John J. "Jake" Taylor came from Van Buren, Arkansas, being the youngest and only
boy in a family of six. He went on to fame from there to star on
Wheeling's WWVA Jamboree in West Virginia in the late 1930s, 1940s.
In addition to the group he formed while on the Jamboree, the Rail Splitters,
he was also a songwriter.
When he was young, the family moved to the Arkansas river "bottoms" near
the town of Poteau, Oklahoma. His father traveled throughout the state
of Oklahoma those days as he was a vocal instructor and taught at what they
called "conventions" or "singing schools". With music being in the family,
Jake picked up those talents, too. He "led" his first song as part of a
choir in Lenna, Oklahoma. Jake said most of his father's efforts were
wasted on him, but he still loved to soing and as long as Jake had
an audience to sing to, he was happy. They lived on a farm and Jake grew fond
of the farm chores and the farm life.
Like most farms on the "bottoms",
the main crop was cottonand lots of it. Jake writes that before he started
to school (being only five years old to be exact), he would go to the fields with
his mother and dad and like most kids his age, he would get restless. He wanted
to do something. And of all things a kid might want to do, you might think
picking cotton wouldn't be one of them, but pick Jake did. In the south,
nearly all the flour you could buy came in cloth instead of paper bags back then.
And one of those 48 pound flour sacks was Jake's first cotton sack. Jake notes that
he learned at an early age that a person can generally earn the things they want.
Jake tells us that the name for his group, the Rail Splitters, came from
the fact that he had split quite a few rails and more than a few ricks of cord
wood. If you've ever done any of this work, Jake said, you know it was WORK,
spelled with a capital W.
Jake sang his first song on the radio in Terre Haute, Indiana. He
was on the air there with his own group until 1936, moving on to WWVA.
One of his hobbies was song writing and his folios include a few of
those tunes. But unlike most folios of the day back then, Jake also
includes some notes or stories of about the songs or how they came
about. When you read what Jake wrote about the songs, you'll see
how the songs drew from his personal life and events of the day and
a flavor of that era. Let's see what Jake wrote and what he had to say...
Songs written by Jake Taylor
- "I'll Always Wait in Memory Lane"
Jake wrote: "Of all the songs I've written, the one you folks seem to like
best is "I'll Always Wait In Memory Lane", and perhaps the reason you like
that one so well is that Betty and I wrote it together. I wanted to write
a song just a little different from the songs I had written so far. I had
an idea but somehow I just couldn't put it into the right words. Betty
watched me for a long time and then she said, "Let me help you." So the two
of us set to work on the song, and between us we soon had the song written,
and you folks have been requesting it ever since. Maybe one of these days I can
get Betty to help me write another song that I hope you folks will like as well
as you do this one."
- "Little Baby Clothes"
Jake wrote: "Little Baby Clothes" is another song that you folks have seemed
to like, and I'm glad you do, for this song was written in memory of our little girl,
the only baby Betty and I ever had. It is a sincere tribute to a beautiful baby girl,
and those of you who have lost a baby at any time will know just how
Betty and I felt about it."
- "Cowboy's Guitar"
Jake wrote: "Cowboy's Guitar" was the only song I have ever written that I was
unable to name. Michael Moloko, of Blairsville, Pennsylvania, was the obliging listener
who suggested the name chosen. As you remember, I made an appeal to you Rail Splitter
listeners to name it for me. That's the big reason why it's so much
pleasure to play for you folks day after day. You always cooperate, you're
always appreciateive, and in any undertaking your wholehearted support can be
counted on in advance."
- "Signed, Your Loving Son"
Jake wrote: "You know, folks, when a fellow gets away from home, no matter how long
he's been away, the one time of the year when he feels that he's just gotta
go back home, is Christmas. The Christmas season was responsible for another of my songs.
On this christmas I knew that I wouldn't be able to get back home, so I sat down
and wrote a song for my father and mother. I tried to write it in the form of a letter,
just as I would have written to dad and mother, if I had sent them a letter. Another
of your good friends, Frankie More, suggested the name for it. And that name, as you may
have guessed by this time, "Signed, Your Loving Son." After I finished that
song, I made a recording of it and sent it home as my Christmas present to my mother
and dad, and I'm sure that they got just as much pleasure out of it as
you folks have."
- "Old Pardner"
Jake wrote: "If you ever saw the old West where days on end you see no one and have to depend
on just yourself or your pardner, then you'll understand why I worte "Old Pardner."
You see, when the State of Oklahoma was quite young, I covered miles and miles of
wide open prairie in a covered wagon. There were little or no roads and we drove until
we came to a suitable camping place. On one of these trips, though I was quite young,
we met an old prospector, or desert rat, asthey are sometimes called. From the stories
he told around the camp that night I formed a word picture which in later
years was to be the song, "Old Pardner." "
- "There Ain't Nobody Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone"
Jake wrote: "If you remember the early spring of 1939 you know that we had a few
nice days and then suddenly it was winter again. Or at least what seemed like winter,
cold and rainy. Things sorta went from bad to worse, and it wasn't long before the
cold I picked up turned into the flu. I went to bed and you can believe I was
glad to stay there. Saturday night came around and I was supposed to be on the WWVA
Jamboree, and there I was in bed. I was pretty blue lying there in bed in my hotel
room thinking how I was missing the show and not seeing any of you folks. So I laid there and
listened to the show and while it was on the air I wrote this song, "There Ain't Nobody
Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone." "
- "New London School Tragedy"
Jake wrote: "The New London School tragedy happened on March 18, 1937, and two days
after it happened I wrote my song of that name about the tragic deaths of all
those innocent boys and girls. It was the first song to be on the air after the
explosion occurred. Others have been written since then, but it's more than gratifying
to know that over 50,000 copies are in the homes of my listeners."
- "A Lock of Golden Hair"
- "My Heart's In the Heart Of The Hills"
- "Doggies Lullaby"
- "Ozark Home"
- "The Wreck Of The Morning Mail"
- "Somebody Stole My Sweetie"
- "It Broke Your Daddy's Heart"
And we'll leave you as Jake left us with his note on the back of both
of the souvenir song folios we have found:
"There are loyal hearts, there are spirits brave
There are souls that are good and true;
Then give to the world the best you have
And the best will come back to you."
Credits & Sources
- Jake Taylor and His Rail Splitters Looking Glass Intimate Glimpses
into the Lives of the Rail Splitters, publication date unknown.
- Jake Taylor and His Rail Splitters Log Book, Publication date unknown.