Originally created 11/17/00

Ramblin' Rhodes

Jimmie Davis was twice governor of Louisiana, but when he died Nov. 5 at age 101, he was better known for his love of country and gospel music than politics.

He wrote and recorded a song that probably ranks among the top 10 best-known tunes of all time. The chorus goes, "You are my sunshine. My only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You'll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don't take my sunshine away."

Country sources estimate that You Are My Sunshine has been recorded more than 350 times.

I want to extend condolences to his widow, Anne Carter Gordon Davis, a former member of the Chuck Wagon Gang gospel singers.

Mr. Davis and his wife came to Augusta many times over the decades. I met them at Bell Auditorium in 1973. He had been inducted into the Country Music Association's Hall of Fame just a few months before that appearance and had tried unsuccessfully for a third term as governor two years earlier.

Mr. Davis performed several times for the Lewis Family's Homecoming and Bluegrass Festival at Elijah Clark State Park east of Lincolnton, Ga. Few there can forget how great his mellow voice sounded at the age of 98 when he sang his hit Come Home, It's Supper Time with his wife, and performed a duet with then 92-year-old Roy "Pop" Lewis.

Mr. Davis was one of 11 children of a sharecropper. He rose to his native state's highest office, serving from 1944 to 1948 and from 1960 to 1964. He told me his greatest political accomplishments were balancing the state's budget, doing a lot for education, building roads, constructing homes for mentally handicapped children and building two bridges across the Mississippi River.

But his real legacy is as an exceptional songwriter, recording artist, movie star and stage performer. He is credited with writing more than 400 songs and recording more than 50 albums.

His long list of hits includes Nobody's Darlin' (his first), When It's Round Up Time in Heaven, Worried Mind and Where the Old Red River Flows.

Even in his 90s, he had a great sense of humor, a twinkle in his eye and usually a smile on his face.

When I once asked him about donating his governor's chair to the Country Music Association's Hall of Fame museum, he told me he did it on the condition that anyone who wanted could sit in it.

"It's not as hot as it used to be," he added with a laugh.

He will be greatly missed but not forgotten.

MYRTLE BEACH BLUEGRASS: This Thanksgiving to many area bluegrass fans will mean a four-hour trip to Myrtle Beach for the 31st annual South Carolina State Bluegrass Festival, to be held at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center 1-11 p.m. Thursday and noon-11 p.m. Nov. 24 and 25.

Tickets are $25 a day for general admission, $30 a day reserved seats. Tickets for children 13 and younger are $12 for general admission and $15 reserved seats. Call (706) 864-7203 for details.

Headliners include Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys and Charlie Waller & the Country Gentlemen on Thursday; the Del McCoury Band, IIIrd Tyme Out and Jim & Jesse McReynolds & the Virginia Boys on Friday, Nov. 24; the Lewis Family, Mac Wiseman and J.D. Crowe & New South on Saturday, Nov. 25; and the Osborne Brothers on Nov. 24 and 25.

OPRY BROADCASTS: You want to hear more of the Grand Ole Opry than just the 30 minutes broadcast by the TNN cable TV station Saturday nights? You can online at the Web sites opry.com, wsmonline.com and musiccountry.com. You not only hear the full Opry program broadcast live by Nashville's WSM radio station, but you can also call up past programs. You also can learn about the history of the Opry and its permanent cast members.

Don Rhodes has written about country music for 30 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at ramblin@groupz.net.


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