Saturday, October 11, 2008

Chuck the Writer Mourns the Loss of Chickie Williams

Although I didn't find out about it until today, I am saddened by the November 2007 passing of Chickie Williams.

Back in my days of writing for Goldmine magazine, I penned an article that eventually appeared in the Journal of Country Music on the history of radio station WWVA and its "Saturday Night Jamboree," a radio broadcast that could be picked up, on a clear Saturday night, from Newfoundland to Florida. Among the people I was able to interview included Doc Williams, who with his wife Chickie Williams became a Jamboree USA staple from 1937 to the 1990's.

The reason I even started working on such an article came about from finding vintage homemade recordings of Maxine and Eileen Newcomer, two blind singing sisters who had their own WWVA radio show in the mid-1940's. These records were engraved on old Webcor home disc cutters, and were recorded straight off the air at WWVA.

When talking with Doc Williams about the recordings, he told me that there was a special recording that Chickie made with the Newcomers, a mixture of "I Love You Truly" and a recitation of a poem called "Should You Go First And I Remain," but that that acetate had long disappeared. In an effort to gather more Newcomer Twins recordings, I drove to Jeannette, Pa., where I had originally purchased some of the orginal acetates on eBay. The estate dealer who had the recordings allowed me to go through the unsold discs, as they had not yet been offered for bid because he had to pay someone to transcribe the Braille printing on each record label so as to identify the disc.

Surprisingly, I was able to find a copy of that lost acetate. I purchased the acetate, along with about 100 other Newcomer Twins discs, and visited Doc Williams in his Wheeling, W.Va. home and presented him with the recording.

Back in the mid-1940's, when Doc received the record as a Valentine's Day gift from Chickie, he turned the homemade record into what would become his biggest hit, a medley of "Beyond the Sunset" combined with the recitation of "Should You Go First And I Remain." Doc's hit, with Chickie on vocals, hit #3 on the country music charts, and was later covered by hundreds of artists, including Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Pat Boone.

The obituary for Chickie Williams can be found here.

The original poem, "Should You Go First And I Remain," was penned by A.K. Rowswell. I am reprinting it here, in Chickie's memory.

Should You Go First
By A.K. Rowswell

Should you go first and I remain
To walk the road alone,
I'll live in memory's garden, dear,
With happy days we've known.
In spring I'll wait for roses red,
When fades the lilac blue,
In early fall, when brown leaves call
I'll catch a glimpse of you.

Should you go first and I remain
For battles to be fought,
Each thing you've touched along the way
Will be a hallowed spot.
I'll hear your voice, I'll see you smile,
Though blindly I may grope,
The memory of your helping hand
Will buoy me on with hope.

Should you go first and I remain
To finish with the scroll,
No length'ning shadows shall creep in
To make this life seem droll.
We've known so much of happiness,
We've had our cup of joy,
And memory is one gift of God
That death can not destroy.

Should you go first and I remain,
One thing I'd have you to do:
Walk slowly down that long, lone path,
For soon I'll follow you.
I'll want to know each step you take,
That I may walk the same,
For someday down that lonely road
You'll hear me call your name.

1 comment:

rosedew said...

Hi, I recently became aware of the Newcomer Twins. Love their style and harmony. In searching for more of their recordings I came accross your blog. So I'm curious, have you transfered the records you purchased and is there anyway I could get a copy? Thanks, Jason