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Al (Porky) Witherow
Born:  February 26, 1935
Died:  May 11, 2004
WWVA Original Jamboree

About The Artist

Al Porky Witherow Al (Porky) Witherow was born to Bob and Pauline Witherow in York, Pennsylvania back in 1935. Music was a part of his family, for they would listen to the big country stations back then, WWVA out of Wheeling, West Virginia and WSM in Nashville, Tennessee.

When he was just four years old, he made his singing debut with his sister Betty, doing some gospel songs.

in an article noting his passing in 2004, his sister and long time friend noted his love for music. "It was a lifetime spent in music, helped along by pipes sent from heaven," according to his sister Betty who was there when first sang in public. A long time friend, Antoinette "Toy" Shelton noted, "He could sing before he could speak."

That same article noted the fame he gained. During the Korean war, Bob Hope wanted Mr. Witherow along to entertain the troops on his numerous USO tours. He worked with such famed Grand Ole Opry acts as Ernest Tubb, Minnie Pearl, Tex Ritter and Grandpa Jones.

He toured for over twenty years with his band the Travelers and the Country Mystery.

Music was seemingly always a part of his life. He went back to York in 1977 to care for his parents. He later enjoyed a career as a training manager at the local chain of Denny's Restaurants in York for over 14 years. In 1997, he retired to Inverness, but kept entertaining the folks there as well and helping out where he could.

Country and Western Music Spurs City's Applause (1969)

On September 24, 1969, Karen Brady wrote a piece about her observations of the "Nashville sound" in Buffalo in her column "Karen's Korner." Fans might recognize the tone of an article like this from urban writers commenting on 'country music.' Below is that column and a follow-up letter to the editor found about the article.

"Give Buffalo the Nashville sound—and she'll dig it every day.

At least enough of her citizens'll dig it to keep a score of local country-Western musicians in slick boots, guitars and ten-gallon hats for many months to come.

Nashville's no small phenonmenom here. And that's one great week-end discovery to make. Especially if you've been groovin — as we have lately — on Johnny Cash doing his thing at Folsom Prison or belting out "A Boy Named Sue."

It left us wondering what country-Western was doing locally, and just who was packing all these country-Western places — like the Elma Manor, the Club Utica, Janik's ...

We tried one — the Club Utica, a smallish, beckoning night spot on the city's West Side. Where Al "Porky" Witherow and Lenny Nast and the Western Gentlemen were playing for the evening.

And where — as it turned out — almost everyone else was dancing to a loud, consistent beat. Many of them young girls dancing wit their mothers and girl friends.

That was something I'd only seen once before — at a Hungarian pub in New York City where the mothers seemed to be there to marry off their daughters.

These mothers seemed to be hainv one very good time themselves. So did the musicians, who talked and danced on breaks — right along with the crowd.

"We'll be right back — put some money in the juke box," Lenny Nast had called in a Western drawl, his dark sideburns gleaming from the bright stage lights.

A pair of girls did just that, and Al "Porky" Witherow bustled out — to talk to a few of his fans before pulling his appealing round weight on to the stage.

There were spike heels and pearls and shoestring bowties — on customers who'd come from all over the city. All of them undaunted by a cover charge at the door. And all of them quite knowledgeable about the ins and outs of country-Western music — the sort of music that seemed to us to be everlasting in appeal, the very same in most cases that was being sung years ago to the same effect and to the same sort of loyal audiences.

By the time Porky was on stage — making proficient sounds, like an auctioneer or a hog-caller — local lovelies were slipping up in slacks with special requests written on paper.

And a good portion of the neighborhood young seemed to be gathered outside — peering in the windows, waiting to be of age — some of them already country-Western fans, already cultivating the "dude" look.

We had some shrimp-in-the-basket and a good look at the framed portraits of past country-Western greats who'd sung at the Club Utica — before leaving the sub-culture we hadn't known before, a solid sub-culture of country-Western fans where who know just what they like.

