A Special Message From Jack and Dodie Dennis of CleverJourneys

Big Tech has launched a major assault on Americans’ right to free speech. In their most audacious attack, some of the most powerful big businesses in America joined together to force Parler off the Internet.

Parler, a social media site that rejects Twitter’s censorship policies, had millions of users until Google, Apple, and Amazon deplatformed the entire website, removing it from their app stores and web hosting service.

Americans must fight back against this blatant censorship. While Parler’s working through the courts to get back online, Big Tech continues to silence conservatives and trample our right to free expression.

Fortunately, independent bloggers such as CleverJourneys have found phenomenal growth in reporting what Big Tech try to censor and the “Mockingbird” Media dare not report.

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We are migrating to Parler (@Jackdennistexas), Gab (Jackdennistexas), and more.

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Some of our most popular articles are JackNotes, executive summaries of books, articles, speeches and other useful information that may save you the expense and trouble of reading the entire publication….or it may spur you on to seek more information from the original source.

We are now rolling out another new feature, Accounts of the Old West as a tribute to Jack’s great, great uncle Charlie Bassett, the first marshall of Dodge City, Kansas…and James Allison Morgan–a cattle driver and cowboy, Jack’s great grandfather. (You thought TV’s ‘Marshal Matt Dillion’ was the first didn’t you?)

We also feature “Top 10 Buzz Trends of the Week” highlighting some of the best posts, memes, and photos on the web the prior week.

Another feature is T.R.A.S.H. (Trivial Relevations of A Sick Human-being), an updated version of Jack’s national and Texas award winning column from back in his Texas State University days.

Remember, we don’t just write news. You will enjoy travel, recipes, lifestyle, humor, motivation, wellness and health, how-to, history, reviews, military, crime, police, heroes entertainment, interviews, fun and so much more.

Dodie has over 38 years in the medical, health and wellness field being a registered nurse. She has trained hundreds in nutrition, prenatal and post natal care, pregnancy, parenting, nursing, and general health. Much of her time was also devoted to immunology and vaccines.

Jack is an award winning journalist, investigative reporter, and author. He was an executive for H-E-B FOOD-DRUGS for almost 30 years, a founder and first elected president of Professional Retail Store Management Association (now CONNEX), life coach and private investigator.

Thank you for your readership and kindly sharing our articles.

God Bless America.

.

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Click Here For Top 10 Most Popular Articles to date.

Tang, Watermelon and the Deadly Mosquitoes at My Space Party


On my fifth birthday with my parents, grandparents on my mother’s side, and my almost one-year-old little sister, Bobbi, we had an exciting outer space theme event planned.

To coincide with the scheduled first man in space liftoff of NASA astronaut Alan Shepard, my birthday cake had a rocket decorated on top. It was December 5th, 1960 and my new moon and stars flannel pajamas were in style and ready for the upcoming winter.

Alan Shepard’s capsule 1961 (NASA)

But something didn’t work out right. Shepard’s blast off was postponed. This was the second time and it would be delayed three more times. The continuous hold ups caused Shepard to be the first American, but second man, in space. On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space, and the first to orbit the Earth.

Gene Kranz ‘Reach For The Stars’

In March 2006, I took my son Jack to a CollectSpace astronaut and space pioneers event at the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio. We met Buzz Aldrin, Wally Schirra, Scott Carpenter, Jim Lovell, Bruce McCandless, and others.

Jack Dennis with Buzz Aldrin.

When I asked famed NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz about Shepard’s attitude about being second in space, he giggled.

“When he heard the Russians beat us to the punch, Alan slammed his fist on the table so hard, we thought he had broken his hand.”

One of my favorite NASA history stories is about the first time Kranz arrived at Patrick Air Force Base.

“I wasn’t quite certain how I’d get to Cape Canaveral,” he told us. “Well, there was this fellow who was on the aircraft with me who said his car was parked there and I could ride with him.”

“It was a Corvette and I was impressed. I got in and this guy accelerates like he is in a rocket, whips us into a 180-degree turn, slammed that accelerator down to the floor, races up the taxiway, and skids out onto the street in a four-wheel slide.”

“We shoot through the security gate, and the MPs just salute,” Kranz remembers. “Roaring down the highway at least 90, the man finally looks at me, sticks out his hand, and says, ‘Hi, I’m Gordo Cooper.’ That’s how I met my first astronaut.” 

When son Jack tried to pay for Kranz’s autograph with one dollar bills and lots of change, he asked him to “wait a second. What’s all this? Where did you get all this money?”

“I worked and mowed and saved it,”  Jack, 11, replied respectfully.

“No Sir, you put that money back in your pocket,” Kranz motioned at his wife and Carpenter to look. “I’m going to give you this autograph. It’s on me.”

He signed his picture, “To Jack, Always reach for the stars.”

Alan Shepard’s Rocket

Forty-five years earlier Momma promised me after Shepard’s postponement that we would have another space party when the American rocket actually launched. I remember that celebration because it entailed watermelon and eating outside.

On May 5, 1961, Shepard piloted the Mercury-Redstone Spacecraft that he deemed Freedom 7.

Alan Shepard

That evening my grandparents brought a watermelon to eat with our “Space Party” meal. It included this orange flavored powder called Tang. Mom mixed it with water, stirred, and Voilà! I was drinking astronaut juice.

Afterwards we all went outside and sat on lawn chairs, with Bobbi and I laying and sitting on a quilt in the front yard grass.

Mosquitoes Attack

“Keep looking up, Jackie,” Dad pointed to the stars. “You might see a spaceship.”

We didn’t stay out long, because mosquitoes started biting some of us. I don’t remember if Bobbi or I were bitten, but they grabbed her up fast and we all went back inside.

On the table was a red giftwrapped box with a blue bow on it. It was a Space Lunch Box. The thermos was a rocket.

Lunch box?

“What’s a lunch box?” I asked.

1961 lunchbox.

Paw-Paw (my grandfather) showed me how to open it, use it, and close it all back up.

“It’s for when you take your lunch to school,” he said.

“What’s a school?” I asked.

Little did I know how my five-year old life was about to change.

Without even the slightest idea of what a “school” was, I’d be attending “first grade” in one at age five in about three months.

But more dreadful than that, my mother had been bitten by one of those mosquitoes that night.  The ramifications were dire.

(To be continued. Click below for email notification when we post new articles).

Part 2 A Mosquito Put Our Mother To Sleep

Part 3 The Day Superman Rescued My Momma

Part 4

Presley’s Cousin Harold Loyd Reveals Secrets of Young Elvis

In 1976, I spent a week in Memphis meeting and interviewing as many Elvis Presley fans, employees and family members as I could.

Lucky for me, I was able to actually have a brief interview with Elvis, which was not an easy task for a 20-year-old journalist from San Antonio.

