Round and Square Dances
“Carroll ‘Cowboy Slim’ Emmorey performed all over this area. I went to country dances up north where he was playing. There were only a few places where you could hear local country musicians play at that time. But these dances were very popular. You could bring the whole family. We did square dances and round dances, even polkas.”
The late Carroll “Cowboy Slim” Emmorey (1930-2013)
This ad for the Tamarack Barn Dance appeared in the Grand Rapids Press in December of 1955. 30
As early as December of 1955, Evelyn Genung was sponsoring Saturday night ‘barn dances’ at the Tamarack Roller Rink near Howard City. Evelyn and her husband listened to Pat’s radio program. He suggested that Evelyn should advertise her dances on Pat’s radio show as well as hire her to M.C. these events.
Prior to working at WMAX, Pat had attended various other dances north of Grand Rapids, in places like Cedar Springs and Morley, but she had never heard of the Tamarack dances. In 1957, Evelyn hired Pat to M.C., hopeful that she could help increase attendance. Pat also plugged the Tamarack Barn dances on her radio show. “Evelyn was very generous. She paid me well for my work at her place. The first couple nights I appeared at these dances the place was packed. I guess folks were coming out to see what I looked like. After the first few nights, the crowd dropped off a bit.”
The September 1957 edition of The Music Reporter confirmed that Pat was “making ‘P.A.’ (public address) appearances at Genung’s Tamarack dances” with music supplied by the Ambros Valley Rangers and the Ramblin Ranch Hands. 31 Pat was also hosting dances at Bass Lake Rustic Pavilion in Breckinridge, where Earl Peterson and the Sons of the Golden West provided the music. 32
Pat Boyd sings with her Country Rhythm Boys
Earl Peterson co-owned the Bass Lake Pavilion with his mother, Mrs. Pearl Lewis. Between 1950 and 1956, Peterson recorded with the Nugget, Columbia and the Sun labels.
Earl Peterson c. 1947
On August 29, 1957, “The Sparta Reminder” publicized that Pat Boyd had become ‘Miss DJ USA.’ 33 This was a national award presented to distinguished country music disc jockeys by WSM radio and the Grand Ole Opry. Each winner went to Nashville to present their own radio program on WSM. Del Wood and George Morgan dropped by to talk with Pat during her show. While in Nashville, Pat also appeared on the Ralph Emery all-night radio show, and was introduced on stage at the Grand Old Opry by George Morgan. Remarkably, Pat received this honor with less than two years of radio broadcasting experience. Previously, only one other woman had won this award, which was singer and D.J. Mozelle Phillips of Smithfield, North Carolina, on May 20, 1955. 34
Evelyn Genung’s next ploy was to ask Pat to assemble her own country band to play at her barn dances. “I already knew how to play the guitar and wasn’t afraid to sing. I learned some of my chords from guys that I had dated that were good guitar players.” Pat gathered who she figured were the most talented young players in the area to form her band. These musicians were already performing with other groups and some of them had recorded their music, as well.
“So I put together a little band just for that occasion with Larry ‘Lee’ Favorite, Johnny Colmus, George Hawkins, George Moore and Kenny Pope. We were Pat Boyd and the Country Rhythm Boys. We also played at the Nite Hawk at Campau Lake on Friday nights, beginning in the summer of 1958.” Guitarist George Hawkins recalls that “Patty sat me down in her living room and taught me square dance tunes so we could play them at Tamarack. By that time I had already been working with Johnny Colmus in my parent’s country band called Bill Amos and the Drifters.”
This business card served two purposes for Pat Boyd, as it combined her role at WMAX with her band engagements. (Pat Boyd Holton collection)
Larry Lee was born in 1940. He played in country music bands such as Pat’s before eventually moving to Nashville to work as a ‘song plugger.’ Originally he worked for Mel Tillis and eventually for Johnny and June Carter Cash, as an arranger and office worker. Lee eventually tired of being on the road with Cash, so he opened his own office in Nashville. “If a songwriter had a composition they wanted Larry to promote, he would attempt to sell it to a publishing company. But Larry was very honest, and if he didn’t think their song had potential, he would tell them so, but in a nice way.”
Larry Lee during the early 1960s (Pat Boyd Holton collection)
Lee wrote or co-wrote numerous country songs, including ‘Fourteen Carat Mind,’ which was recorded by Gene Watson. Other artists who recorded Larry’s compositions were the Statler Brothers, Roy Acuff, Wanda Jackson, Connie Smith, Johnny Paycheck and George Jones.
By 1958, Johnny Colmus was playing regularly at a country music bar in Grand Rapids. He also performed with Pat’s band at the Nite Hawk Casino and the Tamarack Barn dances. 35
Here is one of Johnny Colmus’ recordings, called That’s Quite Alright:
Pat admits that she did not want to keep a permanent band together, and as a result she worked with a variety of musicians over the course of five years. George Hawkins, one of her more regular guitarists, was still attending Kelloggsville High School while he played for Pat. Late in 1961, a few months after he had graduated, he moved to Nashville and developed a career as a professional guitarist. He recalls that Pat was “very famous and popular in West Michigan’s country music circles. She picked what she wanted as far as events to perform at. That being said, I don’t think she kept a set band, per se. She pretty much had her pick of musicians if she needed them.”
George Hawkins in 1962 (George Hawkins collection)
On January 4, 1958, another Saturday night concert took place at the Civic Auditorium. It featured Sonny James, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Jean Shepard and the Wilburn Brothers. Sonny James’ hit recording called ‘Young Love,’ from the previous year, was still fresh in the minds of his fans and everyone else that listened to the radio, for that matter. This event was advertised in the Grand Rapids Press as the ‘Grand Ole Opry and Rock and Roll Jubilee,’ which offered an alternative marketing strategy compared to Phil Simon’s previous Civic Auditorium country music shows. These same musicians also appeared on Pat Boyd’s radio show during the week of this concert.
The Grand Ole Opry and Rock and Roll Jubilee starred Sony James 37
Phil Simon typically used the ‘catch’ phrase “Grand Ole Opry” to advertise most of his country music concerts at the Civic. None of these concerts were officially sanctioned or sponsored by the Grand Ole Opry, according to Pat Boyd. Nevertheless, most of the performers hired for Simon’s local shows had indeed worked on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. He was simply exploiting the huge popularity of the Grand Ole Opry to lure country music fans to his shows.
The Wilburn Brothers, c. 1957 38
Less than two weeks later, on January 13, Billboard reported that Phil Simon had presented another Johnny Cash concert in Battle Creek. On the following night Cash was to appear in Grand Rapids. 39
Ernest Tubb, The Louvin Brothers, George Jones and Stonewall Jackson appeared at the Civic Auditorium on February 4, 1958. 40
Despite the fact that Phil Simon endured business-related frustrations and every show was certainly not profitable, he scheduled his next country music concert for Tuesday, February 4th. This performance featured the legendary Ernest Tubb. In 1941, Tubb began to enjoy enormous fame after he wrote and recorded the country music classic entitled, “Walking the Floor Over You.” Tubb was a musical innovator who often formed bands with other great musicians. He was both a pioneer and exponent of country music, and deeply appreciated by his many fans. Reportedly, Tubb often toured “to the point beyond exhaustion. Typically, his custom-made bus would travel as much as four hundred miles per night between engagements.” 41
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