Chuck Wagon Gang book

See more » Gallimaufry

Bob Terrell's Chuck Wagon Gang: a Legend Lives On arrived letting me keep up the tradition of giving Charles a Chuck Wagon Gang present. Gordon emailed me to let me know that the rose thorn stripper I ordered arrived so all of Charles' birthday presents are here.

Comments

I was living in Nashville and very closely associated The Chuck Wagon Gang as it existed in about 1989. I had become quite close friends with Roy Carter and the members of his current edition of the Chucks—his sister Ruth Ellen, Armon “Pat” McKeehan, Harold Timmons, and the newest member Debby Trusty. This was an edition that was quickly winning over many of the Gang’s staunchest life-long fans from all over the country. Roy was singing a finer signature CWG bass than at any time in his long tenure. Ruth Ellen was quite an alto; her voice was nicely seasoned, rich and uniquely styled. When not unfairly judged against her sister Anna of the original Gang, Ellen could rightly be called one of the best altos in the current Southern Gospel world; I and others who had loved the old Chucks all our life noticed that Ruth Ellen could sound very much like a very young Anna had on those hundreds of cherished Columbia recordings by the original quartet. Pat was quite content to try to sound like Dad Carter in his baritone/tenor spot though he could perform marvelously in other styles. Pat had in the late fifties and early sixties been the tenor on some of the very finest recordings the group did for Columbia, for example “My Cathedral of Dreams”, “Don’t You Weep for Me”, “Endless Joy is Waiting”, “It’s Alright Now” to name just a handful! Then there was the pretty brown-eyed young lady from Hobbs, NM, who had the ideal soprano for the Chuck Wagon Gang’s unique sound to be complete. She was about the 12th replacement lead singer for the group since Rose had retired in 1965. When Rose and Anna were honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by SESAC during a banquet in Nashville in April 1987, the current group sang “The Son Hath Made Me Free”. I was there and taking photos and watched Rose’s reaction to the first few bars of the song. Her trademark Texas smile that we’d seen her wearing on the covers of so many of their wonderful CBS albums during the 50s, 60s and 70s was there and it seemed especially genuine at this moment. After the presentations were made and the group members old and new took their seats at the large round table, Rose stunned a few people when she said to her brother Roy, “You’d better keep that girl!” Debby had only become a member about 3 days earlier and she was on “cloud 9” for days and days after the public endorsement of her work from one of Gospel Music’s most beloved legendary figures! What was most stunning to Roy and Ruth Ellen was the fact that Rose had never offered her blessing to any of the ladies who had stood in her place since she bowed out more than 20 years earlier—not once, not ever! She hadn’t even endorsed her own sister Bettye.

Yes, this was indeed a good edition of the Chuck Wagon Gang. Since Rose approved of them, I had no inhibition about fully supporting their efforts; Rose was my favorite figure in the CWG!

In 1988 The Chucks were voted Gospel Group of the Year in the fan-voted Music City News Awards. In the fall of that same year, I was chatting with Roy, Ruth Ellen, Pat and Harold in their booth at The National Quartet Convention. We all were of the same opinion that the Gang needed right now, more than anything else, was a spokesperson to work for them in promotion. We felt the group could be on top again with the right person going to bat for them in the industry!

The very next evening a very attractive lady introduced herself to Roy, Pat, Ellen, Harold and me. She seemed extremely personable with a winning smile and contageous personality. She was from Pennsylvania, a former school teacher, and explained that more recently she had worked for a few years as a personal assistant to Loretta Lynn. We all jawed with her for more than an hour that evening. She seemed to really hit it off with Roy. The next day she approached him with a resume.

The lady, who will remain nameless here for a number of reasons, was hired within a day or so and the group and their associates (including myself)embraced her with great enthusiasm. She promised Roy and all of us that she intended to work hard and smart for the Chuck Wagon Gang exclusively and over the following few weeks and months she kept good on that promise. She immediately organized a top-notch fan club for the Gang registered with the IFCO. I became the very first member to join up and pay my dues. The 8-page newsletter that began going out bi-monthly was quite impressive and certain other gospel groups soon came out with their own.

