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Roster of TUSA Showmobile Members

Recollections of Jim Shellnutt

If each of you would provide answers for the following questions, it would help establish the overall framework.
1. When did you become involved with the Showmobile/Soldier Show?
In 1965, before I was actually in the Army.

2. How did you become involved?
I grew up in the West End of Atlanta. While still in highschool, I had worked part time for Wesley Jackson in his music store there in West End, not too far from Ft. Mac. In 1965, when I became unhappy being a day-student at Georgia Tech, I became a college dropout and went to work full-time in the music store. The ShoMo people bought many of their music supplies from Jackson, so I was familiar with the Show and some of the staff at that time (although I cannot now remember who they were). When I received "Greetings" from President Lyndon B. Johnson in late 1965, a verbal deal was made with the ShoMo people that, if I was able to get "permanent party" assignment within the Third Army area, they would get me assigned to the Show. I played the banjo in those days, and the Show wanted a banjo player for the "pit". Unfortunately, I played folk-style banjo and a little Bluegrass, and the Show wanted a tenor or plectrum-style banjo - but neither side knew this fact about the other. After a long series of strange events (which I won't go into here), I found myself as a supply clerk in the Headquarters Company of the OCS training battalion at Ft. Gordon, GA. About two months later I was on the bus back to Atlanta for assignment with the Show. It didn't take very long for it to become apparent that I was not what they were looking for as a banjo player, but I guess I could "carry a tune" well enough in those days that they decided to keep me on in the chorus (was it a problem finding guys who could sing? I really never was very much of a vocalist). So it never hurts to have a small amount of political clout. I was all of 19 years old.

3. When were you with the show....how long?
Spring 1966 thru late 1967

4. What functions did you serve?
Cast member for one show, then follow-spot operator for two or three shows. I was also a member of the folk music mini-show (Circle-A Ramblers or Circle-A Wranglers? something like that)

5. In what productions did you participate?
The Wonderful World of Summer, Showboat Jamboree, The Time of Your Life and Truman Salute

6. Have you maintained contact with any other show personnel?
Prior to finding this web site, I had traded "death notices" for mutual friends with Pete Schoen and Lynn Elder, but that's about all.

7. Do you have a website or other on-line presence?

8. Do you think your experiences as a member of the show had an effect on you post-military life?
Of course, I was just barely 21 years old when I got out of the Army altogether, and I can't remember if I had even made it to 21 before I left the Show. I probably would not have moved to California were it not for the influence of people I met in the Show.

Any other comments you'd like to make?
As the follow-spot operator for several shows, I was in, perhaps, the unique position to be the only person in the entire unit who had to watch just about every minute of every show that was performed (I know damn well that even Gil did not watch every single minute of every single show that was performed). So, I saw all the bloopers: Remember Showboat Jamboree? The opening number had a series of boats that moved across the rear projection screen, getting progressively larger as the showboat came into the foreground "dock". At least once, one of the slides got put into the projector wrong. So here comes the boat across the screen, upside-down. I nearly fell on the floor from laughing (still do)! Now this was in a live show, mind you, not a rehearsal. Thanks to Pete Schoen for that memory. Remember Wayne Burchell, the magician. In one show, he did his act right in the middle of the show. It began with a total blackout (band plays, set change, etc.), then a tight-in spotlight on just Wayne's head, which seemed to float in mid-air for just a moment. Then the spot widened to slowly reveal the rest of his body, and the other stage lighting came up. Now for the follow-spot, this was a "blind shot", in that I could not see Wayne, dressed in black in the dark, during the actual performance. We had to set it up during rehearsal with Wayne on his mark. I would note the various angles on the spotlight so that I could aim in the dark, and be sure to "hit" his head, very tight, for the desired effect. In one performance, I think it may have been at Ft. Bragg (but don't quote me on that), the time for the magic act came. I aimed the spot to the pre-established position, the musical cue came, I opened the shutter, and an empty spot appeared. I think "Oh, crap. How could I have missed?" I open the shutter a little more - still no head. Open a little wider - still no head. After a few rounds of this, it becomes obvious that there was nobody on stage. The band grinds to a halt and the entire show stops. It turns out that Wayne had taken a nap that afternoon, and nobody had woken him up for the show. He wasn't even in the building, and nobody had missed him. The entire performance had to be halted for 15 or 20 minutes while everybody regrouped, changed costumes and set, and tried to pickup the pieces. Another hilarious blooper that still makes me laugh over 40 years later.