James Lamar Halladay (1973)

James “Jamie” Lamar Halladay was born in Monroe, Louisiana, in 1973.  His father was a musician, guitar player, Frank Halladay, who played in a series of bands, traveling Texas, Louisiana and eventually Nashville.  By the time Jamie was four, Frank Halladay stopped living with the family, which also included Jamie’s younger sister, Sadie, although not out of their lives altogether.  He would show up on birthdays and Christmas, when he could (see song “The Laughing Man at the Door“).

James Charles Halladay (1913-1995), Jamie Halladay’s grandfather, was a fighter pilot who served with distinction in the Army Air Corps during WWII. He learned to fly as a crop dusting pilot for the Huff Daland Dusters, as part of the eradication of the boll weevil. This company, moved from Macon Georgia to Monroe Louisiana, in 1925 but Charlie didn’t hire on until 1933, but stayed with the company as it became a regional commercial carrier, which eventually became Delta Airlines.

Hi son Frank showed a talent for music early on and learned to play the guitar listening to the Grand Ole Opry and especially Hank Williams when he was still pretty small. While in high school he started a band with some of his friends and they got pretty good. Good enough to become the backup band for Webb Pierce and played on the Louisiana Hayride.

It while he was playing with Webb Pierce that Frank met the woman who was to eventually become his wife and Jamie’s mother, Lee Ann Lucas. But while Frank and Lee Ann were in love and did get married, the itinerant lifestyle of a musician did not make for a stable home life and the marriage failed. Frank tried to see his kids as much as he could, but was not a regular presence in their lives.

Nevertheless, he did have an impact on Jamie’s life.

On his twelfth birthday, Frank gave Jamie a guitar and taught him a few chords, but that was just the start for Jamie. He eventually got good enough to move to Nashville and get some gigs there playing behind country stars. He ended up breaking into the studio scene and became a member of the “A list” players, i.e. first call musicians for recording sessions.

It was while he was living in Nashville, around 2003, that Jamie began visiting a bar, McLemore’s and became friends with the owner Jake McLemore (see song “McLemore’s“).

“The Ballad of Sam McLemore”

Sam Summers McLemore (1852-1878) lived a violent and short life as an outlaw and gunfighter in Texas.

The Ballad of Sam McLemore
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

He can’t say how it started
One day he killed a man
It was in self defense
Still they called him the devil’s hand

That one became ten
Songs were sung in saloons
He couldn’t hang up his gun
There was always something to prove

No wife no home no one that he could trust
A gunslinger can’t outrun his fame
He’s called out, draws and falls down in the dust
Shot by a boy who wants to make a name

At first it was thrilling
He was fast as the wind
Those who challenged him
Wouldn’t challenge no one again

Then he was older, they were bolder
And knew he wasn’t as fast
He was still tough but all bluff
A shadow of his past

No wife no home no one that he could trust …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

Anabel March McLemore (1796-1832)

Anabel March was a Tennessee girl who married Owen McLemore in 1812.  She knew she had some Indian blood in her, and this is how she described her background:

“My great-grandma Macum, Dilsey, was half Indian and half white and my grandma told me how it happened, just as her mamma had told her.   Back when the Macums had just come to Carlina from Pennsylvania they were living out on Bear Creek.  They had built a kind of lean-to under an overhang they had kind of framed up with poles and mud.  Well, while the men was buildin’ a real house, my great-great-grandmamma went out with a basket hoping to find some chestnuts in the woods.  She was about fourteen years old and while she was out there by herself she was grabbed by two Indians and taken off to Kentucky.”

Eventually Dilsey got away but was already about six months pregnant.  When she showed up back at her family’s place, she told them what happened and her brothers think they got the Indian who took her. Anyway, a few weeks later she gave birth to the child, who was Anabel’s great-grandmother, Beatrice Macum.

Anabel used to say, “I got the Indian look from my Pa’s side. And it is true I have his black eyes and hair. But I got Ma’s fair skin and features.”  By the time Anabel had come around, the March family had crossed the mountain from North Carolina to East Tennessee.  After her mother died Anabel pretty much raised her brothers and acted as the woman of the house from the time she was around ten.