Among the many noteworthy things this person accomplished on the group’s behalf within just a handful of months was to introduce Roy to writer Bob Terrell who had recently written and published a super biography on J.D. Sumner. For about 3 years or more Roy had been talking about having the full story of the Chuck Wagon Gang written and published in hardcover book form. Terrell expressed his desire to be the author of such a book and it was quickly announced that the writing was underway. A lot of die-hard fans like myself were excited and full of anticipation. But it seemed that as work on the book, to be titled “A Legend Lives On”, was well underway, it was then that I began to hear cries of “distress” from members of the group who were my friends. All was not well in the Chuck Wagon camp and it didn’t take much sniffing around to discover that the group’s new “wonder woman” was actively working against peace and harmony within the group. I saw Roy and his sister engaged in rather heated argument behind the record table in the view and ear shot of fans; I’d heard Roy good-naturedly refer to occasional fusses he and she would have. But I’d never seen them raise their voices with each other so carelessly in front of their “public”. Within a month after that incident, a new newsletter arrived in my mailbox and I was stunned and numbed to see the very small announcement that Ruth Ellen was retiring. No story was offered to explain the surprising news to her fans, just the statement that in the next newsletter would be information about the group’s new alto singer.

When the book was released a couple or three weeks later, there was no Ruth Ellen to help celebrate. The author devoted a chapter each to the members of the group and there was one (as I recall) for Ruth Ellen, but even here there was no explanation of why she so suddenly decided to retire. And in a picture section near the back of the book were found a couple of photos of the group with the new alto singer. It seemed obvious to me that what they called a “retirement” was, in truth, a resignation.

The group “member” besides Roy who got more pages in their own chapter, strangely, was their road manager/fan club president. It was titled “A Jill of All Trades” and it was full of saccarinny, dazzling praise to the road manager.
When I got my copy of the book, I took a razor blade and neatly cut out all the pages of that one chapter that I felt defiled the otherwise well-written story of the Chuck Wagon Gang.

The book is more than generous with photographs, that any true fan of the Gang, couldn’t help but treasure. I think the story of the group’s professional beginnings and the formative years was honest and all-in-all very close to the truth. It contains some great quotes by Anna but none at all from Rose. Rose made no bones about the fact that she was uneasy about the book. It seemed to her that it was all being rushed through and not nearly enough care and time was being invested in the project. She and I talked about it years later and she expressed to me that she felt like the book would in the end turn out to be a shoddy and unfair historically, so she decided to take no part in it. In some respects I suppose she was right in her predictions. But, in view of the fact that no alternative telling of the story exists, I can only feel grateful that the book was written and published.

The photographs included and the complete discography by HAROLD TIMMONS are each worth the price of the book to a genuine lover of the Chuck Wagon Gang.

As for the infamous road manager, she was the chief reason why Roy reluctantly retired unexpectedly about a year after the book was released. He gave the public a good answer when he said “I don’t want to sing up all my fishin’ years.” In truth, Roy’s wife insisted he retire at once, giving him, in effect, an ultimatum. You can do the arithmetic here. After he retired she did not last long with Pat as the leader of the group. She went to work for the Rambos.

She got a book written and published about the Rambos quickly after joining ranks with the legendary gospel music treasures of Dottie, Buck and Reba Rambo. But one day Buck was involved in a car accident and this former CWG road manager was in the car with him. He could not explain why he and this woman were together in the car that day. Very soon after this incident Dottie divorced Buck and the Rambos were to be forevermore a memory only.

I would recommend the book “The Chuck Wagon Gang—A Legend Lives On”, by Bob Terrell, even though there are a couple of things about it that are in hindsight rather pathetic and serve to stain the remarkable story of gospel music’s best-loved family quartet of all time. I highly recommend the razor blade treatment on the chapter titled, “A Jill of All Trades”, before you even begin to browse or read it’s pages.

Despite these negative issues, I still cherish my friendships with members of the Chuck Wagon Gang!

Very Sincerely,

Randy Francis

Your feelings?

Please share your feelings about Chuck Wagon Gang book.
Thanks,
Richard

More of My Blogs

Comments

Other Entries


Bookmark Pansexual Sodomite

  • Facebook
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Yahoo
  • Google
  • StumbleUpon


Pansexual Sodomite
Index
Gallimaufry
Chuck Wagon Gang book
Top of page