MCCOLLOUGH, LLOYD ARNOLD – Lloyd Arnold's grandfather came to America
from Ireland as a small boy and his father John was every inch 'the Irishman' except for the temper. He had no temper . He was a kind and gentle
soul, an extremely generous man, with never a harsh word for anyone. On the other hand, due to her Choctaw Indian background, his bride could be very determined and strong willed. But in spite of their differences, this was truly a marriage made in Heaven. Her determination was tempered by his gentleness and his gentleness was strengthened by her determination.
John Clinton McCollough was a gentle,
kind hearted Irishman. Clemmie Elizabeth Coleman was part Choctaw Indian, a very strong willed and determined southern lady. They met in the rural area of Strayhorn/ Bluegoose, Mississippi
around the turn of the century. The young couple found that they had something in common, they both loved music! John played the banjo and Clemmie strummed the guitar. The duo gained quite
a musical reputation performing at church socials and square dances. They married on April 29, 1906. This was truly a marriage made in Heaven. Even though their personalities were different, her determination was tempered by his gentleness and his gentleness was strengthened by her determination.
For the next few years they remained in Strayhorn while
John farmed the unyielding land. They wanted a large family, so Lloyd’s oldest brother, Thadis, made his appearance in 1908. The baby was born with an enlarged heart
however he did survive and the couple gave thanks to the Lord and entered their first child’s name in the family Bible. Clemmie employed an Indian medicine man from a nearby Choctaw Reservation to stop by periodically and check on her first born. A second child, Leroy, made his appearance in 1912. In the year 1916, Lloyd’s oldest sister, Flora Ilene was born. A fourth name was added
to the family Bible, when my mother, Zeta Margarine, was born in 1920. A few days aughts took little Albert Eugene into their home and into their hearts.
In the mid-twenties John moved the family to Sardis, Mississippi where Clemmie’s mother owned a small store with living quarters in the back. He raised vegetables and peanuts while Clemmie worked
behind the counter. In 1926 their next child, James (Jim ), arrived. Jim is the brother who would one day help Lloyd organize his first band. It was also in Sardis that the
first son, Thadis, took a wife, Myra Wade. In 1929 the couple presented John and Clemmie with their first grandchild, Johnnie Marie. Her birth, John and Clemmie adopted a new
born baby boy. The child belonged to Clemmie’s first cousin who had died while giving him life. So the McColloughs took little Albert Eugene into their home and into their hearts.
John was always looking for better farmland and more opportunities so they moved to Tallulah, Louisiana. By this time things were changing. Flora moved across the river to Vicksburg, Mississippi and
eventually became Mrs. George Condia while Leroy married Mattie Hammond, a Tallulah telephone operator. Mattie was the lady who would one day design most of Lloyd’s stage
clothes. It was also in Tallulah that John was diagnosed with severe ulcerated stomach and was hospitalized in nearby Shreveport. The doctors were very clear when they told Clemmie
that her husband could no longer keep up the strenuous pace of a farmer’s life. Soon after his hospital release, it was time for a major change.
In the early
thirties, John moved the family to the big city where they occupied both sides of a duplex on Tate Street. The McColloughs had finally arrived in Memphis, Tennessee! Shortly after this move, Clemmie gave birth to another son. Baby Harold was very frail and lived only a few months. John and Clemmie remained in Memphis and in time became known as Ma and Pa to most everyone, including all the musicians
who would cross their path in the years to come.
During the Great Depression, John peddled door to door, selling small items such as sewing thread, thimbles, shoe
strings etc. The memory of lean years and doors being slammed in his face remained with him. In the early 1950′s, when the children was growing up in the McCollough house, no peddler was ever turned from our door. If my grandfather had no money at the time to buy an item, he would invite the weary man in for a glass of tea and conversation. In 1935 Zeta became a very young bride while John and Clemmie
welcomed their last child, Lloyd Arnold, born on June 25, 1935 in Memphis. A few months later, tragedy struck: Lloyd’s oldest brother, Thadis developed pneumonia. He passed
away just a few days before Christmas, leaving his wife and their two small children.
