Summer of 1958
Lee Lyons, a popular Grand Rapids radio announcer, worked with Pat at WMAX from 1958 to 1960. Lee recalls that during that time, Pat’s evening program immediately followed his afternoon show. 42
Later that month, a 30th anniversary celebration for Earl Robson’s Department store was held in Home Acres. 43 Pat Boyd and the Country Rhythm Boys performed twice during that weekend. Her band included Larry Lee on rhythm guitar, Johnny Colmus on steel guitar, Ted Owens on lead guitar, Sammy Emery on fiddle and Bob Wellman on bass. Also performing that weekend was a rock band called the Rocketeers. Pat Boyd also served as the announcer for a WMAX remote broadcast for this same event.
Robson also hosted “open-mic” nights on a stage behind his department store at 44th and South Division, where local talent would perform for the audiences.
In August, WMAX general manager Charles Sprague received an inquiry from Radio TV Mirror ‘fan’ magazine. They wanted to write an article about Pat.This feature appeared in the February 1959 issue and contained five pictures of Pat, including one with Minnie Pearl and Larry Lee. 44 The article detailed her radio career accomplishments, her work as a musician, and also mentioned her involvement with the Del Wood fan club.
1958 came to a close with another entertaining country music concert at the Civic Auditorium, featuring Jim Reeves, Ferlin Husky (and his comedic alter-ego Simon Crum,) Del Wood, as well as Roger Miller. Pat was reunited with Del Wood and she met the other musicians who participated, as she worked as the announcer for this New Year’s Eve concert.
Teresa Buist, the owner of a record store on Burton near South Division, gave Pat ten to fifteen albums to give away during intermission for each of the concerts. In return, Pat would advertise Teresa’s store to the concert audiences.
Pat announced ticket stub numbers from the stage, and presented albums to the corresponding ticket holders. But she had to keep close track of these items, because the musicians located backstage wanted them just as bad as the people in the audience.
Recorded in 1963, this is the cover of one of Simon Crum’s LPs. He performed his comedy routine at the Civic Auditorium on New Year’s Eve of 1958. 45
Jim Reeves was the headliner for this 1958 New Year’s Eve concert. 46 (courtesy of GRPL Local History Collection)
In January of 1959, Pat “journeyed to Nashville for a guest appearance on Ernest Tubb’s Midnight Jamboree.” 47 This program dates back to 1947 when Tubb began broadcasting on WSM from his record store, following the Grand Ole Opry. It is now one of the oldest running shows in radio history, and has provided a showcase for up-and-coming talent such as Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers. 48
During March, Pat drove to Kalamazoo to appear on Rem Wall’s TV show. 49 Wall was a mainstay of the west Michigan country music scene. He hosted a Saturday night country music show on WKZO-TV called Green Valley Jamboree. According to Wall, his show was on television for 36 years.
Rem Wall also recorded for numerous labels including Bakersfield, Glenn, Wolverine, Top Rank, Marvel, Wrightman and Columbia. 50
On April 1st Phil Simon brought Johnny Cash back to the Grand Rapids Civic Auditorium. Also appearing that evening were Stonewall Jackson, Justin Tubb and Benny Martin, “with Pat handling the emcee chores.” 51 This same group of musicians appeared in Saginaw and Kalamazoo during that week. Johnny Cash was late for the April 2nd Saginaw concert, although Phil Simon maintained that it “was just something that couldn’t be helped.” 52
Johnny Cash returned to the Civic Auditorium on April 1, 1959. 53
On May 9th, Hank Snow was the headliner for the next concert at the Civic Auditorium. A brief article in Billboard magazine mentioned that Pat Boyd presented Snow with a cake from his Grand Rapids fan club at a birthday party held after his show. 54
Hank Snow appeared at the Civic Auditorium in early May of 1959. 55
In June Pat drove to Angola, Indiana to perform at Buck Lake Ranch for a concert where Bill Haley and the Comets were the headliners. 56 Pat sang with Joe Taylor and the Red Birds, a country band from Fort Wayne. Pat attended this popular concert spot quite regularly. Since 1947, many of the top names in country entertainment have performed there. Buck Lake Ranch is frequently referred to as the ‘Nashville of the north.’
