In the begining.....December 1983, Jack Cardwell, Helen Bozeman, Marguerite (Fanny Bell) Martiniere, Boots Barnes, Jackie Cardwell and Mamma Cardwell were eating together at Hardee's on Highway 43 in Saraland, Alabama. They had just left Jernigan's Hardware Store in Saraland where they had broadcast an all day celebration of Jack Cardwell's 20th anniversary in radio. Just as old friends usually do, they began to reminisce about days gone by, when they all played music together. They talked about how nice it would be to have a reunion with all the musicians and entertainers who had worked with them in the past. Helen and Jack did not let the conversation end at Hardee's. During the next few months Jack, Helen and Johnny Bozeman kept talking and planning the reunion. Helen and Johnny spent many hours on the telephone locating their old friends. Many had moved away. Some had gone into other fields of work. When they had finally located every name on the list they set a date for June l, 1986 for the reunion. All the invitations were mailed with directions to the Bozeman's home in Fairhope... When the last invitation was in the mail they began to plan for the day. A stage was set up in the yard for the musicians to play music together. Tables were set up for the food. They prepared a fish fry for their friends.
Approximately one hundred and fifty people attended the reunion. Many people from other states made the journey to see old friends and play music. The musicians were delighted with the reunion. Everyone agreed that it was a good idea to have a reunion every year. Some of the local musicians agreed to help Johnny and Helen with the next reunion, which would be held in the spring of 1986.
The Mobile Country Music Association was chartered on February 22, 1986 when a group of fourteen people met at the home of Edd Cardwell in Eight Mile, Alabama to plan the second annual musician's reunion. After some discussion it was decided that an election of officers was necessary to carry out the plans and responsibilities of the reunion. The following offices were agreed upon and a person was elected for each office: President: Johnny Bozeman Vice President: Helen Bozeman Secretary/Treasurer: Mary Leavins Clerk: Allene Godbee Chaplain: Jack Cardwell Public Relations: Jack Cardwell Master of Ceremonies: Gene Leachman and Ernie Reed Telephone Chairman: Ernie Reed and Don Windell Park Committee Chairman: Edd Cardwell and Fred Bridges Clean up Committee Chairman: T. L. Godbee and Johnny Leavins Host Committee: Jack Cardwell, Edd Cardwell, Johnny Leavins and Dusty Harrell Then May 3rd was the date chosen for the second musician's reunion. Everyone would be asked to bring a covered dish for lunch. A name for the organization was chosen. It was to be called the Mobile Musician's Reunion. A collection of money was taken to establish a treasury and a total of $56.00 was collected. This would be used to help defray expenses of postage and records books. After further discussion the decision was made to use the initial funds in the treasury to help needy musicians and to play benefits to establish an indigent fund.
A discussion about memberships was held. It was decided that membership dues would be charged but in order to join the organization one would have to be a musician or entertainer and be willing to play and support the benefit shows. An investigating committee was elected. Jack Cardwell, Johnny Bozeman and Gene Leachman would investigate hardship requests. Three more meetings were held before the reunion. The existing members donated the cost of advertising and other expenses. Records were donated to sell to raise money. Membership cards were printed and the cost donated. A decision was made to charge a $10.00 membership donation to join the organization and to use the income in the general expense account. It was then decided to add Country to Mobile Musician's Reunion, thus the name would be the Mobile Country Musician's Reunion. It was decided that country and gospel music only would be played and that the organization would be family oriented. Drugs and alcohol would be prohibited. Honorary members would be allowed if they are strong supporters of country music. The second annual Mobile Country Musician's Reunion was held on May 3, 1986. Approximately four Hundred attended. The membership climbed to a total of eighty-three on that day.
