become the first female jet pilot at that time after I graduated from high school and nursing wasn't even in the picture. Of course I did go to college and graduated nursing school and became a RN as Shorty predicted. And my favorite part of nursing is wound care and I think of those horses often when I see a pressure sore on a patient. I wish Shorty were still here because I think he would have been pleased to know he had a positive influence on a child's life. He was a gentle,kind man. My name is Virginia and I still live in Florida but a little further north now and still love horses. Had many of my own since I was at the HH Ranch but those early days were the best days of my life.