The McLemores had the neighboring farm and Owen, who was older, began courting Anabel when she was around 15 and soon after they married. Anabel gave birth to seven children, all boys, by the time she was 36, but the last was a difficult birth.  She died during the delivery and the child was sickly, and lived but two years.  Owen grieved bitterly for his wife and left Tennessee taking his six remaining sons to Texas right after the youngest had died (see songs “My Anabel” and “Blinkin’ Back a Tear“).  He never re-married.

Anabel once described herself like this, “people always said I went my own way, and that much I’ll admit. Some said it was because Mama died when I was young, and I never had nobody to show me how a girl ought to be.  I turned out to be sort of stubborn more like my Pa and brothers than any woman around here. Others said it was the revival meetings that got me all mixed up and queer. And still others said it was because I read too many books. But I did love to read books, and always have, when ever I can.”

 

“My Anabel”

The memory of his wife, Anabel, is kindled by an old friend’s letter that Owen McLemore has kept all these years.  Alone and peering into the West Texas prairie he relives the grief of his wife’s passing, and friends and a life lost to time.

My Anabel
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

It’s a cold December day
The light is slowly sinkin’ away
What I feel I can’t hardly tell
Oh Anabel, my Anabel

Holdin’ a letter from an old friend
Golden leaves dance in the wind
Somethin’ broke in me, aw hell
Oh Anabel, my Anabel

Piece of paper creased and soft
Watery lines almost worn off
Raindrops spittin’ in an empty well
Oh Anabel, my Anabel

That dusty road is still the same
The prairie wind still carries a name
The tolling of a distant steeple’s knell
Oh Anabel, my Anabel

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

“Out on Cross Lake”

Mike Broussard and Jake McLemore were friends with D.W. Washington.  Today they are out at Cross Lake, just outside Shreveport, drinking, fishing, and remembering D.W. after burying their friend earlier that same day.

Out on Cross Lake
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Out on Cross Lake rain is fallin’ down
Out on Cross Lake rain is fallin’ down
Today we laid D.W. in the ground
Out on Cross Lake rain is fallin’ down

Ol’ D.W. was a pretty good guy
Ol’ D.W. was a pretty good guy
No one can tell me why he had to die
Ol’ D.W. was a pretty good guy

Out on Cross Lake passin’ a bottle around
Out on Cross Lake passin’ a bottle around
Today we laid D.W. in the ground
Out on Cross Lake passin’ a bottle around

D.W. worked for Mike forty year
D.W. worked for Mike forty year
Mike’s lookin’ in the tub for another beer
D.W. worked for Mike forty year

Out on Cross Lake th’ sun is goin’ down
Out on Cross Lake th’ sun is goin’ down
Today we laid D.W. in the ground
Out on Cross Lake th’ sun is goin’ down

Now D.W. was a good ol’ boy
Yeah D.W. was a good ol’ boy
Even if he was born in Detroit
D.W. was a good ol’ boy

Out on Cross Lake rain is startin’ to pour
Out on Cross Lake rain is startin’ to pour
Might as well go in, they ain’ bitin’ no more
Out on Cross Lake rain is startin’ to pour

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

“My Pocketknife”

It took a couple of years longer than in other towns, but The Great Depression finally hit Oil City, Louisiana in 1932.  The price of oil plummeted and work ground to a stop.  They capped the wells and hauled the rigs away, to wait for better times.  In 1934, out of all other options, Lee Allen McLemore and his thirteen year old son Charlie hit the road looking for work, and like many others head west to California.

My Pocketknife
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Charlie and his father crawl up the embankment
Hidden by the bend they crouch and wait
The train’ll have to slow down maybe just enough
With any luck they’ll grab that freight

Charlie and his father left Oil City at dawn
Somethin’ called The Depression had arrived
Work was for the takin’ out in California
Pickin’ cotton under sunny skies

Long as I have my pocketknife
I’ll be alright, be alright
I can make it through the coldest night
Long as I have my pocketknife

Charlie and his father join a migrant army
Ride the rails with tramps an’ hoboes
Tent camps were jungles, danger everywhere
Do your best to hang on to your coat

Charlie and his father dodge a railroad bull
Hidin’ in the tender ’til he’s gone
A man was crumpled in the corner, frozen overnight
It’s a damp and cold L.A. dawn

Long as I have my pocketknife …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

Lee Allen McLemore (1903-1965)

Lee Allen McLemore was the son of a oil strike wild-catter and the father of a multi-national corporation executive. His life bridged the wildest years of the oil boom, it’s crash during the Depression and then the economic surge after the Second World War.