In 1937, his niece, Barbara was born. Since her and Lloyd were close to the
same age, he became very protective of his young niece. At Christmastime, they would stand in line for hours at the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis to receive a small toy and a
piece of fruit from the Good Fellows Fund. These were lean years but because of John’s small garden and his skill as a farmer the family never went hungry.
a small boy, Lloyd developed spinal meningitis. In those days that was practically a death sentence! He spent a month in isolation at the John Gaston Hospital. Trying to prevent the disease from going to his brain, the doctors strapped him in a bed that stood upright against the wall. Since he was not allowed to have any visitors in his room, the medical staff would raise the window so family members could talk
to him. Every morning when his mother arrived, the nurses would make sure that the window was open wide so she could communicate with her son. Lloyd was too young to understand what
was happening. He often cried, begging the family to take him home. During the times that he was awake there was at least one family member outside his window talking to him
and praying for him. The McColloughs used their faith and stood against fear as Lloyd fought a tough battle with the disease that almost took his life. As the weeks turned into months,
once again their prayers were answered. He slowly regained his strength and the doctors were amazed!
In the early 1940′s, it was time to make another
change so the McColloughs moved from Tate Street to Kimball Avenue. Because of my grandfather’s health, he and my grandmother decided to change roles. So in September
of 1943, she went to work as a steam checker in the raincoat department of The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, while he stayed home to care for his backyard garden. John McCollough had a ‘green thumb’! He could make anything grow. All kinds of fruits and vegetables simply thrived under his care! In the summer, he canned the food that would feed the family through the winter always
making certain that he had enough to share with neighbors.
Because Lloyd’s mother worked outside of the home during a portion of his childhood, this left the majority of the child-rearing to my grandfather and my mother. John and Zeta were the ones who came to the rescue to mend skinned knees and dry childhood tears. These were the two people who exerted the most
influence over Lloyd’s life. In the years to come anyone who knew him professionally or privately also knew 'Pa' and 'Sis'. Few decisions were made without their approval.
Oh by the way, Lloyd's niece made her appearance in the McCollough house in November of 1945.
Growing up in Memphis in the 1950′s was exciting. The era of bobby sox,
poodle skirts, cherry cokes and wonderful music was waiting in the wings. One afternoon as Lloyd and Barbara made their way down Parkway Avenue they stopped for a red light.
A motorcycle roared up beside Lloyd’s Ford coupe and the rider glanced toward the car and spoke: ''Hey Lloyd, how’s it goin''? As the light changed, Lloyd waved and returned
the greeting. Barbara watched the young man until he was completely out of sight. ''Qho’s that''? she asked. ''Oh, he’s one of the guys from Humes High, his name’s Elvis Presley''.
During his high school days Lloyd was extremely popular with the other students. He was an R.O.T.C. major, a member of the colour guard, the Key Club, the Officer’s Club and of course the A
Cappella Choir. Some of his time was spent at Rainbow Roller Skating Rink where he became an avid skater, and won his share of trophies. He was also a ''skate cop'' and president
of the Roller Skating Club. Because of his ability on the rink his classmates dubbed him ''Fireball Mac''. In his early teens his goal in life was to become a professional baseball
player. He spent many hours on the ball field however slowly his interests began to change to the field of music. Then during that icy Christmas of 1950 he was both surprised and delighted as he opened the large Christmas box and found the mandolin. He spent the next few days searching for elusive chords. Finally he mastered the instrument and started performing for high school functions.
Lloyd was greatly influenced by the music of Hank Williams. When Hank passed away in January 1, 1953, Lloyd decided to make music his profession. The career of Hank Williams had established a musical
role model for him and through the years there was always a portion of his performances set aside to pay tribute to this legendary artist.
Family members offered their assistance to help him form his first band. His brother, Jim McCollough handled the stand-up bass and his niece, Geneva McCollough became the band’s first songstress.