The next night we tried Kleinhans — where Hank Snow and Ray Price and a whole crew of other national greats had sold out the house. The way the Nashville sound apparently does every time it comes to Kleinhans, which is about every six wseeks. A sound that's old-fashioned and new and sentimental at once. A sound that's sad or happy and fast or slow and can even be raucous or vulgar, but not so much so that it isn't family entertainment.

The same sort of crowd was there — intensified only in number — a wholesome, crowd boys and girls and young wives with husbands looking so many Lilioms out of "Carousel," some with their parents and, often, their children. They all knew what they'd come for — and they applauded in kind when it met their expectations.

There were people there from Bethlehem, PA and way up in Ontario. There were een people there from Nova Scotia and England — but most of them were from the Buffalo area.

Tickets weren't cheap and there were no bell-bottoms, or hippie fashions, in sight. But there were sequins and silk organdy on pretty young women and orange green suits in evidence — on stage and off.

There were amateur photographers running up the aisles to the stage. And a ventriloquist act with jokes as popular today as they were 20 years ago.

So here — in country-Western music — is an old-fashioned but obviously durable commodity. A comoodity that will probably always find an audience in Buffalo.

With man-and-wife jokes and double-necked guitars and spurs and cowboy talks and fraternizing. And with WWOL — the city's only full-time country-Western station to keep up the enthusiasms via Ramblin' Lou . . .

More power to it — for all its twangs and jerks — for it's pleasing to so many Buffalonians.

And isn't that really the most you can ask of anything entertaining?

Or, as one of the musicians said:

"If you like country music, you've come to the right place. So take off your shoes and have a good time . . . There'll be a hot time in Buffalo tonight.

Damages Awarded In Contract Dispute In 1971

In 1971, a news report began "Alfred H. Witherow" was doing business as "Al (Porky) Witherow Country and Western Show" in a story in The Muscatine Journal in Iowa. He was awarded $4,500 in Muscatine district court. Porky had sought $36,000 from Howard E. McFadon who was doing business as "Cornbelt Productions." Our research has found that sometimes artists had trouble collecting appearance fees for whatever reasons. What follows is a summary of several news accounts.

Judge Robert K. Stohr stated that it appeared that the two parties involved entered into a written contract that covered the time period April 1, 1970 through May 30, 1970 for performances at engagements to be secured by the defendant.

After the contract was signed, the defendant tried to secure engagements, but was successful in obtaining only one according to the judge's finding of fact. Mr. McFadon advised Mr. Witherow it would not be "economically feasible" for him to come to the midwest.

Mr. McFadon had secured St. Mary's Hall in Keithburg, IL for Mr. Witherow to use as a base for their performances, but apparently it was agreed that that arrangement was also not economically feasible.

The court also found that Mr. Witherow 'relied on the contact with McFadon.' But during that time Mr. Witherow did net $1,425 for the show back east during the two month period.

The judge indicated that under the contract, Witherow was entitled "...to $250 a day for five days a week for a period not to exceed four weeks, less any amount of money he received during the month of April for his performances back east.

It was reported that Mr. Witherow had purchased a new trailer at a cost of $2,000 and also got new uniforms for his group. But the judge ruled that "these items are not a measure of damages which could be allowed in a case of this nature."

Another bone of contention for damages by Mr. Witherow was income lost form the sale of record albums. The records were said to cost $1.26/each and were to be sold for $5.00/each. But Mr. Witherow had to admit he had no idea of how many could be sold - it would be "pure speculation" and thus the judge ruled he could not be compensated for these damages.

The judge awarded Mr. Witherow $4,500. It was based on the contract amount for five days a week for the period of four weeks less the amount he received ($500_ for two engagements he obtained during the month of April. Mr. Witherow's calculation of $36,000 he lost after the defendant failed to provide the contracted engagements included $9,000 for gate receipts and $27,000 in record sales ($3,000 per week for nine weeks).

The court issued its "Facts of Findings" on January 8, 1971. On January 15, 1971, an "order for judgment" was entered for $4,500 in accordance with earlier ruling on the case.

An Interview with Al (Porky) Witherow (1972)

Our research uncovered an interview of Porky and his band "the Country Mystery" as he called it in 1972. James Brennan provided the details in the December 2, 1972 Buffalo Evening News in their weekend section.

