Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bob McKnight and his Ranch Boys...

While looking through my collection old family photos courtesy of cousin Mary Lou and her husband Mike I find something else interesting. I don't know how it connects to the Wiley/Ledbetter clan but I think there is something to be found here if we use our imaginations to go back to a time of old radio, the river and the instruments and people of another time. 

Best date I can find of this promo postcard is 1940. It's Bob Mcknight and his Ranch Boys. The internet tells us that info about this group is "sketchy at best." We can pretty much be sure they were active and played on an on air radio show over WSM in Memphis Tennessee in the late 30s to mid 40s. The WSM "barn dance" is what evolved into the Grand Old Opery. WSM is one of only three Clear Channel stations to still broadcast music. The rest are a combination of news and talk radio. 
Bob McKnight was a blind county singer. He later on went on to found the first rehab services for the blind in the state of Tennessee which was located in Memphis. The band as best I can discover was Freddie Boy Burns, Jimmie Smith who play sax, violin (he had a case for it) and other instruments, Ray Martin on accordion and other instruments, Slim Sullie and Herman Horsehair Bugfuzz AKA Ivy Peterson.  

Looking up these various band members finds Freddie Boy living in a nursing home and still pulling out his guitar at 98 years old in the year 2012 which is the latest news I can find about him. He says his show business career has not been an overnight sensation like Elvis but a gradual progression. I want to be Freddie Boy when I grow up. Here's a clip:
I could not find any music clips of Bob McKnight on youtube. 
The only other band member I can find anything about is Horse Hair Bugfuzz. He was apparently the clown or the funny sidekick on the radio show. He went on to the Louisiana Hayride and the Georgia Barn Dance Program.  He performed in costume, wig and fake teeth. I zoomed this photo up to get a better look and it seems he has his hand on another guy's pistol. Many of you know I play in a cowboy band but my wife tells me we are not supposed to handle each others pistols. 
I like checking out the old instruments in these photos. If you have studied your guitar history many stringed instruments were made in Chicago and sold through mail order. I can imagine these instruments on barges being shipped down the rivers of the American Heartland to the southern hillbillies so blues, country, folk and more could all birthed into what today we call popular music.  We still get our instruments shipped to us by water except they now come from the far east. They are good quality but lack the mojo magic a ride down the Mississippi brings. 

I guess the reason these photos ended up in the collection of my relatives is that someone thought that Bob McKnight and his Ranch Boys were gone cool crazy cats and could not get enough of this stuff. See them crowded around the radio, just one radio with old glowing tubes to listen and not a room full of passed around ipads broadcasting latest favorite  twerks. 

One last photo from the collection. I don't know who this is. He's got a nice hat. I bet he's a singer. Probably the pretty boy standing out in front of the Bugfuzzes of the world.  


Anonymous Jeremy said...

Here's Bob's obituary:

10:44 PM  
Blogger Alain Leroy said...


my name is ALAIN Leroy iam writing a book about FREDDIE BURNS

could you please contact me
thank you

9:13 AM  
Blogger Carl said...

Alain I'll need an email to contact.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last picture is Bob McKnight

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carl please contact me. email is


4:19 PM  
Blogger Alain Leroy said...

hello CARL
here'my email adder
as I said iam writing a book about FREEDIE BURNS I need to know more about him and people around him in the 1940's
I have interviewed Freddie 2 Months ago and you can see the cover of ROCK AND ROLL REVUE magazine on my FB please contact me by mail thank you very much

5:37 AM  
Blogger del breazeale said...

The last photo is Bob McKnight. He was my great uncle.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Carl said...

Cool! Thanks for reading!

8:28 PM  

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