After WWII started the boys split up and entered the service or worked at defense plants. Smiley Burnette invited Hank and his wife singer Donna Albanese to Hollywood where Hank appeared in several Roy Rogers pictures with the Sons of the Pioneers. Eventually the brothers regrouped and appeared in three Durango Kid movies as the Georgia Crackers. With western B movies ending and not liking Hollywood social life they returned to Columbus where Hank and Slim opened Hank Newman's Restaurant and Pizza Palace. There were regular jam sessions on Saturday nights and among those who dropped in were Tex Ritter and Patsy Cline. Hank and Slim passed on but Donna kept the Palace open until the 1990's
More about the Crackers
This morning I was minding my own business, googling for my grandparents' cookbook, when I was reminded of a web of family ties.
My dad used to play in a country band in Columbus, Ohio. His musical talent was part of the reason he met and married my mom, whose parents were Smiley and Dallas Burnette.
My brother and I grew up in New Albany, Ohio. In the summers we used to spend a lot of time at Uncle Hank and Aunt Donna's house, which was next to their pizza place.
Uncle Hank and his brothers had once played as Hank Newman and The Georgia Crackers. His musical talent played a part in his meeting and marrying Donna, who was born Donna Albanese.
The Georgia Crackers -- The Newman brothers are the three in back. Left to right: Uncle Slim, Bob, Uncle Hank.
The Georgia Crackers had long since disbanded by the time I showed up. The only time I remember hearing them play was one night at Veteran's Memorial Hall, when I was maybe five years old. The high points of the evening for me were getting to stay up really late, seeing Uncle Hank and his brothers on stage (I'd never met Bob before, but it was funny when he picked up that huge bass violin and "threatened" to leave the stage), and Tex Ritter and his amazing blue cowboy outfit, studded with rhinestones. I never got to say a word to Mr. Ritter but remember staring, mesmerized, at the back of his jacket as he sat at the bar in Uncle Hank's den after the show.
[So much for memory. Dad says it was Uncle Slim who was fiddling with the bass.]
The Newmans had met Grandpa in the late forties, on the set of one of the Durango Kid movies. I guess they'd long been established in Columbus by that time.
Mom met Dad in Columbus, while she was driving Grandpa around the country on one of his road tours.
The mesh ties together. That's how my brother and I came to spend our summers with Uncle Hank and Aunt Donna.
Century of Country
Other references to the Georgia crackers are here and here.