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A Friend Remembered
John James "Johnny" Westbrook, Jr.
1901 - 1974
-by Glen Williamson  ~1991.

Johnny in the "Driver's Seat"
A 1946 Ford Station Wagon, -"The Gad Wagon." 
Successor to "The Crate," 
Photo taken by Glen Williamson in front of his home, National Cemetery, on Lee Street, Danville, VA.__

Table of Contents:
 Why I wrote this Page

Good and Bad 
The Music School
Watch where you Step
Wish Upon a Star
Duke and Snoopy 
Westbrook at 100 Yards
Juu get uurn bud?
Grave Digger

Look down that lonesome Row
Belly Wash
John's Wit
John's Wisdom
39 Ford station wagon
Gad Wagon
Snoopy & the Skunk
"Gad Rocks"
John's Book
Little Switzerland
an  image of John
Cast of characters
 Stories & Pics Solicited

Bill Hathaway
How I came to write this
Others Recall
Johnny played with Jimmie Rodgers

       [To my Home Page]
Anthony Lis' Excellent article on John (.pdf  17 - 21)


W.T. "Bill" Hathaway
1923 - 2009

Bill Hathaway Personal Web Page

Instructive VIDEOS!  OutstandingNEW

Mr. Hathaway's Virtual Trail Outstanding!

http://www.pittpaths.com/web/Don't Miss this!

W.T. Hathaway named Naturalist EmeritusWell Deserved!

ObituaryWe Miss you Old Friend


John James Westbrook, Jr. was an original--a genius: he was a musician, a philosopher, a naturalist, an archaeologist and, above all, a gifted teacher. In point of fact, John was a true Renaissance man.

To say that "Johnny"--that's what we all called him, had an impact on thousands of people, is not an over-statement. He was a self-taught musician; he played and taught the piano and the guitar; he wrote and arranged hundreds, if not thousands, of songs over his lifetime. He also played with Jimmie Rodgers in the late twenties.

Johnny loved Nature, he was the original environmentalist--with all the good connotations. He could not tolerate thoughtless people, people that trashed the landscape was his bane. His knowledge of nature was only exceeded by his ability to infect you with that knowledge and a respect for nature. He had patience beyond belief: no question was ever a "dumb" question; and if he didn't know the answer--which was rare, he would say so and find the answer making sure he passed it on. 

He liked all people, but he especially liked kids. He always had time for kids, in fact, he seemed to instinctively know which kids most needed his attention. If I look for a common thread to the kids that received his greatest attention, it was that they all, myself included, had a troubled home-life. I guess that it may have helped him handle the fact that he could not be with his own son, from his failed marriage, how very sad. 

We lie to our kids when they are young, we tell them that the world is a fair place, that it is soft and fuzzy, we protect them from the, sometimes, harsh truth; in other words, we patronize them. Johnny didn't do that, he neither lied to them nor did he beat them up with the truth; he was honest without being brutal, and kids could sense that about him, and they/we responded. 

I first met Johnny in 1943 when I was six years old, before I had started school. It was spring and he had come to the neighborhood, and several of the older kids were going with him to the woods to collect --um, well something, I don't remember exactly what. But I do remember I wanted to go with him. I told him that I wanted to go, and he said that we would have to get permission from my mother. Mom was a bit apprehensive, to say the least: she asked the questions that any parent who doesn't want her child to get hurt would ask. John was use to apprehensive parents and knew the right words to use to calm their fears, I went with him. I had great fun, and I was "Hooked!"

Over the years I collected butterflies at Green Hill Cemetery, first using formaldehyde to kill the insects, and later cyanide. John gave us butterfly nets of his design and manufacture: it turns out that John made nets that worked better than a national manufacturer--Ward Scientific of New York City. He claimed that "Store bought" nets were made of a bright white netting with short handles. John had a local cabinet maker, Mr. Allen, make the handle and hoop, and he would sew, or have sewn, the nets out of bright white netting material. Then he would darken the gaudy white netting in hot boiling tea. When he finished he had the perfect net--one where the insect never knew what hit him...

