Harold Sharp


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Photo by Barbara Dunn King

Profile of My New Friend,
Old Guitar Picker and
Country Singer, Harold Sharp


I have a boarder named Harold Sharp, age 77. He was dropped off at an orphanage in Dallas, along with his sister and brother, when he was nine years old. When he was about 13, his aunt took him and his brother Jerry home with her to Palestine, Texas. When he was about 14, Harold taught himself to play guitar on a Kay his aunt purchased for him from a mail order catalog. He sat in the back room of his aunt's house listening to Ernest Tubb's radio show in Fort Worth on KGKO. Harold learned to pick the guitar note by note, chord by chord and years later got to play behind E.T. on the Hayride in Louisiana. He got to tell E.T. that he was the influence behind his pickin' and playin' and Harold said that pleased Ernest very much.

When Harold was in his late teens, he went to Louisiana and played with Benny Hess. Harold was the lead guitarist for the duo and Benny did the vocals and rhythm. They auditioned for Horace Logan at the Hayride and were hired as an act. They played the Hayride most weekends - Harold met Johnny Cash while playing the Hayride. Harold also met Hank Williams Sr. there and became one of the Drifting Cowboys. He stayed with Hank about 19 months, going to Montgomery with him and playing gigs. Harold's memory on dates is foggy because of his age and a stroke in 1999, but he does say that Hank was a great friend, good boss who paid him $90 a week, and they picked and picked, played and partied a lot together.

He left the band and Hank and went back to the Hayride and played with Hoot Raines. I questioned him about the reason for leaving his great friend and boss, Hank Williams. He did not want to tell me why. I persisted on my questions and he finally said "Well, if you don't tell anybody." I said "OK." His remarks were that Hank's over indulgence and excesses in liquor and other substances was the reason he left him. I enlightened Harold to the fact that the world already knew it all and forgave Hank and still loved him for the icon of country that he was and became. Harold seemed relieved to know that what he thought was only his secret and learn that it was already aired a million times on paper and that he would not be telling off on one who had become such a legend. When Harold played with Hoot, they called the Band "The Tri-State Boys" and played Louisiana and Texas honytonks.

Harold played on recording sessions with Hank. He played lead guitar on many of Hank's great songs that were released on MGM - 78's with the big yellow label. Some of the songs Harold played lead on, were: "Last Night I Heard You Crying in Your Sleep," "Move It on Over," Lost Highway," "I Can't Help It," and "Never Again." These were all recorded in Shreveport, LA.

One of Harold's vivid memories is of going with Hank to a record store and meeting Audrey and talking to her outside the store. She was carrying Hank Jr., so it must have been about late 1948 since Jr. was born in 1949.

Harold Sharp never became world known, but he became well known to Houston, Texas honytonks and Baytown Radio KREL, having his own 15-minute show with the R.D. Hendon band. Harold was also a part of the George Jones band, "The Jones Boys," for a while at the Hometown Jamboree in Houston. Harold started playing at the 105-1/2 Club on Main Street in Houston and at Matt's Night Club on Canal.

Harold played at the 105-1/2 for R.D. Hendon, the owner. The band was called "The R.D. Hendon's Western Jamboree Cowboys." Harold kept getting better and better. He backed most of the big entertainers that came to the club to play as featured acts. He was paid $75 a week by R.D. and was expected to do anything R.D. had an idea to do. Harold was also singing now as he picked and played. He played behind Ray Price, Charlie Walker, George Jones, T. Texas Tyler, Porter Waggoner, Hank Locklin, Johnnie and Jack, Kitty Wells and many other famous entertainers.

R.D. was wanting songs recorded but he did not sing or play himself. So he got Harold and the band to record several songs at Quinn Recording Studio in Houston. Three of the songs were written by Injun Austell. The titles were: "I Can't Run Away," "Return My Broken Heart," "I Ain't Got a Lick of Sense," an instrumental called "Blues Boogie" that Harold had penned. Now Harold's voice was the vocal on the first three, but he never received any credit for them. When they were released on Mercury Starday and they reflected only the name R.D. Hendon as the artist. Bill Quinn, owner of the studio, was also the recording engineer.

It was at the Quinn Studio that Harold met Pappy Daily and Jack Starnes, owners of the Starday Record Company. Harold was, at this time, still just making $75 a week. He was also spreading his wings playing other sessions at the studio for $40 a session, no matter how long the session lingered. Somewhere in that time period he played with Utah Carl and his band.

Harold left Houston and came to Texas City. He played the Old Duffy's Tavern, the Rodeo Club, and there backed Lefty Frizzell. Harold taught Sonny Burgess how to pick and play chord after chord sometime in this time frame. He played The Racetrack in Galveston with Bob Jones. The place must have been a trip as it was nicknamed "The Bloody Bucket."

I asked Harold if he remembered the first song he ever sang on stage and he said it was a new release that had just been recorded by Leon Payne called "Lifetime to Regret." Memories are fuzzy, time has a way of cheatin' us outta things things and memories are one of them. But the special ones come back when the mind is prodded to reflect.

Harold came back to making $10-$15 a night and that included the tips. So goes fame and fortune in this business. Harold laid down his guitar and went to driving a truck. After three broken marriages and several children - that road of music no longer paid nor paved a way for life to build on.

Harold will be 78 on February 24, 2002. I have ordered all the books and CDs of music on the Louisiana Hayride I can find, hoping to bring back some more of this gentleman's life for him. Hoping their will be pictures that might bring back a smile and a reflection he will be happy with. Harold didn't think this was an interesting story. I did, and hope you do, for it's another life worth reliving in print. Just like the 100 books I have on my shelves which I have read each and every word of, as I learn more and more about the past and the tradition of this business called Country Music.


Posted January, 2002

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