Curley Rainey, a family friend, took over the job of fiddler. The steel guitar was played by a local musician named Grady. (Grady’s last name has disappeared through
the tunnels of time). This group comprised Lloyd’s original The Drifting Hillbillies. Band practice took place at least once a week either in the living room or in the
garage. During those fun-filled days the McCollough house overflowed with music and laughter. In the years that followed, we would remember this carefree era as the happiest time of our lives. It was that special time of youth that comes but once to each of us; secures us in expectations and then is gone forever.
Now that Lloyd had a band, he also needed stage clothes. Leroy’s wife,
Mattie, was an excellent seamstress and offered her services. She created the designs that appeared on most of his stage suits. Lloyd and his new band performed a benefit for
the Memphis Veterans Hospital in April of 1953. As the year progressed, his music was brought into the living rooms of thousands of viewers as he stepped before the television cameras of
the Ted Mack Amateur Hour. During August and September Lloyd hosted a radio program at WBLE Radio in Batesville, Mississippi. As the September winds blew briskly across the tents of the Mid-South Fair, he and the Drifting Hillbillies performed on the Country Music Showcase, sponsored by WMCT-TV Channel 5 in Memphis. In November, Lloyd received a letter from Como, Mississippi High School asking him
to perform for the student body, which he did on Friday December 18. He was also one of two Technical High School students chosen to perform at the Peabody for the Memphis
Kiwanis Club luncheon. It was a cold December 16 in 1953 when Lloyd took his bows from the famed banquet hall of the nostalgic Peabody Hotel.
In the early 1950s things began to change again in the McCollough house as more grandchildren and great grandchildren made their appearance. Lloyd became a ''great uncle'' and a ''dad'' at a very
young age. While still in high school, he married a girl who was in her middle twenties. As soon as the vows were spoken, his bride began to complain about his career. She
wanted him to get out of the music business, but Lloyd refused. Since he was not willing to abandon his profession, the marriage lasted only a year. They had one child, a son.
The break-up was very difficult for everyone and Lloyd tried hard to maintain a ''father, son'' relationship with his little boy.
While suffering with childhood
meningitis, Lloyd lost many school days. Due to this lost time, his graduation from Technical High School was delayed until May 27 of 1954. By that time he was already somewhat
of a seasoned performer. He and the band began to travel, gaining popularity through the southern states. This was reflected in a letter that he received from WNAG Radio in Grenada, Mississippi on June 7, 1954: ''Dear Mr. McCollough, We have a Hillbilly Jamboree each Saturday morning. We have seen you pass through here several times and we were wondering if you could come one Saturday and be on our
show? A little more publicity is all the pay we can offer you but this is a new show and we need your help in order to keep it going''.
A few weeks later, Lloyd and the Drifting Hillbillies traveled to Grenada to play a benefit for them. When it came time to hire another band member, Lloyd’s nephew, Bo McCollough joined the
Drifting Hillbillies to play rhythm guitar. Soon Bill Helms was brought on board to play lead guitar.
The ''Saturday Night Jamboree'' was a weekly event
held in the Goodwyn Institute located at Third and Madison in downtown Memphis. It was founded by a well known Memphis musician named Joe Manuel. Since the Jamboree showcased
local talent, Lloyd obtained a spot on the program. Every weekend, the McColloughs made their way to the Goodwyn Institute to support him and all the other artists. Many local performers
got their start there: Marcus Van Story, Aubry Rice, Elvis Presley, Doug Stone, Charlie Feathers, Larry Manuel, Jimmy Smith, Tommy Cash (Johnny Cash’s brother), Major Pruitt, Ellis Mize and many others. Every Saturday night, local musicians gathered there to display their special mix of gospel, country and blues, never realizing that they were helping to develop a new sound called ''rockabilly''.
One night, during Lloyd’s portion of the show, he strained his eyes against the spotlight and spoke to a shadowy figure standing at the back of the theatre. ''Hey E.P., don’t leave yet,
I need to talk to you after the show''. The shadows stirred and into a sliver of light stepped Elvis Presley. He turned his pockets inside out and yelled towards the stage:
''You don’t need to talk to me, Lloyd, I ain’t got no money''!
