Date News Posted: February 11, 2001
Unless you were friend or family you probably don't remember him in the movies and you probably, if ever, even knew his name, unless that is, you were Eddie Dean or Hank Locklin or Loren Green or Jerry Lee Lewis or one of the hundreds who recorded one of his songs like "One Has My Name, The Other Has My Heart" or "Please Help Me I'm Falling" or maybe even "Ringo" or "I Was The One"
It was Hal Blair who wrote those words and left it up to others to supply the music, Eddie Dean and Hal used to get together where ever and when ever the time was right, on the porch, in the studio or in a motel room to write the words and music to many of the songs that ended up in Eddie Dean's westerns and that included the multi-million seller "One Has My Name" that has been recorded by so many artist that the count was lost long ago, twenty years ago Eddie said fifty seven major artist had recorded it including of all people Nat King Cole, pretty good words to come from the mind and pen of a young man by the name of Hal Blair. But it wasn't his songs or words on paper that made me take to Hal, it was the smile in his voice and the warmth in his words as we would talk about the good old days and friends we had both known over the years. My plans to spend the day with Hal at his home in Northern California and to just sit and talk and talk and talk about those great days of yester-year never came to be and I will regret that for the rest of my life.
Song writers have always been the chosen few to either be forgotten or never to be known at all, other of course then once a year when the Country Award shows decide to give them a statue but very few D.J's ever mention the writer, the bottom line is most people don't care who wrote it if they like the song they will buy the record, keep it forever or 'till it wears out and never look at who wrote it. Hal used to laugh about that when I would mention it and we both knew his banker knew who wrote it and there was a time that a Hal Blair song could be heard on any given day of any given week, so his banker got to knowing him pretty well, the words for another song never stopped coming from Hal Blair right up to the end, a couple of weeks ago we were talking and he had been going through some of the things he had written a few years ago but had never had the music put to it and he said, "boy there is some pretty good stuff in there" and I was thinking, probably another million seller.
Hal was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1915 and I would like to think that in a peaceful dream writing another song, fishing on the banks of a flowing river or having a morning cup of coffee with his wife Joanie, on the morning of February the second the year of twenty o'one he never woke up, the trail had ended.
So a P.S. to the story that has no end because Hal's songs will be sung by singers for generations to come and old records with Hal Blair's name on them will be purchased for a quarter in Goodwill and Salvation Army stores all across America by collectors or people that still love his music, they will be re-recorded by the new kids that will ask who was Hal Blair and they will see his name on Elvis Presley records and Charley Pride and Hank Snow and Freddy Fender and Eddy Arnold and Skeeter Davis and Linda Ronstadt and Hank Locklin and Eddie Dean and Della Reese and Bob Dylan and Jimmy Wakely and...Hal is sittin' up there now saying, "O.K. Don, that's enough, you are going to make people think I was somebody" you were somebody, you were my friend and I am sure as hell gonna miss ye.
He loved Freddie Hart, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash music and Don Hinson's jokes, He loved old dogs and children but had given up the water melon wine a long time ago, he was a pilot and would fly where ever they needed him to speak at an A.A. meeting, he was an actor and if you saw his face you would say dad-gone, I have seen him in a bunch of things, especially commercials, he made a bunch of those, one you may remember from a few Super Bowls ago he was standing in the middle of a pen surrounded by pigs and all the pigs had those breath easy strips on their nose, M&M, he did some commercials for them and the list is long.
His name was Ancel Cook and a true friend to every one and any one who crossed his path. Last year they were treating him for cancer with chemotherapy, after he had gone through all that and had finally got his strength back he called one day and said, "Well, guess what, I went in today for another check up and they couldn't find hide nor hair of any cancer", we would call each other in between times during the next couple of months but then one day he called and said "well, they tell me the cancer has spread to my brain, boy, I didn't even know I had one," just his way of making light of a bad situation, but that's how he was and just a few short weeks later Ancel was gone.
Back to Ancel and the old dogs for a minute, he really did love dogs old or puppies, he and his wife and daughters had founded I believe a "Pug" association and they would travel anywhere that was necessary to rescue one that was un-wanted or in trouble or abused, those dogs were the quickest way to get a smile or laugh from Ancel, a while back they had picked up a blind one that no one wanted, Ancel said that dog was just the cats meow, he said that dog was just a lover and could probably see more with his little heart then all the others, at any given time at his home he had between seven and nine "Pugs" now and then a stray of a different breed but the little "Pugs" was what his family really tried to help not only at home but at the kennel they supported.
His Christmas card was just that, "a card" with him, his wife and two daughters and a bunch of dogs, I used tell him, next Christmas put an "X" on which one is you, "I'm the one with the short nose" he said.
There is no way in this world for anyone that ever knew Ancel Cook to forget him, there is no way that most of us even want to believe he is gone and we will not be hearing his voice again he truly touched every one that ever knew him weather it be in passing through or some one he called friend and those were many.
Here is a short list of some of the Movies that Ancel appeared in>>"Ring Of Fire", "#1 With A Bullet", "The Postman Always Rings Twice," "Lucky Lady", Grand Theft Auto" and the list goes on, and some of the TV shows and movies include, "Dukes Of Hazzard", "Matt Houston", "South by Southwest (movie of the week) 2"Little House On The Prairie's", "Green House Blues" "Folsom Escape". and enough more movies and TV shows to fill a good size page wall to wall. The Angel of South West L.A. has now taken his final trip back to Oklahoma where he grew up and where his Mother lived 'till she passed away last year, but apart of him will always remain in those of us who knew and loved this man called Ancel Cook.
Frances Octavia Smith, better know to probably everyone in the world as Dale Evans, died Wednesday Feb the 8th, 2001 at her home in Victorville, California.