His father was Jacob Mac McLemore and his son was Charlie McLemore.

Lee Allen might be seen as having been over-shadowed by both of these other men but he was a capable and resilient individual who made it possible for both his father and his son to realize their dreams.

His life was cut short by a oil rig accident, he died at the age of 62 when a over-pressurized well exploded.

“Oil City”

Charlie McLemore, Jake’s father, talks about growing up in his hometown of Oil City, Louisiana. During the first decades of the 20th century oil was discovered in Texas and Louisiana and until the Depression forced the speculation to pause, fortunes were made and lost. Oil City and the McLemore family were a small part of that history.

Oil City
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Oil City is my home
Ain’ pretty but I belong
Grey and gritty, right or wrong
Oil City is my home

Aught-five oil came from the ground
Oil City was a wildcat town
Wooden sidewalks and hitching posts
Boom towns ain’ got no ghosts

Aught-six grandpa McLemore
Had a little money but wanted more
Oil City was where grandpa came
Gamblin’ on the big oil game

Oil City is my home …

Few years pass and the fever died
Were other towns, other strikes
1917 it almost burned down
The whores all left town

Dad went to work at J.M Guffey
We stayed in Oil City
Grandpa went broke in the Depression
Kept chasin’ oil, died in Odessa

Oil City is my home …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

Charles Taylor “Charlie” McLemore (1921-2001)

Jake McLemore’s father was Charles Taylor “Charlie” McLemore.

Charlie grew up during the depression, traveling with his father, Lee Allen, on trains, with other hobos, with the putative goal of finding work. When the crash hit the oil industry, it took longer than for most other industries, but eventually the bottom fell out of the oil business in 1932. The wells were capped and the rigs hauled away, leaving the men who had depended upon the work stranded in small oil patch towns with no other opportunities for work. Many of them joined the large numbers of itinerant men riding the rails. Some looked for work but many had given up and made do as best they could.

But when we think of hobos riding in boxcars we don’t usually think of children doing the same thing. But when families had no money, little food and nothing on the horizon, they simply sent their children away to fend for themselves, as best they could.

“At the height of the Depression, as many as a million teenagers traveled the rails looking for work and community, moving in vagabond packs and living in hobo jungles, finding both charity and brutality in the broken-back cities of America. They crowded the cars and hid down in the tenders where the coal and water were stored; they squeezed between cars and clung atop their bucking roofs. In 1932, about 75 percent of the nearly six hundred thousand transients on the Southern Pacific line through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona were under the age of twenty-five.”

“Fathers, and sometimes sons, stayed in the network of “jungles” along the route, tucked amid the timber and hidden from view. Each camp had its own division of labor—one person went into town to find a potato for soup while another brought salt or an extra spoon. Pots and pans hung from tree branches; crude shelters were made from cardboard or tin scrap and sometimes built up in the trees. Pocketknives were like gold in the jungles. Blades were “hired out” in exchange for soap or a bowl of stew. In a pinch, a knife could be traded for a pair of shoes or sold for cash. Men cooked possums and jackrabbits caught in snares along the brush lines and traded their hides for food.” (Mealer, Bryan. The Kings of Big Spring: God, Oil, and One Family’s Search for the American Dream. 2018.)

This was the kind of life Charlie McLemore lived during his childhood.

Charlie and his father worked picking cotton in California for a few weeks and also fruit when they could. They managed to work just enough to feed themselves, as well as, put a little aside. Eventually they got back to Oil City just as things were starting to come back.

By the time World War II started, and a need for oil exploded, Charlie was in his late teens. His father got work immediately at a refinery and from then on, the Lee McLemore family did okay.

Charlie went into the oil business as well, but oil was not the only resource product that supported the Oil City economy. Natural gas was even more abundant and Charlie got a job at United Gas Corporation, headquartered in Shreveport, Louisiana, and moved his family there in 1960 a year after Jake was born.

Charlie worked at United Gas and survived the hostile takeover by Pennzoil in 1968, and became part of the management of Pennzoil United, Inc. He did pretty well, well enough to send his son Jake to Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Retiring at the age of 70 in 1991, Charlie lived long enough to see Jake get married and have children.  Charles Taylor McLemore died in 2001 at the age of 80 from a heart attack a few months before 9/11, and several years before his grandson Lee’s death in 2004 in Iraq.