Throughout 1958 and 1959, Pat Boyd and the Country Rhythm Boys worked steadily at the Nite Hawk Casino on Friday nights, and on Saturday at the Tamarack Barn dances. In August of 1959, Pat’s band consisted of ‘regular’ guitarists Larry Lee and Johnny Colmus, but she had also recruited Dean Lewis on pedal steel, Wally Koomans on fiddle and Ray Wheeler on bass. 57
Don Holly (Holton)
It’s no surprise that when Pat fell in love, that it was with a handsome country singer, namely Don Holly (Holton). “The first time I met him he was visiting WMAX studio to promote his new record, most likely in 1960. I still clearly recall the first time I saw him.”
Don recorded three 45 rpm records (‘singles’). Two were produced in 1960 for the Skippy label of Dallas, Texas. Don recalls that these records were recorded in a studio located very close to busy railroad tracks, and that “it was almost impossible to finish a song without a train passing by and ruining the recording.”
Don’s other release was on Nugget Records, which was based in Tampa, Florida.
By August of 1960, Pat and Don began performing at some of the same locations. They worked together at Birdland ballroom in Ada, in Hastings, for a Home Acres business celebration, a Rogers Plaza dance, as well as for auto shows held at the Grand Rapids Civic Auditorium and at Muskegon.
Likewise, Pat and Don often used some of the same musicians for both of their bands, namely George Hawkins, Larry Lee, and Johnny Colmus.
Don named his band the Hi-Riders. He had performed with the renowned “Yodeling Cowboy,” Kenny Roberts. Roberts told Don Holly about Pat’s radio show, and encouraged him to go visit Pat at WMAX, figuring that she might play Don’s records on her show.
Roberts, born in Lenoir City, Tennessee, enjoyed a lengthy recording career which spanned from the 1940s into the 1980s. During the 1960s, he worked for five years as the announcer for a children’s cartoon show on WNEM -TV in Saginaw, Michigan. 58
This is the cover art for a compact disc project which compiles Kenny Roberts’ recordings made between 1948 and 1959. 59
Ada’s Birdland Ballroom in 1960
Chris ‘Dick’ DeVries, born on January 25, 1915, was a man with various talents and interests. At one time he created advertising banners for Earl Robson’s Department store. He had also worked as an x-ray technician who inspected welds at General Motors Stamping Plant during the early years of World War II, and served as a fireman for the Pere Marquette railroad.
In addition, during the 1940s he worked as a meat man for an IGA grocery store in Home Acres, located near the corner of 44th and South Division. In 1944 his parents helped him purchase his own grocery – convenience store in Ada at 7831 Fulton Street East. It was next to Lena Lou’s Restaurant, close to the intersection of Vergennes and Honey Creek roads on ‘old M-21,’ now called Pettis Avenue. His store was positioned alongside a roadway that was a very busy thoroughfare. It was also located directly across the street from a bridge which at that time spanned the Grand River, heading south toward the village of Ada. Back then ‘old 21’ was the only route from Grand Rapids to Lansing, so everyone that was driving on that road could see Dick’s store and gas station. It was an ideal site for a business. Many people from Kent County already knew where Lena Lou’s restaurant was located. They were raising and butchering their own chickens behind their restaurant for use with the dinners that were served there.
Initially, Dick’s store operated as a 40s-era ‘convenience store,’ with gasoline sold from two pumps. By 1950, Dick’s business was profiting by servicing the people of the farm district which surrounded the store as well as by extending credit to key citizens of the Ada community. As soon as he could afford it, he began remodeling and adding on to his existing structures.
Dick, his wife and son lived upstairs above their grocery store. At this upper level was a huge ‘living room,’ approximately 50 feet long by 30 feet in width. It was adorned with an organ, chairs, couches, a fireplace and a jukebox. DeVries’ also operated a metal buffing plant which was located on the ground level, directly underneath his living room.
