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Lonnie Glosson 

Harmonica player extraordinaire, and hobo

GLOSSON: Hard-luck blues.,
  • GLOSSON: Hard-luck blues.,
Lonnie Glosson prided himself on being a professional harmonica player and hobo. Born Feb. 14, 1908, in Judsonia, Glosson got into music at early age, by his mother, Cora. Glosson, in an interview about seven months before his death at age 93, recalled: “I was about 10 years old. She played the harmonica, see. We lived in Newport then, picking cotton. She said, ‘If you pick 200 pounds today, I’ll give you a quarter so you can go to town and get a harmonica.’ I picked 200 pounds by 2 o’clock ... She showed me how to play ‘Home Sweet Home;’ I learned that, and picked it up from there.” Glosson traveled around the United States by train and earned a living playing harmonica in barber shops, street corners and radio stations. From KMOX in St. Louis, the White County native went to WLS’s “National Barn Dance” in Chicago. He recorded for Paramount’s Broadway label in 1932. Glosson recorded “Arkansas Hard Luck Blues” in 1936, which the Country Music Hall of Fame called “an early example of the talking blues popularized by Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan.” The same year, he established a musical partnership with Wayne Raney, a harmonica player from Wolf Bayou, who was a Glosson disciple; in 1938, the harmonica players had a program on KARK radio in Little Rock. They stayed together for decades and, in 1949, wrote “Why Don’t You Haul Off and Love Me,” with Raney on vocals. Released by King Records, with Hot Springs native Henry Glover at the helm, it hit No. 1. Glosson said he missed out on the writing of the song because he wanted to nap, but played on the recording session: “They was all drunk, you know. I just stayed asleep. It went over big, that and ‘Blues Stay Away From Me.’ ” Besides the success of “Why Don’t You Haul Off and Love Me,” which also became an R&B hit, Glosson recorded for Decca and Mercury and, with Raney, had a national show on WCKY in Cincinnati and began writing and recording with the Delmore Brothers, including their massive hit, “Blues Stay Away From Me,” covered by countless artists and co-written and again recorded with Glover. Glosson and Raney sold harmonicas by mail order, eventually selling millions. Later, with the nickname “The Talking Harmonica Man,” Glosson toured schools and played concerts all over, traveling in a van decorated with a variety of inspirational slogans and witticisms on the outside, from “God Is Love” to “Enjoy a Healthy Sexual Relationship.” Glosson, also a talented vocalist and guitarist, delved more into gospel music as the years wore on. After having traveled the country with his harmonica, Glosson died in his native White County, in Searcy, on March 2, 2001. Hear more about Lonnie Glosson on this week’s “Arkansongs,” heard Fridays at 6:40 a.m. and 6:20 p.m. on KUAR-FM, 89.1, in Little Rock. E-mail: skoch@arkansas.net
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