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Home News-Telegram News Bennie Potter: The Dick Clark of classic country music

Bennie Potter: The Dick Clark of classic country music

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Called the Dick Clark of classic country music, Sulphur Springs resident Bennie Potter’s collection of vintage record albums reaches to the 10s of thousands and is open for viewing by anyone who has an appreciation of the old-time favorite tunes.

“This guy is sitting on top of a small, but unique national treasure,” said local Wayne Phillips, who shares a love of music with Potter and has been collecting vinyl albums and other memorabilia over the past 45 years. “This isn’t just a hobby for Bennie, it is a way of life; a vital part of his being.”

Albums, autographed pictures, posters, books and other nostalgic keepsakes fill a 30x20 foot building next door to Potter’s Sulphur Springs home. Records by some of the greatest country music giants who ever lived line the walls, all in alphabetical order and in protective plastic sleeves.

“It’s important to keep these singers, their memory and their music alive,” said Potter of country music legends such as Jimmie Rodgers, Webb Pierce, Patsy Cline and Jim Reeves, as well as the likes of bluegrass favorites Lester Flatt and Earl Scrubbs. “That’s the thing – you go back before 1965 or 70 and young people don’t know who you’re talking about. These are the guys that started it all.”

According to Potter, although he has current favorites such as Alan Jackson, George Strait and Rod Parsley, today’s country music is “just not the same,” as when it came from the likes of Dottie West, Hank Williams, Tammy Wynette, Porter Wagoner and his all-time-favorite – Jerry Lee Lewis.

“It’s more of a country rock,” he explained. “Most all of them sing that upbeat stuff now.”

Potter described songs from yesteryear as “music from the heart.”

“It told a story. If you listen to the music it will touch your heart,” explained Potter. “It’s a pretty good insight to their lives. Usually something happened in their life that caused them to write a song about it. It don’t seem like that’s the way it is in today’s music.”

Potter’s love of country music classics and the artists who sing them are not only his passion, but he makes it his life’s mission to keep their songs and memories alive.

In addition to owning and operating Discount Furniture and Appliance for the past 20 years on Main Street, Potter is also an on-air talent each Monday morning with Enola Gay on KSST’s Good Morning Show, highlighting the lives and talent of these country music legends.

“They all have good stories,” explained Potter who enjoys researching the lives of past country stars and has come across several from our own surrounding area such as Bob and Joe Shelton, who grew up near Reilly Spring and started the Reilly Springs Jamboree that still continues today.

The Shelton Brothers were pioneer country musicians and renowned recording artists that created and popularized songs such as “Johnson’s Old Gray Mule” and “Just Because,” a song that has been recorded numerous times by various artists including Elvis Presley.

Eddie Dean is another recording star from the 1940s and ‘50s from Hopkins County that Potter stumbled across.

“His song was Hillbilly Heaven,” Potter said. “Tex Ritter and everybody has recorded that, but Eddie Dean wrote it and sung it first. He still has kinfolk here at Birthright by the name of Glossup; that was his real name.”

Leon Payne, who wrote hundreds of country songs spanning the years from 1941 until his death in 1969, grew up in Alba, according to Potter,

“I went down there and they didn’t even know who he was,” Potter said sadly. “He was born blind and grew up there singing out on the square for money. He’d sit there and play for tips. After he got famous he would go back and do programs for the schools. He never forgot his community. These kind of people need to be remembered, especially in their hometown.”

Payne is perhaps best known for his hits “I Love You Because,” and “You’ve Still Got A Place In My Heart.”

Thanks to Potter’s efforts, the Alba Chamber of Commerce and City Council members have agreed to put up a plaque on the square in honor of Payne’s memory and contribution to the music industry.

“Enola and I talked to Marc Maxwell about getting a plaque up on Main Street for the Shelton boys, too,” he added. “If you’re as good as these guys; the Lord gives you a talent and ability to play and sing, you deserve to be remembered by your community, not forgotten.”

Potter went on to say that music has brought much joy to his life and he enjoys sharing his treasures and his knowledge with those who also have a love for great country music of the past.

“Nothing takes the place of good music. It’s what keeps the world going,” he said. “It takes you back, refreshes your mind, helps you relax a little bit and forget your problems for awhile. Without music this would be a sad, sad place.”

The Good Morning Show can be heard Monday mornings on KSST, 1230 AM radio, from 8:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.







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