One of the most memorable parts of my trip was spending some nights hanging out with Graceland gate guard Harold Loyd–Elvis’ first cousin. Their mothers were sisters.

Elvis 1957 at Graceland gates.

NOTE: This is from my original articles for newspapers and magazines published in 1994 (before Internet took off) around the globe and from posts and blogs in October 2015, now updated.

Now resting in peace, longer than he lived, the life of Elvis Presley is more than a nostalgic memory in the minds of his family, friends and dedicated fans. To some of the most devoted, it continues to be a fascination, pastime, or even a way of life.

For years after Presley’s death, surviving relatives would speak of him as if he were sometimes still alive. Revealed today for the first time, are little known secrets disclosed by a close relative of Presley who happened to work at the legend’s home for almost four decades.

“Elvis is good to his family and he is good to his fans,” Harold Loyd said it in a way that Elvis was alive in 1992, some fifteen years after his first cousin died on August 16, 1977. ‘He would love knowing that fans still come to Graceland. He loves his fans.”

In May 1976, I first met Loyd at the famous musical gates at the entrance of Presley’s home, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee. Besides being a loyal cousin to the King of Rock and Roll, Loyd was obviously a dedicated ambassador to the fans who came daily to visit the mansion.

Loyd was generous with information and praise for Presley as he agreed to sit down at the Graceland gate guard shack for conversation and interviews each evening for a few days.

“Elvis first gave me a job here in 1961,” Loyd explained. “I worked as a groundskeeper, digging and planting flowers and shrubs, but soon I worked my way up to security and gatekeeper. I’ve been doing this ever since and I love it.”

“Elvis has always been very good to me,” Loyd continued. “Anytime I ever got into any kind of trouble or type of jam, he would always help me. He’d give me money-handfuls of money or write me a check—or he would send someone to pick me up if my truck wouldn’t start. Simple things. People think they might know Elvis as the singer and movie star, but I am here to tell you he is more generous and full of love than any man I have ever met.”

Loyd explained that his mother, Rhetha, and Elvis’ mother, Gladys were sisters from a family of eight siblings. During the interview, Loyd remained protective of Presley and would skirt around his answers to any questions that might place his cousin in a bad light. In 1992, he clarified what he would not dare reveal during the 1976 conversations.

“Our grandparents, the father and mother of our mothers, were Bob and Doll Smith,” Loyd explained in 1992. “We were about as poor as you’ve ever seen and Grandma was sick with TB (tuberculosis) most of the time. Grandpa Smith sold moonshine to make ends meet because there were no jobs and Grandma needed help to be cared for, especially with all those eight kids.”

“Grandpa died when I was three-years-old (in 1931),” Loyd said. “Everybody tells me Momma and Aunt Gladys were as close as any two sisters could ever be-very close. And even though they were young and moved out of the house just to survive, they stayed close to each other. Well, when Grandma died, the same year Elvis was born (1935), it was kind of a relief for the two sisters.”

“Not many people know this, but Aunt Gladys was a singer too,” Loyd smiled. “She was always doing odd jobs, being a maid and looking after children, so she could buy material to sew clothes for her brothers and sisters. She was always taking care of everybody. She sewed nightgowns for her mother who had to stay in bed all the time with TB.”

“But her favorite thing was just to sing and dance,” Loyd added. “Grandpa would let Aunt Gladys and my mother go to the dance hall there in Tupelo and everybody tells me she could do every dance there was at the time: the Charleston, Lindy Hop, Jitterbug. And her voice was just amazing. She would sing all the time. That is some of my best memories, listening to Aunt Gladys sing and sometime Elvis and I would sing with her. It’s no wonder he was the best ever singer.”

Elvis cousins Billy Smith and Harold Loyd leading the first Candlelight Ceremony at Graceland.

“You see, Elvis and I loved comic books, and we would trade or swap out our comics with each other all the time,” Loyd told. “When we were younger and I’d come over to play or they would come to visit us when my mother was still around, Elvis and I shared and played with each other’s toys.”

“Elvis told me later that when his other cousins came over they would not take care of them and tear them up and not help put them away,” Loyd continued. “But with me, I took care of his toys as he did with the few I had—and we always helped each other put them up.”

In 1976, the public did not know about Elvis’ father, Vernon Presley being imprisoned for a while for a forged check. The information did not come out until after Presley’s death, as the few family members that did know about it kept it very quiet to protect his image. In 1992, meeting him again, Loyd was able to set the record straight:

“What I couldn’t tell you was that Vernon was in jail,” Loyd revealed. “He was sent to the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, but that was after he already spent six months in the Tupelo (their hometown, where Presley was born) jail waiting for a trial.”

“Travis Smith, the brother of mine and Elvis’ mother, along with Vernon and a man named Lether Gable got involved in selling a hog to someone but was only paid $4-not at all what the hog was worth in them days—so Vernon got mad and put a ‘1’ in front of the ‘4’ or a ‘0’ behind the ‘4’ to make it either $14 or $40,”

“Uncle Travis told me Uncle Vernon just downright forged a check, so I heard the story both ways,” laughed Loyd. “Anyways, Vernon spent some good time in prison and Elvis was just a little one, about three to five years old.”

“Gladys lost the house and her and Elvis moved in next door to live with Vernon’s brother,” Loyd added. “We all lived near each other and they began to just hop around from family to family until Vernon could get out.”

“It was real tough on Aunt Gladys,” he continued. “You know, we were all just Mississippi dirt poor. Many times Elvis played with Black children. They were his friends. And sometimes he was babysat by their mamas or other Black ladies. It was natural and necessary. Where we lived, we were just neighbors. He didn’t learn prejudice. They were his playmates. A few times we’d go listen to the chorus rehearsing at the Church.”

“Elvis always remained friends and respected everyone,” he emphasized. “The music, the Delta music was full of gospel and blues. These were the main influences.”

“Elvis told me years later that I would never have to worry about money or a job,” Loyd continued. “He said he will always remember how kind we were to them and that he could always depend on us. Just thinking about how much Elvis cared for me and our family and how he took care of us—and he didn’t owe any of us a thing—well, I love him and I miss him every day?”

“When Elvis was in about the first or second grade–it was during World War II– Gladys was pregnant again,” Lloyd said. “Vernon had to go away for work with the WPA and one day Gladys had to go to the hospital. She miscarried that baby. That was two she lost because she lost Jesse Garon (Elvis’ twin brother, who died during birth on January 8, 1935). We were all real worried about her because she almost died when Elvis was born and they had to take them to the hospital then, too.”

“We always said that was why she was so protective of Elvis. When those two were together they were so close, they would pet each other and talk a different language that hardly any of us could understand. They were just remarkable in how much they loved and cared for each other. It was about the saddest day when Aunt Gladys died. I rushed as fast as I could to Memphis (from Mississippi) to get to Elvis that day.”

Vernon and Elvis on Graceland front steps after death of Gladys. 1958.

