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Category Archives: entertainers

Ivory Joe Hunter

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Ivory Joe Hunter, 63, who wrote between 2,000 and 3,000 country, blues and popular songs, died Friday of lung cancer in a Memphis, hospital. Among his best-known numbers are “My Wish Came True,” “I Need You So,” “Ain’t That Lovin’ You, Baby,” “and “I Almost Lost My Mind.” – The Kane Republican (Kane, Pennsylvania) Sat. Nov 9, 1974.


Ivory Joe Hunter was born to a musical family in 1914 (some accounts say 1911) in Kirbyville, south of Jasper, Texas. There is not much between Kirbyville and the Texas-Louisiana border other than farm land and woods. His father Dave Hunter was a guitar player and laborer and his mother Anna Smith Hunter was a gospel singer and a housewife. In the 1920 federal census, Ivory Joe was one of twelve children. Both of his parents seem to have died while he was young. By the 1930 census, Ivory Joe was living with an older sister Georgia and her family, along with several more of the Hunter siblings in the Port Arthur area where he attended school. Some accounts say that Ivory was a nickname, but as far back as the 1920 census, he was listed with the name Ivory Joe Hunter and his name was given to him by his mother.

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Posted by on February 11, 2021 in biography, black history, entertainers

 

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Johnny Preston, Entertainer

A number of popular performers have come from the Port Neches and Port Arthur area. Singer Johnny Preston was born John Preston Courville, Jr. in Port Arthur, Texas on August 18, 1939 to John Preston Courville, Sr. and Margaret Schexnayder Courville. As a youth, he sang in high school choirs and around the state. Johnny attended Port Arthur College as he began his singing career. Using the stage name Johnny Preston, he formed a vocal group called The Shades and was appearing in a local club in Port Neches at the time he was noticed by club owner J. P. Richardson, who recorded under the name “The Big Bopper.” Richardson was a singer/songwriter and had written a teenage tragedy song (a somewhat popular genre at the time) called “Running Bear” that that tells the story of two Native American youths who drown in a swollen river as they attempted to get together. The tune was recorded in a Houston studio and became a hit record for the nineteen year old Preston in 1958. By the time of its release, Richardson had been tragically killed in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa in 1959 along with the aircraft’s pilot, singer Richie Valens and fellow Texan and singer Buddy Holly.

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Posted by on January 7, 2021 in biography, entertainers

 

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Arthur “Dooley” Wilson

Arthur Wilson was born in Tyler, Smith County, Texas. There is some question about his actual date of birth, but it is often shown as being April 3, 1886 with his mother’s maiden name being Lamkin and his father’s name being Wilson. In some accounts he is shown as being younger, but in the 1900 federal census, he is listed as being fifteen, living south of downtown Tyler with his mother Manda Wilson and brother George. Accounts of his early life often state that by age twelve, Arthur was performing in minstrel shows and that his nickname was adopted in the 1920s from his performances singing an Irish tune “Mr. Dooley.”

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Posted by on October 29, 2020 in biography, black history, entertainers, films

 

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Ginger Rogers

The actress known as Ginger Rogers (Virginia Katherine McMath) was born July 16, 1911 to William Eddins McMath and the former Lela Emogene Owens in Independence, Missouri.  Her birth father was an electrical engineer and her mother was a reporter, scriptwriter and movie producer.  Her parents separated soon after she was born and Ginger was raised by her mother and maternal grandparents in Kansas City.  When she was nine years old, Lela married John Logan Rogers.  Ginger took her stepfather’s last name, although she was likely never formally adopted.  Her mother wrote for a local newspaper in Fort Worth, Texas covering entertainment, exposing Ginger to the field and the life of entertainment.  Ginger won a Charleston dance contest when she was fourteen years old and is known to have begun appearing in vaudeville shows after that.

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Posted by on October 1, 2020 in biography, entertainers, films

 

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Chill Wills

Theodore Childress “Chill” Wills was born on July 18, 1902 to a family in Seagoville, Texas.  His father was a farmer by the name of Robert Bruce Wills and his mother was the former Frances Elizabeth “Fannie” Rublee.  Chill was the youngest of six children of this union and his father Robert Bruce died in 1907 when he was only forty-four and Chill was five.  Robert Bruce Wills is believed to be buried in Oakland Cemetery in South Dallas.  It does not appear that this Wills family is related to the family of country singer/band leader Bob Wills.  Fannie Rublee Wills had married John Dunaway by 1910 and the couple were living near downtown Dallas with their family that now consisted of John, Fannie and seven children.  What eventually became of John Dunaway is not known at this time.  By 1920, Chill was living with his mother a little further out of downtown on Kings Highway and she was married to Allen E. Barse.  The census forms say that both Chill and his stepfather Barse worked at a saddlery in Dallas.

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Posted by on August 27, 2020 in biography, entertainers

 

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