Happy Wilson

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Eugene Burnett "Happy" Wilson (born June 29, 1919 in Haleyville; died August 24, 1977 in Nashville, Tennessee) was a country music performer, songwriter and producer.

Eugene was the son of Asa Eugene and Ollie Lear Wilson of Haleyville. His father saw to it that he learned to sing and play music from the itinerant musicians that came through town. He became fascinated with radio and jumped at his first chance to be heard over the air at the age of 15. He stayed with it, becoming a popular disc jockey and singer known as "Happy" or "Happy Tex". He was a member of the Happy Valley Gang that appeared regularly on WBRC-AM in Birmingham and later joined Tex Dunn's Virginia Hillbillies who performed on WBRC and WAPI-AM and the Bar-X Cowhands on WSGN-AM. In the late 1930s he joined Red and Raymond's "Boys from Old Kentuck" on WSB-AM in Atlanta, Georgia and founded his own group, the Golden River Boys to perform on Mobile's WALA-AM. He also toured with actor Ray "Crash" Corrigan who used a live band to promote screenings of the "Three Mesquiteers" series of cowboy movies in which he starred as Tucson Smith. Happy also recommended young Sidney Gunter for an opening in the band, helping launch the career of a rockabilly pioneer and giving him his nickname, "Hardrock".

During World War II Wilson served with the Army in Europe, winning a Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman's Badge and the Belgian Croix-de-Guerre. He also entertained his fellow soldiers, appearing in the Special Service Army shows "Blackout Laffs" and "Sons of Fun." He also participated in a series of Army broadcasts on WRVA-AM in Richmond, Virginia.

After the war, Wilson and his Golden River Boys were more popular than ever on "Yawn Patrol" at WAPI, along with a weekly television program on Saturday afternoons on sister station WABT-TV.

Wilson married aspiring singer Marion Worth and added her to the program. His radio performances were syndicated across the region. The group recorded twice in Nashville, releasing four singles on Decca Records in 1949 and two on MGM Records in 1950. The group played every night at country dances and parties and had a regular weekend gig at the Narrows Inn south of Birmingham.

In April 1955 WAPI organized a gala "Happy Days" celebration, featuring square dances called by Zeke the Hayseed, in the agriculture building at the Alabama State Fairgrounds.

Wilson, his wife and Adrian "Slim" Lay also performed live on WBHP-AM in Huntsville. Wilson and Lay eventually arranged a recording contract for Worth in Nashville and the couple moved there where Wilson served as her manager and founded his own "Golden River Music" publishing and talent business.

Later Capitol Records hired Wilson to manage its Nashville operations. He died in 1977.

References

  • "Happy Wilson is Winston Native Who Has Finally Hit Big Time" (November 14, 1950) The Advertiser (Haleyville)
  • Thames, Roger (April 1955) "They're gonna toss a special day for Happy Wilson" The Birmingham News
  • Happy Wilson at Winston County, Alabama: An Historical Online Database