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Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Something" More on Jimmy Ballard

Thanks to the efforts of Dreamtime pal Adam Dean, we have a little more information on country-western singer Jimmy Ballard, as well as one of the few known photographs. Ballard's She's Got Something was played on the recent "Something" episode of Theme Time Radio Hour, and Mr. D. expressed interest in learning more about the man, one of the first country-western artists to cross-over into the new rock-'n-roll style.

Ballard is pictured above in a radio station WMIK (Middlesboro, KY) staff photo from 19 and 50. Jimmy is the man standing above the gentleman with the cake, and identified in the photo as "country singer Jimmy Ballard.". WMIK was owned by the Cumberland Gap Broadcasting Company (CGBC), one of Kentucky's foremost radio broadcasting corporations.

The photo - as well as the photo of a "deejay special" release of Ballard's The Creek's Gone Muddy (And Tthe Fish Won't Bite) - are taken from Chuck Owens ongoing documentation of the history of the CGBC. The copy on the single relates: "Born in Middlesboro, Kentucky in 1932, Jimmy Ballard started his musical career at the age of 15. When he was 18, he left home for a musical job in Knoxville, Tennessee, his first professional appearance."

WMIK began broadcasting on November 14th 19 and 48, and Owens reports that Jimmy, sometimes known as "Jimmie," had a show "at the start." Ballard was definitely on the air by December, 1948, as he's listed in the program logs as having a show airing from 6:00 to 6:30 every morning. And if you had been lucky enough to be in Middlesboro on January 19th 19 and 49, you could have caught Jimmy live at Central School Auditorium at 2:30 pm. Also appearing were The Pine Mountain Boys, Clayton York, Crusaders Quartette, Cumberland Valley Quartette, Kentucky Sweetheart, the Golden Sisters and Shorty Ward, and The Dixie Drifters.

The Dixie Drifters appeared to be WMIK's house band, and occasionally backed Ballard, although you'll note that both King singles displayed here list Ballard's backing musicians simply as "String Band." Here's an unfortunately abridged version of Birthday Cake Boogie performed by Jimmy Ballard and the Dixie Drifters from around 1950.



Interestingly, a "Jim Ballard" became the general manager of WMIK sometime in the `60s into the `70s, but based on a photo from 19 and 66 which you can find here, it appears to be an improbable coincidence of names, as "Jim" doesn't look at all like "Jimmy," plus looks too old to be Jimmy Ballard's son. And, it's hard to believe that Chuck Owens, who created both pages, wouldn't take the time to note that country singer Jimmy became or was related to general manager, Jim.

It's hard to tell whether Chuck Owens is still updating The Cumberland Gap Broadcasting site, but if his email address is still valid, he'd probably be the best starting point to find out even more about Jimmy Ballard. Born in 19 and 32, Jimmy would be in his late `70s now, and could very well still be in Middlesboro.

Thanks again, Adam, for setting this old hound-dog on the trail.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just to follow-up on Jimmy Ballard and Jim Ballard. Jimmy was the singer and Jim was the general manager from 1962 until 1992. Jim recently passed away. I could never locate Jimmy Ballard the singer. If you find him, please let me know. They were no relation to one another.

Chuck Owens
Middlesboro, KY

Adam Dean said...

It's the sleuth in me, I guess.