At the time, Porky and his band signed a six-month contract to perform at Club Utica in Buffalo starting in August of that year. The band members were Jim Kaye (lead guitar); Barry Dunsmoor (bass); and, Ron Burke (drums). Ron was replaced by Hugh Leblanc as he had to return to college as the six-night performing schedule would interfere with his studies. Porky named the group "Country Mystery" because the personnel in his group underwent many changes.

Porky noted, "It was a mystery who would be up on that bandstand with me because of conflicts in booking dates or wives not wanting their husbands on the road so long."

Porky had a an approach about the band he wanted behind him. "Surround yourself with talent is my philosophy. By talent, I mean good sidemen like the Country Mystery, who are a show in themselves. They're three stars because they all sing, harmonize, tell jokes and can fill in for me or each other at any time."

Mr. Brennan started his report with a quote from Porky: "Three Stars and one little old fat guitar picker, that's us."

The December article indicated they were appearing at Club Utica through March 1973.

The interview took place around the time of his latest release on the Arctic label, "Three Stars." He said it was a poem that had been written by a young lady (Marge Donald) from Newburgh, NY. It was about the three astronauts who died on the launch pad. Porky related that the recording had received several awards. He got a letter from Col. Allen B. Sheppard Jr., chief of the astronauts, stating that a plaque of the words were placed in the NASA Astronauts Commemorative Library in Houston, TX. Porky even got a guided tour from Col. Sheppard of the NASA Space Center during one of Porky's tours that took him through the South.

Readers learned that Porky and his group drove over 85,000 miles a year for their personal appearances. One can easily see how the miles add up over a long period of years. He said he had made nine country music tours that took him to military bases all over the world, including three trips to Vietnam. He told Mr. Brennan that on one trip, their helicopter was shot at when they departed the base. His sense of humor shines again as he noted, "I guess you could say the Viet Cont were my worst critics, they just don't dig country music."

Obituary: Witherow, Alfred H. - May 13, 2004 - Tampa Bay, FL The military tours earned him another honor — Knight of the Blue Noses for his appearance at the base in Thule, Greenland. That honor is not to be taken lightly. Porky said you had to spend three months or more of one year north of the Arctic Circle. He said the late singer, Kathy Dee, was the only other entertainer he knew of that was a member of this special group.

The interview discussed the various venues Porky had played. Club Utica was the only club in the state of New York that offered live country music six nights a week. He played the Flame in Minneapolis (with Wanda Jackson); the Astrodome in Houston; the Golden Palomino in San Antonio and Henry's in Brooklyn.

Porky got to know some of the bigger stars out of Nashville. David Houston's bus pulled up one night while he and the band had some time between concerts and they did a jam session that lasted until 3:00am. He's had other Grand Ole Opry stars stop by and visit and / or entertain such as Little Jimmie Dickens, Webb Pierce, Ferlin Husky and Kitty Wells.

Porky spoke of an upcoming recording session in Nashville. He was going to record a tune called "Baby's Blue Eyes" that was rather personal to him. He said women cry in the audience when he performs it. He wrote the tune to his 16 year old daughter Barbara Ann.

Band member Jim Kaye noted that Porky would do a gospel number from time to time. Porky added, "I usually introduce a gospel number by saying 'sow your wild oats on Saturday and pray for a crop failure on Sunday!"

For Porky, the music was his business and his life. He stated, "On stage I run a tight ship, even in you're my best friend off stage. I don't want you coming late to a rehearsal or concert date."

Finally, Mr. Brennan ends his interview with a quote from Porky.

Country music is my livelihood, it's in my blood. It's my life. I've been faking this rebel accent for so long in my singing that it's stuck to me.

Porky passed away on May 11, 2004 at his home in Inverness, FL where he had lived since 1997. The obituary in listing survivors only listed his siblings and aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.