Johnny had a great sense of humor, or more correctly; a great sense of what was funny. His jokes were, for the most part, originals; things that were funny to kids as well as adults, but never at someone else's expense.


John's Wisdom

He had the ability to put things into prospective for an eight-year-old: "If a farmer, who possesses great faith, just sits by his fallow fields and asks God for a miracle, i.e., to grow corn for he and his family, that farmer will sit there forever, no matter how much faith he has. 

On the other hand, if that same farmer first tills the soil and plants the seed, then God performs the real miracle--the germination and the growing of the seed, "God truly helps those who help themselves." 

He would tell the story of the devout believers, who, during a great drought, would gather daily at the local country church, and pray for rain. Finally the rains came, and the people were ecstatic. And there was the church, Empty--no one had thought to return to give "thanks."

Johnny used to take the kids in the neighborhood hiking in the nearby woods where we would collect butterflies, plants, snakes and any other collectibles. We not only collected butterflies but johnny would teach each of us to mount them using special insect pins and blotters, used by professionals, that he would give us. Imagine that: an eight year old kid given the tools professionals use and taught how the pros use them. Later, as I got older he trusted me and some of the other kids with cyanide killing bottles (sold by Wards Scientific), used for killing insects, and no one ever had a bad accident. In fact, over the many years that Johnny did his thing, there were no serious accidents--ever.
After the war Johnny was given a 39 Ford station wagon (A.K.A. the "Woody"), and we went everywhere. One day we would be at the worlds largest tungsten mine in Townsville, North Carolina, collecting mineral specimens; the next day we might be on Occoneechee Island at Clarksville, Virginia, excavating Indian burial sights along side the archeologist from the Smithsonian (this was as Kerr Lake was filling, A.K.A., Buggs Island), or walking cornfields in the Stanton River flood plane in search of Indian arrowheads. _Or in the mountains picking blueberries and looking for snakes; walking the dark Country Club woods collecting Catocala moths; or night time on a friend's farm with a portable gasoline generator and lights (that I had "borrowed" from the National Cemetery's tool house) to catch moths; going to an abandoned gold mine collecting minerals... And this went on nonstop every day in the summer and every weekend the rest of the year. 
Johnny smoked cigars and preached against cigarettes. He would ask if anyone wanted a cigar, and would pass them around to the kids who wanted them. I do not smoke today, I believe, because of that "freedom." His ideas on being addicted to anything--be it tobacco, alcohol or drugs - was the thought of being: "A slave to a big green leafy vegetable!"  He thought, as we all did, that allowing such a thing to happen to yourself was "pretty Damn Dumb."
Good ver Evil
John used to talk about the human soul, and how many people didn't believe that they even had a soul. He would say how the two greatest principalities in the universe--Heaven and Hell--were fighting over our immortal soul. And that if you didn't recognize that you even had one, "You would surely lose it." 

The Music School
Back in the twenties, John had a band that used to tour the southern United States--he even played guitar with Jimmie Rodgers in the late twenties. Later he established a music school in Washington, DC. He hired lots of music teachers, and had a thriving business. He tells the story of when he first moved into his new offices, it seems that the school, which was on the second floor, was over a bank, and John deduced that his private office--and more precisely his desk and chair, were directly over the bank's vault. So he had the sign on the front door changed to read: "Westbrook Music School, Ass sets over a Million Dollars." 

Up until the depression, John was prospering in his music school, he had over a dozen instructors working for him and had accumulated a tidy sum. Business dropped off as the depression got worse, instead of letting his people go, he paid their salaries until all his savings were gone.  It would have never occurred to him to do otherwise. 

Westbrook used to say that smoking could be dangerous, especially if you were absent minded. "Why is that?" I asked. "You might throw the wrong butt out the window." 

Then there was the time when he was dating a young lady and was getting ready to light up: he asked her, "...do you mind if I smoke?" To which she replied, "Frankly John, I don't care if you Burn!" 