The Tornado That Killed My Friend

Seven foot, three inch Mike McCormick walked up to the Alamo with a smile in his eyes I had never seen before.

He shook his head in disbelief–in wonderment that he was really there. His ballcap came off and he placed his hand on the front wall between the historic door and right window.

“I just want to feel it,” he grinned, before we stepped inside to the hallowed chapel building.

The Alamo

He told me in Waco, the year before, he was going to see it someday.  I wanted to make sure anybody who had as much reverence for the Alamo and as much respect for John Wayne as he did, would visit.

Just moments before we walked over from Rivercenter Mall after viewing the 45 minute Imax presentation of “Alamo–The Price of Freedom.” Mike was psyched.

Our tour of the mission grounds was over an hour. Mike didn’t usually talk much, but while we ate Mexican food on the San Antonio River Walk later, he went on non-stop about the visit.

The Productive Giant

I hired Mike in 1984 when he was 19 at Bellmead, Texas, a town and outskirt of Waco. H-E-B Food/Drugs was building a larger replacement store for the older one nearby and I was their Construction Superintendent.

My first thought when he walked up to the site was “Oh man, if this kid is any good, I’m going to save money and hassle from not having to use ladders.”

The productive and quiet giant was not hard to miss among the 60+ carpenters, laborers, electricians, steelworkers,  masons,  and others.
He stayed busy and helpful.

Mike McCormick (straw hat) and me (blue shirt) in Flour Bluff, Tx. 1984.

At the end of his work day, I locked up my blueprints and phone (no cells in those days) in our tool shed and walked to my truck.

Sitting on the tailgate of his own pickup was Mike, eating a sandwich out of a black lunchbox, the size of a Panasonic boombox.

“What you still hanging around here for?” I asked.

“I live in Corsicana, it’s about an hour and I can’t afford the gas to go back and forth. I’m gonna stay here tonight,” he answered, pointing his thumb over his shoulder to the bed of his truck.

It was then I noticed he had a sleeping bag.

“Look, I have an extra bed in my hotel room,” I explained. “It’s not unusual to let someone else use it as I stay in hotels all over Texas.”

The Cement Pond

Appreciatively, Mike followed me to the motel on Valley Mills Drive. I told him I was going to take a quick shower and then go out to eat. He was welcome to go dine with me if he wanted.

When I came out of the bathroom after the shower, Mike wasn’t in the room or at his truck.

A family next to the swimming pool looked puzzled and disgusted about something. Trying to figure out what was wrong I looked out over a sight now permanently etched in my memory bank.

Straight out of a scene from the 1960s television classic series, “The Beverly Hillbillies,” was the real live Mike McCormick portraying the part of the fictional character Jethro Bodine, made famous by Max Baer, Jr.

The Cement Pond

Mike, clad in shorts, was soaped up and shampooing his hair in that Best Western’s cement pond.

Mike was often teamed up with Gary Athur, a journeyman ironworker AND carpenter from San Antonio who came up for the Waco project. Together they were the ‘A-Team,” a versatile and reliable duo.

Mike told us about a steakhouse down the highway called The Longhorn Tavern.  It was perfect for our daily lunches: a bit dark ambience, with a jukebox of George Strait singing:

Pardon me, you left your tears on the jukebox 
And I’m afraid they got mixed up with mine 
I don’t mean to pry, it’s just that I 
Noticed you goin’ out of your mind

The steaks, burgers, chicken fried steaks and iced tea were awesome.

After a particularly productive workweek, we locked the jobsite up an hour early so the crew could beat a heavy thunderstorm rolling in. Mike left towards Corsicana. Gary and I took off down IH-35 South to San Antonio.

Tornado Jitters

The torrential rain was bad enough but it was the wind and lightning that concerned us. Gary kept his fingers on the radio dial in search of weather alerts while continuously peering out all windows. I kept my eyes on the road and hands firmly on the wheel of the F-250 sky blue Ford.

It was on this trip I learned how nervous Gary was about tornadoes. As he expressed his concerns my grip became tighter. At one point, near Round Rock, we pulled over and tried to wait it out at a Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I never really thought that much about tornadoes the way he did. In 1973 on a Corpus Christi H-E-B site on Weber Street, the crew ran into freezers and coolers while a tornado came over us. It was as loud as the cliche everyone says: “It sounds like a freight train.”

In junior high, my family lived in a trailer while our house was under construction. Under tornado warnings, we grabbed some items and sped over to my Aunt Lydia’s home a couple miles away. It was there I saw my first tornado dropping out of the dark clouds. Fortunately, that one never touched down.

As Gary and I were eating our fried chicken, I remember thinking about the tornado Dorothy encountered in The Wizard of Oz.

After the Waco project finished, I was sent to build a strip center near H-E-B in Flour Bluff, located between Corpus Christi and North Padre Island. There were no doubts Mike would go with us.

Tom Kelly, Mike McCormick, Jack Dennis, Sterling Tools, Gary Arthur & Jim Koenig were “The Love Crew,” 1984.

He joined what we called, “The Love Crew,” consisting of Gary Arthur, Jim Koenig, Sterling Tools, Richard Martin and Tom Kelly (all, except Richard, had worked with me in Waco. I originally hired Richard and another future H-E-B facilities manager, Ronnie Kaderka, as carpenters for the construction of Flour Bluff H-E-B in 1981). Our mission was to “build the best” and “spread the love all over Texas.”

There was another H-E-B Construction job going on South Staples Street in Corpus and about once a week each site’s crew would compete against the other in friendly games of baseball and basketball.

With tall Mike and Tom Kelly (a basketball wizard from Waco) we easily won basketball. But we also beat them at baseball.

Grasshopper

During this time I took Mike and Mark McGaugh (a friend of his from Corsicana who worked with us for a while) to do some small job at a H-E-B there.

At lunchtime we went to a Bonanza Steak House and, following them in, I picked up a large green grasshopper.

Mike took his time at the salad bar providing me an opportunity to place the grasshopper in his iced tea glass. Mark couldn’t believe it, but kept his cool when Mike returned to our booth and sat beside him.

When he took a drink, he didn’t notice. Mark turned red and started laughing which caused me to do the same.

“What’s the matter?” Mike asked. “Did one of you pass gas or something?”

“No. I just mentioned you were building a masterpiece at the salad bar and you come back with the tallest and most perfect salad I’ve ever seen,” I laughed, trying to save our joke.

He’d take another sip and that grasshopper would kick and splash. Mark and I burst out laughing with Mike joining us, thinking we were laughing at his Taj Mahal of a salad.

Mike drank the entire glass with that poor grasshopper flailing around among the ice cubes and tea. We could barely eat, unsuccessfully trying not to explode into hysterics.

It wasn’t until he went up to get a refill that he finally noticed that grasshopper. We could see him shaking his head,”Mmmm Mmmm. What the hell?”

