Chuck Slaughter - musician, songwriter
By Deborah Turner
Slaughter's publicity photo for
The price musicians pay for success
is paid many times over by those who skirt along the
edge of fame, able to see it beckoning just around
the next corner - tasting it, feeling it - until,
finally, it's seductive charms give way to reality
like an elusive dream.
"I toured with a lot of big stars, but I wasn't no
big star myself. My big accomplishment is my kids
and grandkids," says Chuck Slaughter, local musician
and songwriter from McKenzie. "You're away from home
when you're a musician. We tried hard, but we didn't
make number one - all of us don't, you know - some
of us fall by the wayside."
Looking back, he says he isn't sure if he would make
the same choices again, regretting the time the
music business took from his family. But with an
entire room in his circular, wooden-log home devoted
to a music studio, it is clear than his love of
music flows through his blood as strong as it did in
his younger years. He still has a small stack of
photos left among those he signed for fans in his
glory days, their edges curled and stuck together by
moisture while in storage. And he still sings, his
strong voice reminiscent of Johnny Cash in the style
of old time country music.
"I still do a little writing - I'm a frustrated song
writer," he confesses, lamenting the fact that his
words never made it to the top. Still, he had a hand
in the recording of George Jones' 1969 release,
"She's Mine" along with writer, Jack Ripley, as well
as other hits of yesteryear. He wrote Edd Cisco's,
"Don't Bring Me No Flowers", and recorded some of
his own lyrics, such as "Windy" and "Fool Away from
Today, he cherishes his relationship with his wife
of nearly 50 years, the former Barbara Reynolds of
McKenzie. Says Slaughter, "Barbara has survived the
ups and downs of the music business and has been my
wife and best friend for forty-nine years. She has
been and still is my anchor of stability and common
sense." The couple enjoys flea markets and yard
sales, for years setting up booths in flea markets
all over West Tennessee and Southwestern Kentucky
before settling down to shows in Huntingdon and
Trenton. Spending time with their sons, Kenneth and
George Michael (who lives in Palm Beach, Florida)
and their seven grandchildren is their greatest
pleasure. They lost their beloved daughter, Desiree,
many years ago.
But while Slaughter today views life through the
lenses of reality - focusing on shared times with
family members and grateful for the woman who stood
by his side even when at her side was not where he
chose to be - for many years music held him captive
and he lived in the roller coaster world of the
It all started when the Latham, Tennessee native
moved to Flint, Michigan in 1959 following four
years of service with the U.S. Air Force, during
which time he was assigned to the Eastern Air
Defense Command during the Korean War. His mother
and father had moved north for the jobs that were
offered there, and young Chuck followed suit,
working at General Motors during the day while
playing music at night.
He joined a group of musicians that included his
cousin, Buddy Ray, on lead guitar; Paul and Larry
(the Cash River Boys) on guitar; Big Joe Hammock on
the fiddle, and himself on guitar, bass and vocals.
The group played country and gospel music every
Saturday morning on an hour-long show for WMRP radio
In addition to the radio show, the group played at
every open-air concert, grand opening, car lot and
political rally where they could get a booking.
A two-week stint at the Lucky Eleven nightclub
stretched into four and one half years for
Slaughter. He and owner, Otis Ellis, formed Lucky
Eleven Records in 1959 and Slaughter recorded eight
songs for the label, including "Here Comes the Rain"
and "In From Lonelyville", written by Jack Ripley; "Cryin'",
"A Pretty Woman", and "Tight Rope" by Jerry Tuttle;
"Get the Best of Living" by Wayne Moss, and "Lucky
Eleven Rock", written by Slaughter.
His years at Lucky Eleven were
abbreviated when he returned to Tennessee where he
stayed for about five years, working during the day
and playing music when he could. When he returned to
Lucky Eleven in 1966, it was as General Manager. He
obtained his booking license in 1967 and booked all
of Lucky Eleven's talents as well as that for other
"We were trying to make it a country label but we
started booking rock bands," says Slaughter. As the
rock and roll division of the label grew, the
company ran five sock hops in various townships
every Friday night.
