Mama, Hank and the lonesome moon

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mama loved hillbilly music.

Every morning she would turn on the radio and the first sounds that I would hear would be Mama’s singing, right along with the static and those hillbilly singers.

Her voice would kind of drown out the country music singers and it was her voice that I loved more than theirs.

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Daddy didn’t like hillbilly music. Said it sounded like screeching tires and howling cats. We’d laugh “me and Mama” cause to us it was the most wonderful sound in the world.

Back then, the radio didn’t come in too clear. There would be gaps in the music and the music would give way to grinding but Mama never missed a beat. When the music came back, that hillbilly singer and Mama would be right along together.

“Mama, you ought to be on the radio,” I’d say.

“Oh, I can’t sing. I just love to try,” Mama would laugh and say.

Every Saturday night, me and Mama would get around the radio to listen to the Grand Ole Opry. Sometimes Mama would do a little hemming or put a patch on my blue jeans but most of the time, she just sat and listened. She didn’t sing along much with the stars of the Grand Ole Opry. They were coming to us live. Not like the records on the radio programs and she didn’t want to miss a bit of anything live from the Grand Ole Opry.

I’d sit at her feet and play paper dolls. That was my favorite inside thing to do. I’d cut paper dolls out of an old Sears and Roebuck catalog or from a pattern book from Mabel Belcher’s store, if I’d been lucky enough to get one. You had to get on a list for the pattern books and it was a long list.

Daddy would go to bed early on Saturday night. He said all that squawking hurt his ears.

There would be a parade of hillbilly singers — Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, The Carters, Eddy Arnold, Little Jimmy Dickens and Hank Williams. Mama said Hank Williams was the best of the bunch of them. She said he could say in music what people were feeling in their hearts.

I just liked all of the singers. I didn’t have a favorite.

The only time that we turned off the radio on Saturday night was if there was a singing in the auditorium at the school. Mama loved gospel music as much as she loved hillbilly music and we’d go to every gospel singing that came around.

Quartets would come from far away. Our favorite was the Tadlocks because Lester Senn played the piano for them. He was from Brundidge and he could “mortly tear up a piano” Mama always said. When he’d start going up and down those keys, folks would start clapping and patting their feet like they were just about to take off and fly. Sometimes, they’d get so happy they’d stand up and just about start dancing in the aisles.

Mama said if folks could play their way into heaven, Lester Senn was gonna have a front row seat.

Our other favorite quartet was The Happy Rhythm Boys. I think they were from Florida or somewhere off. They always wore black pants and white coats and ties. Back then, the quartets all dressed alike and you could tell which was which.

Mama would always take Bubba along with us because she said Daddy would go to sleep and Bubba might get out of the house.

When it got along about 11 o’clock, Bubba would get in Mama’s lap and go to sleep.

When he got asleep real good, we’d leave and take him home and Mama would put him in bed and we’d go back. I’d ask Mama what if Bubba woke up and got out of the house.

She said he wouldn’t and he never did.

Those were very special times that we shared, me and Mama.

As time went on, we stopped going to singings. I don’t know why. Television had come into being so maybe they just stopped having singings at the schoolhouse.

And after a while, Mama stopped turning on the radio in the morning so the first sounds that I heard were no longer her voice singing along with Hank and the other hillbilly singers.

I guess, life had picked up the pace and things changed.

Many years later, Mama, Sis and I went to Dothan to see Marty Robbins, who was one of Mama’s all-time favorites. She loved that crying sound that set him apart from all the others.

When the concert was over, Mama and Sis made a beeline to the stage to get his autograph.

We laughed all the way home, Mama up there acting like a teenager.

“Well, I got his autograph,” she laughed. “And he smiled at me, too.”

That night is a fond memory of Mama but then there are so many of them.

As Hank Williams came to the forefront this week, my memory went back to what Mama said.

That he could say in a song what others were feeling in their hearts.

And I don’t think I’ve ever heard any sadder words than the ones he penned,

“The moon just went behind the clouds to hide its face and cry.” You can’t be any sadder than that.

And, that’s the way I feel every time my heart longs to hear Mama singing with the early morning radio just one more time.

Jaine Treadwell is features editor for The Messenger. She can be reached at