Friday, September 3, 2010

Remembering the Original Amateur Hour and the Minstrels from Southeast Missouri

Before American Idol and America's Got Talent, even before Star Search, the Original Amateur Hour was introducing Americans to singers, dancers, comedians, and other performers through television and radio broadcasts for 70 years, from 1935 until 1970 -- with a total of 3 1/2 million auditioning and 25,000 acts performing on the program.  Such notables as Ann-Margret, Frank Sinatra, Pat Boone, Maria Callas, Joey Dee and the Starlighters, The Gentrys, Penny Marshall, Beverly Sills, Jim Stafford, and Gladys Knight appeared on the Original Amateur Hour and countless others competed for the public's votes each week.  The "Wheel of Fortune" was spun at the beginning of each show to determine the order of the acts' appearance ("Round and round and round she goes andwhere she stops, nobody knows").  From there, audiences enjoyed jugglers, baton twirlers, tap dancers, ventriloquists, and a variety of other acts -- all applauded and supported by friends and family back home.

In 1964, residents of Kennett, Missouri and the surrounding area supported a group of young men called The Minstrels.  The Minstrels were folksingers and first performed together in a Teens Against Polio assembly in January of 1963.  David Freeman, David Kerr, Ken Stuart, Terry Hunter, Richard Cleek, and Steve Reagan went on to compete in several area talent shows in Senath, Deering, Portageville, Hayti, Rector (Arkansas), East Prairie, Cardwell, Charleston and Jackson.  They also performed at numerous local and regional events, on Memphis television and Missouri and Arkansas radio stations. They were also among the finalists at the Mid-South Fair talent competition in Memphis in 1963.

The Minstrels won their audition for the Original Amateur Hour at the 1963 Delta Fair Talent Show .  They tried out for the Ted Mack show in June and were scheduled for an appearance in August.  The group sang "Frogg #1" (also known as "Frog Went a Courtin'") and won that evening, entitling them to a second appearance, where they performed "Waterfall."

I was a Minstrels fan throughout the existence of the group, attending most of their talent shows, and I was proud of my brother for being a member of the Minstrels. They brought pride to their community and continued to do so as they grew into respectful and respected young men.  I believe that this is because they were a product of their community, which expected and rewarded great things from them.

I was visiting with a group of friends recently and the conversation went to Sheryl Crow and up-and-coming country star David Nail, both of whom grew up in the small community of Kennett.  Credit was given to the outstanding music education opportunities and support that the community offers to its young people.  I agree with that assessment and appreciate the benefits of a strong school music program to everybody -- whether it be through a noted local performer or an individual's  lifelong enjoyment of music.  The contributions of music teachers, band directors, music club organizers, and all of those who support music for young people can't be overestimated.  Groups like the Minstrels and performers like Sheryl Crow and David Nail are products of their work -- and make us all proud.


Joy said...

I used to watch those shows regularly. Good memories!

Leanne said...

Awe, Annie!! I absolutely LOVE this post - and I love how I always learning something every tiem I come by here! How absolute COOL that your brother was a part of the Minstrels. Really great post. said...

thanks for stopping by Acting Balanced - this was great to learn more about the Minstrels... growing up in Toronto, Canada I was able to watch the birth and launch of many Canadian musical careers and it's always great to be able to say "I was a fan when..."

♥The Sweet Life♥ said...

Hi! I found you through the Lady Bloggers Tea Party. Your blog is very interesting.

Karen Peterson said...

The Original Amateur Hour was a little before my time. Such great memories of a better time. Where I live, we just don't have the same sense of community and it makes a very obvious difference.


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Recently Read Fiction Favorites

  • A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
  • A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
  • Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
  • Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson
  • Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
  • Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos
  • Confessions of a Former Rock Queen by Kirk Bjornsgaard
  • Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
  • Faithful Place by Tana French
  • Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner
  • Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  • Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
  • Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg
  • Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow
  • Innocent by Scott Turow
  • My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
  • Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  • Private Life by Jane Smiley
  • Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
  • Roses by Leila Meacham
  • Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos
  • So Much For That by Lionel Shriver
  • South of Broad by Pat Conroy
  • That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
  • The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson
  • The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
  • The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
  • The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg
  • The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
  • The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers
  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
  • The Sky Took Him by Donis Casey
  • The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
  • The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
  • The Wind Comes Sweeping by Marcia Preston
  • Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom
  • Wolf Hall by Hillary Mandel
  • World Without End by Ken Follett
  • Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

Favorite Nonfiction and Memoir

  • All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
  • Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Reason by Nancy Pearl
  • Getting Over Getting Older by Lettie Cottin Pogrebin
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Sharing the Journey: Women Reflecting on Life's Passages by Katherine Ball Ross
  • Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
  • The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin
  • The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dustbowl by Timothy Egan