The Michigan Elvis : Lonnie Barron Shot through the Head in Muttonville Michigan
I think the first shot went into his arm…whether it was his strumming arm is unclear, but the second shot took a good chunk of Lonnie Barron's head and put him away.
Lonnie Barron was a honky-tonker who suffered the same fate as many a roadhouse rogues…taken out for good by a jealous husband. Though he died at a younger age than Jimi and Janis, you won't see him listed in any of those dreadful "Rock and Roll Heaven" articles. He isn't singing any duets with Amy Winehouse either. When alive, Lonnie sang "hillbilly weepers" and "thumpers" which was the music most likely to encourage the swoons of young rural Michigan women during the 1950s. Northern girls far too isolated to see the real Elvis.
So Lonnie made out. He was a Mississippi catfish out of water. A big fish in the Michigan pond. He was industrious and talented, especially for a southern cracker's son who dropped out of school at 14. He wrote songs, played multiple instruments, worked as a disc jockey and even operated his own juke-joint, The White Eagle Hall in Richmond, Michigan. All by age 24. He lived next door to the dive, and it was in the bathroom of that house his corpse fell.
Lonnie's big hit was Teenage Queen, in which he brags he was "having fun" with his teenage queen when she was seventeen. Not to worry, he makes her an honest woman.
The Michigan Elvis was mis-named, as about the only thing he had in common with the King was that the post-mortem "tribute" cash-in above was on the Crown label. The disc calls him a "Country Music Star" and shows him in the ponderosa shirt he performed in. (After treatment by "Fazzio" who air-brushed many of the Crown sleeves) That is a kerchief, not a choker. Crown records was a budget label subsidiary of a cut-out bin conglomerate. It was formed as a way for the Bihari brothers to dump their cast-offs. Any thing "good" on the label was a mistake.
B. B. King Sings Spirituals
Bongo Madness by Buddy Collette
The Drink Along album by the Sing Alongs
They were based in Hollywood, and it is likely the only time the principals had been to Michigan was to rip-off Detroit master John Lee Hooker (which they did) but they smelled a few bucks after Lonnie's death and rounded up twanging label-mates Evelyn Harlene and Casey Clark to re-record his hits. Evelyn was hot. Her rocking single on Sage has lyrics like "hitch my hot rod to the stars" and "a set of wheels and a radio, away I go." Casey Clark was a portly fake cowpoke who had a TV show out of Detroit aimed up to white trash in the thumb.
It is commonly understood in the music community that the Bihari brothers claimed authorship of a good deal of the material they released. They got the royalties and the artist got the royal shaft. Although the cover is worn, the record inside is mint, but it skips. That's another thing the Biharis were known for…chunks of cheap vinyl rock in their grooves. The disc does not even credit the songwriter of Lonnie's big hit Teenage Queen. It was Lonnie.
Billboard Magazine contains an ad showing the tribute record selling for 99 cents. The disc is undated, but certainly not long after Lonnie's death. It receives five stars on Amazon, but from only one person, and I can't rate it as I got mine from a garage.
Barron was a, well…redneck Romeo? Down-home P-hound? While the press said things like he didn't drink and he read the bible, they did find hundreds of love letters from hormone-gourged women fans in his house…a pile of them were found in the bathroom Lonnie fell into trying to escape the bullets. Whether his murderer threw them over Lonnie's body is unknown.
Lonnie Barron released his own recordings on the Sage and Sand label, sometimes credited as "The Mississippi Farm Boy" and it was there he came from and to where he returned in a box on a train. First through Chicago, then down the tracks along Big Muddy.
The Mount Clemens newspaper reported "friends of the victim" as saying he "did not have an enemy in the world" but that means what it usually does in the papers. He did… one with a gun. Reportedly one Roger Fetting, a "jobless carpenter" who confessed to the murder with a radio newsman. UPI carried the story. Fetting was not only married to a woman who admitted "illicit relations" with Lonnie, but apparently related to the woman who ran Lonnie's fan club. Roger's wife wrote Lonnie love letters, but Roger found one she didn't mail. End of story.
In Memorial to Lonnie Barron with Casey Clark & Evelyn Harlene Crown Records LP Collection Jim Linderman
The best article on Lonnie Barron is found at the Hillbilly Music site HERE
BOOKS AND AFFORDABLE EBOOKS BY JIM LINDERMAN HERE