Watch where you Step
I was about seven years old when I first started going with Westbrook on day hikes. Once, our first or second grade class was hiking to Pumpkin Creek, and I had to "Do #2." I knew that John carried toilet paper for just such situations, so I told him I need to "do number two." He gave me the toilet paper and told me to go up the trail to do my business, and that they would wait there until I finished. I did my business and came back to where everybody was waiting, and we all proceeded up the trail in the direction that I had done my business. To my horror there in the middle of the trail was my business, I had done it right in the middle of the trail, there for all the world to see. I felt about an inch high, and on top of that I got a rather pointed lecture from Mr. Westbrook about not "crapping" where everybody else has to walk! Forty seven years later I can remember every horrifying detail, and the comments from the other kids--especially the girls...

Wish Upon a Star
John was a great musician, and would play while Bill Hathaway drove. Once on a trip he was playing his bass ukulele and taking requests; I said I'd like to hear "Wish Upon a Star," from Disney's Pinocchio. So he set about slowly picking each chord through the song. Then he played it through flawlessly--it was beautiful, I (and others) was brought to tears. I was really impressed because I had recently seen, on TV, Arthur Godfrey take 6 weeks to learn a much simpler song under the tutelage of the show's lead guitarist. So I asked John when was the last time he had played that particular song, he said that this was the first time, that he had heard it before and was familiar with the song, but that was the first time he had ever really played it. 

Duke and Snoopy
Westbrook was loved by both my dogs, Duke and Snoopy, and he loved them. John liked to tell of all the times--when I was in school, he would get off the bus at the corner of Jefferson and Lee streets, where he would meet up with Duke and they would head off for the woods near Almagro and A & D cliff or the Pumpkin creek woods. And at the end of the day, how they would part company at the same corner, John going his way--getting on the bus, and Duke going his way, "Not a word spoken." 

Westbrook at 100 Yards
When I was about 10 years old, Bobby Plott and I rode our bikes to the Schoolfield woods. We had our nets and killing bottles with us and were looking for Catocalas (moths that hide on trees). After about an hour of pushing our bicycles through the woods, I stopped dead in my tracks, sniffed the air and said," I smell Westbrook," to which a voice replied: "Right you are." There standing about 75 yards down the path was John, net in one hand, knapsack in the other, a big Blue Ribbon cigar clinched in his teeth, and a big grin on his face. John had a certain odor, unlike anybody else: a combination of cigar, cyanide from the killing bottles and a musty smell of tannin or leafy smell from the woods.

Juu get uurn bud? 
One twilight eve we were going moth collecting at a special sap tree that John knew about: "The moths swarmed like mad at this tree." We were unloading the nets and a couple of cardboard boxes filled with killing bottles out of the back of John's beat-up old 1939 Ford station wagon. About that time we saw a shadowy figure, carrying a large cardboard box, come out of the woods and get into his car. As he drove by us he slowed down and leaned out the window and hollered: "Juu get uurn bud?" We figured out a little later that the local bootleggers kept their "stash" of whisky in those woods until it was time to "run it." 
The Grave Digger
One cold winter's day we were digging Indian burials on Occoneechee Island where it was so cold the ground was frozen. Each of us was digging in our own 3 foot deep pit, using trawl and brush, and sometimes a shovel. Because the island was being used as a cow pasture there were cow chips (dried or nearly dry cow pie) everywhere. Well, after a half hour of digging, somebody--Johnny we think--tossed a cow chip at one of the nearby pits, and of course, there was retaliation: the shit was flying. Bobby Plott, whose pit opened onto Johnny's pit, ran out of cow droppings and in frustration picked up the largest frozen clod of dirt and heaved it at John. The big clod dropped into John's lap and broke open--exposing the best preserved skull ever unearthed on the island.

Look down that lonesome Row
Arrow head hunting was a great example of how you cannot see an object (arrow head or spear point) if your mind's eye isn't use to seeing it... Many a newcomer would walk right over a perfect arrowhead or spear point and never see it. John would always walk where the novice had walked and find as much as if it were a virgin row. He would make a point of showing the newcomer the find, in a way that didn't hurt their feelings. In fact, it made them a more vigilant collector. After some experience you could spot an artifact with only the minutest part showing above the dirt. 

