Close encounters with star musicians

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Local man recalls meeting Hank Snow

Johnny Blois holds ‘Black Beauty,' a guitar he has owned for more than 60 years. SUBMITTED

Johnny Blois drove transfer trucks around the Maritimes, across Canada and all over the United States for 44 years.

Blois also carried a love for country music everywhere he went. It began when he was four and met country music legend Hank Snow at his grandmother's home on Elm Street Extension in Truro.

"It was during the early 1940s and Hank was entertaining the army in Debert," said Blois, a Truro native who now lives in Bible Hill. "He dated one of my mother's sisters, Ellen Crowe."

Snow, whose number hits included ‘I'm Moving On' and ‘I've Been Everywhere,' showed the youngster how to play a couple of chords on his own personal guitar and left quite an impression.

"Hank was holding my hand on the guitar when the strings hurt my thumb," Blois recalled. "I hauled my hand back and Hank said, ‘you'll get use to it.' I never forgot the occasion."

Four years later Blois ordered his first guitar from Sears & Roebuck.

"It was a Silvertone," he said. "I paid $5 down and $5 a month until it was paid for. I call it Black Beauty and it has more then a million miles on it. I carried it with me all those years trucking."

In 1978, while living in Tennessee, Blois renewed an old friendship.

"I was excited to run into Hank Snow again. We talked for a couple minutes and once he realized who I was, he said, ‘how's your thumb?' It was quite a thing Hank remembering me."

Blois later received an invite to Snow's home, the Rainbow Ranch in Madison, Tennessee.

"It was the best day of my life. Hank introduced me to his cook, his housekeeper and other staff. I don't remember what we ate that day but I know it was good."

A casual guitar player for decades, Blois was known as Johnny Be Goode when he was involved for several years with a five-member group in Millington, Tenn.

"We were called the Millington Five," said Blois. "We played mainly for charities, fundraisers and churches."

Meeting country legend Box Car Willy in Missouri led to a special moment.

"It was because of Box Car Willy that Ray Price and The Cherokee Cowboys called me up on stage at the Crystal Gales Palace," Blois said. "They singled me out as a singing truck driver. Box Car Willy insisted I go up. I sang ‘Lay Your Head On My Pillow.' It went fair and I got a standing ovation. Ray Price told me that I sang his song well."

But a career in the entertainment industry never crossed his mind.

"I'm what you call a clodded person. I wasn't really a performer. I loved being a professional truck driver."

Now retired, Blois, 72, enjoys living in the Truro area. He does some volunteer work, including transporting patients to Halifax hospitals for treatment and takes part in fundraisers for the Canadian Cancer Society and the IWK Hospital.

And when he's at home he'll often play some tunes form his outstanding Hank Snow collection.

"Ask me anything you want to know about Hank," he said. "I'll try to answer you."

TAGLINE: Lyle Carter's column appears every Tuesday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 673-2857.

 

 

Organizations: Canadian Cancer Society, IWK Hospital, Truro Daily News

Geographic location: Truro, Canada, United States Madison, Tennessee Debert Millington, Tenn Missouri

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  • GENE MATHIAS
    February 02, 2014 - 14:41

    I have been a hank snow fan since 1950 .i found his home in madison and one time me and my wife had johnny rion and his wife ann with us and i took them by hank snows home . back in the 50s and 50s johnny and ann had hillybilly park in st louis . they use to book hank snow for shows there with many others . well johnny wanted to get out of the car and go knock on his door but i told hime maybe we better not do that . i wished i had keeped my mouth shut . maybe we might have talked with hank snow . that would have been a thrill for me . thank you gene