Carolyn Bradshaw-Shanahan
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An Arkansas native, Carolyn would grow up to perform on the Louisiana Hayride, enjoy one career in music, and another in business. She was born on a farm near Camden, Arkansas to Claude Sebastian Bradshaw and Eugenia Elizabeth Tony Bradshaw. Carolyn had five brothersand two sisters. Growing up during the Depression Carolyn remembers hard times. As a young girl in World War II, she remembers saving foil and lard to contribute to the war effort. The family went to a Presbyterian church where Carolyn enjoyed the music. She also enjoyed the music on Saturday nights when the family tuned the radio to WSM in Nashville and The Grand Ole Opry. Her brothers served in World War II, as well as her sister, Mary, who enlisted in the WAVES. She sang her first song on stage at age 15 at the Reo Palm Isle in Longview, Texas. With Fabor Robinson, owner of Abbott Record Company as her manager, Carolyn began entertaining in "one-nighters" in the East Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Soon she was performing on Louisiana Hayride. There she me stars such as Red Sovine, Webb Pierce, Hank Williams and George Jones, whom she calls "One of the sweetest people in the world." Later, she recorded at a KWKH studio The Marriage of Mexican Joe. Floyd Cramer played piano with Jimmy Day on steel guitar. Cramer and Day became "like my big brothers," she remarks. She recalls performing in clubs in south Louisiana where chicken wire encircled the stage to prevent patrons from throwing beer battles and other trash on the performers. The Marriage of Mexican Joe reached the top ten, but she never saw royalties. "I have yet to get those," she remarks. Robinson, she says, always remarked to her, "We have to put the profit back in the next record," she recalls. She also never received royalties for later recordings. She doesn't recall what she was paid to perform on Louisiana Hayride-"like union scale, which was like twenty bucks," she estimates.. She met Hank Williams when he returned to the Hayride and describes him as "not very communicative". Elvis Presley was different. "Oh, yes," she says, her voice deepening when asked if she remembered him. "Betty Amos and Jenny Wright and Maxine Brown were telling me about him saying, "Just wait until you see the new kid on the block." She says, "I kept hearing that. I thought, `Who is this upstart?'" So I met him. I thought, "Wow!" So struck by his looks and charisma, she now can't remember what he first said to her. "I don't think I heard it. I was just looking at him. I probably didn't hear the first fifteen or so lines he said," she says. She describes him as "a gentleman. He didn't drink He didn't smoke except every now and then he'd smoke a cigar. He was very respectful of the women," she recalls. They dated for "a period of about three months," she says. He was "very restless...just having to be moving all the time." She, as well as others, called him "El." She sighs. "And then he was whisked away. He was getting very popular. That was just prior to the time he was on the Ed Sullivan Show." She doesn't recall seeing him again. Of her time in Shreveport she says, "Yes, I was really fortunate because I was there when so many of the popular, well-known country and western stars were there. Somebody asked me one time; it was a lady who was interviewing me for a book about Johnny Horton as a matter of fact. She said, `How do you feel about making history?' I said, "I don't think entertainers think about making history. I think they just want to sing or entertain or do what they do.". Carolyn met her husband in Houston in her mid-20s. There she worked for several law firms, including the one of the famous trial lawyer, Leon Jaworski. In October 1967, she married John H. Shanahan Jr. in Houston, Texas. They would have three children, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren. "I'd sing to the children when they were little and they'd ask me to stop," she remarks, laughing.