Belly Wash 
We lived on junk food and "belly wash." We rarely took any food or drink with us, we would stop at every country store we could find and stock up on every weird sweet goodie we could find. My specialty was finding exotic drinks: I discovered the original mountain dew in the Roanoke valley, it was in a light green bottle shaped like a little wine bottle - it was great tasting!


John's Wit 

--John would say: "Why, he's so dumb he was twelve before he realized the Chamber of Commerce didn't have handles on it." 

--He was into recycling very early on, he always talked about starting a business recycling toilet paper.

--Or if you answered his question on some subject or other correctly: "You have just won a chocolate covered wristwatch."

--John would tell the story of how his grandfather use to make home brew back during prohibition. The relatives thought it was so good that they were constantly nagging him to get a patent on the formula, to send it to the government and have it analyzed. So he sent a sample to the Department of Agriculture. After about three months he received an official looking letter from the U.S.D.A. He opened it and read it to his excited family: " Dear sir, we are sorry to inform you that your mule has diabetes."

--He would tell how his father had gone hunting and had killed a Moose, an Elk, and wounded a Mason." 

--He might ask someone "Just how much would you charge to haunt a house?"

--He might play some piece of music no one had ever heard before, and title it: "When Lightning Struck the Outhouse--second movement."

--Referring to his 39 ford station wagon, "The Crate," and driving up mountain sides so often, he claimed he was going to write a book: "Round the World in Second Gear." 

--If somebody passed us on the road in a hurry and somewhat recklessly, he would say "Hurry bud, you gotta get home before your beer gets warm."

Before John got wheels, we went everywhere on the bus... Then Came the "Crate."
39 Ford station wagon
(1).. John's beat-up 39 Ford ("Woody") station wagon, the "Crate," ended it's over 400 thousand mile life in a 
After the Crate retired, John was given a 46 Ford station wagon which he dubbed the "Gad Wagon."

Back in 1953 we were out in the middle of hurricane Hazel, when a severe hail storm hit us denting the Crate and putting holes in its cloth covered wooden slat roof, resulting in many a wet ride after that. When it would rain Westbrook use to say it was dryer outside of the car. 

Jimmy Scearce use to keep the Crate
An image of John:
Westbrook, chomping down on an long-since-extinguished stub of a cigar, pontificating on some subject or other, while meticulously scrubbing a rock or pottery shard with a toothbrush under running water in the sink of his work area located in one corner of his tiny museum.
Our overnight trip to Little Switzerland:

Bill Hathaway, Johnny, Durwood Orrell, Billy Norman, Bobby Plott, myself and several more--who's names escape me--went on an overnight trip to the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. 

We all piled into Bill's brand new Suburban; going from quarry to quarry and an occasional gem shop looking for mineral specimens for Bill's 'Nature Specimens Unlimited' enterprise. We ended up in Little Switzerland, North Carolina--just off the Sky Line Drive. 

It was the height of the tourest season, and we were mingling with some pretty well-to-do folks, some of whom were in evening cloths and headed for a jewelry auction. We did feel a little out of place...

After eating supper we all went to the local Hotel where we occupied several rooms that Bill had reserved for us. 

Here we were: young kids, away from home, in a hotel room "unsupervised"--you get the idea. 

The most vivid memory of that trip: one group of kids--Billy Norman, Bobby Plott, myself and one or two others were negotiating the extra bunk beds with little room to move around; when there came a knock on the door. I climbed over several beds and people, and opened the door--expecting the manager with eviction orders. 

There stood Johnny. He was waring only his flowered boxer shorts, a sleeveless undershirt, his white legs--briefly exposed but for the garters holding up his dark socks, his hiking brogans, a stump of a cigar in his mouth, and on his head he was holding a large painted wooden fruit bowl--upside down like a coolie hat--asking some silly question. 

