A love for critters of all shapes and sizes is one of the traits that audiences came to know about “Elly Mae Clampett.” That attribute combines along with her ability to whip Jethro or anything else that came her way that needing whipping. She was beautiful to look at on TV and I spent endless hours being taken away from my childhood and pulled into the Beverly Hills world of Uncle Jed, Granny, Jethro and Elly Mae. There were many days as a kid that I will say were less than fun for various reasons, ill health and bullies among them. But through the 30-minutes spent with these folks, their comedic antics pulled me into a smile and I would lose myself into their uplifting look on their experiences.
The late Donna Douglas provided such a beauty of innocence for “Elly Mae.” When I had the honor to become an actor and entertainer, I never imagined Donna would join my friends and encouragers. The light I saw her portray and kindness she brought to “Elly Mae” were so much part of her. I saw it in her smile and in her willingness to share herself with all those who loved her. When I brought together a country music package adding Donna and Sonny Shroyer “Enos” from “The Dukes of Hazzard” to my show, she was such a gracious cast member. She was definitely a child of God who showed His love in her everyday life. I am thankful to have known this great lady.
Another great friend who took his final bow in Nashville is the late Country Music Hall of Fame member Little Jimmy Dickens. With a country music career that spanned from the 1940s to the present, he was one of final links to early stars of the Grand Ole Opry, serving as its patriarch. I met Jimmy on one of my first trips to Nashville and we visited at a performance at one of the local hotels. Jimmy was presented an honor by the organizers and at the time while he waited, he and I talked about his career. He commented at the time that he had not really received that many awards in his career and each one was special for him. He asked me about what I hoped to do in my career, and I shared my dreams about my music and the future. When I finished, he turned, looked at me and said, “You sure have the enthusiasm to reach your goals,” he said. “I think you will go far in our business.” Our paths would cross again and again especially as I began guest starring for the Grand Ole Opry. He would always have a joke or a light-hearted word of encouragement for me. Eventually, I was blessed to be able to not only produce Jimmy in the studio but record with him. I was proud to be part of his legacy and have him as part of mine. With Jimmy’s departure, he takes with him some of the final shimmers and shines left in Nashville’s glittering western suits.
Randall Franks is an award-winning musician, singer and actor. He is best known for his role as “Officer Randy Goode” on TV’s “In the Heat of the Night” now on WGN America. His latest CD release, “Mississippi Moon,” is by Crimson Records. He is a member of the Independent Country Music Hall of Fame. His latest book is “Encouragers I : Finding the Light.” He is a syndicated columnist for http://randallfranks.com/ and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.