Tuesday, February 23, 2016
WACKY WEDNESDAY: He Was Speck-tacular
I'm a longtime Porter Wagnoner fan having discovered the Man from Missouri on his syndicated TV back in the '60s.
But as much as I loved Porter's music, the thing that originally drew me to the show when I was a kid was a bizarre looking dude known as Speck Rhodes,
Dolly Parton gave The Porter Wagoner Show some sex appeal. Speck Rhodes gave it some weirdness.
He portrayed the ultimate country bumpkin, He dressed like a living ventriloquist dummy -- an ever-present bowler hat, often in a loud color, a checkered jacket and a bow tie. His top front teeth were blackened. I assume they were blackened.
Speck was born born Gilbert Ray Rhodes in West Plains, Mo. (which also was Wagoner's home town) in 1915. On the Wagoner show, he seemed like a throwback,something from the days of vaudeville -- and indeed he and his brothers were a part of that world, performing on the RKO circuit as The Log Cabin Mountaineers.
Wagoner hired Rhodes for his TV show in 1960. Sometimes you'd see him playing stand-up bass with the Wagon Master Band. But Speck would come out, tell a few corny jokes then do some funny songs, a few of which you'll see below.
Rhodes died in 2000 at the age of 84. You don't see many like him anymore.
Here's a tune -- I assume it's an early one since its in black and white -- called "I'm Going Back To Where I Come From."
After bantering with Porter for a minute or so, Speck sings a song called " If I Could Just Go Back."
This video seems to be a live concert performance. The song is "When Its Long Handle Time In Tennessee."
I call this next one "Speck-a-palooza." There are three songs here: Speck proves he's a rocker at heart with "Hound Dog" (yes that "Hound Dog"); "I'm a Plain Old Country Boy" and Little Jimmy Dickens' "Sleepin' at the Foot of Bed."