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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Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Pearl River Valley Jamboree

The Old Redwood Theater on Columbia Road (photo by Ken Roberts)
If you never heard of a country stage show by the name of "Pearl River Valley Jamboree," you will probably not be the only one. This local show near Bogalusa, Louisiana, and Rio, Louisiana, was one of the approximately over 600 other barn dance shows that aired during the "Golden Age of Country Music." Similar to its more popular equivalents Grand Ole Opry, Louisiana Hayride, Big D Jamboree, or the Midwestern Hayride, the Pearl River Valley Jamboree was the main form of entertainment on Saturday nights for the rural population in the 1950s in the area of Bogalusa.

The Jamboree began its run probably in 1955 outside Bogalusa on Avenue F near the small community of Rio in a barn. Because of several problems with the barn (it wasn't air conditioned, had no proper light and sound facilities, and only benches), the show moved to the Redwood Theater on Columbia Road in Bogalusa. Host of the show was a guy called Barney, whose opening call prepared the audience for the upcoming show, as one of the regular show attendee remembers:
"He would start each night off by saying, as the curtain was opening... 'Now, live, from Bogalusa, Louisiana, the center of farms, forrests and factories... the Pearl River Valley Jamboree!'"
One thing made the Pearl River Valley Jamboree special. It was custom in those days that the shows were broadcasted live over the radio right into the listeners' homes. But the first hour of the Pearl River Valley Jamboree was recorded and broadcasted the next morning at 10am over WHXY out of Bogalusa (later known as WBOX).

Vern Pullens
The house band of the show was made up of local Louisiana musicians. Lead guitarist and Bogalusa native Vern Pullens is now famous for his Rockabilly recordings he made over the years. His "Bop Crazy Baby" b/w "It's My Life" on Spade Records from Houston is now a minor Rockabilly classic. Pullens was a member of the Jamboree from 1957 to 1959.
Singer and guitarist Shirkee Samford was also a member of the show. Samford came from Louisiana and had a release on the IS-HIS label with "Pack Your Bags" b/w "Her Story Has No End." He and his brother Zarnoff had a local rock'n'roll band called "The Blue Notes" in the area and joined the Jamboree in 1955, shortly after their first gig. They went to the military in 1957 and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Other musicians were bass player Andrew Sprehe (also a member of the Blue Notes) as well as guitarists Everett King and Rick Buras. Also B.J. Johnson, who recorded for Spade with Vern Pullens in 1957, was a member of the show.
The theme song of the show was the famous "Steel Guitar Rag," which was played (of course) by the steel guitarist. Pullens would also throw in one verse of jazzy guitar picking.

"Pack Your Bags" by Shirkee Samford (IS-HIS A 1000)
The Samford Brothers with the Blue Notes, 1955. From left to right: Harlan White, Shirkee Samford, Zarnoff Samford, Andrew Sprehe
It's not known to me, when the Pearl River Valley Jamboree came to its end, but I guess the late 1950s or early 1960s are the most probable date. The Redwood Theatre still exists in Bogalusa but is now bedraggled. Lead guitarist Vern Pullens died in 2001.

Sources: Special thanks to Ianric16 for most of the information, Marcelle Hanemann: Local musicians part of area's rich musical heritage

1 comment:

Bonnie said...

Hi Ken,

I found your picture of the Redwood Theater. I would love to have your permission to post this on my Washington Parish, Louisiana page on Facebook.

Many thanks!
Bonnie Dier