The following Saturday evening found Lloyd at home pacing the floor. Showtime was drawing near and he was
impatiently waiting for his guitarist, Bo, to find his only pair of red stage pants. Bo couldn’t remember which dry cleaners had them. He was trying to locate them by telephone so they could be picked up on the way to the performance. On this particular afternoon, two elderly ladies decided to monopolize the party line. Every time Bo listened for a dial tone he received nothing but an ear full of recipes.
His tension was mounting because time was marching on and Lloyd kept thrusting his head in the doorway, pointing to his wristwatch. Outside the window the other band members
were loading instruments and tapping upon the windowpane. After forty-five minutes Lloyd stopped pacing, rattled his car keys and yelled from the hallway: ''Bo, if you don’t
come on, we’re gonna leave you and I’ll get somebody else to play guitar''.
The next sound we heard was that of desperation as Bo grabbed the receiver and blurted: ''Ladies, will you please
get off this confounded line, I’ve left my britches somewhere and I’m tryin’ to find ‘em''. There was a stunned silence over the phone, then a dial tone – the pants were found and the
show went on!
During the Jamboree days, Lloyd began to experience the many problems of maintaining band members. His brother, Jim had recently married Glora Hall,
a young lady who lived down the street from the McColloughs. After their marriage, Jim decided to become a member of the Memphis Police Force. By this time, the band had many
‘out of town’ engagements and Jim’s work schedule would not permit him to travel. This left Lloyd in desperate need of a bass man. One hot summer night in August at the Goodwyn Institute, Lloyd was introduced to a young man from Hollandale, Mississippi named Buddy Hollie. He proved to be a excellent bass player and Lloyd hired him on the spot. Just when he thought his band was secure again,
he discovered that Geneva had secretly married his fiddle player, Curley Rainey, and was preparing to trade her guitar for pots and pans. Soon the couple married, left the
band and moved from Memphis. This left Lloyd with no songstress and no fiddler. Slowly, one by one, the original Drifting Hillbillies were replaced and over the next twenty
years a succession of musicians would follow in their footsteps.
During 1953 and 1954 Lloyd and his band recorded several demos and acetates at the newly opened Memphis
Recording Service, at 706 Union Avenue. During the nineties thirteen of these acetates were relocated by re-searcher Jim Cole, employed by the University of Memphis.
those fun filled days, Lloyd and the Drifting Hillbillies had a great time performing at such places as ''The Old Dominion Barn Dance'', ''The Renfro Valley Barn Dance'', ''Red Foley’s Ozark Jubilee'' and the ''Louisiana Hayride''. In January of 1955 they performed at the ''Hillbilly Festival'' for WRBL-TV in Columbus, Georgia. In February and March they were in Little Rock, Arkansas at the ''Barnyard
Frolic'' and in December they played ''The Big D Jamboree'' in Dallas, Texas. That same year he hosted another weekly radio program, for WBIP in Booneville Mississippi.
In 1955 Lloyd formed a business relationship with Charles Bolton, a country music promoter from Booneville. Charles rented the Von Theatre every Saturday night where Lloyd and the Drifting Hillbillies made many appearances for the ‘Country Music Festival’ and the ''TriState Jubilee''.
During the Booneville days, Lloyd really became a businessman. He bought a record shop in that town and sent
Buddy Hollie to manage it. When they had a show date the guys would swing through Booneville and pick up Buddy. When they weren’t traveling, Lloyd could also be found behind the counter, greeting customers and mulling over receipts. On Saturday nights after their performances at the Von Theatre, Lloyd and the boys would perform at the record shop. Unfortunately it was too difficult for Lloyd
and Buddy to juggle their career with one hand and this business venture with the other. Eventually it was sold and the little shop faded into history.
His association with Charles Bolton brought about his first recording of ''Oh Darlin’'' b/w ''Watch That Gal''. The back up musicians were: Buddy Hollie on upright bass, Bo McCollough on rhythm
guitar and Bill Helms on lead guitar. During the same year he also recorded a session for the Bihari Brothers Memphis based label, Meteor Records. The tracks ''Baby, Take Me
For A Ride'' and ''My Blue Heart Is Crying'' were left unissued.
