I was born in Tilly, Arkansas on August 30th, 1942. I had five (5) brothers and sisters. A brother named Ray, sisters Angie, Lullie Faye, Lorene, and Mary. My brother Ray served in the National Guard in Terrell, Texas. My dad’s name was Lonnie and my mom Atta. My dad was a farmer and a carpenter in Arkansas. We grew all types of crops. It was during the depression so we sold about anything we could take to the market.
I was six (6) years old when I started working on the farm. I gathered corn and we would go to Oklahoma and West Texas and picked cotton. Growing up we had two (2) mules used for plowing the garden and fields. I remember one time when the mules got spooked and I ended up being pulled across the field in the rake. It was dangerous working on the farm.
A few times in the summer me and some friends would go down to the Buffalo River and do some fishing. I played basketball for two years starting in the 7th grade. Most of the time, however, was spent working on the farm.
My brother Ray was a mechanic and was already in the National Guard in Terrell. He had a lot of influence in me joining the National guard. He was seven years older than me and in 1958 we moved to Texas. I had to join something, otherwise I would have been drafted into one of the military services. I remember when I was young I traded for a mini bike and I tore that bike apart and made it run. My brother and dad tell a story about me one time up in the bedroom and had a pair of plyers and a screwdriver and had a clock all tore to pieces on the bed. I put that clock all back together and it worked. So, I guess I had some mechanical skills growing up.
“I joined the Army National Guard Reserves when I was around 18 years old. I signed up for four years in the National Guard. I went to Boot Camp at Fort Leonardwood, Missouri. I was there for eight weeks. I became a squad leader early on when the platoon leader looked at me and said, Harmon, you are the squad leader. I guess he picked me because I had some prior marching, and some training with a rifle. Ft. Leonardwood is called, “Little Korea.” It gets so dang cold in the winter. It got down to 12 below zero. I was tougher than a hickory nut having done work on the farm. I had little problem with the physical part of Boot.
I was given a Competence Test when I was in Boot to see what I was most suited for in the Military. I did well on the Mechanical and became acquainted with all type of military vehicles. We worked on the brakes, tune ups, oil changes and anything major we would send out. The first six weeks was Basic training, where they taught you how to ‘kill people.” I got my expert badge including on the 50-caliber machine gun. I had a lot of my family members lived about 2-3 hours from base so I visited them when I would get a weekend pass and my wife and I stayed there. I drove a 57 Ford and was an 8-cylinder with overdrive and a standard shift. My brother sold us that car, and we drove around in it. My brother sure was good to us over the years. I would probably have been in the graveyard had it not been for him.
As soon as I graduated from Boot I stayed at Ft. Leonardwood for Mechanic’s School. Again, it was working on tune-ups, oil changes and smaller mechanical parts of working on the various military vehicles on base. I trained there for another eight weeks. I even did a little bit of hair cutting on the side while I was stationed there.
I remember I had a Channel Master radio and had it on the hood of a jeep and several of us stood around and listened to what was happening down in Cuba during the Missile Crisis. The bulletin came out while we were standing around that jeep. President Kennedy told Russian leader Krushev to turn his ships around from going to Cuba or he was going to “Blow them out of the water.” We came close to getting into a nuclear war with the Russians. We could have been ready to head to Florida in three or four hours. It was some tense times.
The food in the military was great. Being an ole country boy I didn’t complain too much about the food in the military, including the steaks. We never had steak on the farm except maybe a hog or chicken. We couldn’t afford a steak.
I really like that 2nd week at Ft. Leonardwood. Everything was kept so neat and clean. I was the only soldier from Texas during my sixteen weeks there, and they didn’t like me too much there.
We got along good though.
We were just getting started in the Vietnam conflict with our soldiers going to Cambodia and Laos. A lot of the guys were going to Vietnam. I was one of the fortunate ones. After the sixteen weeks I was ordered back to Fort Polk.”
On April 29th of 1961 I got married to my wife Joyce, and was called up for active duty in the Guard. I was playing a banjo with a friend of mine, Burnice High, who was going to school with Joyce. He played the guitar and sang vocals. About three weeks prior to meeting Joyce I had a date with her cousin. She told me I have another cousin you need to meet. I decided to drive over to her house and meet this girl. I drove over and asked for a date and she said, yeah. I got a pretty good kiss the first night and to me it was love at first site,” laughed Doy. “She just stuck her head thru the window and laid one on me. We just celebrated our 60th Anniversary,” smiled Doy.
