Iannuccilli: Eddie Zack & Campbell’s Soup

Monday, January 28, 2019

 

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Dr. Ed Iannuccilli, Columnist

When I went to The Academy Avenue Elementary School, just a few blocks from our house in Providence, I walked home for lunch. I opened the door to our third-floor tenement on Wealth Avenue and the aroma of soup, the warmth of our kitchen and the music greeted me.  The soup would be vegetable; the music would be country.

“Edward, would you like some hot Campbell’s Vegetable soup with some Tip Top bread and butter?”

“Sure.” It was nice that my mother was home at noon. She worked the three to eleven shift at The U.S. Rubber Company. At school day’s end, my grandmother or aunt, who lived in the tenements below, took over.

The soup was accompanied by music, but not just any music. It was a local group. Mom loved Eddie Zack’s Radio Hour … The Hayloft Jamboree … broadcast at noon. Yes, we listened to country and western music. Eddie and his robust singing crew … Cousin Richie, Babs, and Maril, just plain resonated country and western.

Eddie did not come from cowboy land. He was homegrown right here in Rhode Island and with an Armenian background to boot. They were the Zackarian family of Providence – Edward (Eddie Zack), his brother Richard (Cousin Richie), and their sisters, Mercedes (Babs) and Marilyn (Maril) – who pioneered the Country & Western music scene in our state and were major players in the introduction of the style into the Northeast. Zack was the founder of the RI Country Music Hall of Fame.

The group became a countrywide act, recording for Decca and Columbia, and were the stars of a nationally broadcast NBC radio show originating from WJAR studios in downtown Providence. During the ‘40s and ’50s, they released dozens of successful recordings and were an established major nightclub and concert attraction. The success of The Hayloft Jamboree continued into the 1980s with a string of successful radio and television shows and a series of independent record releases.

We can fast forward to just a couple of summers ago. I saw an ad in the paper for a reunion of The Hayloft Jamboree at The Mishnock Barn in West Greenwich. Well, I could not wait to get there on this warm Sunday afternoon. Diane and I started to swing to the music as soon as we entered. On the stage was Eddie Zack, Jr. rekindling the tunes we heard so many years ago.

The regulars were dressed in wonderful western gear with cowboy boots, tight-fitting jeans, ten-gallon hats, string ties, flowing multi-colored dresses, wide belts, and large buckles. Oh my, how they did the Texas two-step so effortlessly. They took no notice of us (me in pale yellow shorts and Nike sneakers) as we danced to “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and so many other classic western tunes.

Buttered bread, soup and western music. What a combo, not only to get back to school in days gone by, but also to reawaken those memories on that warm summer day.

Ed Iannuccilli

Ed Iannuccilli is the author of "Growing up Italian" and "What Ever Happened to Sunday Dinner?" and both books can be found here.

 

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