Our reaction was enormous and uncontrolled!!

Up until that point in my life I don't think I had ever experienced anything as Funny! Ever!

It broke the tension, to say the least; and with out saying so--we felt less out of place. We kind-a owned the place from there on out.


M i s c

Candy and Bubble Gum

During the war when sugar was rationed and candy was very scarce, Johnny was somehow able to get his hands on candy and bubble gum and would distribute it among the kids at the various schools. Apparently he had talked the local candy distributor, K.L. Baruddy, into donating the goodies to the kids of Danville.

Snoopy's Close Encounter of the Skunk Kind: 
Snoopy--my globe trotting dog--encountered a skunk at a feldspar quarry near Bedford, Virginia. He smelled so bad that I seriously thought of leaving him there. During the trip home he kept nuzzling me for comfort--ugg! 
The End of an Era: 1901 to 1974.

The last years of his life Johnny lived with Bill and Mildred Hathaway on Sutherlin Avenue and Green Street. He taught music at Leedís Music Center in Nordan Shopping Center, Danville, VA.

In 1974, Johnny died in his sleep at the age of 72. He had been fighting the flu.

Six months before Johnís death the three of us were together in the Green Swamp in South Eastern North Carolina. For some reason I asked John, "looking back over your life, what do you regret having done the most?" He thought a few seconds and said, "I canít think of anything I did that I regret, but I can think of a lot of things I regret having Not Done." 

Johnny James Westbrook, Jr. 
William "Bill" Taylor Hathaway
Frank Bliss
Richard Bliss
Mclin Choate
George Fairer
Jimmy Gravely
Freddy Hawkins
Nathan Isenhour
Rodney Lemons 
Billy Norman
Durwood Orrell
Bill Overton
Bobby Plott
Glen Williamson
Plu Wiseman
 --et al.

My Apologies to those left off the List; my gray matter is getting grayer.

PLEASE, let me know if your name is not on the List; Or if you would like to add your address and other info.

    glen  contact

P.S. If anyone has stories (long or short), photos, articles--anything they want to contribute to Johnny's Page, Please send them along:
e-mail: contact

      Or U.S. Mail: 

Glen A. Williamson
372 Norwood Drive
Danville, VA 24540 --Please NOTE: All contributions will be Returned!

William Taylor Ham "Bill" Hathaway
1923 - 2009
 No story about Johnny is complete without including Bill Hathaway. 
I donít remember when and how Bill and Johnny got together, but they became fast friends and remained so until Johnnyís death in 1974. They were both decent and gentle men, and bigger than life! I recall my meeting him for the first time--1946 (8 or 9 years old), it was a school hike on the wooded cliffs above the Dan River on the Schoolfield side, above the power plant. I had heard of Billówar hero and all, and upon meeting him, I was not disappointed. That hike I recall him rummaging around in his knapsack and pulling out bandage materials and patching up a kid's scratched leg.
 Bill was born July 7, 1923, in Norfolk, Virginia. He moved to Danville, Va. in 1939 and attended George Washington High School, when GW was on Holbrook near the family home, on the corner of Holbrook and Green Street. In 1941 he attended Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, VA. Where he was graduated in June 1942. Shortly afterward he joined the Marine Corps as a four-year regular serving in the Pacific Theater, including the Soloman Islands during World War II. After his four-year hitch, in June 1946, he attended VPI Extension in Danville. 
 In February 1948, he again joined the Marines for another four-year hitch serving later in the Korean [War] . He received an honorable discharge in November 1951. In 1952 he married Mildred New, and they had two daughters, Kitty and Peni. A good part of their lives the family lived in the Perry house on Sutherlin Avenue and Green Street (a hundred yards from his ancestral home). 
In 1956 he began teaching in the Pittsylvania County Schools. He taught English and General Science at Dan River High. Later he taught Biology and Chemistry at Whitmell Farm Life School and then Tunstall High School. In 1965 he worked in the Chemistry Lab at the Danville Memorial Hospital. He also attended Averett University. 
 He was an avid naturalist and devoted most of his life to the study of nature and science. He was always eager to share his knowledge with others through his writings in Natureís Niche and other newspaper columns, the various local museums to which he contributed, and field trips that many former students still remember. He taught at Dan River, Whitmell, Tunstall, and The Govenorís School.
 A year or so later, he returned to Pittsylvania County to work in the Planetarium at Chatham. He also helped build the Hiawatha Trail in the White Oak Mountain area of the county. For several years he escorted hundreds of elementary school students over the Hiawatha Trail. These students were brought by school buses to the trail. The gas crunch finally brought a stop to this school-bus-trail program. He continued to teach special programs for gifted students in the school system.   
A Springtime Hike
Bill with Avery Wyatt and her class from the Pittsylvania County Public Schools, at the White Oak Mountain Wildlife Management Area. (~1990).
  He had also taught in the Regional Governor's School every year since its beginning. Ever since his classes started in 1956, he has taken many students on hikes along trails built near the individual schools. His interest in natural history seemed to be a major part of his local enthusiasm. He transported special students interested in "the great outdoors" on weekends and holidays. Johnny Westbrook helped and inspired him in his work and his nature studies. 