Mel Tillis

In 1985 my next project was to build a store in the Texas-Mexico border town of Del Rio. The Love Crew, (minus Jim and Richard) came with me.

One day during the project, a couple of unfamiliar men came up and asked about Mike. I remained minimal in my replies, because I didn’t know if he was in some kind of trouble (or even why two strangers would ask about him).

“We just drove by and saw him on that jackhammer,” one said. “We think he’d be good in a movie.”

They explained they were from a motion picture film company in the area preparing for a shoot in Brackettville, Texas. It would feature some famous country singing stars.

It turned out country singer Mel Tillis had developed a knack for writing. But he didn’t know it until he tried to break into the music business.

I had first seen Tillis appearing with Roy Clark at the Frontier Hotel in June 1979. As a university journalism student who had already scored interviews with Elvis Presley, Clint Eastwood, James Earl Jones and Rosalind Russell, I thought I’d try with Tillis and Clark.

(I also tried meeting Tammy Wynette during that same trip to Vegas. I didn’t get an interview but was thrilled to get a kiss on the cheek as she sang her hit, “Stand by Your Man.”)

I did get to speak with Tillis briefly  prior to his and Clark’s show. He was especially excited that his daughter, Pam would be introduced and sing for her first ever professional performance that night.

During our talk he called me Jack Denny. Stupid me, I corrected him: “My last name’s Dennis!”

He laughed and told me about a man named Jim Denny.

”When I went out to Nashville the first time, I wasn’t a songwriter at all,” Tellis said. “Jim Denny had started Cedarwood Publishing company and said he wasn’t  looking for stuttering singers. He was looking for copyrights. I didn`t even know I was a songwriter– but I had to do something.”

Uphill All the Way

“Well, when I went back home to Florida, I gave it a try. I wrote three songs, and they all turned out to be No. 1 country hits.”

Eventually Tillis would not only write songs, he’d go on to write books and movie scripts.”

Six years later Tillis and Clark paired up again to make a comedy western movie, “Uphill All the Way.” They had already filmed some up in Rusk, home of the Texas State Railroad. The actors and crew would be coming to stay at condos converted from the original living quarters of Fort Clark Springs, about 30 miles from Del Rio.

Because of his height, they were inquiring about Mike being cast in the movie.

Excited for Mike, I told them they were welcome to go talk to him. From a distance, it was fun observing his body language. Mike was startled and relunctant.

We talked about it during lunch. The actors and crew would be filming at Alamo Village, a movie set originally built by James “Happy” Shahan for John Wayne’s 1960 The Alamo

Other movies filmed there included “Two Rode Together” (1961) with James Stewart, and “Bandolero!” (1968) with Stewart, Dean Martin and Raquel Welch. 

Saying No to Hollywood

“Gosh Mike, your job will be waiting for you,” I said. “You should at least go meet with them, and give it a shot.”

The next morning or so he went to Alamo Village. He came back that afternoon shaking his head.

“I told them no,” he said. “Not going to do it. They want me to wear a derby hat, suspenders and frilly white shirt. No way. Because my shoe size is 18, they won’t let me wear my work boots and that’s all I have here.”

“They said something about going up around Lajitas near Big Bend (National Park) and riding in a pink car so my feet don’t show. I’m sure as hell not going to be in a movie dressed like that in a pink car.”

The good natured young man from Corsicana, Texas had said his peace. It was final!

Alamo reconstructed at Alamo Village. 1985

Mike enjoyed being on the western movie lot, seeing their reconstructed Alamo, and walking on the same places John Wayne did. But it was all way out of his comfort zone.

A year or so later, shortly after the Challenger space shuttle explosion, Mike came to my office (I had been promoted and was out of the field) upset about the tragedy.

That weekend we watched the movie at a local theater and were surprised to see Glen Campbell, Burt Reynolds, Burl Ives, Sheb Wooley and TV’s Riddler, Frank Gorshin, from the 1960s Batman show, in it. Mike laughed throughout the film. In all the years I knew him, it was the only time I heard of him going to a movie theater.

Alamo Village

Afterwards, he said he felt he would have enjoyed being in it, and revealed more about his visit to Alamo Village.

“They took me over to that old fort across the highway where everyone was staying,” he explained. “I saw where Mel Tillis was staying upstairs in one of those condos and Roy Clark was downstairs. This one guy, who seemed a little too girly, wanted to know if I wanted to go in one with him. I’m not exactly sure what he was asking for but I think he was trying to hit up or make some kind of move on me.”

Fort Clark Springs where Tellis and Clark stayed.

“That’s when I told them to take me back to that Alamo (Village) place and get the hell out of Dodge,” he confessed and laughed. “And it did look a lot like Dodge City.”

“I’m just glad you didn’t go jump in their pool to shampoo your body in front of all those movie stars,” I teased.

Years later, I became Director of Facilities Management at H-E-B, and Mike worked in our Maintenance Department serving the Waco region. By this time he had married his sweetheart Jana, and started raising a family.
 
When H-E-B planned to install tortillerias in our stores, I took Mike, Richard Martin and Alex Portales to the Tortilleria manufacturer in Wittier, California near Los Angeles for certification and maintenance training.

When we arrived at John Wayne Airport on a Sunday evening, Mike was mesmerized with the 9 foot statue of “The Duke” in the terminal.

John Wayne Airport.

In the evenings we went to Universal Studios and Dodger Stadium. It was fun taking these guys to places they’d never dreamed they’d ever be.

We excelled in the class and earned our certifications a day early, on a Thursday morning. Because our flight back to Texas didn’t leave until Friday evening, I suggested a quick side trip.

“Where?” Richard asked. “Disneyland?”

“No, I’m kind of burned out on amusement parks,” I replied. “I was thinking y’all might want to go out to Death Valley and maybe to the Roy Rogers museum.”

It was unanimous. They all said yes. But I waited until we were well on the way before I announced “the reason I thought you wouldn’t mind coming this way…”

I could see Mike looking at me with curiosity from the rear view mirror.

“…is because it’s on the way to Las Vegas.”

Meeting John Wayne

“Waaaahoooo!,” he yelled. “Are you kidding me? Really?”

“Only on one condition,” I warned seriously. “That Mike doesn’t go jump into any of those Vegas cement ponds and take a bath.”

After we arrived in Vegas and they played awhile, I took them to another surprise: tickets to a Las Vegas show.

Las Vegas Imperial Palace. Home of Legends in Concert in 1980s-90s.

I could immediately tell Mike was reluctant. More interested in cranking slot machine handles, he really had no need or desire to go sit in a theater and watch any kind of performance.

I slipped the Maitre d’ a $10 bill (it was in the mid-1990s, so a ten spot would do the job). He sat us down at the center table, up against the stage. Mike’s hesitancy to being there increased. He slumped down as if just wanting to get this over.

