Not Quite Ready for a Celebrity Book


Celebrity book? Although I never thought of it until it was pointed out to me, the first book of my memoir trilogy, Three Stages, actually could be described as a celebrity book. My years as an actor are covered therein and once that idea was floated I extracted a list of the celebrities I knew and worked with and it comprised sixty-nine names running from Anna Maria Alberghetti to Frank Zappa.

The third chapter has stories about my years at Whittier College and here’s a brief excerpt:

One of our Convocation speakers was Tennessee Ernie Ford, who lived in Whittier. He asked if there was anyone there from Tennessee and I raised my hand. He asked “What city?” and I replied, “Bristol.” I knew that this was his hometown but was overwhelmed by his reaction. “We have to get together after this meeting!” he said. And we did. He invited me to his home for dinner, I got to know him and his family and even taught his kids to swim.

In case you don’t remember him; between 1956 and 1984 Tennessee Ernie Ford released over fifty albums. In 1955 his recording of Sixteen Tons spent ten weeks at number one on the country charts and seven weeks at number one on the pop charts and sold over twenty million copies. Ernie’s 1956 Great Gospel Songs was on Billboard’s Top Album charts for 277 consecutive weeks and won a Grammy in 1964.

Anyhow, this post is not about Ernie Ford nor is it about celebrities. It’s about my childhood in Tennessee. And it’s a story in pictures. I just found a bunch of Mom’s picture albums.

My Mom, Lucy and Dad, Bishop in the early 1930s before I came along and before his hair left.

In our Bristol, Tennessee front yard between 1938 and 1940 or ’41.
The last two pix, a couple of years later.
Note the knickers on me in pic with Dad.
That’s his weekend power emergency service truck in the bg of the bike shot

Benny (me) with Dad’s sister, Aunt Myra and razorback friend in South Carolina

Jump to 1946 in the living room with Mom.
I was in high school band while still in 7th grade. They must have been hard up for clarinetists.

Dad, the hot-wire lineman, rode his bike to work during the war.
Looks like he fell asleep on his way up this pole.

I had never even heard of a celebrity in those days except for the people on the radio. Little did I realize that little more than a year after that band uniform picture was shot I’d be sitting in a Hollywood Baptist church next to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

Let the celebrity book begin.

If you’d like to get that celebrity book click here for Three Stages.

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