Slaughter's efforts for Lucky
Eleven provided the beginning for many successful
rock and roll artists, including Terry Night and The
Pack, Dick Wagner and the Bossmen, the Jayhawkers,
Question Mark and the Mysterians and The Fabulous
Pack (who later became known as Grand Funk
Lucky Eleven was also prominent in the careers of
many country music artists, such as Kay Tollivar,
Roxy Williams, Sylvia Jo, Edd Cisco and Slaughter,
Moving back to Tennessee in 1969, Slaughter formed
Desiree Records in Nashville, a company that was
named after his daughter. On the Desiree label he
recorded "Fool Away from Home" by writer Jack
Ripley; "Burning In My Soul" by Jerry Tuttle; "Wild
as the Wind" by Bobby Bear; "Shacknasty Jim" by Ed
Huddleson and Chuck Slaughter and "Fool Not a Man"
and "Tanberry Place" that he wrote himself.
He was involved in making music videos before they
became popular, and starred in the videos for
"Windy" and "Fool Away from Home" opposite a leading
lady who was the former Miss Arkansas. "She was
married and wouldn't take her ring off; we had to
cover it with a band aid," Slaughter laughed.
He hit the top 20 in Billboard and Cashbox with
"Fool Away from Home" and was a member of the Ozark
Jamboree, a show that aired on CBS every Saturday
evening. During one segment of his membership with
the Jamboree, the crew filmed 65 shows over a period
of three months - usually in two-week intervals -
all filmed on location in the Ozarks in Horseshoe
Bend, Arkansas. The show featured the music of
yesterday, today and tomorrow, with Slaughter's
music demonstrating the present while music of old
stars like Hank Williams, Sr. represented the past
and new artists displayed the talent of the future.
He also performed on the Bill Anderson Show and the
Wheeling West Virginia Jamboree.
In 1971, he sold Desiree Records and got out of the
music business for a while, returning in 1976 as
booking agent for Buddy Lee Attractions in
"I have performed with some of the greatest artists
and musicians in the world," says Slaughter. He was
also happy to lend a hand to help other aspiring
artists along the way, the most successful of whom
is Billy Joe Shaver, whose "songs have been recorded
by artists ranging from Elvis Presley to Stonewall
Jackson to Dallas Moore to Waylon Jennings."
"I gave him a place to live and paid him a salary to
write songs for our publishing company," says
Slaughter, "I later hooked him up with country music
artist Bobby Bare and Billy Joe wrote many hits for
Barbara Nell and Chuck Slaughter
outside their rural Tennessee home
Slaughter remains involved in the
music business as a consultant and a B.M.I.
songwriter. He recorded his most recent album,
"Gospel Memories", in 1996, two years after half of
his left lung was removed due to lung cancer.
Available in CD, the album contains songwriter,
Jerry Tuttle's, "Burning In My Soul" plus gospel
favorites including: God Put a Rainbow in the
Clouds, Amazing Grace, Leaning on the Everlasting
Arm, Old Time Religion, I'll Fly Away, Peace in the
Valley, Wings of a Dove, and Rock of Ages.
Songs included in his country music CD are Burning
In My Soul, Wild as the Wind, Tight Rope, A Pretty
Woman, Get the Best of Living, Fool Away from Home,
Shacknasty Jim, A Fool- Not a Man, and Windy.
Slaughter was nominated to the Michigan Country
Music Hall of Fame in 1996 and his name remains in
the nominations for the current year. Though he has
not been selected, he appreciates the nomination,
which is a reflection of his talent, skills and hard
work in the industry.
Slaughter is a member of the Moose Club, Song
Writer's Association and the Loyal Order of Kentucky
Colonels. He has been a member of the American
Federation of Musicians since 1959.
Interested persons may contact Chuck Slaughter at
Listen to Slaughter's
Music, click a title:
Wild as the
Wind (written by Bobby
My Soul (written by Jerry