Pigeon droppings: Billy Baker, part II

tsj column writers pigeon droppingsBy Bob Hamill

When we last left Billy Baker, a.k.a. Elwood Smooch, we learned he grew up in Beebe, Arkansas, was in the first entertainment troupe at Silver Dollar City and at age 20 ran away to join the circus—not just any circus, but the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Billy became a featured clown with the circus. He lived on the mile long circus train and had plenty of time to himself. So, he started writing songs between towns. He was always in love with music and this gave him the perfect outlet. He just sat on the train with his legs dangling over the side watching the world go by.

It’s said that people have some kind of internal change every seven years. And after the seventh year, Billy decided to hit the road with only a duffel bag and guitar case.

Baker went from town to town mostly working on tips he made from various venues. He could be a street performer or a singer musician in a bar. It wasn’t too long before Billy was ready for the smell of the elephants and tigers and it was back to the circus.

This time he would be a little more interesting. In the car next to him were the lady clowns. One of them caught his eye. Her clown name was Dolly. It wasn’t long before Billy and Dolly had a clown wedding with things you can’t imagine going on.

BILLY & SUEThey soon left the circus for another circus: Hollywood, California. They did everything a newcomer to Hollywood could do: bit parts, voice overs, extras and anything to make a buck. Somehow he landed a bartending gig that made him “Bartender to the Stars.” Arnold Schwarznegger, Regis Philbin, William Shatner, Jayne Seymore, Diane Warwick, Barry Manilow, Van Halen, even Michael Jackson hung out with Billy.

During his time in Hollywood, he and his wife managed a group of apartments just below the Hollywood Sign. During the circus off-season, clowns would come to California to try and catch a break. It was called ”Bozo Lane” and the parties were legendary. All the top stars in Hollywood begged for an invitation.

After ten years, Billy opened up his own theater on the Parkway in Pigeon Forge. It was called Ole Smoky Hoedown. For seven years it was one of the most popular shows in town.

The City of Pigeon has declared Billy Baker Day twice.

There is so much more to Billy and there is at least another thousand words but there is only so much space. You can see him around town promoting Hatfield McCoy Dinner Theater. If you do, recognize this is an amazing man. God bless you Billy Baker!

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