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The San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation Collection The Charles N. Huggins Project

Clancy Hayes

By Turk Murphy

Clancy Hayes playing guitar and singing, 4 views

CLARENCE LEONARD HAYES, vocals, banjo, guitar

b. Caney, KS 11/14/08 d. San Francisco, CA 3/3/72

My first brush with Clancy Hayes occurred as early as 1932, but could not be considered a meeting in any sense. I was on the shore of Clear Lake in California and he was on a boat, which I can assure you was no ordinary craft.

I had gone on an outing with my father to the lake and here we discovered a maniac trying to start a World War One Liberty airplane engine which protruded ominously from the hull of a speed boat.

If it had started and continued to run I'm sure it would have flown; as it was, its short bursts merely ‘decked’ the person trying to start it. In comparing notes with Clancy many years later, I found that the daring one was our minstrel.

Clancy Hayes with Bob Helm, Turk Murphy and Bob Hoskins (tuba)

Being an admirer of Clancy for many years with the added advantage of being in the same business, I have been able to follow him through the various stages that have made him the colorful entertainer that he is. He can draw from an extremely wide range of material, all of which he handles with ease and good taste. He has written many good tunes with very clever lyrics, one of which met with much success, a tune Clancy called “Huggin' and Chalkin'.”

Ironically, the top-selling version was the one recorded by Hoagy Carmichael. With all the qualities possessed by Clancy, it is difficult to understand why he has never had what would be called a hit record. He says it's just the breaks.

I have never worked with Clancy on a steady job with a band. We both spent much time with the Lu Watters band, but when he was in, I was out and vice versa. He fronted a larger band for Lu [Sweets Ballroom Orchestra] before the organization of the Yerba Buena Jazz Band because Lu was more interested in playing in the band than meeting the people.

Clancy and I were both present, however, on the early [Good Time Jazz] Watters records made in December 1941 and March 1942.

Clancy played banjo but did no vocals. He did sing, however, on the old Pacific label with the Frisco Jazz Band and it was with this group that he recorded the original version of “Huggin' and Chalkin'.”

Clancy Hayes, 1950's

During the time Clancy played and recorded with local groups, he was a member of the staff of the San Francisco outlet of NBC radio. He had many shows of his own, as well as staff shows, and they were as varied as can be imagined.

On one regular show he was known as Bob Sheridan. The program was Mother's Cakes and Cookies with a format to fit, and an announcer later to become famous as Jack Webb [Sgt. Joe Friday in the hit TV series, Dragnet] .

The tunes and style were still very obviously Clancy Hayes ... Another distinct memory in the NBC programming was a duo called the Tune Termites with the aid of Glen Hurlbut on piano.

All the announcements and patter were in rhythm and rhyme, much the same as the custom in minstrel shows.

NBC broadcast schedule, Hambone Kelly's flyer and Clancy Hayes ID card for NBC

Clancy's shows on radio were very popular, but the tightening of budgets and the eventual elimination of staff musicians and entertainers from all the local radio stations forced him to again go out and meet his fans face-to-face.

He joined Bob Scobey in the organization of Scobey's Frisco Jazz Band and spent many successful years touring, recording, and doing TV shows.

Bob Scobey and Clancy Hayes
Bill Napier, Fred Higuera, Bob Scobey, Clancy Hayes, Jack Buck, Flamingo Hotel Las Vegas

In the late 1950s, the Scobey band took up permanent residence in Chicago, with side trips to Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco, and Lake Tahoe.

Clancy left the Scobey band in 1961 to come home to San Francisco. He still travels, but now he goes as a single, and has completed a very successful tour of the Playboy Clubs.

In San Francisco, of course, he is always welcome at a place called, Earthquake McGoon's, and he bears the distinction of being one of two very successful people I know from Parsons, Kansas, both of whom went West.

Swingin’ Minstrel is easily the best possible description of Clancy. Indeed Ralph J. Gleason, our San Francisco Chronicle columnist, considers him a minstrel "who can rank with any who ever performed."

Recording the sound of such an amiable and relaxed a performer as Clancy isn't easy, but enough of his personable qualities and ease come through ... to convince the listener that [it] is an actual performance.

— Turk Murphy’s liner notes first appeared on the album, Swingin’ Minstrel, for Good Time Jazz in 1968.

Additional Biographical Detail

Clancy Hayes was born in Caney, Kansas in 1908.

He was part of a musical family and formed his first professional band, Harmony Aces, in third grade.

Hayes performed professionally on drums, guitar, banjo and vocals his entire life, touring first with his brothers, and later both with name bands and as a soloist.

He was hired by NBC, San Francisco in 1928 and joined forces with Lu Watters in 1936.

Clancy passed away in 1972 in San Francisco.

Clancy Hayes from late 1920s
Clancy Hayes in singing cowboy garb with KNBC mic