1960 in Review
Although the parties at Birdland and Dick’s home kept Pat busy on Saturday nights throughout the summer of 1960, these were just a small portion of the many events that crammed her 1960 calendar.
On Thursday, February 18, Stonewall Jackson and George Jones were scheduled to perform in Grand Rapids for another Johnny Cash show at the Civic Auditorium. This same lineup of musicians played at Lansing that Saturday. However, Johnny Cash and Stonewall Jackson did not make it to the Grand Rapids concert. An article appeared on the following day in the Grand Rapids Press, explaining that “a snowstorm stalled air traffic” so that it became impossible for Cash and Jackson to be on time for the show.
This article indicated that Cash’s manager, Stu Carnall, had also attempted to charter a flight to Grand Rapids, but with no success.
About half of the 4500 fans in attendance at the Grand Rapids show left once it was announced that Cash would not be appearing. Phil Simon reportedly refunded around $3,000.00 to those who decided not to stay to listen to the supporting acts, which included George Jones. However, fans that were willing to drive to Lansing on Saturday were able to see Cash perform there.
After the concert in Lansing, Pat, Stonewall and George Jones stopped at the Riverview Inn on M-21 near Lowell. “It was just another countryside bar, nothing fancy. For some odd reason, it seems that there are some men that just want to start a fight with a celebrity, and this time it was George Jones who was the target. It never amounted to much of anything. Come to think of it, on a different night and at a totally different place, I remember that someone tried to pick a fight with Stonewall, too.”
“But to make things worse, George was not in a good mood because he wanted some whiskey and the bartender would not give it to him on a Sunday. The liquor laws would not allow it. George got mad and started to tip over the tables. But Stonewall convinced him to stop and we returned to Grand Rapids.”
Photo of the Riverview Inn (1971) 66
Johnny Cash and band at Lansing on February 20, 1960
Johnny Cash and Stonewall Jackson did not appear at this February 18, 1960 concert. 67
Pat Boyd’s fiancé, Don Holly, whose last name was misspelled in this ad, shared the stage with Rem Wall at Circle “S” Ranch, on August 14, 1960 68
Jim Reeves appeared at the Civic Auditorium with the Wilburn Brothers and Cowboy Copas on September 24, 1960. 69
During the following month, Jim Reeves was back at the Civic, still riding high from the success of his hit recording, ‘He’ll Have to Go, (Put Your Sweet Lips a Little Closer to the Phone.’) This song held a place on the national charts for over three months.
In October, Johnny Cash’s manager Saul Holiff promoted another country music concert at the Grand Rapids Civic Auditorium which included Marty Robbins, Bobby Helms, and Don Holly. It was a Monday night show which suffered from poor attendance. 70
In December, Pat made another trip to Kalamazoo to appear as the guest announcer on Rem Wall’s Green Valley Jamboree TV show. She also performed that same month at the Dixie Pavilion, again with Rem Wall and his band. The Dixie was located near Doan’s Lake, between Wayland and Bradley, Michigan. 71
Top 40 and ‘Hot Hits’
Near the end of 1960, WMAX’s program format was reorganized. As a result, Pat’s radio show was eliminated. Among her farewell gifts were the country music record collection which had accumulated at the station throughout her stay. It took three trips in her car, going back and forth from WMAX, to get them all home.
By mid-January Pat had already found a new D.J. job at WLAV. She switched to the night shift, broadcasting from 8 to 11 P.M. 72
In 1962, ‘Cousin Ed’ Denkema, another local country music DJ, was also hired by WLAV “after a three year absence” from radio work. Previously, he had been with WGRD for over nine years (1949-1958) until they changed their approach and dropped country music, similar to WMAX. But Denkema only stayed with WLAV for six months, and then he moved on to WMAX by November of 1962. 73
Grand Rapids’ country D.J.s ‘Cousin Ed’ Denkema and Pat Boyd share the stage at the Civic Auditorium (Pat Boyd Holton collection)
The popularity of rock and roll with the younger radio audience was steadily growing. It appeared that country music was not as popular as it once was, although it was difficult to measure accurately. Nonetheless, not only was rock and roll undermining traditional radio formats, there was also television viewing that was competing for people’s spare time.
