Aan het einde van de vorige post (# 5) in deze serie begon Bill Clifton aan een lang antwoord op een vraag over songbooks en The Carter Family. Waarschijnlijk kwamen bij Bill hierdoor nog meer herinneringen bovendrijven, want de rest van het antwoord vindt u in deze post. Vooral mooie avonturen waarin Bill Clifton en A.P. Carter samen op pad zijn…
Leaving the Valley and Chuck Wagon Gang
That story only came from me so I knew: ‘that’s where it came from’. But I don’t know whether I told this particular story. When I was getting ready to, I left the WWVA jamboree in November of 1953 (51 years ago [sighs]). When I left there I had a plan in mind but the plan didn’t work out. I had been at WKIN in Kingsport, Tennessee with Johnny Clark and A.P. We had done a radio program for WKIN and the manager had sent somebody down to get me to come up and talk to him after the radio program was over before we left. And I went up to talk to him and he said: ‘What would it take to get you out of Wheeling and get you to come and be a regular on our radio station?’ I thought about it and I thought: ‘Well, a certain amount of money and the ability to advertise our show dates and everything and: How many other radio stations do you have?’ Well, they had the maximum number, which in those days was seven. One of them was in Roanoke, which was a good market. For me it was a good market. So I thought: ‘Well, this will work’. But I didn’t get anything in writing. So when I left the Jamboree in Wheeling I thought: ‘Well, I’ll just go ahead and take him up on that’. Oh! Well, we just moved the transmitter. We spent so much money on moving the transmitter and the new studio that… Oh, we want you but we can’t pay the salary. We can… So I didn’t do it.
So I didn’t have any plan and A.P. said to me: ‘I reckon I can get us some bookings for the Spring. I want to take you boys to Nashville’. And he said: ‘I believe I can get you on the Grand Ole Opry and so forth’. Well, The Grand Ole Opry was not the great big thing it was for a lot of people. I mean: a lot of people in the United States, who play country music, think that the only way that they can ever prove that they’ve been a success is to be on the Grand Ole Opry. And I never looked at it that way. So, the Opry never meant that much to me. But on the other hand I could appreciate that it meant something to A.P. That he thought it’d be a good thing to do. And I said: ‘Well, I think I need to find some work now, before the winter sets in. I’ll just take a run down to Knoxville and see if I can get on the ‘Merry-Go-Round’, in Knoxville’. So I left there and A.P. thought I was gonna come back. He didn’t think I was leaving. He thought I was gonna come back. We went down to Knoxville and Lowell Blanchard was running the ‘Merry-Go-Round’. He said: ‘I got four groups here’. He said: ‘I’ve got Charlie Monroe, I’ve got Carl Story’, and I forgot who the other two were but all good groups. He said: ‘Those four can eke out a living during the winter months’. He said: ‘If I put you people here the live of you will starve to death. All live groups will starve to death’. So he said: ‘I can’t do it’. So I just thought: ‘Well, well go on down to Atlanta, maybe, and find something down there. Or Charlotte, or Ashville’. We went to different places and didn’t find anything. I finally got to Richmond and I took a job in Richmond.
And I wrote to A.P. and 1 got a letter back. And he said: ‘I didn’t know you boys were gonna leave and not come back’. And then he said: ‘I was gonna offer you a little old house I’ve got up in the valley there’. He said: ‘It’s not much of a house but you boys could have stayed there for the winter and got your groceries out of the store. And we could have planned work for the Spring. I could have gotten us plenty of work for the Spring’. And he said: ‘Sometimes if you’re not working it’s probably a good thing that people don’t know you’re not working’. He said: ‘If you’d been in that little house of mine up in the valley nobody would have known you weren’t working’. That’s an insight into the profession of being a musician. You don’t want to have too high a profile when you’re not working. ‘Cause then the people will say: ‘Oh, they’re not getting any work. They must not be very good’. That’s the kind of professional thoughts that A.P. had and that he passed on to me. Another one was in the Mark Zwonitzer book, I think. About us going over to hear the Chuck Wagon Gang one night when he wanted to meet them. Standing outside in the rain. Rain pouring down. Just absolutely coming down in sheets. And me with no hat and no hair and him with his old felt hat on, but nothing else. No raincoat. No umbrellas or anything. And I said: ‘I think we need to just go in at the front door’. And he said: ‘No, no’. He said: ‘We go in where the musicioners go in’. He always called them ‘musicioners’. He said: ‘We just go in where the musicioners go in’. I said: ‘Well, the doors are locked and there’s nobody coming over here’. ‘Somebody will come directly’. And he just knocked on the door occasionally and hundreds of people milling around and nobody paying any attention. Finally some fellow comes over and: ‘Can I help you fellows?’ A.P. said: ‘Yeah, I want to speak to head man’. He said: ‘Well, that’ll be Wally Fowler, it’s his program. It’s an all-night sing’. And he (A.P.) said: ‘Well, I’d like to speak to him then’. He said: ‘Who shall I tell his is here?’ And A.P. said: ‘Tell him it’s A.P. Carter of The Carter Family’. The fellow stepped back and opened the door immediately, you know. ‘Good gracious alive. I’ll get him!’ Of course Wally Fowler had never met him and he was so pleased. And he said: ‘I’m recording this for a radio program on WBAM back in Montgomery or Birmingham, Alabama. It’s Birmingham, Alabama’. He said: ‘Would you mind, would you all do some songs?’ So we got up and did several songs. But it was that attitude that got to me. That: ‘No, we don’t go in where the public goes in. We go in where the musicioners go in’. No matter what!