The theater was in the Imperial Palace and the show was Legends in Concert. Fairly new back then, it has grown and spread to various venues across the world.

Just as Mike could take no more, Richard and I could see someone approaching him from behind.

Wearing a weathered, leather cowboy hat and matching vest, a blue Western-style shirt and ruddy old blue jeans, John Wayne tapped Mike on the shoulder and pushed his hand towards him.

John Wain as John Wayne at the Imperial Palace.

(Legends is a tribute to world famous entertainers. John Wayne was protrayed by John Wain, whose given name was Lloyd LeBlanc. He legally changed it to Wain in 1978.)

“Hi Pilgrim,” the Duke shook Mike’s hand with the spotlight directly on him. “Stand up and stand straight and erect like you would if you were facing the American flag…”

Mike did as he was commanded and towered above the tall cowboy.

“.. Old Glory. Oh Glory me!”

The audience applauded. Mike McCormick and John Wayne were in the House!!!

“You are a tall one, aren’t Che?,” The Duke continued as the American Flag appeared on two large screens, on both sides of the stage.

“Remember when you see our flag, put your right hand over your heart, like this, and our great flag will salute back by proudly waving in the breeze.”

(Later I learned Wain served in the Marines in the early ’50s. After being honorably discharged he took a swing at a career in professional baseball — while in the Cleveland Indians’ minor-league chain, his roommate was Roger Maris, who broke Babe Ruth’s major-league’s home run record in 1961.)

The crowd roared. The flags waved. It was Mike’s finest hour.

Family Man

Through the years Mike continued to mature and led all facilities operations in our North Texas stores and properties. Jana and Mike had three boys, Michael, Jerry and Christopher. They bought some acreage outside of Silver City near Corsicana and moved a double-wide mobile home on the property to raise animals and grow a garden.

Flour Bluff, Texas construction site, 1984.

In early 1998 while in San Antonio for a meeting he told me he was going to go into business on his own. After we talked for awhile, I knew he had thought it out. It was best for his family and he would stay closer to Corsicana more often.

We hugged each other, shook hands and said our good byes. 

On Saturday morning, October 17, 1998, the McCormick family was sitting in their living room enjoying cartoons on television.

Mike was keeping an eye on a storm brewing and watched as it grew dark and ominous from the south.

He walked up to the back door and saw it coming through a row of trees on the back of his property. A whirling deep gray monster was coming straight at them.

‘I’ll See You in Heaven’

Mike ran to the bedroom and brought back a large mattress. The grinding noise of destruction screamed louder as he ordered everyone to the floor. Jana grabbed baby Christopher and Jerry.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he told his family as he sheltered them with the mattress. “But if we don’t make it, I’ll see you in Heaven.”

Deadly Tornado.

Two men in a pickup driving eastbound on State Highway 31 approaching the junction at Farm Road 55, saw the raging tornado from a distance.

At 10:30 a.m. the McCormick’s home exploded. Jana was lifted through the whirling black force of mangling metal, shredding lumber and thousands of particles of glass, splinters, dirt, and other materials.

Spinning in the exploding storm, she lost Jerry. Somehow through shocking horror, she was able to keep Christopher in her grasping arms.

The men in the pickup could tell by now the mobile home and everything in it was gone. Amazingly, a shed with a goat just 50 feet away were untouched.

Little Michael survived and frantically ran towards the highway. The pickup stopped and saw the bloody boy in terror.

They searched for more survivors as someone called for emergency responders. Kerry was found in mud trying to get out. Jana was injured, not quite sure if her children had survived. Mother and children were rushed to the Columbia Navarro Regional Hospital as searchers looked for Mike.

The F-2 tornado had cut through 12.8 miles of Navarro County. Radar data and the eyewitness accounts of heavy rainfall suggest the tornado was spawned by a high-precipitation supercell…a deadly supercell.

I drove to Austin with Steve Johnson, our One Hour Photo Maintenance Technician, and picked up Richard Martin and we arrived that evening not prepared for the horror.

We tried to get to Richard sooner, but San Antonio experienced over 15 inches of rain. At one point some sections of Interstate 35 near New Braunfels were covered with over 5 feet of water.

Total Devastation

Seeing it in person is far more devastating than what I had ever witnessed before.

“I’ll never forget just seeing that slab,” Steve recalls. Everything was splintered, totally.

At this point, for two decades I had participated in rescues, preparations and aftermaths of hurricanes, storms, fires and floods. By 1988, I led the corporate emergency command center operations for such catastrophes.

But never had I seen this much devastation in an area the size of the McCormick’s yard.

I was shown by a sheriff’s deputy the place they saw Mike’s size 18 boots sticking up out of the mud. He was carried over two football field lengths away and his back was broken on impact as his body became covered in the sludge.

A Bastard

“If it hadn’t been for the toes of his boots sticking up, we might still be out there looking for him,” the deputy said.

Storms in Texas that day killed four people. Forced evacuations were made across the state, especially South of Austin and in San Antonio.

The tornado was a bastard. It killed my friend. His funeral was postponed for six days while his wife tried to heal enough to be brought to the services in an ambulance.

Michael McCormick
25 Nov. 1965 Westminster CA
17 Oct. 1998 Silver City, Navarro Co. Texas

Mr. McCormick was killed when a tornado hit and flattened his mobile home near Silver City on Oct. 17, 1998.  Services were held Oct. 23, at Griffin-Roughton Chapel, Corsicana.  Burial followed at Hamilton-Beeman Cemetery, Retreat.

“Mike” is survived by his wife, Jana McCormick; sons, Michael,  Jerry and Christopher; parents, Michael and Val McCormick, Corsicana; brother and sister-in-law, Danny and Lisa Pownall of Corsicana; two nieces and two nephews.  Mike’s wife and three sons suffered severe injuries in the twister but are recuperating.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Elvis Presley’s Personal Tribute to Arthur Crudup

Forefather of Rock and Roll Became a Moonshine Bootlegger

“If I had any ambition, it was to be as good as Arthur Crudup,” Elvis Presley once said of the man who wrote “That’s All Right,” his first commercial record release.

In a 1972 conversation in what is now referred to as the “Jungle Room” of Presley’s Memphis home, Graceland, he decided to honor Crudup during his live performances.

“I want to begin each show with That’s All Right Mama,” he announced to friend Charlie Hodge. “If it weren’t for Big Boy, I might not be here today.”

“Big Boy” was Crudup. Elvis had grown up in Tupelo, Mississippi and spent his teenager years listening to many of the Delta Blues singers of his youth.

It was common for Elvis to bestow on friends and relatives special nicknames, perhaps as ordinary as it was for Blues artists to be labeled by their industry.

