From the mailbag:
“Hi Sista,My parents were here to visit today. My dad is a big country music fan and a bit of a record collector/dealer, so of course when I asked him, he said he’d heard of your dad. But he wanted me to ask you if you have an aunt named Maggie (I think that’s the name he said) who was once married to Willie Nelson.Hope you’re having a great weekend!”
The Old Man had some interesting marriages/family ties that pre-dated me but are quite fascinating to me. He had such an interesting life with some wacky adventures. If I had a nickel for everytime I’ve been asked by music people if my mother was Shirley, I’d be a rich woman. I’m going to put all those burning questions to rest here and now and everybody’ll sleep well tonight.
By the time my sister and I came along, Dad had found Jesus and settled down to a fairly normal, suburban life. While I’m pleased with the spiritual inheritance Dad left me, he also, in his quest to be a Godly man, left me with some unanswered questions. These aren’t questions of any important nature that I must know in order to find peace. No…I’m just nosy and curious as a cat.
So, Dad was a handsome, young feller whose career in the Disc Jockey/Country Music world rose in the late 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. He was present for some rather monumental moments in Country Music history and enjoyed a very succesful radio career. He had him a couple wives before he ran into my mother on a street corner in Long Beach, CA. ( My mother loves to tell how she met her husband on a street corner…that hussy.) My mother had some issues, when we were growing up, and did not want us to know they were married before they met each other. Why? What’s the big secret here? Did she think it would devastate us? Hell, no! I love it. It is making for some good blogaterial and that’s whats important now, right?!?!?!
Anyway, his first wife was a singer named Margie Tillman. Margie went by the name “Little Marge” and was married to future Country Music Hall of Famer Floyd Tillman, with whom she had two sons. So, my dad was a hot young number in his early 20’s when he met the slightly older Marge. She was still married to Floyd and from what I’ve gathered these two played out Floyd’s classic “Slippin’ Around”. Marge divorced Floyd and married my dad. I’ve heard it said that Ernest Tubb wouldn’t speak to my dad for quite a number of years because of this. I don’t know what year they married or how long they were married. I have some recordings Dad and Marge recorded on Columbia records.
When I try to ask my dad’s living siblings about it, they seemingly have forgotten details about this Marge character. My cousin Sharon said she remembered she had big boobs and tiny feet. I can gather Marge was quite a pistol because Dad, in order to have some “alone” time, checked into the hospital and had a tonsillectomy. They divorced at some point in the 1950’s and oddly enough, Marge and her first husband Floyd Tillman remarried in the very latter years of her life. How interesting and quite sweet.
It’s Wife #2 that people ask if she was my mother. NO. Shirley Collie Nelson was not my mother. Dad hooked up with Shirley through their working on the Phillip Morris Country Music Show. Again, I don’t know exactly when they married.
Shirley was a singer from Missouri who also went by the name of Shirley Caddell. She was a cute little woman. She was paired with an unknown singer/songwriter on Liberty Records named Willie Nelson in the early 60’s. Shirley was one heckuva harmony singer. Maybe that’s why she and Willie Nelson could sing so well together. Willie isn’t easy to sing with because of his phrasing. Shirley didn’t have no problem with that though. Shirley and Willie were slipping around and one day, she told Dad she was going shopping and as he liked to tell later “30 years later and she still hasn’t come back yet.” Shirley became the second Mrs. Willie Nelson and Dad’s name appears in just about every book ever written about Willie when talking about his pre-fame days. I have some home movies of the Shirley Years and there is one clip where you see young, no bearded Willie coming out of a motel room. Heh. Sneaky Willie.
Everybody moved on with their lives and Dad and Willie remained friends. Willie did him a big favor and if I ever have the chance to meet him myself, I will personally thank him for if that little love affair didn’t commence, there might not be a Sista Smiff here to entertain you today.
Bet you money the reason George Jones wanted to talk to me was cause he wanted to ask “Is your mother Shirley??”