In 1957, a new bridge was constructed over the Grand River, located south-east of the old one. The old bridge situated across the street from Dick’s store was then demolished. This project served to create a completely new course for M-21. DeVrie’s grocery store was no longer located beside the main highway.
As a result, during that same year Dick began constructing a new grocery store across the street from where Amway is now located in the village of Ada, between Fulton and Headley Streets. (Amway’s buildings are still situated on the north side of Fulton Street.) Dick DeVrie’s new grocery store was located directly behind where the Rix Robinson trading post memorial marker is presently located. (DeVrie’s grocery store was eventually demolished.)
Dick’s new one story building was approximately 125’ x 35,’ and featured a brick facade. DeVries did not use the entire building for his new grocery store. The additional section was used for warehousing, a leased shop, or a dance hall which he called Birdland Ballroom. Dick and his family continued to live in their home near the Lena Lou.
George Hawkins remembers that Dick DeVries’ Birdland Ballroom was not a large place. It was part of a “relatively new, brick, single-story building set back off of Fulton on the south side of the road. Fulton was only two lanes at that time. Dick lived in a large multi-story cement block building near Lena Lou’s. That same building had some machinery in there, too. He told me that he had contracts which were keeping his metal buffing business going.”
“It is a stretch to characterize Birdland as being the only nightspot around Grand Rapids which, at that time, hired country music bands. The Canopy, at 740 West Leonard, was one of the places that employed country music bands. Legal liquor was not available at Birdland, so it was not competing with the ‘downtown’ bars.” Dick was denied a liquor license for his new grocery store and Birdland because he was located too close to a church.
“To my knowledge, Birdland was not open during the week except for some special occasions. My recollection is that it was strictly a Saturday night venue.
Dick had some notorious parties at his home after the country stars were finished playing at the Grand Rapids Civic Auditorium’s Grand Ole Opry shows. ”
Dick was a big country music fan, although he also loved other styles of music, including classical. He was a friend of country singers Johnny Cash, Stonewall Jackson and Bobby Bare. Bare is well known for his 1963 recording named ‘Detroit City.’ “He was a frequent guest of Dick DeVries while he was in the Grand Rapids area.” Don ‘Holly’ Holton recalls that while he was visiting California, trying to expand his career as a musician around 1960 and 1961, that Dick was there at the same time, and Dick was managing Bobby Bare’s career.
Purportedly, Johnny Cash and Stonewall Jackson also stayed with Dick DeVries during the era of the Birdland Ballroom, c. 1958-1961. Dick’s nephew, Dan DeVries, remembers Dick speaking of Roger Miller, “who used to occasionally do work for Dick before the days of his (pre-1964) recording success. The lyrics to Miller’s hit song, King of the Road, contain a reference to ‘two hours of pushin’ broom buys an eight by twelve four-bit room.’ That was about my uncle’s place.”
Dick was a butcher, and it was typical for meat men to spread sawdust on floors to help with cleaning up. He also spread sawdust on the floor of his living room when he’d have parties there.
Another source states that Roger Miller and Dick were once riding together in a car when Roger saw a roadside billboard ad advertising a ”trailerfor sale or rent,”and that Miller also used this for lyrics in ‘King of the Road.’
There was also a close friendship which existed between Grand Rapids radio personality Bill Merchant and Dick DeVries. They visited each other’s homes and took a trip to Nashville together. Both men thoroughly enjoyed mingling with celebrities. They attended the Grand Ole Opry shows, and enjoyed socializing with the stars, such as Roger Miller.
Once Merchant had relocated to Syracuse, New York, he visited Dick when he was in Grand Rapids.
In 1957, artists and sign painters Paul Collins and Randy Brown reportedly approached Dick at his new store with the concept of building and painting a new sign for his grocery store. For a while, Randy and Paul set up their sign painting shop in the building in a room that was attached to the grocery store.