Elvis and B.B. King, 1956

Riley B. King became B.B. King by WDIA radio, short for “Blues Boy.” Other examples include:

McKinley Morganfield = Muddy Waters
Ellas Bates McDonald= Bo Diddley
Chester Arthur Burnett = Howlin’ Wolf
Eddie Jones = Guitar Slim
Lizzie Douglas = Memphis Minnie


Arthur Dwight Moore = Gatemouth
Samuel Maghett = Magic Sam
John Luther Jones = Casey Jones
Booker T. Washington White = Bukka White = Washington White


Bernard Williams = Bunny Williams
Robert Walker = Bilbo Walker
Thessex Jones = Johnny Drummer
David Edwards = Honeyboy Edwards
Robert Potts = Dr. Feelgood


Richard Harney = Hacksaw Harney
Calvin Jones = Fuzz Jones
Curtis Williams = Mississippi Bo
George Buford = Mojo Buford
Gus Cannon = Banjo Joe


Joe Lee Williams = Big Joe
John Wesley Macon = Mr. Shortstuff
Walter Horton = Shakey = Big Walter
Walter Lewis = Furry Lewis

“During Elvis’s teen years in Memphis he could hear blues on Beale Street, just a mile south of his family’s home,” states the Elvis Presley and the Blues marker at his birthplace in Tupelo.

Elvis recorded two more Crudup songs: “My Baby Left Me” and “So Glad You’re Mine.”

Replacing the introduction song “C.C.Rider,” with “That’s All Right” became as much of a fan pleasing  standard as ending each concert with “Can’t Help Falling in Love” until his final 1977 appearance.

Crudup, also known throughout his career as Elmer Crudup and Percy Lee Crudup, was 30 years old when Elvis was born in 1935. He died in 1974 at age 68, not long after Elvis honored him with his opening song.

Born into a family of traveling workers in Forrest, Mississippi, he returned to his birthplace at age 26 to sing Gospel music.

With lessons and mentoring by Papa Harvey, like many musicians from the Delta Blues region, he went to Chicago in 1940.

He’d been a singing member of the Harmonizing Four in Clarksdale, Mississippi and when they travel to Chicago in 1939, he became excited about the developing opportunities.

As a solo artist singing in the streets, record producer Lester Melrose discovered him just in time. Crudup had been living in a packing crate at the 39th Street L Train elevated track.

He was introduced to Tampa Red who advised him to “do what you can do. What you can’t do, forget about it?” 

According to Bill Dahl, a music biographer writing in the All Music Guide, Melrose hired Crudup to play a party one night at the house of Red, a celebrated bluesman from Georgia. The party was attended by other blues stars, including Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson and Lil Green.

“A decidedly tough crowd to impress,” Dahl writes, “but Crudup overcame his nervousness with flying colors.”

Red signed him to a contract with the RCA Victor Bluebird label.

“That’s All Right,” along with “Mean Old Frisco Blues” and “Who’s Been Fooling You” became more popular in the South than in Chicago.

Elvis likely first heard “That’s All Right” at age 11, at is peak, in Tupelo. The Presley’s lived adjacent to African-American neighborhoods and often heard the sounds of blues and gospel streaming out of clubs, churches and various venues.

“The lack of prejudice on the part of Elvis Presley,” said Sam Phillips, the Sun Records founder who first recorded Elvis and many Black blues artists before him, “had to be one of the biggest things that ever happened. It was almost subversive, sneaking around through the music, but we hit things a little bit, don’t you think?”

Crudup stopped recording in 1954 before Elvis’s first single appeared,  realizing “I was making everybody rich, and here I was poor.”

Some in the business (and music historians) called Crudup “The Father of Rock and Roll,” others said he was “The Forefather of Rock and Roll.”

Working as a laborer to get by, he returned to the studio and touring in 1965. After royalty disputes, he went back to Mississippi and became a bootlegger.

Later he moved to Virginia to be with family. He worked as a field laborer, sang some and supplied moonshine to juke joints.

There were battles for his royalties the remainder of his life. By 1971, he’d collected about $10,000 in overdue royalties.

His last professional engagements, at blues festivals and college campuses, were with singer Bonnie Raitt.

Besides Elvis, others who covered Crudup’s songs include Rod Stewart,
John Mellencamp, Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter, the Beatles. Slade, Led Zeppelin. Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton and Elton John.

“Down in Tupelo, Mississippi,” Elvis once told a white reporter for The Charlotte Observer in 1956, he used to listen to Crudup, who used to “bang his box the way I do now, and I said if I ever got to the place where I could feel all old Arthur felt, I’d be a music man like nobody ever saw.”

Whatever Happened to Ann Margret?

In November 2019  actress-singer Ann-Margret was presented with the first-ever Bob Hope Legacy Award for her many contributions to the USO and American servicemembers.

She deserved it.

In March 1966, Margret went to remote parts of  Vietnam with entertainers Chuck Day and Mickey Jones for her first USO tour. Not only in Vietnam, but they performed for servicemen throughout South-East Asia.

Today she continues her sincere affection for veterans and refers to them as “my gentlemen”. In November 2005 Ann-Margret, Day, and Jones reunited for an encore of this tour for veterans and troops at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Recently, Navy Veteran and high school friend Ray Hammonds posted a wonderful story from a wife of one of those soldiers in attendance during one of her USO tours:

Richard, (my husband), never really talked a lot about his time in Viet Nam, other than he had been shot by a sniper. However, he had a rather grainy, 8 x 10 black and white photo he had taken at a USO show of Ann Margret with Bob Hope in the background that was one of his treasures.


A few years ago, Ann Margret was doing a book signing at a local bookstore. Richard wanted to see if he could get her to Sign the treasured photo so he arrived at the bookstore at 12 o’clock for the 7:30 signing.

1966

When I got there after work, the line went all the way around the bookstore, circled the parking lot, and disappeared behind a parking garage. Before her appearance, bookstore employees announced that she would sign only her book and no memorabilia would be permitted.

Richard was disappointed, but wanted to show her the photo and let her know how much those
shows meant to lonely GI’s so far from home.. Ann Margret came out looking as
beautiful as ever and, as second in line, it was soon Richard’s turn.

He presented the book for her signature and then took out the photo. When he did, there were many shouts from the employees that she would not sign it. Richard said, “I understand. I just wanted her to see it.”

She took one look at the photo, tears welled up in her eyes and she said, “This is one of my gentlemen from Viet Nam and I most certainly will sign his photo. I know what these men did for their country and I always have time for ‘my gentlemen.” With that, she pulled Richard across the table and planted a big kiss on him. She then made quite a to-do about the bravery of the young men she met over the years, how much she admired them, and how much she appreciated them. There weren’t too many dry eyes among those close enough to hear. She then posed for pictures and acted as if he were the only one there.

That night was a turning point for him. He walked a little straighter and, for the first time in years, was proud to have been a Vet. I’ll never forget Ann Margaret for her graciousness and how much that small act of kindness meant to my husband.

