"Hank the Cowhand"

Hank the Cowhand was born David E. Stanford in Mexia, Texas October 9, 1911. He became an entertainer at a young age, working up the ladder with various bands, eventually working with such greats as Eddy Arnold, Ted Fiorita and other known bands of that era. Hank was an outstanding bass man, playing the unamplified stand up 'doghouse' bass fiddle. He also became popular as a singer with Zeke Williams and Joan.

Photo: Oscar Quiddlemurp and Hank.

Like so many other men Hank was drafted when World War II broke out, and served several years in the navy as a cook on the big ships of the Pacific fleet.

After the war, Hank and Zeke got together again, and the two of them migrated to Fairmont, West Virginia where they started the long popular 'Sagebrush Roundup' radio show on WMMN in Fairmont. This station covered the major portion of four states; West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia plus eastern Ohio.

Eventually some of those who starred on Sagebrush Roundup went on to become recording stars, some even would up on the Opry: Grandpa Jones, Little Jimmy Dickens and others.

Blaine Stewart, Hank, Jake Taylor

Zeke Williams left Fairmont and returned to Texas, but Hank stayed on and ran the Sagebrush roundup for years. In 1955 Hank disbanded the show and moved to WKYR in Keyser, West Virginia as a deejay and entertainer. In 1956 he talked his former bandmember Dale Brooks into joining him there, and got Dale his first job as a deejay. He also got Dusty Shaver from the Sagebrush roundup to move to Keyser, and Joe Barker, a 17 year veteran of the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree to come too. The four worked together and became quite popular this four state area too.

Dusty Shaver, Hank, Bill Drew

During those years Hank made a lot of records on the Cozy label, among them rockabilly hits like Popcorn Boogie, Fan It, She's A Hum-Dum Dinger, and many others. Hank had a special talent on the bass fiddle that was developed in Texas in the Bob Wills band and seldom copied simply because so few bass players could do it. It is called the 'triple slap' on a bass. Most good bassmen can 'double slap' a bass, but hardly anyone could do the triple slap. Hank was one of them, the bass player in the Sons of the Pioneers was another. In those days country bands did not use a drummer so the triple and double slapping of the bass was an important part of having a really good rhythm sound. On Hank's 'Hum Dm Di' record, he takes a break on bass fiddle doing his triple slap.

Hank had a varied career in music. He was bass man in the staff band on the Camel Caravan, a country music road show, sponsored by the cigarette people, that toured the country in the late 40's and 50's. He was a deejay on stations in several states, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Maryland, West Virginia and others.

Dusty Shaver, Karen Shaver, Bill Eisman, Oscar

He eventually settled down for good at MSG in Oakland, Md., working for his old friend and previous employer from his days AT WK YR in Keyser, Tom Bu.

Hank, his wife Ruth and son Jimmy lived in Oakland as Hank became the most popular radio personality ever in that entire area. The population there was heavily Amish people. Though their lifestyle was not supposed to include modern things like listening to a radio, he was immencely popular with them too.

Hank was an exceptionally good showman who could, in the language of entertainers, "hold a crowd in his hand". When he walked on stage, the crowd knew here was somebody special. He drew a crowd everywhere he performed, and they never seemed to tire of going to his shows. The same was true of his radio audience..there was a tremendous loyalty to Hank that never waned.

In the fall of 1986 Hank was the featured act at the Grant County Fair in Petersburg, West Virginia. The show was a 'bang-up success'. When it was over and the autographs signed and the music equipment packed for the trip back to Oakland, the band stopped to eat before leaving town.

They went into a restaurant and sat down to order. The rest of the boys gave the waitress their orders, but when she asked Hank for his order, he told the band, "You fellows take your time and enjoy your dinner. I'm not feeling much like eating...I'll wait in the car for you. Take your time...I'll be ok."

A few minutes later when the food was being served, one of the guys in the band said, "I'm gonna check on Hank before I eat..be right back."He left the restaurant and walked to their parked car.

Hank, Bill Huffman, Dale Brooks, Howard 'Zip' Binnix

Hank had worked his last show. He died just minutes after walking off the stage!

When news of his death aired next morning on WMSG radio, it seemed the whole area went into mourning. When he was laid out at the funeral home, lines blocks long formed to pay their last respects and lasted all day and into the late evening hours daily.

It became apparent the funeral home could not accommodate the crowd wanting to attend his funeral. People from all walks of life came, including hundreds of the Amish in their black and grey clothing.

It was obvious even the largest building in town, the national guard armory, would not accommodate such a host of mourners.

Tom Butscher decided to do do something then almost unheard of. On behalf of the family, Tom announced on the radio the funeral services would have to be restricted to invitation only, and WMSG would broadcast the funeral on the radio so his fans could feel a part of it.

People were asked to not send flowers but rather make a donation to a memorial fund for Hank's family. Even so, Hank's many friends from out of town and out of state, including many nationally known country music stars, sent flowers. A large number of friends from the entertainment world attended the funeral, and even with restricted seating, it was still the largest funeral ever held in Oakland.

Brownie and Babe Swiger - Oscar riding Weary Wally, Delmar Johnson, Hank

Hank the Cowhand's singing is still heard round the world. His original records on Cozy bring a premium price on the collectors market, and some of his songs have been re-released on new records by Bishop and White Label records here in the 21st century. He may be gone, but he is not forgotten.

--Dale Brooks

Rockabilly Hall of Fame