Cliffie Stone


Cliffie StoneOn March 1, 1917, Clifford Gilpin Snyder (aka Cliffie Stone) was born in the agricultural area of Stockton, CA. He was the only child of Nina Belle and Clifford H. Snyder (aka Herman, "the Hermit"). His father was a traveling salesman for a large Oregon seed company when he met Nina Belle. When Cliffie was five years old, his parents moved to rural Burbank and bought 5 acres and started Snyder Nursery and a dog kennel. The Great Depression era was fast approaching, and the Snyder family struggled to make ends meet. Cliffie’s father was a jack-of-all-trades, who did a variety of work to make a living. But his big love was music and he played the piano and all the string instruments, which exposed Cliffie to music in his childhood years. Cliffie’s main interests in school were football, acting and music. His first instrument was the tuba, but he fell in love with the bass, and he took lessons from Phil Cushman (a top bass player in the Los Angeles area) and faithfully practiced 2 hours a day. A few years later, Cliffie’s father had a steady gig playing the banjo on Stuart Hamblen’s popular ‘Lucky Stars’ radio show on KEHE; since he had long hair and a beard, Stuart nicknamed him ‘Herman, the Hermit.’ (See ‘Early Years’ gallery, Row 1, #1 photo caption.) When Stuart’s bass player didn’t show up for several days, Herman called Cliffie and encouraged him to audition for Stuart, who hired him and nicknamed him Cliffie Stonehead. So at the age of 15, Cliffie’s 64 year career began. While attending high school, Cliffie continued to practice 2 hours a day while playing bass on Stuart’s radio show and doing small comedy skits with him. In this time frame, Cliffie also took bass lessons from a new teacher, Arthur Pabst (who played first chair with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra) where he learned to read grouped notes, to play jazz, classical and how to use the German and French bows. When he graduated from Burbank High School, Cliffie was offered a football college scholarship but he chose the music industry. (See the ‘Early Years’ gallery section photo captions for more info about his career.)

In his early professional career, Cliffie freelanced to make extra money. He would do his radio shows and then he’d work as a bassist in big bands such as Anson Weeks and Freddie Slack; he also studied the acting profession at the Pasadena Community Playhouse for awhile. Cliffie was such an excellent bassist that one of his prestigious gigs was playing bass for famous crooner/songwriter, Gene Austin, who was co-headlining with vaudevillian showman, Ken Murray, at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Cliffie proudly kept a 1942 souvenir program (see ‘Early Years’ section, Row 1, #5 photo caption).

Hometown JamboreeIn 1939, Cliffie married singer, Dorothy Darling. They had four children: Linda, Stephen, Curtis and Jonathan. They moved to a 21 acre ranch in the Santa Clarita area where they raised their close-knit family. Both Dorothy and Cliffie were deeply involved with their community for decades and they were proud of all their children: Linda, became a teacher; Stephen was a piano player, songwriter, producer and executive music publisher; Curtis was a bass player, songwriter and one of the original members of award-winning “Highway 101” band; and Jonathan held a number of executive positions with top publishing companies – one of them being President of Windswept Pacific. (See ‘Later Years’ gallery, Row 5, #1 photo caption.) To the right, is a photo of Cliffie and Dorothy with their children on their Rolling Stone Ranch. L to R: On the fence - Cliffie (holding Jonathan), Linda, Stephen and Curtis (who is waving). His wife, Dorothy, is standing.

When Stuart decided to leave his 'Lucky Stars' radio show, the sponsors hired Cliffie to take over and he changed its name to 'Star Time' wherein he became a deejay and he played the current hillbilly and country music hit songs; he also changed his name to Cliffie Stone. While on this show, he met Lt. Steve Stebbins, a policeman and they ended up forming a company called ‘Americana Corporation Booking Agency’ (when Ernie’s career took off with ’16 Tons,’ Cliffie gave his share to Steve). He also had a one hour musical show called “Dinner Bell Round Up,” and he changed the name to “Hometown Jamboree.” This show would later be broadcast from the Huntington Hotel on KXLA (owned by Pacific Coast Broadcasting Company); eventually, Hometown Jamboree would become a popular variety TV show on the West Coast for 13 plus years on KLAC/TV; it became a launching pad for countless performers and featured guests, which read like a Who’s Who in the music industry. They include: Eddy Arnold, Les Anderson, Molly Bee, Polly Bergen, Johnny Bond, Jimmy Bryant, Johnny Cash, Eddie Dean, Dallas Frazier, Lefty Frizzell, Freddie Hart, Roy Hart, Harold Hensley, Herman “the Hermit,” Johnny Horton, Ferlin Husky, Eddie Kirk, Billy Liebert, Maddox Brothers & Rose, Barbara Mandrell, Ray Merrill, Joanie O’Brien, Gene O’Quinn, Jim Reeves, Tommy Sands, Billy Strange, Les Taylor, Bucky Tibbs, Merle Travis, Hank Thompson, Tex Ritter, Wesley & Marilyn Tuttle, Speedy West, Al Williams, Tex Williams and Tennessee Ernie Ford.