Beginning in January of 1956 Lloyd hosted another radio program for KWEM Radio in Memphis. The following
are excerpts from a KWEM newsletter, dated January of that year: ''Everyday at 12:00 noon, the studios of the Family Station begin to really jump. That’s the time of the day, Monday through Friday, when Lloyd McCollough and his band, ‘The Drifting Hillbillies’ tune up. KWEM is mighty proud of Lloyd and his band and glad to have ‘em on the air. ‘By the way, if you collect records,
ask for Lloyd’s latest ‘Von’ record now on sale at record shops everywhere. And he’ll have a new release out very soon, so be watching for it''.
Lloyd met Red Matthews, owner of Ekko Records, he made another recording, ''What Goes On In Your Heart'' b/w ''Until I Love Again'', released on the Ekko label in 1956. The back-up musicians were: Buddy Hollie on upright bass, Chet Atkins on guitar, Tommy Jackson on fiddle, Jerry Byrd on steel guitar and Jimmy Self behind the piano. The record was reviewed in Billboard on February 4th. In the
summer of 1956, he left Ekko to record for the Republic label.
When the McColloughs lived on Kimball Avenue, Lloyd had a little office in the attic of the house. Whenever
he felt the inspiration for a new song, he would rush upstairs to write. One breezy March afternoon in 1955 he made a dash for the attic and about 20 minutes later he returned with ''Gonna Love My Baby''. He sang it for Buddy and the family members that were gathered in the living room. One line caught Buddy’s attention, the line that reads, ''I’ll jump up and play my fiddle'',
Buddy interrupted and ask: ''What does that line have to do with the rest of the song''? You could tell by the look on Lloyd’s face that he hadn’t given that much
thought. Finally he said: ''Well it rhymes, doesn’t it''.
So the line remained and the song was recorded on Republic in 1956 backed with '''Cause I Love You''. The back-up
musicians were: Buddy Hollie on upright bass, Bo McCollough on rhythm guitar, Bill Helms on lead guitar and Junior Johnson on fiddle. The backing band seems to have been used for further Republic release by Lou Millet (7130): ''Slip, Slip, Slippin’ In b/w ''Shorty The Barber'', as both records sound the same. ''Slip…'' was later recorded by Eddie Bond on Mercury.
Lloyd’s fourth record was released on the Starday label. ''Half My Fault'' is a relaxed rocker with fine guitar and piano. The flipside ''What Can I Tell Them'' reveal his country and gospel
roots. During 1956 Lloyd and the Drifting Hillbillies worked 282 one nighters throughout the southern and eastern states. In April of 1956 his private life took another important
turn as he walked down the isle with his second bride. Since he did so much out of town work, Ma and Pa insisted that he bring his new wife to live with us. After getting her situated
into the McCollough house, Lloyd was off on the road again.
Also in 1956, Buddy Hollie met his future wife and said ''goodbye'' to Lloyd and the McCollough family. Once
again the band was left with no bass man. Soon Bo McCollough and his new bride, Lucy, left Memphis, ending Bo’s musical career.
Bobby Howard, better known
to audiences as ‘Droopy Duck’ took over the stand-up bass and also doubled as the band comedian. Bobby was my father’s nephew. One footnote: Bobby recorded in 1966 for Eddie Bond’s Western Lounge label.
It was a wet starless night when the car descended a hill west of Somerset, Kentucky. Droopy had agreed to drive,
leaving Lloyd and the others free to doze. The only sound was the patter of raindrops as the highway stretched before them like an endless ebony ribbon. Droopy opened a side window to let in the cool night air and pinched himself to stay awake. Sleep finally took over and for a split second his consciousness melted into velvet blackness. By the time his head dropped forward he was fully awake and the car
was forging across the middle line. Not thinking, Droopy forcefully hit the brakes as the tires slid on the wet pavement, disengaging the instrument trailer. No one was hurt
but by the time Lloyd and the boys emerged from the car, the trailer had plunged into a deep ravine, tossing battered instruments in every direction. Droopy’s bass fiddle
was the only instrument that survived. It appeared to be in perfect condition. Not a scratch! So during the next performance, the band was amazed when the bass shattered, covering the stage with bits of debris. For a silent moment, Lloyd stared at Droopy who was still holding the upper part of the neck and fanning the air as if he were trying to find the rest of the bass. Finally the people burst into laughter.