 Bill amassed over 600 35mm color slides of various specimens photographed as early as 1960. A few of these slides were included in Mr. Hathaway's Virtual Trail Project.

Bill retired as Resident Naturalist Emeritus for the Pittsylvania County School System. Bill touched many lives with his love of nature and he will always be remembered as the teacher from the 'University of Outdoors,' "It is much more interesting to apply trigonometry measuring the height of a tree than solving equations in the classroom."  William Taylor Hathaway, Naturalist Emeritus, and Rickey W. Parker, Assistant Superintendent for Information Technology

1923 - 2009
NOVEMBER 12, 2002


A lot of the above was 'lifted' from Bill's Obituary written by his grandson, Jonathan T. Decker, also Mr. Hathaway's Virtual Trail, and several photos from the Henry Mitchell family's wonderful web site. http://www.pittpaths.com/

Our Very Own Hero
Back in the early 1950s, at the outbreak of Korean [War] Bill had alredy gone back into the Marine Corps as a "gunnery" Sergeant. (He was a retread from WWII having fought in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Theater of Operation.)
Marine Sergeant William Taylor "Bill" Hathaway of Danville, VA, is seen patrolling South of Soul, South Korea.

A local weekly newspaper, the Commercial Appeal, had on their front page a full page photo of a marine in silhouette with a Thompson submachine gun slung over his shoulder, while walking along RR tracks near Soul, South Korea. 

It turned out to be our-very-own, William Taylor "Bill" Hathaway. Wow! As a thirteen year old, I and Johnny's Ďgang,í were duly Impressed. Man, here was our hero in the thick of battle, looking for "Commies" to kill! 

Months later when Bill was stateside, we showed him the picture. He laughed and told us how he was actually looking for specimens of a particular snail indigenous to Korea and typically found along railroad tracks. He was still our hero, but we had discovered that our hero was not only brave, but he was also modest.


One summer when he was between teaching jobs, needing money to carry he and his young wife and two small daughters over till the start of school, he undertook a demolition job for the Memorial Hospital. 
Danville Memorial Hospital's steam plant smokestack

The job was demolishing a big old smokestack that was over 120 feet tall and large enough to park a pickup truck inside at the base, and it was built from large terra-cotta brick and lined with firebrick.

There he was, every morning climbing to the top, straddling the lip of the smokestack, using a 3 pound mineral hammer, he would work his way around--backing in circles, single-handedly brick by brick, he tore down that entire smokestack, and all before the Fall semester started.

How I came to write this
For years I--along with everyone else who knew Johnny, hoped that a real professional writer would take pen in hand and chronicle the life of this Magnificent Soul. I make no secret that I'm disappointed that one of the most gifted writers that I've had the pleasure of reading, over the years, has turned it down. Without mentioning his name--if Henry had known Johnny it would be a different story! 