Later at dinner, Richard was very quiet. When I asked if he’d like to talk about it, my big, strong husband broke down in tears.. ”That’s the first time anyone ever thanked
me for my time in the Army,” he said.

I now make it a point to say ‘Thank you’ to every person I come across who served in our Armed Forces. Freedom does not come cheap and I am grateful for all those who have served their country.

Ann Margret’s first major movie role
was 1963 as the all-American teenager Kim from Sweet Apple, Ohio, in Bye Bye Birdie. Producers wanted Elvis Presley in the title role but were turned down.

The next year Ann-Margret met Elvis Presley on the MGM soundstage when the two filmed Viva Las Vegas.  She recorded three duets with Presley for the movie: “The Lady Loves Me”, “You’re The Boss”, and “Today, Tomorrow, and Forever.”

Only “The Lady Loves Me” made it into the final film and none of them were commercially released until years after Presley’s death, due to concerns by his manager Colonel Tom Parker. He was cautious that Ann-Margret’s presence threatened to overshadow Elvis.

In July 1967, Ann-Margret gave her first live performance in Las Vegas.
Elvis and his ‘Memphis Mafia’ entourage came to see her during the show’s five-week run and to celebrate backstage. From thereon until his death In August 1977, Presley sent her a guitar-shaped floral arrangement for each of her Vegas openings.

Ann Margret, turned 79 on April 28, 2020. Many don’t realize she is a natural brunette. The same hairdresser, Sydney Guilaroff, who turned Lucille Ball’s hair red, did the same for Ann Margaret. 

Born in Sweden as Ann-Margret Olsson, she became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. in 1949, at age 8.


She was originally offered the title role in Cat Ballou in 1965 (it went to Jane Fonda), but her manager turned it down without telling her.

Ann-Margret was an early choice to play the role of Sandy Dumbrowski in the 1978 film Grease with John Travolta. At 37 years old, she was ultimately determined to be too old to convincingly play the role of a high school student. The role went to Olivia Newton-John with the character being renamed “Sandy Olsson,”  in honor of Ann-Margret’s birth surname.

Elvis fans remember her riding a motorcycle along side the King in Viva Las Vegas. She was an adept keen motorcyclist and in 1966 rode a 500 cc Triumph T100C Tiger in The Swinger.

Later drove the same model, fitted with a nonstandard electric starter, in her stage show and her TV specials.

She became featured in Triumph Motorcycles’ official advertisements in the 1960s.

In 2000, she suffered three broken ribs and a fractured shoulder when she was thrown off a motorcycle in rural Minnesota.

In 1995, she was #10 in Empire’s 100 Sexiest Stars in film history.

.

Whataburger With Ralph

Lesson One: The Invisible People


The man who reminded me of a cross between Walter Brennan and Popeye, in the blue colored plaid shirt, was a world class gravy sopper. It was the second thing I noticed about him, but I was paying attention this time.

WWII Navy Veteran Ralph Watkins at age 94.

Eleven minutes before, it was only eleven steps to the front door from where he parked. From the safety of my panoramic vantage point inside, I wondered if the unpretentious figure would wait it out a bit in his black truck. But the Ford Ranger door swung opened. He didn’t run into Whataburger. Instead, he held on to the brim of his cap and peered into the back bed.

“What’s he doing?,” I thought. “Just get in here. You’re getting soaked.”

His right leg raised up as he fumbled to reach over the sidewall.

I wasn’t sure what was so important that needed to be retrieved during this pouring storm, but I could at least go meet him with the door open.

When I reached the entrance he was still leaned over the side trying to fetch somethin, apparently out of his reach.

“Just leave it there,” I whispered. “It’s too late. Whatever it is, it’s already soaked.”

The determined man pulled on a tube and his walker lifted out.

Whirling wind, hard rain, and lightening clashes in dark clouds fought as he assembled it open along every humble first step of the way.

He paused in front of me just outside to shake the wet off his black cap.

“Thank you,” he caught his breath, proudly put his cap back on, smiled, and winked. “Thank you kindly.”

I went back to the security of my table, second from the door, with the window view of the furious downpour.

“Welcome to Whataburger, Ralph,” the girl behind the counter greeted.

Funny, but I was a regular most mornings and hadn’t notice him before. He’s obviously here enough for the friendly young lady behind the counter to know his name.

My father, Walter “Corky” Dennis, was an officer and later a detective in the  San Antonio Police Department from the late 1950s to the late 1970s. Afterwards He was a U.S. Marshal. He taught my sister Bobbi, and me to continuously be aware of our surroundings.

My father, Detective Walter A. Dennis giving criminal profiling (long before it was called ‘profiling’) presentation at San Antonio Police Department, 1969.

My regular table at Whataburger #1101 in Leon Springs, Texas, or any restaurant anywhere, was selected so I could see the entrance, view outside and be aware of conditions around me.

Dad drilled us to notice the “invisible people”– mail carriers, janitors, the cable guy, cooks in the kitchen and FedEx or UPS deliverers—those some consider accessories in life.

“These are real people, with real lives,  emotions and feelings,” Dad would say. “Appreciate and thank them. But most of all notice them.”

“But also pay attention to others,” he would preach. “Discreet people who don’t belong, like those walking along and peering through car windows in parking lots. Someone, anyone, who walks up to you in or out of a grocery store. A vagrant.”

How was it I had never noticed this man named Ralph?

There were 46 unoccupied seats. He mosied over to the one closest to the counter, directly in front of me.

The rain had prompted me to stop in on my way to work for a quick bite. I changed my order from just a chorizo taquito to add a Breakfast on a Bun with sausage after a call from Phil Wiese at Fair Oaks Ranch Country Club said the golf courses would be closed.

“Don’t bother coming in,” Phil announced. “We’re being pelted and you’d probably need a boat instead of your cart to marshal the courses if anyone dared to show up.”

I laughed and thanked him with relief, “not really wanting to be outside in this weather anyway.”

Shift Manager Eli Reyna brought Ralph his orange tray of biscuits and the two exchanged quick pleasantries.

I’d finished the Sausage BOB and was buttering the inside of my taquito as Ralph earnestly took his first biscuit swipe at the white gravy.

This man was pleased. The grin on his face and twinkle in his eyes said it all.

“You’re looking at one satisfied customer,” he smiled up at me. “Yes Sir-ee, I’m definitely one happy man!”

My reaction?  I buttered my taquito with greater enthusiasm.

Note: This is an excerpt from a work in progress, a book about lessons in life from people who lived it! See Lesson 4 excerpt here.

Remembering B.B. King and Robert Johnson

May 14th marked the anniversary of the day B.B. King died during his sleep in Las Vegas in 2015.

On May 27, 2015 his body was flown to Memphis where a bass band marched in front of his hearse for the funeral procession down Beale Street. They played “When the Saints Go Marching In.

He lays in rest at the B.B. King Museum down Route 61 in his hometown of Indianola, Mississippi.

