Country Swing: Local musician recalls his career
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, March 2, 2016
For 67 years, 87-year-old Toxie Baughman strummed his guitar. Now, those hands, which once glided over the strings, are still.
“It’s been a long but good trip for me,” he said. “My hands collapsed and I’ve had two surgeries to treat carpal tunnel. If I’m going to play now, it’s going to be in church.”
Baughman was born and raised in Picayune and learned the major guitar chords from his father, James.
The first guitar he played was a Silvertone, which was manufactured by Sears, Roebuck and Company, he said.
During his early years, Baughman played with a number of small bands with Walter “Deaser” Bennett and Smilin Eddie Varnado.
“In 1949, we were asked to play the grand opening of radio station WRJW in Picayune,” he said. “We had a radio program from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. as the Red Wagon Boys.”
With the addition of Charles Varnado and Curley Harris, the group became the Rhythm Roundup Boys.
“We started the Mississippi Hay Ride in Picayune and played at the Ritz Theater,” he said.
According to Baughman’s biography, the band played in several venues in Mississippi and Louisiana including the Rainbow Room, Arnold’s Sahara Club, Silver Star, Cadillac Club, Big Lanes and Last Roundup.
Baughman ran many nightclubs until he built what he referred to as the biggest nightclub in the south, the Sli Lou Club in Slidell.
Baughman played bluegrass, country swing and some popular music, he said.
“They don’t play country music anymore like they used to,” Baughman said. “I’ve made all kinds of music and played with all kinds of stars. All the money I made went to my family.”
In 2007, Baughman was inducted into the Westbank Musician’s Hall of Fame in Louisiana.
Lifelong friend Rip Seal recalled a moment from the men’s childhood.
“When we were kids, we went to the swim hole one weekend,” he said. “He told me that one of these days he was going to make his fortune and build a home on top of the bluff bank and he did.”
In addition to playing guitar, Baughman was also a cabinet builder and built his home in Picayune.
Baughman said memories of his career come to him at odd times.
“When you get to be 87, you don’t remember like you used to,” Baughman said. “They are good memories and we had some good times.”