By this time Lloyd had become an expert at covering up unexpected events on stage. So thanks to Droopy’s comedic skills and the spontaneous dialogue that flew between
him and Lloyd, they convinced the audience that the shattered bass was merely part of the show!
Another embarrassing moment happened during a performance at an outdoor drive-in
theater. Lloyd was supposed to make his entrance by running from the back of the lot, through the cars and toward the stage. As he approached the platform, he slipped on something
and slid ‘under’ the stage! The band members rushed to help as he crawled to freedom while still clinging to his guitar. The audience was silent for a moment as Lloyd,
red with embarrassment, dusted himself off. He could hear laughter and the swell of applause as he limped to center stage and burst into song! Once again he managed to make the audience think it was all planned.
As the face of music began to change, a new sound evolved in Memphis, a sound that the world would come to know as rock and roll. In keeping
with the birth of this ‘new sound’, Lloyd changed the name of his band to the Rockin’ Drifters. He began to incorporate rock music with the country tunes, hoping to appeal to a wider range of listeners. So eventually he dropped the last name of McCollough and began billing himself as Lloyd Arnold.
In Apri1 and
May of 1958 Lloyd and his band played theaters throughout Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. He spent June and July of that same year in Memphis. His first daughter was born on his birthday, June 25. He nicknamed her Skeeter. Shortly after her birth the McColloughs moved from Kimball Ave to a new house on Railton Road.
During the month
of August, Lloyd and the boys played a series of one nighters in theaters throughout New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada. On September 9 they flew to Newfoundland to perform at the Airmen’s Club. On September 16 they flew back to Nova Scotia for a show at Clark’s Harbour. During this trip Lloyd found that he needed another guitarist. One night during a theatre performance, he heard
about a young man in Atlanta, Georgia who was trying to get started in the music business. When Lloyd returned to Memphis, he called Atlanta. The young man proved to be an
excellent guitarist. Lloyd auditioned him and hired him over the telephone and Jimmy Brumlow from Atlanta, Georgia became one of the Rockin’ Drifters. Jimmy adopted the
stage name of Jimmy Sea.
During the fall of 1958 one of Jimmy’s first musical assignments was a performance on October 3 at the Elks Club in Salisbury, North
Carolina. On October 5 they performed at the NCO Club in Goldsburg, North Carolina. The following day they played Pikesville, Tennessee at the City Theatre. On October 7 they performed
at The New Harlan Theatre in Harlan, Kentucky and October 8 they were in Whitesburg, Kentucky. When the Rockin’ Drifters played Orangeburg, South Carolina, they shared the billing with Danny and the Juniors and Fats Domino. By the end of that year they had fulfilled engagements in Tennessee, Alabama, North and South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Georgia.
After Bobby Howard (Droopy) left the band, the stand up bass was taken over temporarily by Marcus Van Story. After Marcus left Lloyd employed Jerry Boyd to play electric bass. Jack Charles was brought
on board to play drums. Throughout the early years, most of Lloyd’s performances were done in theatres but beginning in the latter part of the 1950′s and into the
1960′s, he began playing the club circuits through New Jersey and Pennsylvania. At this time he was managed by Lou Palmer, a promoter out of Collingswood, New Jersey.
During the early months
of 1960 Lloyd had come to the attention of Herman Lubinsky, owner of Savoy Records and World Wide Record Co.. In April he recorded a session that produced six tracks. Two tracks, ''Dixie Doodle'' and ''The Great Speckled Bird'' were released
in late April on Savoy’s subsidiary label Sharp. Cashbox carried a review of Sharp 108 on May 7.