Ted Mack tribute to feature Meschers
50 years ago Jerry and dad were selected to play bones on ‘Original Amateur Hour’
Editor’s Note: The following story was provided by the National Traditional Country Music Association.
Jerry Mescher, (center) his wife, Sharon (left), and sister Bernie (right) will be featured this month in a show paying tribute to “Ted Mack and His Original Amateur Hour.” Jerry and his dad, Albert, appeared on the national TV show on Father’s Day 1961.
HALBUR — On Father’s Day in 1961, 20-year-old Iowa farm boy, Jerry Mescher, and his dad Albert, appeared on the “Original Amateur Hour” with Ted Mack in New York City. Amazed at the “tall buildings and a town you couldn’t see the end of,” Jerry Mescher is today celebrating his 50th anniversary of winning the chance to appear on the “Original Amateur Hour,” at a local county fair.
“Ted Mack was a very nice guy. He sold Geritol, rehearsed with us, and treated us really great. He also said on air that he thought it was a real treat for his huge audience to celebrate Father’s Day with a father-son act,” Mescher said. “What really amazed Mr. Mack was the fact that dad and I played the bones ... together.”
Jerry, his wife, Sharon, and his sister Bernie, are all bones players, and they, surprisingly, play the bones as a trio, an unheard of ability to keep rhythm, sound, snap, and wrist movements identically the same. They have been selected as a feature act on the premiere “Old Time Country Music Tribute” to “Ted Mack and the Original Amateur Hour,” which will take place on Feb. 27, in Miami, Fla., at the German-American Club.
Second to the human voice, bones are the oldest instruments known to man. As far back as medieval Europe, roving performers called jongleurs accompanied music makers, by clacking ox ribs together. No minstrel show of the 1800s was complete without a bones player, Mark Twain was a fan, and so is George Lucas (producer of the “Star Wars” movies). Lucas recorded bones players in his Sky Walker Studio for two scenes in the Academy Award winning film “Titanic.”
Stretching from India to Mongolia, from Egypt to a farm in Iowa, the technique of bones-playing remains basically the same no matter where you are from.
“My dad, Albert Mescher,” Jerry adds, “started playing bones when he was about 10, accompanying himself by pumping an old upright player piano. His first bones were made from a pitch-fork handle. Not long after dad learned to play the bones, my grandfather spotted some professional ebony bones in the Sears & Roebuck catalog. They cost $1.40 for a set, this must have been about 1915. My first bones were made from a peach crate. I was 10 too, when my dad captivated me with his incredible rhythm playing. My sister was next to learn the bones and together we kept the tradition alive. Now my wife Sharon has joined us. Our bones trio, the Mescher Bones, have been carrying on the tradition ever since.”
The Meschers were inducted into America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame for their bones-playing abilities, and though they have difficulty practicing — Jerry still lives on the farm in Iowa, but sister Bernie is a flight attendant for Delta Airlines and makes her home in Miami — they still manage to do it via the Internet. After Jerry helped Bernie perfect her bones-playing technique, she has been entertaining everywhere from Tokyo to Shanghai, Rome to the Christmas Mart in Germany.
“We’re so glad to be able to do this tribute to Ted Mack and the ‘Original Amateur Hour,’” Bernie said. “We even have a video tape of the half-hour program my dad and brother were on and will be showing it at the tribute show. One of the producers of the show, Albert Fisher helped us obtain this valuable footage from the Library of Congress. We are also having some additional entertainers on this tribute show to make it an all-round full-fledged variety show. Terry Smith from Nashville, Bob and Sheila Everhart, Francis Hahn, and Rick and Harriette Andersen from Iowa. Pat Boilesen, Bob Keim, and Jackie Shewey from Nebraska, Kenny Meyer from Minnesota, Maggie Penn from Illinois, and Tom Worrell from Florida who will be the MC of the show. We hope that we are beginning a ‘new’ tradition that will continue annually, and that will also expand the audience for old time country music.”
Describing why he has played the bones for more than 50 years, Jerry says, “I was at a loss when my dad passed away. He was my partner. I loved him and I loved the way he played the bones. However, when my sister Bernie took up the art, and now my wife Sharon also plays, I have to tell you, there has never been a dull moment in our entertainment lives.”
More information on tickets and times of performance are available from Bernie and Tom Worrell at 305-279-7242.
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