B.B. King, October 10, 2015, Majestic Theater, San Antonio, Texas (Photo: Jack Dennis)

I had the honor of interviewing King in his office/bedroom at the back of his $1.4 million tour bus behind the Majestic Theater in San Antonio.

Typically I interviewed stars in their dressing rooms or a separate room downstairs at the Majestic. When invited to come aboard his 45′ Provost Coach, I was delighted. It definitely added to the personal excitement of meeting King.

Before the greatest bluesman walked walked on stage that Sunday night, October 10, 2010, a gracious audience was already standing.

The B.B. King Blues Band warmed up the crowd to an immediate standing ovation and no one sat down until the King of Blues finally commanded it.

“Thank you San Antonio, please set down,” he grinned and hand motioned everyone down.

The 85-year-old performer remained seated throughout the concert but his voice boomed as strong as ever, even after over 10,000 concerts and 62 years of live shows.

Awarded his 15th Grammy in 2009 in the traditional Blues Album category for “One Small Favor,” King would weave in and out of various classics, like “The Thrill Is Gone,” “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” and “You Are My Sunshine” with a generous slower groove and back to an occasional take-charge seriousness.

“Come on man,” King turned around to his drummer who battled the beats to his licks on the beloved Gibson guitar, Lucille. “You know, I’m from Mississippi…and…I carry a blade!”

King was telling the appreciative audience about the ways of ladies when a woman from the audience seductively walked up towards the stage.

“I’m not saying a word,” King graveled in a half smiling tone. He pulled his head to the side and back–and just watched with intrigue. Fiercely, he blasted Lucille into another roaring blues lick.

Just an hour before, in his bus parked on College Street behind the theater, King told me about the time– a few years before Elvis Presley walked into Sam Phillips’ Recording Service at Sun Studios in Memphis– that he walked in as Riley B. King to begin his recording career in 1951.

When he was barely 11 years old, one of King’s greatest influences was working across the street from the Majestic Theater recording his first songs.

In 1937, a seed of Rhythm and Blues was historically planted on the corner of Houston and St. Mary’s streets in what some call the “Magical Corner” of San Antonio.

Far from the Mississippi Delta, were an unhappy Robert Johnson was unwilling to stay trapped in the sharecropper’s world of backbreaking work with such little return, the young man recorded sixteen songs in the Gunter Hotel.

Robert Johnson invented the Blues at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, 1937.

It changed the music world forever. Even today, artists like Eric Clapton and John Cougar Mellencamp pay homage to Robert Johnson’s contribution at that building. Some even come to record in the same room their inspiration did.

Young Riley King would listen to Johnson regularly.

“It gives me good feelings, just knowing I’m right across the street tonight from where he recorded way back then,” he smiled.

B.B. King, the most popular bluesman the universe has ever known, engraved the Blues in the solid rock of our American culture. His fifty-plus albums produced 15 Grammy Awards and earned him inductions in the Blues Foundation and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Note: I was so intrigued with B.B. Kings touring coach, I later did more research.

The plush motorcoach had over $200,000 worth of electronics inside. Superior Interiors of Nashville customized the inside and Digital Home Lifestyles of Phoenix installed electronics.

The bus too over 100 hours of design time and 300 hours of installation. He had over 20,000 CDs and 6,000 DVDs to access and enjoy at his whim.

About Jack Dennis

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  • Raised in San Antonio, Texas Jack Dennis’ early experiences were as a newspaper reporter and private investigator. With a Texas State University bachelor’s degree, Jack studied journalism and won numerous awards, including Investigative Reporter of 1976 from Rocky Mountain Press Association.
  • Jack has interviewed Elvis Presley, Clint Eastwood, B.B. King, Kenny Rogers, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Lady Bird Johnson, Justin Timberlake, Mike Myers, Larry King, May Pang (John Lennon’s girlfriend) and Taylor Lautner.
  • Roger Staubach, Nolan Ryan, David Robinson, Terry Bradshaw and Yogi Berra are a few of the sports legends Jack has met.
  • Astronauts or space legends Jack has met include Buzz Aldrin, Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra, Jr., Walt Cunnginham, Bruce McCandless and Gene Kranz (Apollo Flight Director).
  • Hollywood legends Jack has conversed with include Roslyn Russell, James Earl Jones, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, and more.
  • Jack is a pioneer in the retail facility management industry as Director of Facilities of a large retailer, H-E-B FOODS/DRUGS for 26 years. Prior to that position, he was a construction estimator and project estimator.
  • Among his responsibilities in Texas and Mexico, he oversaw  Emergency Operations, Store Services, Building-Equipment-HVAC-Refrigeration Maintence, Sanitation, Landscaping and influenced Security, Construction, Loss Prevention, Real Estate, Warehousing, Distribution, and Manufacturing.
  • Jack co-founded Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (PRSM, now CONNEX) and was elected President to establish PRSM magazine. He gave over 40 major speeches and dozens of training sessions on their behalf in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Washington D.C., Orlando, Chicago, Nashville, Atlantic City, Seattle and more.
  • Jack wrote over 1200 articles for Examiner and has also written online for AXS Entertainment, The Rowdy, and others.
  • Through the years he has contributed to print publications such as Texas Monthly, Dallas Times-Herald, Austin American-Statesman, Memphis Flash, San Marcos Daily Record and more.

Jack married the girl he admired most from high school, Loralyn “Dodie” Bailey on his birthday in 2019. Their children (oldest to youngest) are Jennifer Dennis, Mark Dennis, Jackson McMeans, Bailey McMeans, Jack Dennis and Brady Dennis.

About Dodie Dennis

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  • When Loralyn “Dodie” Bailey was a 15-year-old junior at McCollum High School in San Antonio, Texas, Jackie Dennis asked her for a first date–to go see Rod Stewart in concert.
  • Her parents said, “No Dodie! You’re too young to date.”
  • She was devastated and Jack was heartbroken. Life went on.
  • 45 years, 6 months, 11 days later Dodie and Jack finally went on their first date–to see Rod Stewart in concert at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas!
  • Life had gone on for both of them. Dodie went to Nursing School in Houston, became a nurse for a cruise line in the Bahamas and Caribbean, transferred to Vale, Colorado and settled into Phoenix, Arizona. For 38 years she had various experiences from neonatal, operating rooms, maternity training to school nursing.
  • She married and raised two children, Jackson and Bailey, who both live in Arizona.
  • For awhile Dodie and Jack racked up airline miles traveling back and forth between Arizona and Texas.
  • In Texas, Dodie accepted Jack’s proposal on her birthday, September 6, 2019.
  • On Jack’s birthday, December 5, 2019, they married in a beautiful prayer sanctuary garden at First Baptist Church of Boerne, Texas.
  • Dodie’s lifelong dream of retiring in the Texas Hill Country and roadtripping across North America is a true Cinderella story, dream come true.