Five or six years ago (~1990) with no thought to Political Correctness, I sat down and started putting down my recollections of John and the Crud Crew. I thought that I would not remember enough to make the effort worthwhile; but to my amazement, no sooner did I get one thought down, three others would come "flooding in," out running my ability to get it all down. To that point, I never finished fleshing-out all of the stories who's titles appear at the end.

About a year ago I discovered the perfect home for my recollections of John--the WWW. I had it in the back of my mind that this would be ideal for a Collection of Remembrances of Johnny.

Recently a good friend, Mike King of Apex, NC--died at an early age. At the wake, I promised his father that I would write to him about my recollections of his son. I wanted his parents to view their son through the eyes of his contemporaries. I wanted them to know how well respected and loved their son was by his friends and co-workers. 

As I started writing, I realized since it had been several years since I had seen Mike, that I was at a disadvantage, and needed help. So I created a Web Page and solicited contributions in the form of stories and photographs from all of his friends. --Johnny would have really liked this guy!

Anyway, all of this is by way of saying:

I need Your help with Johnny's Web Page.

If anyone has stories (long or short), photos, articles--anything they want to contribute to Johnny's Page, please send them:
e-mail: contact
U.S. Mail: Glen A. Williamson
372 Norwood Drive
Danville, VA 24540

NOTE: All contributions will be Returned!


Trivia Question of the day: What is 2290-J ?


Others Recall

Bill Hathaway Recalls:
...Once on an outting with Westbrook, I planted a fake flower near the car while "babe brother" was taking a leak. This flower was one of those plastic, red monstrosities that are placed on grave sites. When Johnny got into the front seat and lit his cigar (for the third time) I drovc off---only to have him rave: STOP, STOP!  I glanced in the mirror and pulled over on the shoulder. Johnny returned to the car and said, "Ain't this for the birds" and handed me the flower.  I was laughing so hard that it took me several minutes to get started back on the road. Johnny soon figured it out and appreciated the joke.
Barry Holt Blank Recalls:
I have not lived in Danville for over 50 years but cherish the time I spent there - although I never thought I would ever feel that way when I was there!  Thank you for putting the great site on the air for all to see.

A staffer here asked for permission to be off today so she could attend her first graderís Nature Day. It was to consist of a celebration of Monarch Butterflies.  All of a sudden I had a flash back of the many days when I was one of the kids in the crew with Johnny Westbrook as we drove off in the Woody. Only Johnny knew of those special places where there were bushes that attracted Monarchs. While we were at it, we also collected arrow heads and other nature items. I believe we had to put a few cents in the pot to cover gas but Johnny provided all the equipment. My memory of the way we euthanized the insects was by using finger nail polish remover dripped into cotton at the bottom of a mason jar. It was very inexpensive but the chemical had the sometimes bad effect of changing the insect colors. Another of my  memories was the stops we made at tiny country stores where the group would march in an buy RC Cola and a Moon Pie. Do they even make those things anymore? Again, thank you for the effort and for bringing back such fond memories.

   Barry Holt Blank
President, Commerce Travel, Inc.


Random Topics

Johnny's "Gad Rocks"
Johnny believed that the TOOLS used by the American Indians for making arrow heads, spear points, arrow shafts, etc., consisted of a finite number of Basic Tool Shapes. He spent many years amassing evidence that indicated these basic shapes had been passed down and improved over the generations of Tool Makers, that is, the tools which were crude in the beginning--had, over ensuing generations-- steadily improved in quality and utility. To make his point, he would lay out "sets" of similar shaped tools which clearly illustrated their evolution. 

In the area around Milton, NC, there were many great locations for collecting artifacts. Most were tobacco fields which afforded the best collecting; ones that had been freshly plowed and recently rained on. --The plow would inevitably "turn-up" hidden artifacts while the rain would wash off the top layer of dirt exposing the latest "treasures." 

At one such field we were drawn there by the beautiful dark blue Amethyst quartz crystals. Some times we would find good specimens of the crystals, but many promising specimens would have a flaw--a gouge or badly abraded spot. Though collected by many of us as mineral specimens, Johnny believed these were tools--pure and simple; that the Indians only saw "our pretty blue crystals" as highly prized tough material for making their badly needed TOOLS. 