Her first Western was with John Wayne in "Old Oklahoma" in 1944, she went on to play opposite many other rugged old handsome cowboys before she met and married what was to become the "King Of The Cowboys" Roy Rogers, it was also Dale that composed the theme song that would become almost as well know as God Bless America, "Happy Trails To You", The year after the movie with John Wayne, Dale was cast in a movie with a young good looking cowboy by the name of Roy Rogers, in a movie called "The Cowboy and the Senorita".
In 1946 Roy's wife died after giving birth to a son Roy Rogers' Jr (Dusty), Dale and Roy made eight pictures together in 46 and later married Roy and raised a large family, made more movies, wrote several books, became apart of the Gospel T.V. Network where her and Roy appeared many times, ran together the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum there in Apple Valley, and did much to help many under privileged children over the years.
If there ever was any two people that did so much to help so many and to always have a smile and a hand shake ready to greet you, it was Roy and Dale. "Dusty" (Roy Jr.) spends most of his hours at the museum in Victorville and would sure be happy to see you any day of the week, if you are on highway 15 to Las Vegas. real close to the Victorville/Apple Valley turn off is Roy Roger's drive which will take you to the front door of the museum and there to greet you high on the roof in his familiar pose is the smartest horse in the movies "Trigger".
We have had many phone calls and email request wanting to know how Dearest Dean is, well she has a little trouble walking and her memory is not to good but she is sharp as a tack other then that and sounds and looks as though she was 47, she has survived with all the love and caring that any person could possibly have from her family, daughter, son, grandkids, and great grandkids and friends. Dearest will be 90 years old come October, and I know with out a doubt in this world good ole Eddie is happy as a lark knowing "his Dearest" is doing so well, if there was anything in this world Eddie lived for it was his wife and only love that he pined the name "Dearest" on some 65 years ago.
I asked God the other night to not let me have to write about any more friends that have passed away for a while, I sure hope it works.
If you loved the great country music of the 50's then you sure as heck must remember Stan Hitchcock, not only was I a Hitchcock fan when I was a D.J. I played the heck outta his music, Stan is alive and well and in the video business
Stan is the producer of a series of tapes he calls "Heart To Heart", now what it is, is people like Little Jimmy and Mel Tillis and Sammi Smith and Bill Anderson and others, just sittin' and telling stories and singing and it is just a great bunch of music and stories to play and watch over and over again, he also has a super great series of Gospel tapes with the likes of J.D. Sumner & The Stamps, Stan himself along with Ronnie Reno doing a great gospel number, Eddie Adcock, The Spencers and just a really long list of entertainers on these "The Old Country Church Songbook" tapes which I think there is five of them in all.
And>>>Another video called "The Branson Jam" with Kenny Rogers, Barbara Fairchild, Dino, and if you have never seen (or even if you have) Boxcar Willie in person (which you will not be able to see in person again) then you will be in for a real treat with what Boxcar does on this video, somewhere down inside this man there was a train trying to get out, or maybe he was a train, he sure sounds like one.
And>>That's not all, A real Fireplace video is this one with Red Steagall and "The Coleman County Cowboys" this is just an outstanding video with Red and stories about the days of the old west around a camp fire and a chuck wagon and what it was like at sundown in the cow camp, not only does this video feature songs by Red Steagall but one of the masters of western tales in song, Mr. Don Edwards, And>>Poetry of the old west by Waddie Mitchell and J.B.Allen, Larry McWhorter and Joel Nelson and a couple of songs by Buck Ramsey that hit the nail on the head. After you watch this one you may want to pull out some savings account money and buy a horse.
Anyway we have two color folders with pictures and the prices of all or one or any part of these country music and western videos, Free as in "No charge" for anyone in the U.S. just for the ask'n if you are some place other then the U.S. then send us a buck for the postage and we will send them to you.
Also we have had a bunch of request for "Western" videos but most we have been able to find are either really bad quality or the price is about the same as a good milking cow but we may have found a good deal where the price and quality are both good, anyway the list is good some of them we will list below.
Eddie Dean, Hopalong Cassidy, Rocky Lane, Lash LaRue, Bob Steele, Jock Mahoney, Tex Ritter, Don Red Barry, Tom Tyler, Wild Bill Elliott, Tom Mix,Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Ken Maynard, Tim Holt, Whip Wilson, John Wayne, Monte Hale, Three Mesquiteers (Corrigan,Terune, Livingston, & others)Sunset Carson,Johnny Mack Brown, Buck Jones, Rex Allen, Randolph Scott,The Durango Kid, Hoot Gibson>>these are video movies, also there are several 50 to75 half hour TV episodes.
Anyway we are getting some samples so we'll know soon as to if they are worth passing along the information when we get it and we will shortly and if they are good I will spend a few evenings myself watching some of our heros of the west.
One other thing before we move on, do you remember a country singer from some years ago by the name of Norval Dollar? as far as we know he only recorded or they only released one album on him and I think that one album was on the "Starday" label. We have had a couple of people asking about him so we made some calls south and all we have been able to find out so far was>>that he was a good singer, that he did only make one album, that it was on Starday, and that he took his own life with a gun. but where or when we have no idea, but...if you do, we would sure appreciate the information and if you have that one album we really would appreciate a copy, tape or other-wise, we can always put it on CD so it will last.
So for tonight that's about going to do it, nothing much to smile about this week with all our old friends cash'n in but I guess it is something that one day we will all be doing and I thank God that most of them lived a very long and good life but that still does not alter the fact that we will really miss them and wish we could have spent just one more day together.
We'll see ye next time, but just in case we don't take care of yourself.