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 Texas : Features : Columns : Spunky Flat and Beyond :

THE PRODUCER

by George Lester
George Lester
After several visits to the The Louisiana Hayride I got the itch to produce a show of my own. I knew I would have to begin with unknown talent and then hope for the best. A local theater manager was receptive to the idea of letting us use his facility for the production. Considering the fact that our radio station had a license for daytime only broadcasting that meant if we wanted to put the show on the air it had to be in the afternoon. To get our singers and musicians we put out a call on the station. It didn't take long until we were flooded with eager participants. After selecting the best of the bunch we were ready.

The show was named after our Louisiana parish, The De Soto Jamboree. I was the master of ceremonies, putting to practice all I had learned from Horace Logan from the Louisiana Hayride. Things were really looking up and I couldn't have been happier. After a couple of weeks people started to pack the theater and we had more and more people wanting to get on the show. We made room for some of them by culling out some of the weaker acts. This made some of them a bit upset but, "that's showbiz".

When one of the regulars on the show told me he brought a 15 year old guitar player from Shreveport to perform I was a bit reluctant but I took a chance and let him go on. The kid really brought the house down. His name was Jimmy Burton. He later went to perform on the Louisiana Hayride and then his career really took off. He played lead guitar for Ricky Nelson, The Everly Brothers, and The Beach boys among others and he also appeared on the Sonny and Cher TV show. The real jewel in his crown was when Elvis Presley asked him to join his touring band. They stayed together for years. I never got the chance to see him again after he left our little show. I really would like to know if he would remember us. With everything going so great it would be reasonable to assume that I stayed there in De Soto Parish for a long time. Such is not the case.

Everyone at the station worked in sales in addition to our regular duties. At the end of each month we would turn in our vouchers to collect our commissions. As I gave mine to the bookkeeper she told me there was something I should see. My boss had already submitted vouchers to collect on several of my clients. When I confronted him about it he mumbled something about my not taking care of my clients properly so he was taking over on some of them.

The station was owned by a corporation and the manager was a minor stock holder. I later found out that the principle stock holder in the company had been on his case for his dropping sales and this was his way of making up for it. It seems he had been doing the same thing to all of our sales people. I had always thought of him as more than just a boss. I considered him my best friend and I thought the world of him. It really hurt me deeply.

On my first opportunity I slipped off to Texarkana, Texas and easily landed another job at a radio station there. It just happened to be the same station where I had my singing debut many years before I became an announcer and they welcomed me back home. For years I had worked at nearby Red River Arsenal and lived in New Boston just 20 miles west of Texarkana.

When I returned to De Soto Parrish to give my boss notice he took it hard. We had worked together from the beginning to breath life into the new radio station. In spite of the unfortunate ending we had a lot of wonderful memories. There were tears in his eyes as he apologized for his failings and asked if there was anything he could do to get me to stay. For a moment I was tempted to relent and give in. After a lengthy pause I politely told him I just thought that it was time for me to move on.

What I really wanted to say was,"that's showbiz".
George Lester
Spunky Flat and Beyond - A Memoir >

December 1, 2006 column
 
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