Local musicians inducted into Hall of Fame

Published 12:21 am Sunday, October 14, 2007

Toxie Baughman and Walter “Deaser” Bennett were inducted into the Westbank Musician’s Hall of Fame in Westwego, La., on Wednesday night.

“I just feel so honored to be put in with so many of my friends and so many great musical legends,” Baughman said in a phone interview on Thursday.

John “Candy” Bennett, Deaser Bennett’s brother, was at the ceremony to accept the award for Deaser Bennett, who was unable to attend due to poor health.

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In addition to framed certificates commemorating induction into the Hall of Fame, all recipients also received certificates of merit from Jefferson Parish, for their service in the music industry to the parish.

Baughman and Deaser Bennett started their careers in the 1940’s, as part of a group with Edward “Smilin’ Eddie” Varnado. The group was playing as the Red Wagon Boys when they were approached by W.L. “Pic” Moseley to play for the grand opening of his radio station in late 1949.

According to Baughman’s biography sheet that he provided to the Hall of Fame, the group was given the chance to perform daily on WRJW, during the 6 to 7 a.m. hour.

After Curly Harris and Charles Varnado joined the group, they changed their name to the “Rhythm Roundup Boys” and started the Pearl River County Hay Ride in Picayune, as well as playing numerous night clubs locally and across the coast. The group also played in Pearl River, La., and Slidell, La., at clubs such as the Rainbow Room, Arnold’s Sahara Club and Jerry’s Club.

Baughman stayed with Smilin’ Eddie when he went to New Orleans, La., and joined with Gus Mackie to play at the Silver Star and Cadillac Clubs. Baughman also played other Louisiana clubs on the Westbank, such as the Moulin Rouge, Gay Paris, Charlie’s Bar, Ace’s Hoedown and Fireman’s Hall.

Bennett moved to New Orleans with Charles Varnado in the early 1950’s and started playing at the Harbor Light in Venice, according to his biography sheet. He played with Joe Clay and Sid Brady at the Rex Club, and also appeared on the John Pella Show in New Orleans with singer Fred Wayne.

In 1955, Bennett appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show with Joe Clay. After that, he went to Nashville with Pee Wee Maddox to record a country album.

Bennett has recorded with country music legends such as Ernest Tubbs, Jeannie C. Riley and Ray Price, and has appeared at numerous clubs in and around New Orleans.