For radio stations to secure their ‘share’ of this market, they were forced to respond to these changes. Some station managers sought professional assistance for this challenge.
From 1951 to 1955, Mike Joseph went to work for WJEF as a program director. By 1956 he noticed that the Top 40 format was beginning to take over radio. In 1958, he became a self-employed radio “program consultant.” It has been suggested that he may have been the originator of program consulting. He was one of the first consultants to advocate the use of jargon that was commonly used by D.J.s in the 1960s, such as ‘hot hits.’
His first client was WMAX. “It was due to Joseph’s redirection of WMAX that it “rose from sixth in the market share to the top-rated position with the introduction of the Top 40 format.” 74 This is not to say that Mike Joseph invented the concept of the “Top 40” radio format.
Prior to the Top 40 era, radio stations presented ‘block programming’ and network-based entertainment, lengthy pre-recorded news programs, ‘live’ studio performances, as well as drama and comedy sequels. 75 When announcers actually did play musical recordings, they often selected what they wanted to hear, rather than basing these selections upon consensus.
The concept of ‘Top 40’ radio programming appears to have emerged in the late 1940s. Robert Todd Story noticed that listeners who selected jukebox tunes tended to repeatedly listen to the same few songs. He also closely monitored sheet music and record sales to help determine what people actually wanted to hear. Various historians point to Story as being the first person to create and implement the Top 40 format. 76
Another significant difference between older styles of programming and ‘Top 40’ was that the newer format focused on presenting fashionable music, i.e. ‘the latest thing.’ Essentially, Top 40 programming dictated that disc jockeys would play recordings based solely on the sales and popularity of the recordings that were currently on the market.
The choice of the number ‘40’ which was used in the name ‘Top 40’ may have originally correlated with the maximum number of records that could fit in a jukebox made in the early 1950s.
However, there appeared to be no strict standardization displayed by local radio stations concerning the number of recordings they presented on their respective charts. For example, WGRD included 50 songs on their 1959 charts and titled it ‘Fabulous 50’ by 1961. Three years later, WGRD was presenting ‘45 of the highest caliber songs.’
In 1965, WMAX pushed their ‘25 Very Important Platters,’ and Lansing’s WILS promoted their ‘Top Twenty’ in 1958.
There were some stations that did stick with the 40 song arrangement, however. During 1958 WMAX was calling their chart list “Top 40,” as was WERX in 1966, though using a slight deviation in nomenclature as ‘Boss List 40’. Similarly, WLAV charts were called the ‘Fab 40’ in 1964 and WGRD’s was the “Hot 40” throughout 1968.
The prevalent recording medium for the ‘Top 40’ era was the 45 r.p.m. record, which first appeared on the market in 1949, and in jukeboxes by 1950. The popularity of ‘45s’ revolutionized the way music was presented and sold to record buyers for many years to come. They were small and portable, relatively inexpensive and quickly became the standard way to merchandize specific songs (‘singles’) to the public. For many years, the “Top 40” charts and the songs that ‘Top 40’ D.J.s played directly reflected the sales of 45’s. 77
The ‘new’ music and the ‘Top 40’ radio format impacted the country music industry, as well.
Numerous ‘country’ recording artists from the 1950s and 1960s recorded big hits that were enjoyed by people that didn’t even know how to define country music. Skeeter Davis, Jimmy Dean, Roger Miller, Claude King, Jim Reeves, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Johnny Horton, Conway Twitty, Eddy Arnold, Patsy Cline and Marty Robbins were tagged as ‘crossover’ musicians. This meant that their recordings contained stylistic influences which strayed from old-style or purist definitions of what country music should sound like. As can be expected, ‘crossover’ country musicians were sometimes criticized by those who preferred the traditional approach to this music.
Likewise, disapproval was expressed by traditional country musicians and their fans toward the rock and roll and rockabilly recordings that were making their presence known on the “Top 40” and country radio charts as soon as the last half of the 1950s.
