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Song Idea Came At Cotton Gin

Posted Thursday, November 10, 2011, at 9:24 AM

It was the late 1950s, when I needed a "ride" back to Canalou from the swimming pool in Sikeston. Fortunately, Gray Ridge High School fellow student Larry Tubbs was there in his family's new swoop-finned Chevy red-and-white Impala.

Upon climbing in the car, it was the first time I heard the song "Alley Oop" over KSIM Radio.

Fast forward to 2011, when recently I met Dallas Frazier, a prolific Nashville songwriter who penned the song "Alley Oop."

When not writing hit songs for the likes of legendary Connie Smith, Rev. Frazier is a non-denominational evangelist who preaches Christian love across America.

What made the meeting most memorable personally for this country boy, was when the songwriter's wife described how and where the idea for "Alley Oop" came to her husband.

"He was working at the time at a cotton gin," she shared. "Specifically, he was up in a trailer, running the 'suck' that lifts the cotton into the gin's mechanization process..."

From having grown up around cotton gins at Moreshouse, Canalou and Matthews, that fascinated me.

Morehouse native/retired Air Force veteran Herb Kitchen recently shared some other "personal" small Bootheel town remembrances on the Morehouse Tiger internet site.

"There was an ice house on Beech Street," Kitchen traced back to his boyhood in the 1950s. "Mr. Crowley also had an ice house near the MOPAC railroad tracks. Paul Ferrell's grandfather use to drive the ice wagon.

"Remember, the 100-pound blocks were scored, where you could break off 25-pound and 50-pound blocks, depending on what the customer wanted," Kitchen noted. "I would run out to Mr. Crowley's ice wagon, and get a free 'chip' of ice..."

Needs changed with winter approaching.

"Woodrow Head use to haul coal for Waldo Ford too," Kitchen recalled. "Uncle Guy Owens use to drive one of those coal wagons..."

He recalls a boyhood Christmas where family cash was in short supply.

"I remember one Christmas our family was really strapped for money, and my father picked up scrap wood over at the Himmellberger-Harrison Mill and whittled out presents for us," Kitchen noted. "I had the most fun with those toys. Just think, my dad invented toy building blocks, unknowingly...

"To keep from spending money for a tree, we'd go south of Morehouse along Little River and find a nice-sized cedar tree," Kitchen trailed back in time. "We would pop corn and string it around the tree, and go out and hunt for mistletoe and paint pine cones bright and colorful..."

"Hey,you had family and no money, you made do, and you wanted your children to have a nice Christmas," Kitchen declared. "We had each other, which made for special memorable Christmases...!!"

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Retired recently as world-traveled newspaperman, career made possible by late Superintendent of Schools Robert L. Rasche, about to have Bootheel life book published by SEMO State University. Loved farm life, but knew at five years old, didn't want to be a "cotton picker" when I grew up.
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