Promo Ad - Hillbilly Grove - November 1962 - Porky Witherow and the Travelers
Promo Ad - Brady's New Fort Reed Tavern - July 1966 - Sayre, PA - Al (Porky) Witherow and the Pioneers -

Promo Ad - Riverside Hotel - Niagara-On-The-Lake - September 1965 - Porky the Yodeling Hobo and his Pioneers
Promo Ad - The Rustic Lodge at Davies Lake - White PLains, NY - February 1970 - Al (Porky) Witherow

Promo Ad - Kosakowski's Corral - Jersey City, NJ - March 1969 - Al (Porky) Witherow - Sunni Dale - Miss Barbara Ray - Loy Gordoin and the Wagon Masters - Lloyd Harris - Eddie Kerr - Chick Gallagher
Promo Ad - Chicken Coop - Bridgeton, NJ - May 1969 - Al (Porky) Witherow

Promo Ad - Flame Cafe - Minneapolis, MN - November 1970 - Wanda Jackson - Al (Porky) Witherow
Promo Ad - Cornog Tavern - Downingtown, PA - December 1971 - Al (Porky) Witherow - Jack Arwood - The Country United

News Story - Ray Corbin - Death - October 1971 - Phoenix, AZ
Promo Ad - Brand X Corral - Vails Gate, NY - Al (Porky) Witherow - Slim Sweeny and the Golden Nuggets - February 1969
Promo Ad - Atlanta Hotel - St. Catharines, ON - June 1973 - Al (Porky) Witherow

Country Music Spectacular - Southwestern Sales Pavilion - Angola, NY - June 1970 - Al (Porky) Witherow - Lynn Kimer - Danny Kimer - Jesse Smith - Doug Newman - Country Cut Ups
Promo Ad - Chicken Coop - Bridgeton, NJ - June 1971 - Al (Porky) Witherow

Promo Ad - Hurley's Tavern - Twin Oaks, PA - August 1971 - David Rodgers - Al (Porky) Witherow
Promo Ad - The Ponderosa - Lebanon, PA - Al (Porky) Witherow - Jack Arwood - Genn Guidry - November 1971

Promo Ad - Thorold Inn Hotel - Thorold, ON - January 1977 - Al (Porky) Witherow
Promo Ad - Atlanta Hotel - December 1976 - Al (Porky) Witherow

Promo Ad - Grond Ole Opry SHow - Southwestern Sales Pavilion - September 1967 - Willma Lee and Stoney COoper - Al (Porky) Witherow - Hobo Shaw and Sheri Lane - Ramblin' Lou - Roy Abbey
Promo Ad - The Oprey Room - Willow Point Park - Rochester, NY - May 1966 - Al (Porky) Witherow

Credits & Sources

  • Album screen shot and liner notes courtesy of Harriet Tuttle from a Buffalo, New York appearance in 1969.
  • Citrus County Chronicle; Crystal River, FL; May 16, 2004; "Voice called home: Alfred "Porky" Witherow"
  • $4,500 awarded in a suit - for breach of contract; January 8, 1971; The Muscatine Journal; Muscatine, IA
  • Daily Report - District Court - Judge R. K. Stohr; January 8, 1971; The Muscatine Journal; Muscatine, IA
  • Daily Report - District Court - Judge R. K. Stohr; January 15, 1971; The Muscatine Journal; Muscatine, IA
  • Country and Western Spurs City's Applause - Karen's Korner - Karen Brady - September 24, 1969 - The Buffalo News; Buffalo, NY
  • 'Country Mystery' Doesn't Baffle Its Listeners; James Brennan; December 2, 1972; The Buffalo Evening News; Buffalo, NY

Sound Sample—(YouTube Video Format)

Yodeling Hobo

Printer Friendly Version

Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

Rec. No. Side Song Title
  45-1010 A Why Me Lord
  45-1010 B Come Live With Me
  AHW-1001 A Three Stars
  AHW-1001 B I Lost My World
  AHW-1003 A Baby's Blue Eyes
  AHW-1003 B I Lost My World
  DIS-227 A Just Call Me Lonely
  DIS-227 B Tailor Made Heartache
  GTO-2-A A Barbara Ann
  GTO-3-B B Are You Satisfied
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  5175 A Waiting For The Show To Go On
  5175 B Please Sign The Picture

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