Despite surviving the Great Depression by riding the rails with his father, he was among the generation that experienced the economic boom after WWII.  Charlie McLemore saw nothing in his lifetime that undermined his faith in the American Dream.  A dream he lived out to the fullest.

Jake McLemore (1959- )

An American historian in the 19th century described the frontier vanguard in the following words:

“Thus the backwoodsmen lived on the clearings they had hewed out of the everlasting forest; a grim, stern people, strong and simple, powerful for good and evil, swayed by gusts of stormy passion, the love of freedom rooted in their hearts’ core. Their lives were harsh and narrow; they gained their bread by their blood and sweat, in the unending struggle with the wild ruggedness of nature. They suffered terrible injuries at the hands of the red men, and on their foes they waged a terrible warfare in return. They were relentless, revengeful, suspicious, knowing neither ruth nor pity; they were also upright, resolute, and fearless, loyal to their friends, and devoted to their country. In spite of their many failings, they were of all men the best fitted to conquer the wilderness and hold it against all comers.

The Anglo-American 18th-century frontier, like that of the Spanish, was one of war. The word “Texan” was not yet part of the English language. But in the bloody hills of Kentucky and on the middle border of Tennessee the type of man was already made. ”

These were the McLemores who left Tennessee for Texas.

Owen McLemore was born in 1791 in Tennessee and married Anabel March in 1812.  Together they worked a sustenance farm in Tennessee and began to build a family in East Tennessee, seeing their first son Jacob McLemore come into the world on Christmas Day 1818.  Anabel gave birth to six other sons before dying during childbirth 1832 at which time, Owen took his six surviving sons to West Texas (see songs, “Blinkin’ Back a Tear” and “My Anabel“).

Jacob “Christmas” McLemore, as he was known his entire life, was Jake McLemore’s great-great-great-grandfather. There was another Jacob McLemore, “Christmas” McLemore’s grandson, Jacob Mac McLemore (1879-1977), who first got oil fever when he was 15 running off to the 1894 oil strike in Corsicana. Next was Oil City in 1906, where made a killing, lost it, made and lost other fortunes before ultimately dying at the ripe old age of 98 without a cent to his name, but rich in memories which was all he handed down to his great-grandson and namesake, Jake McLemore.

Jake McLemore’s father, Charlie McLemore, was small businessman at the J.M. Guffey Petroleum Company of Oil City, Louisiana where Jake was born in 1959 and where he spent his early life.  Charlie moved the family to Shreveport in 1968 after he got a job at United Gas Corporation.  Shreveport would be Jake’s home until he graduated high school, and went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Jake decided to stay in Nashville after graduating from Vandy with a degree in Business Adminstration.  After investing in several businesses, he came to own a bar, which he had won in a poker game.   He promptly changed the name and settled down as proprietor of McLemore’s Bar in 1985 (see song, “McLemore’s“).

By that time Jake had already married and had a son, Lee, in 1983 (Jake’s wife Amelia died in childbirth) who would go on to join the army and fight in Iraq.  On March 31, 2004, five U.S. soldiers were killed by a large IED on a road a few miles outside of Fallujah, one of the soldiers who died that day was Lee McLemore. But before he had gone to Iraq, Lee had a son himself in July 2003 (a child Jake knew nothing about) with Ellen Brewer whom he secretly married shortly before being shipped out in December 2003.

Jake kept the bar going for several years after Lee died but ended up selling it in 2007 and bought some land outside of Shreveport, Louisiana not far from Oil City.  He had fond memories of fishing on Caddo Lake with his father and settled into that kind of life again.

It didn’t take long for Jake to become bored with retirement, and he bought a diner in Shreveport where Pearl Robison happened to enter one day in January 2010 (see song, “Pearl + Jake“). For five years Jake and Pearl had a turbulent romantic relationship,  before Pearl took to the road again, heading west on U.S. 80, leaving Jake heart broken at 56  (see song, “The River and Jake“).

Unbeknownst to him Pearl was pregnant when she left, and gave birth to a daughter, Sadie Jones Robison.  Pearl had no intention of letting Jake know about this child, and it remains to be seen if Sadie will ever find her father.

Jake hired someone to run the diner and went back to a life of fishing and shooting the breeze with his friend Mike Broussard and other men from the area. Then one day in 2016 his grandson, Charles, walked into his life.

Jake is currently raising Charles outside Shreveport, Louisiana, to be a sturdy young man in the long line of McLemore men.