Cliffie Stone Archives
The above photograph with Cliffie nicely dressed and Tennessee Ernie Ford dressed as a hillbilly was the comedic act that they did together on the ‘Hometown Jamboree’ shows. Down through the years, many people have asked when, where and how did Cliffie discover Ernie Ford. The following anecdote from Cliffie’s songwriting book tells the story: “One day, Loyal King (General Manager of KXLA) called me in and said he needed a newsman and he wondered if I knew of anyone. I said, ‘Not offhand but I’ll keep my eyes and ears open and if I find someone, I’ll let you know.’ A few weeks later, I had to attend a meeting in Palm Springs. As I was driving through San Bernardino, I just happened to tune in to a small radio station, KFXM. I became very impressed with the low, well-trained and modulated voice of the newsman who signed off with, ‘This is Ernest Jennings Ford.’ Immediately following, another show came on called the ‘Bar Nothing Ranch’ which was emceed by a backwoods, hillbilly personality called Tennessee Ernie. He played the current records of the day by Ernest Tubb, Red Foley and Roy Acuff. The unique thing that he did was to sing along with them in harmony. Then during the chorus instrumental, he would switch to the lead part. During the entire show, there were farm animal sounds: ducks quaking, pigs squealing, cows mooing, dogs barking and so on. I thought this was the funniest country radio show that I had ever heard! However, I was basically interested in the newsman, since I thought he was just what my boss, Loyal King, was looking for. So I stopped and called the KFXM radio station from a public telephone and I asked to speak with Ernest Jennings Ford. We made an appointment and met each other about an hour later at a coffee shop. I immediately liked Ernie. He had an unassuming country boy charm about him. He told me that he had recently been released from the Air Force in San Bernardino and he decided to settle down there. I told him about the opening at KXLA and I gave him Loyal King’s phone number and I suggested that he call him for an interview as soon as possible. Out of curiosity, I asked him about that hillbilly guy who came on right after the news. He laughed and said, ‘That’s me.’ He went on to say that he loved to sing along with the country stars. He used his real-life ‘character’ to do this show and since his hometown was Bristol, Tennessee, he called himself ‘Tennessee Ernie.’ Needless to say, he was hired at KXLA. He was given the daily time slot from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. as ’Tennessee Ernie’ for the ‘Bar Nothing Ranch’ show. At 11 a.m., he announced the news as ‘Ernest Jennings Ford.’ At 11:30 a.m., he would introduce my live show, ‘Dinner Bell Roundup’, and then he’d come into our studio, sit down and listen to our music. I had a quartet and always ended my show with a gospel. One day, I asked Ernie to sing bass with us. A few days later during the live show, I spontaneously asked Ernie to sing a solo. He got up and sang Jimmie Rodgers’s ‘Mule Skinner’s Blues.’ The radio station switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree. As fate would have it, Ernie became a cast member of my ‘Hometown Jamboree’ show and he performed regularly at my Saturday night dances at the American Legion Hall in Placentia. Because of Ernie’s growing popularity, we went from 250 people to 1,000 people every Saturday night in several months’ time. So I had to find a larger location for my show; I asked my friend, Steve Stebbins, who had booked us in several venues before, to search around and he found the American Legion Stadium (which could hold 4,000) in El Monte, CA, which became our new home.” And that was the beginning of a lifelong business and personal relationship.

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