John's Book on the Guitar

To "fulfill a life long dream," John set about writing a Book on the Guitar. Over a span of three years, he spent all his spare time--and more, writing this treatise. 

In the end, a publisher thought it good enough to publish if John would "pare it down" to a single volume. At the time it would have required 3 volumes. To my knowledge, Johnny never finished the revised single volume. It's my guess, that his dream had been fulfilled, and he was less interested in its final publication. I don't think he saw it as a revenue source. I know that's not why he wrote it!

The value in this particular work--according to Johnny: it was a catalog of--as well as, a method for discovering --"Guitar Cords." Apparently, up until that time, there were a limited number of known ways of making popular chords, fingering frets, strumming, etc. The larger the repertoire of ways of making certain chords a musician has, the better their performance. That is, it is how smoothly and how fast a Guitarist can TRANSITION from one chord to the next that affects the quality of their performance. In fact, Johnny pointed out that one of the reasons for the success of many renown Guitarists was their secret collection of ways of making Chords, and that it was not unusual for them to take their chords to their graves. 

Johnny played with Jimmie Rodgers in the late twenties.

Anthony Lis' Excellent article on John (.pdf  pp 17 - 21)

There  is a CD Reissue: Jimmie Rodgers, "The Early Years" (Rounder CD 1057, 1991) available at  ?
*  Dickey Betts - "Waiting For a Train" (Jimmie Rodgers) Original recording: Oct 22, 1928, Peachtree Road, Atlanta, GA (with Dean Bryan, guitar; C. L. Hutchison, cornet; John Westbrook, steel guitar; James Rikard, clarinet; George MacMillan, string bass) (matrix BVE 47223-4) Reissued on "The Early Years" (Rounder CD 1057, 1991)
  --Thanks to Russ Brackman for the info!

. .
Corrine Cortina, by The Too Bad Boys
"That same year (1929), Paramount Records released a version of "Corrine Corrina" by The Too Bad Boys, a white group that usually recorded under the name Westbrook Conservatory Entertainers, (The group was named after its leader, the steel guitar player John Westbrook, who accompanied Jimmie Rodgers on several of his earliest recordings.) This rendition, recorded in New York City, is basically a straight cover of Chatmon's 1928 recording, with a lugubrious bottleneck slide guitar substituted for Lonnie Chatmon's fiddle. Although all the other items performed by Westbrook and his colleagues during this recording session were categorized and promoted by Paramount as "hillbilly" songs, company executives apparently decided to try a crossover gambit with "Corrine Cortina," creating a pseudonym for the band, and releasing the song in their race record series."  Corrine_Cortina.mp3
Thanks to Fred Hawkins
. .
A former Student of Johnny's, Steve Eckels

On Solo Acoustic Guitar

Chequamegon Music
P.O. Box 584
Kalispell, Montana 59903
Blue Sky Country

Telephone (406) 257-6878, Fax (406) 257-6878 *07 
Email: eckels@guitarmusicman.com


About Steve


Johnny in the "Driver's Seat"
A 1946 Ford Station Wagon, -"The Gad Wagon." 
Successor to "The Crate," 
Photo taken by Glen Williamson in front of his home, National Cemetery, on Lee Street, Danville, VA.__

Catocala Marmorata 

-One of Johnny's Favorite Underwing Moths
Thanks to William "Bill" Taylor Hathaway---


Clipping from the Local Newspaper, of which Johnny was often the subject. 
Thanks to Fred Hawkins---
Near Turkeycock Mountain
northwest of Martinsville, VA
-Bill Overton, Kitty & Peni Hathaway, with Johnny
Thanks to William "Bill" Taylor Hathaway --

A Replica of 'The Crate'

39 Ford "Woody"
Thanks to Fred Hawkins---


Johnny in one of his rare Photos
Thanks to William "Bill" Taylor Hathaway--

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