Thursday, June 09, 2011

"Why not check it out...

... and lock it in!"

This was one of the slogans of the late Sister Pearlee (Pearlee Toliver - 1918-2002), a Mississippi native and  Louisiana radio institution, whose program is now immortalized by way of vintage clips available on YouTube.

Above includes one of her legendary commercials for Matt City, a Monroe, Louisiana music store. You can currently find her spots for Specialty Sound (parts one and two), as well as Smith Furniture and Hill's Barbecue.  I suspect more are on the way, considering the number of recordings that were made and passed around during her thirty year reign as the Jewel of the Dial in Monroe.

Sister Pearlee went viral before anyone knew what that was.  Fifteen years ago, I was receiving cassette tapes of her unique radio programs in the mail .  When she died in 2002, NPR aired a tribute (which includes one of her commercials for a local bail bond company) that is worth a listen.  To the very end of her long life, she was spinning gospel records and hustling for sponsors.  In order to pay for her radio gig, she aired way more commercials than records - and her unique and quirky style made the ads the main reason to tune in.  Once you started, you simply could not stop listening.  She would glide effortlessly between sponsors in her deep South storytelling style.  She hawked everything from seafood ("If that seafood ain't fresh, Bubba don't open his doors") to menswear, auto repair, bail bonds ("Call Diddy Bop. Diddy Bop will be there in the next 15 minutes to get you out of jail"), and music stores - all local Monroe places of business.

And now, thanks to the Internet, Sister Pearlee can be heard and enjoyed around the world.  By all accounts, she was a devout and grand lady with a big personality and a work ethic that did not quit.  Here is a delightful excerpt from a book entitled Louisiana Faces: Images from a Renaissance that captures Sister Pearlee perfectly. 

She was the real deal, the Jewel of the Dial, my Christian friends, so why not check it out, and lock it in!


rocky said...

I think she is actually saying "check it out and lock it down."

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Rocky:

She might be. I know that's what the articles say - but it always sounded like "lock it in" to me on the tapes. :-)

That's part of SP's delightfulness - she might have actually been saying "lock it up" for all we know. Entire syllables got dropped and forms of grammatical construction heretofore unknown in the English language were constructed - but somehow, we always understood her drift.

They just don't make them like her anymore.