Curly Headed Singer on The Glory Road

By Anita Garner

While choosing photos for my book, The Glory Road, here’s one that fell out during scrapbook page-turning.  Find a picture, tell a story. It’s the law.  If it isn’t, it should be. Here’s a story with a song from the 1950’s.

My curly-headed Mother, Sister Fern,  on the right with her bobby pins springing out all around, next to her wavy-haired Mother, Gramma K, whose hair did what she wanted it to. 

Curls were never going to be all right with Mother, when what she craved were some of those wide waves women made with giant metal wave clips.  No matter how many clips she used, within hours her curls defied her.

There might have been no performances under all those revival tents without Vaseline.   She greased up her curls and pinned then down with high resolve and after a short while, the bobby pins squirmed out again and she re-applied her Vaseline, sometimes several times on a particularly troublesome day.  Then the tears started.

Curly headed girls, she told us, were not presently in style. She took it as a personal insult that she was forced to remain curly-headed during a wavy-haired fashion period.  On the way to performances in the Deep South during the summer, sometimes her largest concern was frizz. Not what she would sing.  Not which musicians and quartets would accompany her, but how long before curly became frizzy.  The weather could turn on you just like that.

The remarkable thing was the amount of patience Daddy showed. No matter how many times she burst into tears worrying about her hair, he rushed to reassure her, his voice never showing a hint of strain.

As Leslie Ray and I became more proficient at saying things we didn’t mean, we imagined Daddy must have been answering by rote all those years. If so, he’d never admit it.  That wouldn’t be chivalrous. One of the traits that made him a popular preacher was his ability to reassure over and over again as if this was the first time he’d ever been consulted about a particular dilemma.

From The Glory Road play, here’s a glimpse of Brother Ray and his favorite curly-headed singer.

——–

1950’s.  Deep South.  Outside a big revival tent.  A quartet sings inside while Sister Fern waits to be introduced by her husband, Brother Ray.  But she’s not inside yet so he asks the quartet to keep singing while he goes to check on her.

RAY
                  There you are sugar!  I was
startin’ to get worried.  How’re you feeling?

     FERN
                 Honey, is my hair frizzy?  Because it feels frizzy.
All this humidity.

             RAY
   (moves in close, touches her hair)
No, darlin’ your hair’s not frizzy.  It’s curly is all.
You’re my big ol’ doll-baby with big ol’
doll-baby curls.

                    FERN
(takes out compact mirror, checks herself)
Are you sure? Because I can’t sing when my hair’s frizzy.

RAY
  (closes the compact gently, his fingers over hers)
I’m sure.


One of Brother Ray’s favorite duets with Sister Fern.

I Don’t Care What The World May Do

 


 

 

 

 

 


 

Father’s Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daddy.  Reverend Raymond D. Jones.  Brother Ray.

Daddy was the sheriff of Mayberry with a deep Southern drawl and a Bible in his hand. Tall and good looking and enormously likable, he was in possession of both the strength and the patience of a natural leader.

Musical.  Charismatic.  Genuinely kind.  Taught us to plant things, how to dig up baby potatoes, how to sing harmony in the car.  The latter is important when what your family does is sing gospel harmony.

Daddy’s teaching methods were transparent but effective.  To learn our parts, he started us off with the cowboy songs we loved and transitioned from Tumbling Tumbleweeds to What a Friend We Have In Jesus.

Headed to the radio station in Columbus Georgia, 1945.  Sister Fern might not enjoy this photo of her with eyes closed and curls springing loose, but I like it. Sorry, Mother. We’ll make it up to you next Mother’s Day.

 

 

 

Birds of Paradise Season in Northern California

Birds of Paradise, Mill Valley, California

In the Deep South, Daddy could get anything to grow, but he never had Birds of Paradise until we came to California. The first time a big display of them popped up in his new yard in Glendale, he made us all come look. He stood there grinning, and said, “Well! I never!” Each time I see a magnificent group like these, I say the same thing.