Paul Collins remembers their introduction happening this way: they met Dick while Paul and Randy were painting artwork on the walls of Kennedy’s ‘Michigold Duckling’ restaurant in Ada. Dick was so impressed with what they had accomplished that he hired Paul and Randy to create a mural of nudes for a wall in Dick’s living room. Pat Boyd and Collins both insist that “these were not pornographic.” Dan DeVries recalls that “the women painted on these walls reminded me of the Colombian artist Botero (without the fat.) But no, they were not pornographic.”
Dick befriended Paul and invited him to attend his dance hall. Paul’s friend, Buster Mathis, the heavyweight boxer, sang at Birdland. Collins estimates that Birdland Ballroom was operational for about two and a half years.
Many of the local country musicians attended Birdland, according to Pat Boyd and George Hawkins. Bob Reinhardt, who was at that time a local musician and songwriter, wrote and recorded three rockabilly-style records between 1958 and 1961. His earliest record is the first known rock-oriented recording by a west Michigan musician.
Bob Reinhardt dancing onstage with his guitar, c. 1959-1960, with Jerry Lewis playing the drums (courtesy of Matt Lehr)
Reinhardt attended Birdland and occasionally visited Pat at WMAX, trying to convince her to play his records on the air. In 1964 Reinhardt moved to Nashville. For decades he wrote songs for Tree and Acuff-Rose Publishing companies. He also continued to record many of his own compositions, as well, using the name ‘Bobby Bond.’ Roy Orbison, Sue Thompson, George Hamilton IV, Kenny Rogers, Waylon Jennings, Frank Ifield, Don Gibson, Dick Curless, Carl Smith and Don Gibson are a few of the musicians who have recorded his music.
In June, Pat Boyd and the Country Rhythm Boys were the first band to play for the opening of the 1960 summer season at Birdland. Her band, including “Larry Lee, George Moore, Kenny Pope and George Hawkins, were playing there every Saturday night during August.” 60
Left to right are Kenny Pope, Pat Boyd, Larry Lee, and George Hawkins at Birdland. (Pat Boyd Holton collection)
Don Holly performed there as well. Harry Charles, another local musician who made a few records and then moved to Nashville for a career boost, helped supply the music at Birdland on August 22, 1960. 61, 62
Harry Charles 63
Evidently, it was Pat Boyd and Dick who invited most of the musicians to appear at Birdland Ballroom and attend Dick’s parties in his living room. It was a environment where musicians and fans could all go to relax and have fun after a concert. George Jones and Jim Reeves visited Birdland. Kitty Wells and Roger Miller not only showed up, but they also autographed the ceiling of the ballroom. Stonewall Jackson and Marvin Rainwater and the Western Playboys also performed there following their appearance at the Ionia Free Fair on Saturday, August 13, 1960. 64
Stonewall Jackson with Pat Boyd (Pat Boyd Holton collection)
Apparently, the son of a liquor store owner, who was a minor, was providing beer for other minors who were attending parties at Dick’s home. These parties sometimes followed the musical presentations staged at Birdland. According to some that attended, Dick’s parties occasionally lasted all night long.
Police appeared at Dick’s home early on a Sunday morning, during the last week of September, 1960. “A raid by fourteen state policemen and sheriff’s deputies brought nineteen people” to court the next day. Five of those arrested were minors, and the charges were contributing to delinquency of minors with alcoholic beverages. In a Grand Rapids Press article DeVries explained that “the gathering was a reception for members of the Grand Ole Opry troupe that performed Saturday night at the Civic Auditorium,” although the entertainers had left before the officers arrived. 65
The Paul Collins’ nude wall paintings from his living room were mentioned in court that day, apt to be an effort to further undermine DeVries’ reputation with the judge. The Birdland Ballroom was eventually closed, most likely by 1961.
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Two of Seven
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Three of Seven
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Four of Seven
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Five of Seven
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Six of Seven
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Seven of Seven