Cliffie discovered Tennessee Ernie Ford while he was driving to Palm Springs for a meeting. He was listening to a show on a small local radio station and was so impressed with Ernie’s voice that he stopped by the radio station to meet him. (See ‘Early Years’ gallery, Row #5, #2 photo caption.) Long story short, Ernie ended up becoming a permanent member on Cliffie’s “Hometown Jamboree” show; Cliffie and Ernie wrote songs together, performed together and Cliffie became his manager for 20 years, which was the beginning of a life-long friendship. One of Cliffie’s most fulfilling achievements occurred when he was signed by Capitol Records in a dual capacity: as a recording artist and also as the right hand of Lee Gillette (head of Capitol’s A&R Department) wherein he helped to discover, sign and was instrumental in building Capitol’s country roster with future history-making country artists such as Buck Owens, Rose Maddox, Merle Haggard, Stan Freberg and Tennessee Ernie Ford (who he was also managing). During this time period, he became one of the partners in Central Songs, which developed a huge catalog of classic country songs. After “Sixteen Tons” became a worldwide hit, Cliffie then focused on being Ernie’s full-time manager for 20 years as well as being Ernie’s executive producer on NBC’s “Tennessee Ernie Ford” prime time television shows.

Cliff & Tennesse Ernie FordIn the ensuing years, Cliffie became a legendary force in all areas of the music industry. He was a master at juggling 3 or 4 jobs at once; this charismatic jack-of-all-trades man wore all the musical hats with great success: bassist; disc jockey; radio, television and record producer; master of ceremonies; comedian; singer; songwriter; publisher; artist’s manager; booking agent; author; and executive positions at notable publishing and recording companies. At one time or another, Cliffie was associated with 28 radio stations in CA. This feat catapulted him into Nashville’s Country Music Disc Jockey’s Hall of Fame in 1979. (See Achievements section.)

Academy of Country Music: Cliffie Stone (along with Gene Autry and others) was one of the ACM’s founding fathers, which was located in Hollywood, CA. He served on its Board of Directors as president, vice president and in later years, as its historian. Cliffie and Gene Autry were both recipients of the ACM’s Pioneer Award in 1972. When Cliffie passed away in January 1998, the ACM Board of Directors renamed it the “Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award” in 1998. Also, in Hollywood, Cliffie promoted and proudly served as a Trustee on the Board of Directors of the Musicians Union (Local 47) for decades.

Country Music Association: Cliffie was one of the original members of the CMA and has served as its vice president. In 1989, Cliffie was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1990, his friend, Tennessee Ernie Ford, was also inducted in the CMA Hall of Fame.

Cliffie, Joan Carol & Larry KingWhen Cliffie’s beloved wife, Dorothy, passed on, it was his passionate love for life that saw him through his grief journey. In 1989, he married his second wife, singer/songwriter, Joan Carol. During the last 10 years of his life, he continued to keep the music in his soul flowing. He wrote songs and produced 7 albums for new artists. He performed on his "Hometown Jamboree-Today" concerts. His longtime friend, Gene Autry, hired him to be director/consultant of his music publishing companies. He continued to appear on CBS and NBC television music award shows as well as top-rated cable shows on The Nashville Network such as “Nashville Now” with Ralph Emery.

Helping new artists was Cliffie’s lifelong passion! He authored two books with his wife, Joan Carol: "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Songwriting….” (1991); and a talent show book ~ "You Gotta Be Bad Before You Can Be Good" (2000). Note: the talent show book was published posthumously and its release party was held at the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000. In both books, Cliffie not only shares his knowledge gathered from decades of experience in the music business, he also shares countless autobiographical anecdotes, which, some reviewers have said, makes his books historical documents. Cliffie and Joan Carol were interviewed on the Larry King Show, various cable/TV shows on The Nashville Network and hundreds of radio stations worldwide.

Cliffie Stone began his incredible musical career at the age of 15 on the West Coast and he became one of country music’s most beloved and respected country music pioneers. He made his transition on January 16, 1998, and left an inspirational legacy for future generations of country artists and fans.


Prestigious awards given to Cliffie Stone by his peers include:

Joan Carol Promoting Cliffie's BookCliffie & His Songwriting BookStar on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1989)

Country Music Association’s Hall of Fame (1989)

*Academy of Country Music’s “Pioneer Award” (1972)
*ACM posthumously honors Cliffie Stone for his contributions
to country music by renaming their “Pioneer Award”:  

"Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award"
(2007)

Country Music Disc Jockey’s Hall of Fame (1979)

Walk of Western Stars, 1990


 

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