Thomas E. Bearden or as fans knew him, Tom Bearden, was born in Cheniere, Louisiana,
a town just west of Monroe. He was on the Louisiana Hayride
from 1952 to 1954 – first fronting the Rhythm Harmoneers (a trio) and then went solo—recording
on the Fabor label. Music wasn't the only part of Tom's life as you will read; his
education and service to the country led to a not so common career path.
Tom graduated from Ouachita Parish High School in Monroe, Louisiana in 1947.
He continued his education and graduated from what is now NorthEast Louisiana University
in Monroe Louisiana in 1953.
The Rhythm Harmoneers consisted of Tom Bearden (guitar),
Harry Liner (bass), and Bryan Ritter (steel guitar).
Tom wrote and told us that he got started playing rather late, starting
when he was in college and bought an old Stella guitar from a fellow in the little
community where he was born - Cheniere, Louisiana.
He started picking out chords and playing with a few fellows.
Then he met Bryan Ritter at college. Bryan was already playing steel guitar and was
a good musician, so we teamed up. Harry Liner was also attending the same college,
so the three of them got together to do gigs and novelty tunes for organizations
such as the Lions Club. They were three guys working their way through college,
and it was rough going.
To make a few dollars, Tom also played clubs and honkytonks with other bands,
when they needed a rhythm guitarist and singer. The three of them
Rhythm Harmoneers worked their way to some air time on radio station KNOE in Monroe, Louisiana.
That also enabled them to book more personal appearances.
The trio cut a record with Jiffy Fowler of West Monroe, which was “Women Drivers”.
Tom recalls the flip side of the record being “Louisiana Moonlight”, which he wrote.
Bryan Ritter was the fellow that wrote “Women Drivers”.
The boys then visited Horace Logan at the KWKH Louisiana Hayride,
carrying their record and convinced Horace to listen to it. After listening again,
he gave them a slot on the show. The group began to appear on the Saturday night
Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, Louisiana on a regular basis.
The boys drove each weekend to Shreveport and then back home that same night in the wee hours
of the morning.
The Rhythm Harmoneers also found work on record sessions. They made a recording
of Mexican Joe when it was first out released for a label run by the Bihari brothers.
But something happened in the production process and the song was tremendously
sped up and it sounded like three little chipmunks singing it.
That did not exactly help their record.
The group did the musical backup on recording sessions with such Hayride artists as Johnny Horton,
Carolyn Bradshaw, Ginny Wright, and a few other artists.
The trio later recorded “Women Drivers”, “Louisiana Moonlight”, and “Mexican Joe”.
Later as a soloist, Tom recorded the tune “Women, Women, Women”.
The group played shows and tours with such Hayride stars as Johnny Horton and Jim Reeves
among others during their stint on KWKH.
In 1953, Country Song Roundup did a feature article on the KWKH Louisiana Hayride
and mentioned that the Rhythm Harmoneers were one of the main acts on the show.
In 1953 the Louisiana Hayride suffered a major setback which affected its scheduled tour bookings.
And during that time, the station folded our trio.
Harry resumed his business work - which was going very well. Bryan and Tom played on
for quite awhile. The two of them were also joined occasionally by fiddler
Tommy Lindsey whom they had known from their college days at Louisiana State University.
Tom has written a few songs that were recorded by other artists also.
Red Sovine and later Webb Pierce recorded his tune, “New Love Affair”.
Jim Reeves recorded a recitation number of his, “Mother Went A’Walking”,
Johnny Horton recorded his “Two Red Lips and Warm Red Wine”.
While the band had broken up, Tom continued to tour with such artists as Johnny Horton
and Jim Reeves.
We asked Tom about his recitation number that Jim Reeves did, "Mother Went A-Walking"
since we were familiar with that tune on one of Jim's albums. Tom tells us that
it touched audiences when Jim did that number.
Tom told us that his mother was killed in a tragic car accident when he was just
two years old. The accident occurred about a quarter mile from where the family lived,
way out in the boonies. The car rolled over on his mother and crushed her head.
Tom's father pulled the car off of her, and ran down the road to the house, shouting
in grief. Tom woke up to see his father coming in through the door in the lamplight,
holding Tom's mother in his arms, with blood all over the both of them and
everybody screaming. The scene haunted Tom intensely.
He missed his dear mother terribly, and try as he could, he just
could not erase that terrible image of his mother's death.
"So years later, I just sat down and expressed how I felt, by writing
that recitation of a mother, just died and laid out for burial in the church house.
The little boy in the scene had lost his father (my father worked in the timber
business, and away from the home). My dear grandmother, who raised me, was
transposed to a gentle old grandfather, consoling the puzzled and grieving
little boy. To a little 2-year old boy, an absent father was somewhat
confusing, so that was expressed in the song also.
So for me, writing the song was a sort of healing process, and also something
to express more openly my deep feelings for my mother."
Tom recalls that he left the Hayride in June 1954 because Uncle Sam had called
it was time for him to go on active military duty. He was also an alumni
of the ROTC college. While in the U.S. Army
he continued his education and received his M.S. in Nuclear Engineering
from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1971. He graduated from the
Guided Missile Staff Officer’s Course at Fort Bliss, Texas in 1955,
which is regarded by the U.S. Department of Defense as equivalent to
an M.S. in Guided Missile Engineering.
He completed his Army career in 1975 and retired from the U.S. Army at the
end of 1975 as a Lieutenant Colonel. He decided to settle in Huntsville, Alabama
where he and his wife still reside. He was employed as an aerospace engineer
for companies such as System Development Corporation, Computer Science Corporation,
and Colsa Corporation until mid-1993 when he decided to retire permanently.
Tom has been engaged in research on electrical power systems freely taking
their energy from the vacuum since about 1964, as you can see from his web site,
from his books and papers. Tom has authored several books,
including Energy from the Vacuum: Concepts and Principles,
published in 2002 and Oblivion: America at the Brink, published in 2005.
Tom and four of his colleagues invented the motionless electromagnetic generator and
obtained a patent. They are trying to get the generator finished and onto the world
Both of the other Rhythm Harmoneers are still living; Harry lives in West Monroe, Louisiana
and Bryan lives in Homer, Louisiana.
Timeline & Trivia Notes
- Tom Bearden, leader, vocals, rhythm guitar
- Harry Liner, bass guitar
- Bryan Ritter, steel guitar
Credits & Sources
- Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to thank Tom Bearden himself
for contacting us and providing us with information about his musical career
and photos as noted.
- Country Song Roundup; Issue NO. 25; August 1953;
American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
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