I don't remember exactly when Smoky Dacus showed up in our lives in northwest Arkansas.
I mainly recall starting the day with Smoky when I was in high school, during the mid 1950s. Smoky was the on-the-air voice of radio station KAMO in Rogers.
KAMO was one of the earlier radio stations serving northwest Arkansas. As I recall, it was owned by Leon McAuliffe, the music man of those years. Smokey had been a drummer in Leon's band, I think the first drummer in a country band. Previous country bands had had fiddles, guitars, mandolins and a few other novel instruments, but not drums. Smokey had broken new ground with Leon McAuliffe, and it caught on with other bands, as we see even today, some 65 years later.
I didn't really know Smoky as a musician though. I knew him as the man on the radio, and as the popular personality called on to be master of ceremonies for community events like beauty pageants. He came to Pea Ridge many times to work in that master-of-ceremonies role.
I see similarities between Smoky Dacus of the 1950s KAMO Radio and today's Kermit Womack of KURM radio. Both were often the on-the-air voices of their radio stations, both were often called on to be master of ceremonies for big events, both did their radio ads in a kind of off-the-cuff manner, both liked to play popular songs now and then, although their stations were not music stations as such, both had that down home manner about them, and, of course, both had those good strong clear manly voices. Kermit Womack can sing bass. I never heard Smoky sing, but obviously he could do the beat.
When I was growing up in the 1950s, we listened to Smokey mainly while we were doing the morning milking. We were getting going, milking the cows, about the time that Smoky was getting the radio station going for the day. The morning coffee was a big part of the early broadcast. You could say that Smoky had a Breakfast Show like the one that Kermit Womack carries on, but he didn't call it a breakfast show. It was not about eating breakfast, but Smoky's beginning was definitely about getting the morning coffee brewed and getting into enjoying it.
Smoky was great about making a big deal out of a thing that ordinarily would be pretty routine and mundane. In his breaks between giving news and doing radio ads, he would keep us apprised of the progress of the coffeepot. He would take in the aroma of the brewing, enjoying it so much that we could almost smell the coffee while we milked the cows. Smoky could kill time with the best of them, and talk interestingly about nothing much. Then he would play, "Pass the Biscuits, Please," the song. As I recall, "Pass the Biscuits" was a long-popular country song by Little Jimmie Dickens. In the song, he was a kid at breakfast with a bunch of adults who were paying him no attention. He was watching the biscuits disappear one by one, and trying to get somebody to pass him a biscuit.
Eventually, as the song ends, all the biscuits are gone, and he still has none, and "I just can't eat without bread!"
Eventually Smoky's coffee would be ready, and he would go into his next regular spiel. The coffee would be too hot to sip, so, after pouring himself a cup, Smoky would "saucer" it. I haven't seen anyone "saucer" their coffee in a long time. Probably that is at least partly due to there being no saucer under our coffee cups today. Most restaurants now place the coffee cup directly on the table. There is no saucer. In the earlier days, most coffee cups were presented in a saucer. That was kind of like having a pad to set the cup on; at least it prevented the hot cup from damaging the varnish on the table. Of course today's tables usually have other protective finishes, not the old vulnerable varnishes. "Saucering your coffee" worked to cool it just a bit before you started sipping it from the cup. The saucer would be cool of course, and pouring the coffee into the saucer cooled it somewhat.
Then, Smoky would get his saucer-full of coffee up to the mike, and start sipping at the rim as noisily as possible. I doubt that anyone could SLURP saucered coffee any noisier than Smoky Dacus. Also, I doubt that anyone could beat Smoky Dacus at carrying on about and enjoying so much a simple pleasure like sipping that first cup of coffee in the morning.
I notice that at Catfish John's restaurant in Rogers there is a picture of Smoky Dacus on the wall near the entrance. I understand that in his last years, Smoky often came for a meal with Catfish John. I'm sure he must have had coffee with his catfish and other fixin's. I wonder if Smoky still saucered his coffee at Catfish John's? Saucering your coffee was not the highest grade of table manners, but then, Smoky was not known to be disturbed if people around him thought he was a little noisy with his coffee.
Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part article, the first of which ran last week (March 4, 2020). Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge, is an award-winning columnist, and a retired Methodist minister with a passion for history. He is vice president of the Pea Ridge Historical Society. He can be contacted by e-mail at [email protected], or call 621-1621. The opinions expressed are those of the author.Editorial on 03/25/2020
Print Headline: Starting the day with Smoky Dacus