Ramblin' Tommy and his little pal Luke McLuke
Happy birthday to a proto-rockabilly (he was more 'billy than rock), radio and television star, comedian, ventriloquist and honest-to-God snake oil peddler.
His name was Tommy Lee Scott, though to fans of hillbilly music know him better as Ramblin' Tommy Scott. Born on June 24, 1917, Tommy lived to the age of 96. He might have made it 100 had he not been fatally injured in a car wreck a little less than eight years ago.
According to his obituary at MusicRow.com, Scott:
... began his career on local radio in Georgia in 1933. When a medicine-show wagon stopped in Toccoa in 1936, Scott jumped aboard. It was a show that had been launched in 1890 by “Doc” M.F. Chamberlain. When Chamberlain retired, he turned the enterprise and its medicinal formulas over to Scott.
Using music and comedy, Scott sold the liniment Snake Oil, the tonic Vim Herb and the laxatives Herb-O-Lac and Man-O-Ree for decades.
Tommy Scott moved to North Carolina in 1938 to perform on WPTF radio in Raleigh. On WWVA in Wheeling, WV he was billed as“Rambling Scotty” when he fronted Charlie Monroe’s band The Kentucky Pardners. He moved to WSM and its Grand Ole Opry in 1940.
Back in Georgia, Scott became a country TV pioneer with the production of The Ramblin’ Tommy Scott Show in 1948. He later had the syndicated television series Smokey Mountain Jamboree.
In 1949, Scott starred in the movie Trail of the Hawk. Other films he appeared in include Mountain Capers, Hillbilly Harmony and Southern Hayride.
Scott worked ventriloquism into his act, with the help of his wooden partner Luke McLuke, and, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame, did a brief stint as a ventriloquist at the Grand Ole Opry.
He organized his own traveling musical medicine show, playing songs and selling his dubious medications. “Doc Scott’s Last Real Old Time Medicine Show” included such stars as Carolina Cotton (the "Yodeling Blonde Bombshell"), future Hee-Haw star Stringbean and bluegrass great Curley Seckler.
And, while this is nothing to celebrate, in his early years Scott did blackface comedy, including a stint with Stringbean in an act called "Stringbean & Peanut."
Here are a few of Ramblin' Tommy's songs that will make you feel better than a heaping dose of Herb-O-Lac.
Let's start out with the classic "She'll Be Coming Around The Mountain":
I first heard "Tennessee" performed by New Mexico's own Last Mile Ramblers in the early '70s:
Now here's some rockabilly, a song called "Rockin' and Rollin'":
Now for a spooky little number called "Graveyard:"
Finally here's Luke McLuke:
Happy birthday, hillbilly medicine man!