Read Part 1 of Bald Knobbers: Chronicles of Vigilante Justice by clicking here.
First, let me make a distinction between two Ozark groups with the same name...but each is spelled differently.
1. The Bald Knobbers - the Vigilante Law Group
2. The Baldknobbers - the Branson, Missouri, Entertainers
When I was a child, my favorite singing group was the Baldknobbers Hillbilly Jamboree Stage Show from Branson, Missouri. These Baldknobbers originated in 1959 with the four Mabe brothers banding together: Jim, Lyle, Bill & Bob. Lyle W. Mabe performed in Branson’s first show as comedian George Aggernite, which was the name his father gave him as a small boy. Lyle Mabe/George Aggernite was one of the main characters I always watched on stage because, in my mind, he was larger than life.
|Click on the picture to learn more about the history of the |
Baldknobbers Hillbilly Jamboree Stage Show.
Every so often in the 70’s, I would get the opportunity to see George Aggernite appear on the nightly ten o’clock Channel 3 News, KYTV, out of Springfield, Missouri. George would crack a few jokes or ad-lib to somebody, while doing a commercial for Empire Gas before the weather forecast. One of his tag lines he made famous was, “Empire Gas…"It's Economical." The last word, Economical, he would ad lib & sometimes have troubles spitting out the syllables because he would have his dentures out as part of his character.
I didn’t get to watch him often because we didn’t have a TV—we lived too far in the valley to get a signal. Sometimes, I would spend the night at my grandmother’s home because she had a TV, and I knew she would watch the ten o’clock news. Consequently, I would see George Aggernite with his toothless smile.
I also remember the Baldknobbers Hillbilly Jamboree Stage Show traveling to nearby Mountain Home, Arkansas, in late April 1972 for a performance. Ticket prices were $1.25 for adults and $0.50 for children. This jamboree consisted of some wild characters and great musicians, such as the Wild Man on the guitar, Droopy Drawers playing the washboard, and George Aggernite thumping a string on a washtub bass.
The small school stage was packed full of musicians and equipment, and the night began in the gym auditorium with enormous excitement. After the second song, comedian George Aggernite was announced. As he ran onto the stage, he tripped over his washtub and fell off the platform. A collective moan could be heard across the auditorium. George Aggernite was the consummate entertainer and performer; he crawled back on the stage, cracked a few jokes, played a song ,and then went backstage to bandage his cut leg. He came back a few moments later and acted like nothing was wrong.
After reading the chapters in the book, Bald Knobbers: Chronicles of Vigilante Justice, one may see the term Bald Knobber as a name that is despised and unredeemable. The initial vigilante leader of the Bald Knobbers was a man named Captain Nathaniel N. Kinney, whose nickname was the “Old Blue Gobbler.” It is from him that the lore of the Bald Knobbers began.
Nevertheless, my book is dedicated to the memory of Lyle W. Mabe, alias George Aggernite, a different kind of Baldknobber, who brought smiles and laughter to the Ozark hills where there had been dissention, poverty, and tears.
Thanks Mr. Aggernite.
Lyle W. "George Aggernite" Mabe passed away the 27th of February, 2010. You can find more about him by clicking here at: Find A Grave.
Anderson, Vincent S., Bald Knobbers: Chronicles of Vigilante Justice. (Charleston, SC, The History Press, 2013) 9.