I got started playing the five-string banjo when I was young. There was an older gentleman named Lester Chisum playing the banjo at the church. Him and his son were playing and singing. His son was plying rhythm guitar and harmony. I was about 10 or 11 years old. When I go back to Arkansas I still see his son and visit with him. His son’s name is Donnie Chisum. I fell in love with the five-string banjo watching his dad play at church. It is a lead instrument to begin with and I just really liked the way it sounded. When I got to Texas I started listening to Flatts and Scruggs and that really turned me on.
My dad bought me a Sears Silvertone, my first banjo. Lester came by the house and tuned it up for me and showed me a couple of keys and I started from there. Burnice and I played in a small band and he got our first gig with the FFA in their annual state fair at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas. We were playing in front of some “Big Shots” and boy was I nervous.
Later, the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department asked us to play at a fundraiser going on in Tyler. A TV station there was broadcasting a March of Dimes Telethon. We went and played on the TV station. We were playing mostly Bluegrass music. Back then that camera got about six inches from your nose for a closeup and I was really nervous then. We played for years together and I bought a second banjo and built Tuner Keys to go with it. It operated the same way as Earl Scruggs did.
“I carried that banjo to Fort Polk, Louisiana with me. I had a deuce and a half in the Maintenance department and we ended up distributing parts from the back of that truck. My brother brought his guitar with him. He and I were stationed there together. The 49th Armory Division of Texas. There was a guy named “Red Hawkins.” He was one of the best singers I ever heard in my life. We started jamming in the barracks at Fort Polk. We had huge crowds come out and listen to our little band. It was a lot of fun. I spent about three (3) months at Ft. Polk. I was in the NGUS which was active duty State National Guard, a part of the Army. I did four of my obligated years in the military and got out.
In August of 1962 Doy was sent to Terrell, Tx. to finish up his military duty with the Guard, home of the 49th, 3rd Battalion, 144th Infantry headquarters. He started working for the Babcock
Brothers, home and auto supply company. “I was salesman, assistant manager and budget manager. I also worked for a Al Manco Sheet Metal Company in Dallas. We installed metal buildings and did a lot of welding with aluminum and stainless steel. I was told that I was one of the best welders who ever came thru their shop. I worked there for about three years. I became a mechanic for a freight company and worked in their repair shop for several years.
PICKING UP THE BANJO AGAIN
When I got out of the military I met up with a friend by the name of Michael Thorpe. He was a rhythm guitar picker and singer. I still played the five-string banjo and sang some harmony with him. The Kaufman County Sheriff’s office had a fundraiser and had it in the National Guard Armory. It was packed out. Tyler was still doing their broadcasts and Buck Owens was on there. I remember we got a standing ovation and as we were walking off the stage they asked us to come back on. Grandad Rich was the MC and the Fowler Playboys were there. After our second set Grandad Rich asked us to come to Tyler and play on their Preview Show. He said, “we will even pay you.” We got paid $10. A song. This was my first paying gig. They played mostly country on the show.
I like country gospel and country music. I started playing for churches around 1963. ( see pic with black hair ). I played for the First Assembly of God in Terrell and I enjoyed playing there. I played there for 13 years. I switched from the banjo to the guitar because the banjo doesn’t fit in with the music of most churches. My old friend Lester Chisum was now the preacher of that church. This was about the time Buck Owens came along and the guitar was very popular.
I love to bass fish and play music. I have a 10 and one quarter bass on my wall. I caught it on a black and blue flick craw worm. I caught it on Lake Fork on an old stock tank and I was throwing over the dam across the top and on the backside. The water was about 4-or-5 foot above the dam. I had a jingle bell on that craw worm. It was about 11:00 at night. She picked it up. I took the slack out of the line and could tell she was moving and I set the hook. The fight was on. She run everything in that dam and she run around it. I knew it was a big one, maybe a seven. She got close to the boat and Joe Williams, my fishing buddy, dipped it but it was so dark. He said Doy, this is a big fish. Could it be a double digit. Biggest I ever had in the boat. I weighed it right then. I still like bass fishing today.
My brother bought that in 1973 and it has never been in the shop. Peavey is another great amplifier. They repair guitars like you would never believe. I love reaching people thru my music, and have fun doing it.
Doy Harmon, thank you for your service to our country while serving in the United States National Guard.
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“Every Veteran has a story to tell.” Phil Smith
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