Beginning in 1944, Billboard magazine created a designated chart for only country recordings, known then as Folk Records. “The chart was called Hillbilly Records for a short period in 1947. In 1949, it was changed to Country and Western. Finally, in 1962, Hot Country Singles replaced the previous chart titles.” 78
Rock and roll and rockabilly songs did occasionally appear on these country music charts. In 1958, Pat Boyd offered the following perspective: “artists like Ricky Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis, who are not truly country singers, should be excluded from the (country music) charts. Any record which uses heavy drums as opposed to light brush work or includes bugles should not be (included) in the country charts.” 79 Pat’s comment should not be misinterpreted to mean that she did not recognize the obvious talents of artists like Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley, as she freely admits that they both made important contributions to popular music. Her point was that the differences between country music and rock and roll should remain clearly defined, and that the boundary between these two styles of music should not be broken. More fundamentally, she was expressing her enduring admiration and respect for traditional ‘old-time’ country music.
Also, it was common for traditional country bands to play without a drummer or to only use a high hat and snare drum in 1958. George Hawkins maintains that “it was the early 1960s before drums gained any acceptance at the Grand Old Opry.”
Even though ‘Top 40’ was the dominant radio format by 1961, Pat worked as the country music D.J. at WLAV during that entire year. 80
It appears that Pat and Don Holly were intentionally booking their musical engagements together. On January 15th Pat Boyd appeared with Rem Wall and Don Holly at Central High School in Hastings for a March of Dimes benefit show. This program was aired on radio station WBCH. 81
In March, Pat and Don returned to Hastings for another engagement. They met up with Johnny Colmus for the Hastings Jamboree, which was held at the Hastings Theatre. 82
On June 16th, Earl Robson hosted a community gathering called the Home Acres Jubilee. Pat Boyd was hired to be the master of ceremonies for this occasion. Providing the music were the Bearded Beauties from Norton, Virginia, as well as Don Holly, Johnny Colmus and the Starliners,and Larry Lee. 83 Earl Robson had heard the Bearded Beauties country music group while he was visiting Virginia. They arrived at Home Acres, complete “with oxen and a covered wagon.” 84 Also, to take full advantage of her celebrity status, Pat was driven around the neighborhood in a truck with a loudspeaker, while she announced the details concerning this event.
Earl Robson (standing next to the ox) with the Bearded Beauties country music group 85
On Sunday, the 25th of June, Pat was in Hastings again for a country music concert featuring her good friend Del Wood, as well as Bobby Williams and Hillous Butrum. A bass player and veteran of the Grand Ole Opry, Butrum had worked with Hank Williams’ band in 1949 and 1950. He then joined Hank Snow’s band, the Rainbow Ranch Boys, for the following four years. 86
Four days later, Pat conducted a live remote broadcast from Allegan, for radio station WOWE. 87
Promoter Ted Smith presented four country music concerts during the month of July. Three shows were scheduled on each Sunday at the Circle “S” Ranch, located between Muskegon and Fruitport. Carl Smith entertained at the first weekend show, and two weeks later Jean Shepard and Hawkshaw Hawkins were the main attractions. On the 23rd, Lonzo and Oscar were the headliners. The last show of the month featured Minnie Pearl and Pee Wee King, the co-writer of ‘The Tennessee Waltz.’ 88
Country singer Carl Smith performed at Circle “S” Ranch on July 2nd. 89
Hawkshaw Hawkins and Jean Shepard staged three shows on July 16, 1961 90
On September 13, Rogers Shopping Plaza sponsored a round and square dance which took place ‘under the skies,’ to celebrate the homecoming of Miss Michigan, Karen Jean Southway. The music was provided by Pat Boyd and her Country Rhythm Boys, Don Holly and the Hi Riders, George Hawkins and Bill Ketchum. 91
In the fall this same array of musicians provided entertainment for two days at the Muskegon Auto Show. They also closed out the year at the Rod and Custom Show at the Grand Rapids Civic Auditorium, which was a three day event. 92
Most likely, this is one of the last times George Hawkins worked with Don and Pat, as he relocated to Nashville to launch his career as a professional musician, roughly seven months after graduating from high school.
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