Jerry Scoggins, From WFAA Staff Musician to Pop Culture Icon
by Paula Bosse
Jerry Scoggins in the WFAA studios, 1941
by Paula Bosse
You know Jerry Scoggins. You DO. You can sing along with his most famous recording. But you might not know his name — even if you do know it, you’re not sure why you know it. And you’ve almost certainly never seen a picture of him. But there he is in the photo above, in 1941, at the studios of WFAA radio where he was a staff musician and occasional on-air personality. The caption reads: “Guitarist Jerry Scoggins arrives for a rehearsal in shiny cowboy boots.”
During his time at WFAA (he was there almost a decade — he started when the station still had studios in the Baker Hotel), Jerry was in countless bands — in fact, he often had several going at the same time. Some of his bands were: The Bumblebees, the Tune Tumblers (with a then-unknown Dale Evans as the group’s “girl singer”), Three Cats & a Canary, The Baboleers, and The Cowhands.
His main group, though, was the Cass County Kids, a popular trio that performed western music and who claimed to have a repertoire of over 500 songs (!).
In 1945, after years of working as mostly anonymous radio musicians, the Kids finally hit the big time. Gene Autry asked them to join him, and they left Dallas for Hollywood, changing their name in the process — at Autry’s request — to the (slightly) more age-appropriate Cass County Boys. They appeared in movies, on television, and on record with Autry for several years, and from all accounts, the Cass County Boys had a long and happy career.
By 1962, Jerry was still in California, but at that point he was working as a stockbroker, singing only on weekends. I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but — seemingly out of the blue — he was asked by TV producers to sing the theme song for a new CBS television show called The Beverly Hillbillies. Backed by the great Flatt & Scruggs, Jerry sang “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” and his voice became known to millions of people, overnight. And here it is more than fifty years later, and I bet you know all the words to the song. It has become a permanent fixture in American pop culture.
And that’s why you know Jerry Scoggins.
And here it is:
And here’s Jerry with the Cass County Boys, singing a novelty song called “Which Way’d They Go?” (Jerry’s the good-looking one on the right):
The top photo of Jerry Scoggins and the large photo of the Cass County Kids are from the WFAA-KGKO-WBAP Combined Family Album (Dallas, 1941). The small photo of the Cass County Kids is from eBay. The thumbnail photo of Scoggins alone is from the Dallas Morning News, 1939.
Jerry Scoggins was born in 1911 in Mount Pleasant, Texas (in Titus County, right next door to Cass County). He died in 2004 at the age of 93. His obituary in the Los Angeles Times is here. More on Jerry from Wikipedia, here.
A nice overview of the Cass County Kids/Boys is here.
Some images larger when clicked.
Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.