I recently found some information on the Weaver Brothers and Elviry. They were a family who pioneered hillbilly humor.
Most people have long used the stereotype of the hillbilly for entertainment. Many think that this all started at Silver Dollar City and at the Branson Music shows. But it actually got its start in vaudeville with one of the most popular groups out there that entertained across the nation and even overseas with homespun hillbilly humor and old-time country music with homemade instruments. They were known as the Weaver Brothers & Elviry, and the two brothers who started the group up were from Ozark, Missouri. This is a small town between Springfield and Branson.
Their great-grandfather built a mill and the first courthouse in the area. The home he built in Ozark before the Civil War is still standin' and is the oldest home in town.
His son Leon, who went by the stage name of 'Abner', was born in the house at Ozark in 1882. By the age of 12 he set out on his own to perform in medicine shows. He played the mandolin, guitar, fiddle and was the first to use a hand saw as a musical instrument. At 19 (1901)he became part of the largest traveling show in the country, Doctor A.B. Christy's Travelin' Medicine Show.
His younger brother, Frank, went by the stage name 'Cicero'. He was born in 1891. He and his brother 'Abner', started their vaudeville act in 1904, when Cicero was 13. They called their selves the R-Can-Saw Travelers.
'Cicero' never spoke on stage, he did pantomime and was the inspiration for Harpo Marx. He played the banjo and a one-man-band apparatus.
In 1917, 'Abner' married June, 'Elviry'. She was born in Chicago but grew up in Springfield, Missouri. She joined the act in 1923, as their sister, 'Elviry'. Her humorous poker-face made her a favorite with audiences. She and Leon divorced in 1927, but they stayed friends and she stayed with the act. 'Elviry' was also the business manager for the group. In 1928, she married 'Cicero' and was with him until he died in 1967.
The Weaver Brothers and Elviry played the vaudeville circuit makin' the princely sum of $700 a week. They later were earning as much as $5,000 per week as their popularity grew. That was an enormous amount of money back in those times. We're talkin' about the time period of the Great Depression.
They even started addin' family members to the act. They called their selves, The Weaver Brothers & Elviry and the Home Folk.
They shared the stage with George Burns and Gracie Allen, Jack Benny, Al Jolson, Will Rogers and a stilt-walker named Archibald Leach. Now do you recognize the name? He later became know as Cary Grant. They played in New York, Chicago, Boston, London, Paris and Stockholm and thousands of other towns and cities.
In the 30's they started to appear in movies. Their first "Swing Your Lady," and it co-starred Humphrey Bogart and the bit player, Ronald Reagan. It's world premiere was at the Gillioz Theatre in Springfield, MO on Jan. 14, 1938.
They appeared in 13 films altogether. They worked with performers like Roy Rogers, Alan Ladd and Roy Acuff. They quit makin' movies in 1943.
The Weavers continued to live and perform in the Springfield area. In 1935, 'Cicero' and 'Elviry' bought the Heer's mansion, which overlooks the James River between Nixa and Springfield. Many famous people have lived and visited this mansion through the years. Heer's Department Store in Springfield was a landmark for years.
They continued to work on radio and were on KWTO's "Korn's-Krackin". Abner played with the Ozark Jubilee Band , there was a national Tv show that got its name from it. He appeared with area musicians, Slim Wilson, Bob White, Willie Wells, Jerry Osborn, Lennie Aleshire, Doc Martin, Zed Tennis, Googoo Rutledge and BoBo Pike. Later this program had more famous people appear on it such as Willie Nelson and a young man who went by the name of John Cash.
The Weaver family also contributed to Springfield theaters, the Mulliken, Landers and the Gillioz, and one of their younger brothers later worked as the projectionist at the Springfield Drive-In Theater. Oh boy, could I ever tell you some teenage stories about that drive-in! I cried when they tore it down in the 90's to put up an office complex. Lot's of good times there.
While the Weaver Brothers and Sister Elviry are not well-known today, they were some of the most successful entertainers from the Ozarks and entertained people worldwide.
We do have some local hillbillies that have made it big in the entertainment field, I'll do another post to list 'em all, cause there's a lot, but just a couple, Kathleen Turner, John Goodman, Don Johnson and oh yeah, Brad Pitt.
Mustn't forget that home boy. He went to Kickapoo H.S. where one of my girlfriends attended school. She thinks, she sorta, kinda remembers him. He comes to town a lot, his mom and brother and other family members still live here. I've never been able to catch a glimpse of him but I personally know a girl who knows a guy who knows a girl who's brother's old girlfriend's family had him and Jen to supper one night when they were here durin' the holiday's. And I know that last Christmas, not this past one but the one before, he and Angelina came to town durin' the holiday's.
Well I hope you enjoyed readin' about some of our famous ol' hillbillies. Some of the information I found about the Weaver's was written in a local paper by Paul Johns.
Sorry the pictures weren't better quality, there's just not that many left out there of this musical family.