Hank The Cowhand, Slap That Doghouse Fiddle

Dusty Shaver, Hank the Cowhand, Bill Drew

Hank The Cowhand was born David E. Stanford October 9, 1911 at Mexia, Texas. He became an entertainer at a young age and was an outstanding bass player, using the unamplified stand-up "doghouse" bass fiddle. He was also a fine rhythm guitar player and became quite popular as a singer too. Hank worked with some of the best western entertainers over the years, people like Eddy Arnold, Ted Fiorita, and for several years with Zeke Williams and Joan.

His career, like many others, was interrupted by World War II. He served as a cook in the navy on one of the big battleships in the Pacific fleet. After the war Hand and Zeke Williams migrated from Texas to Fairmont, West Virginia, where they started one of the really good country and western radio shows of that era, the Sagebrush Roundup on WMMN Radio. Zeke eventually went back to Texas but Hank stayed on in Fairmont running the show. Over the years several name entertainers and recording artists emerged from the Sagebrush Roundup. Little John and Cherokee Sue, Dorsey Lewis, Grandpa Jones, Little Jimmy Dickens and others became well known and some of them made it to the Opry in Nashville.

In 1955 Hank teamed up with Dale Brooks and they worked together for an extended period. In 1956 Hank left the Sagebrush Roundup and became a country deejay on the old WKYR in Keyser, West Virginia. He was soon followed there by Dale Brooks, who also became a deejay. They teamed up with comedian Dusty Shaver and 17 year veteran of the WWVA Jamboree in Wheeling, Joe Barker. The group did theater shows, fairs, played drive in theaters, high schools, nightclubs, even race tracks all over a 4 state area.

Hank made a number of records for Cozy Records, some of which are still featured on collector albums such as White Label records out of Holland. People still tap their toes to favorites such as "Popcorn Boogie", "Fan It", "She's a Hum Dum Dinger" and many others. On the recording "Hum Dum Dinger", Hank both sang and played the bass fiddle. During this song Hank took a break playing solo on the bass fiddle (listen now). It is an excellent example of what a master of the instrument he was. He was one of only a few who could "tripple-slap" the bass, even on the fastest songs. It clearly shows why his talents were sought by artists like Eddy Arnold, Ted Fiorita, Zeke Williams and others he played with.

He was a featured artist on the "Camel Caravan" that toured the United States in the late 1940's, sponsored by Camel cigarette company. Hank was a deejay in many states , but finally settled down in Oakland, Md. He still entertained, and one night after doing a show at county fair in Petersburg, W.Va., the band stopped to eat. Hank said, you guys order. I'll wait in car. One went out after a few minutes to check on him. He had worked his last show. Hank died October 3, 1966, just minutes after walking off stage.

Hank was so well loved, crowds a block long waited to pay their last respects, day and night. There was no facility around big enough to handle the crowd that wanted to attend his funeral. His employer WMSG Radio broadcast his funeral service for his fans, and only close friends and associates were admitted... it was still a BIG funeral.

Sagebrush Roundup on WMMN Radio, Fairmont, W.Va.

By Dale Brooks, for BlackCat Rockabilly Europe, May 2001