Joe Noojin well-known local piano player: Part 4 and final


  Over the last few weeks, The Vagabond talked about the late Joe Noojin, an Etowah County native who had been a musician for many years. He is pretty famous across the U.S., and finally wrote his biography. In reading Joe’s biography, one cannot help but chuckle or downright start to laugh! He continuously makes fun about his short height (at 5’-6”) and is not shy to share all the craziness in his life. One learns that Joe is a character and is a real hoot in his own right. Never will there ever be another Joe Noojin, and The Vagabond must expose the world about him. Now, to continue for Joe in his own words:

“Now, I will give you an explanation of the Lower Appalachian Redneck. The origin of the Appalachian Redneck is on Sand Mountain. A buzzard laid an egg on a pine stump,

and the sun hatched the egg. Thus, the first redneck emerged.

“It took me 50 years to make enough money to get out of Attalla. I bought a condominium in Gulf Shores. My old friend, Earl Miles, lived in a three-bedroom condo across from the two-bedroom condo that I bought. I kept it for about a year and a half. “When I was down there one weekend, the condo above mine was occupied by some people from Minnesota. A bunch of young girls were in there, and they played rock and roll music all night and kept me awake. The next morning, I caught one of them going up the stairs and cussed her out. Her daddy called me and jumped on me about cussing out his gal. ‘Well,’ I said, “if the management can’t control the noise level in this place, I’m getting out of here.”’

“So I sold the condo and bought a brick house in Perdido Key in Florida, just across the Alabama state line from Orange Beach. I enjoyed the place especially after I married. It was a nice place on a canal leading into Perdido Bay, where dolphins and other animals prevailed. I kept the place for two years. Then along comes Ivan the Terrible, the hurricane. It ruined my patio roof and part of my house roof. You couldn’t get materials or labor to repair it, so I came back to Alabama.

“In the interim, I want to tell you about the preacher at Perdido Key Methodist Church. He was, I think, a Cajun from Louisiana. Jack Dejarnett was his name. He was a very fine message preacher but he also liked single-malt Scotch whiskey, which is very expensive. I bought him a bottle and he thanked me profusely. I played piano at the church between the Sunday school and church services. It was well received by the older people.

“I’ll continue about Rhea’s Lake, a favorite amusement place in the Depression Days out from Attalla. Since we didn’t have a car, I’d hitchhiked out to Rhea’s Lake and danced with the boys that had cars and brought girls out. I never will forget the story that my old friend, W.E. Hulsey, told me one time. He was tenor player who was playing in a band at Rhea’s Lake. He said he and another sax player by the name of Wormy Denton, I believe it was, got into an argument about something, and they said that they’d just settle it at the first intermission. They had on white shirts, black ties, and tech-tux pants. So they went out at intermission, exchanged licks, and came back to play the rest of the job. They had blood on the front of their shirts. But it was a great old ride anyway.

“And now to preachers. Etowah County has been blessed with what I call half-a** preachers. Most of them are sincere, devoted men, but they have no education and no background. They’re fire-and-brimstone preachers. I like to hear, when I go to church, a man of education.”


“To continue, I’ll give a short discourse on my travels around the world.

“I’ve been to Spain, Italy, Greece, Hong Kong, Australia, Communist China, Communist Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. The people in the communist countries are very much oppressed. It’s a sad way to live, and the food is awful in those countries.

“When I was in Thailand, I went up north to a big city near the elephants. Of all things, I got on top of an elephant. After I got up there, I realized that if that elephant took off and ran under a tree, that it’d scrape me off like a scab off of a sore.

“This is another episode that happened to me. I had a good friend by the name of Smokey Stover. He was raised in Alabama City. He was just about my age and one of the finest guitar men I’ve ever heard play. Smokey started playing guitar when he was 13 years old. When he was about 16, he wound up in Chicago playing in jazz joints. He came back to Alabama in his latter days, and had a niece that lived in Perdido Key, Florida.

“Occasionally, we’d go down to our condo at Gulf Shores, where we’d have him over and Earl Miles and Sam Douglas would come over with the bass and have a jam session. Smokey was a wonderful player, but he killed himself on booze and cigarettes. 

“Smokey had emphysema real bad and had to have an oxygen tank right close by him all the time. When he died, they cremated him and brought him back to Gadsden. They had funeral services at Summerland Church on Sand Mountain, close to Boaz. Have you ever heard of people at a funeral service giving applause to the music? Ruby, J.B.’s niece, wanted me to play “Amazing Grace” and “Danny Boy.” I got up on the piano and played “Amazing Grace” and “Danny Boy.” When I got through, the whole audience applauded my playing. Rip Regan was master of ceremonies, and D. Rives was there.

“I played many jobs at the Gadsden Country Club. Practically every time that I’d go up there, I’d see people that owed me a bill for materials they bought at my old store. I call Gadsden Country Club “the poor man’s Utopia.”

“About today’s music – it is bad, repetitious and loud. Rap music is worse than rock and roll. Even worse are the singers. Compared to today’s singers, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald are still the best.

“This is my last go around. I’m very old and I have Parkinson’s disease. I think the doctors, the pharmacists and the hospitals are outrageous in their prices and are taking advantage of older people today. This is my last hoorah. As Cotton Watts, an old war veteran, used to say, ‘Hot all mighty damn!’ 

“That’s all for now, signing off. Joe Noojin, how’s that?”

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