About The Artist
Parlin Kenneth Beaver, nicknamed "Pappy Gube," worked several years on radio in Knoxville in the early and mid-1940s, mostly under the sponsorship of supermarket owner Cas Walker on the Farm and Home Hour and the Midday Merry-Go-Round shows. Growing up, he learned the harmonica and guitar.
He also recorded for Capitol Records in their early days, sometimes termed that label's answer to Roy Acuff.
In 1948 Beaver had a religious conversion and became a minister. Both before and after this experience he was best known for the song, "You Can Be a Millionaire with Me."
Growing up near Newport, Tennessee, Beaver had been nicknamed Gube (derived from Goober, i.e. Peanut) almost from infancy because of his small stature. As a child of the Depression, he spent some time in the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Moving to Knoxville and marrying in 1940, Gube and his brothers began playing on WROL radio. When he first experienced fatherhood, the radio announcers added "Pappy" to his nickname.
He supplemented his income by driving taxi as personal appearances were few during wartime. In later years, even after becoming an evangelist and having several children he worked as a limo driver to and from the Knoxville airport.
When World War II ended, Lee Gillette of Capitol Records signed him to a contract and he went to Atlanta and recorded four sides with fiddle support from young Chet Atkins and Tommy Trent on tenor vocal and rhythm guitar. The sacred numbers "You Can Be a Millionaire with Me" and the "Automobile of Life" attracted the most attention.
Six months later he did another session of four songs with the same musical support. Although having an Acuff-like style, only two of his eight songs were Acuff covers.
In a 1954 column, Bert Vincent described Pappy's way of speaking. "His talk is so slow, earnest and sincere you think he's likely to start crying."
It was September 1954, Pappy was driving a car for the Airport Transit Service and school was getting ready to open. Pappy had three of his children ready to attend. But the worry like many parents as the new school year was approaching was whether they could get some new clothes for them.
One day, Pappy's wife went from their home on Vermont Avenue in Knoxville to the offices of the Airport Transpit Services on East Cumberland Avenue with a letter for her husband. She though the letter contained a check for $1.63, but someone had told her the check was really over $200. Pappy read the letter and his eyes opened wide. It was a royalty check from Capitol Records in Hollywood. The check was for $201.63.
The enclosed letter explained the check represented royalties from two tunes he had recorded six years earlier - "As Long As I Live" and "Somebody Said." Apparently the sales of the records were overseas due to some stipulation of sorts in his contract that was not explained in this news item by Mr. Vincent.
Mrs. Beaver promptly went to the bank, then went to the local stores to get their children some suitable clothes for the coming school year.
Pappy then went to a typist and had a long thank letter of thanks to the folks at Capitol. He paid the typist five dollars.
Beaver also acquired a drinking problem. Since Pappy sang so many sacred numbers, he later contended that he sang himself under "conviction" (as did teetotaler Molly O'Day). The Beaver salvation experience took place in Greenville, South Carolina after he had taken a taxi client on a long ride and got jailed for driving while intoxicated. On the air the following day,
Pappy told Cas Walker he was "going to stop working for the Devil and start working for the Lord."
He ultimately became a minister and evangelist and so remained until old age caught up with him. He continued to occasionally do guest spots on Walker sponsored shows almost always filling requests with "You Can Be a Millionaire with Me."
In 1958, Bert Vincent told a bit of a humorous incident related to him by the Rev. Pappy Gube Beaver in his "Strolling" column. Pappy told of an broadcast he did that made him feel like crawling into a hole. It seems he had 'buried' a friend in his broadcast one morning over WKXV. The sorry saga began when a friend Filmore Robinson called him and asked him if he knew that a friend of theirs Rube Morgan had died. Pappy was stunned, 'surely not!' he replied. Filmore went on to tell him the details; Rube had "...dropped dead in front of a place, the Blaine Cafe." Pappy was saddened as he recalled a recent Sunday visit where Rube had bought them all a free dinner.
Pappy was saddened and remained so for the evening. The next morning, he went on the air to relate to the listeners many kind words about his departed friend. "I really preached a good funeral for him. Then, what you reckon! One of my sponsors told me. It wasn't Rube Morgan who died. It was another man up at Blaine..."
It seems Mr. Vincent found Pappy to be a source of small humorous tidbits. Such as the one in March of 1960 when Pappy was hauling passengers from the McGhee Tyson Airport to downtown Knoxville. One day, he picked up two passengers, both were Presbyterian ministers.
As you might expect the conversation was about being a pastor and the issues that went with it. Before too long, Pappy spotted another transit car that was off the side of the road, broken down. The car had one passenger. Pappy offered to give the man a ride and it was welcome due to the cold and snowy weather. But the new passenger was mad. He just started cussing up a storm about the transit service and on it went. Pappy took it in silence. The two preachers in the back seat, sat silently.
The first stop was the First Presbyterian Church on State Street and the two preachers disembarked. The sight of the church caused the cussing passenger to suddenly go silent as his jaw dropped. He spoke to Pappy and said, "I'm really ashamed. Those two fellows are preachers, aren't they.?" Pappy told him in reply, "Yes they are ... and I'm another one." That left the passenger kind of stammering for what to say next but he did ask Pappy, "Is everybody in this town a preacher?"
In 1960, Bert Vincent was having a conversation with Arthur Q. Smith and Pappy Gube Beaver and the subject of singing for pay came up. That prompted Pappy to tell a story of the best pay he ever got for one song.
While he was working as a taxi cab drive, he picked up a passenger who had just sold his tobacco crop and needed to get to his home in Sevierville. Now, the fellow had had a few drinks. As they drove along, the passenger asked Pappy if he could sing. Pappy said, well, a little.
The passenger said, "I'd like to hear that song called 'The Automobile of Life.' That's the purtiest song I know of."
Pappy told the man, alright and he sang a verse or two of the song. The fellow reached into his pockets for his roll of bills. He peeled off $3.00. He told Pappy, "Here, sing that song for me again."
Pappy obliged and sang the song again and again, the man peeled off another $3.00 for Pappy. Before they got to his home in Sevierville, Pappy said he had sung that song about 15 times and netted $45.
When they got to the man's home, he asked if Pappy would come in as he wanted to give him a big country ham. Pappy said, "But, no sir. I wouldn't do that. I was scared of his wife."
For a time he had a tent revival and sometimes during moments of high enthusiasm would climb a tent pole or even stand on his head while preaching. He also pastored a small store-front church, the Bible Church of God in Knoxville, and sometimes had radio programs on KNXV as well.
AP Religion Writer George W. Cornell offered a quote from Rev. Beaver in a 1974 article who stands on his head when doing a holy dance to the Lord. "Amen. If I tried that in the natural spirit, I couldn't make it. But when the spirit of God is upon me, you can get around... Amen. Praise the Lord."
Occasionally his wife and children sang with him as the Beaver Family.
Pappy Gube was the subject of a documentary film, "I Open My Moutn and Let'er Fly: The Pappy 'Gube' Beaver Story. Cas Walker once asked Pappy if he sang by notes. He replied, "No, I sing by letter." Cas then said, "You mean them little bitty letters under the notes?" Pappy then said, "No, I open my mouth and let'er fly."
Credits & Sources
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