A Committee was appointed to set up the constitution and by laws. A general meeting was held each quarter. The board of directors met monthly. A benefit was played to establish an indigent fund. By the end of 1986 the membership totaled one hundred and twelve. The third reunion was set to be held May 2, 1987, again at the Baumhaur Park in Eight Mile, Alabama. The name of the organization was changed in 1987 to Mobile Country Music Association and from then on would be called Mobile Country Music Association. By this time it was evident that a permanent location was needed. The members needed a place to practice and to hold meetings and benefits. The rent for buildings was costly. A building fund was established by donations from the members. A benefit was held for the building fund. A benefit was held also for an indigent member. A committee of five people was elected to serve on the hall of fame committee. Their duties is to choose the names of deserving musicians from the Mobile area to be placed in the Mobile Country Music Association Hall of Fame. Jack Cardwell was the first living musician chosen to be placed in the hall of fame. Two deceased musicians were chosen also, Boots Barnes and Happy Wainwright. A plaque for each recipient was presented to Jack and to the families of the deceased at the reunion. The plaques will be placed in the hall of fame. The membership totaled one hundred and fifty at the end of 1987. The members of the Mobile Country Music Association planned the first annual Mobile Country Music Association's Reunion, to be held at Baumhaur Park on Highway 45 in Eight Mile, Alabama on May 7, 1988. Souvenir T-shirts and caps were sold. A memory book was compiled from pictures taken at the other reunions. These were sold to raise money for the expense account. Raffle tickets were sold on items that had been donated by local businessmen. The goals of the Mobile Country Music Association are to continue to preserve the art of country and gospel music and to provide and promote country and gospel music for the Mobile area. To work toward a permanent location that will be large enough to invite the public and nice enough to be an asset to our area. By this time M. C. M. A. had found a home located at the 16-mile marker on Highway 45, in Kushla. The organization had its next two reunions at this location. February 19, 1990 M.C.M.A. purchased nine and one half acres of land in Eight Mile, Alabama at the 8-mile marker to build a home for the organization. By late that year we had worked hard with raffles and benefits and paid the land off. In 1990 M.C.M.A. out grew its home in Kushla.
The organization then moved to 262 N. Craft Hwy., Chickasaw, Alabama, in December 1990. The following year our President Johnny Bozeman passed away, a great loss to the organization. Louis Watson, our vice President took the helm as President. For about three and one half years the organization worked hard to get Non-Profit status with the Internal Revenue Service, in September 1991 the By-laws were completely rewritten to meet the guidelines and approved. August 12, 1992 the Internal Revenue Service granted Mobile Country Music Association a non-profit and tax exempt status under Section 501(a) (c) (3). February 25, 1992 the State of Alabama, Mobile County restated the incorporation of Mobile Country Music Association, as a Non-Profit Corporation. Louis Watson continued to serve as President until July 1993, when Helen Bozeman was elected President. The organization grew to about 500 members. In July 1995 Curly Brooks was elected President, and by the end of that year the membership had grown to 587 members. In June 1996 the organization was forced to move from the Chickasaw location due to extensive roof damage. We relocated in a much smaller building that one of our members, Margie Booker, owned in Eight Mile, Alabama on Highway 45. In July 1996 Curly Brooks resigned as President due to ill health. The Vice President, Honor Dueitt stepped up as President to serve until election in July of 1997. Honor Dueitt was re-elected President in this election for two more years. By this time the Building Committee had found a nice building located at 310 So. Craft Highway, Chickasaw, Alabama which was purchased April 1, 1997. The building had to be renovated for M.C.M.A.'s needs. . The Members worked hard and long hours to get the building ready so the organization could be in the new location by December 1997. Then in September 1998 Hurricane Georges paid us a visit and removed the roof from the south half of the building. There was over $50,000 of damage from the hurricane. M.C.M.A. was closed for repairs until December 1998. In 1999 most of the original band members that were still living came back to play for M.C.M.A. . Ron Napp was elected president in our July 1999 election and served as President until July 2015, Ron Napp also a former Trustee at MCMA has been to date the only member to serve on the board of MCMA for 16 consecutive years. To date we have had over a 1,500 members join the organization. Some of these members are now deceased, and some are no longer active.
On April 1, 2002, our beloved Band Leader Debbie Fillingim Hayes Walker died. What a loss this was to her family, friends and admirers. She inspired so many with her gift of talent and time. Debbie had a personality that would knock your socks off. Evelyn Fillingim has told the story more than once: "She wanted to be big fish in a little pond." She was indeed a "Big Fish", and she is still missed after all these years.
Shirley Browning was elected to the Trustee Board February 1, 2003. She is the first female to serve as a Trustee. As of 2003, the Board of Trustees were: Marshall Fillingim - Chairman, Red Stanton, Shirley Browning, Melvin Farmer, and Charlie Hathcock. On June 23, 2003 Mobile Country Music Association's Executive Board voted to present a Debbie Hayes Walker Award along with the Hall of Fame awards each year . This award will be awarded to a person or persons for his or her outstanding work and support on behalf of Mobile Country Music Association. Our most critical goal has been to enlarge our building by adding new restrooms. This project was completed in January, 2007. Ron Napp and Nathan Cooper worked tirelessly on this project by doing 99.9% of all the construction work and saving the organization a lot of money, as their time and talent were freely volunteered.
In July of 2015, MCMA has continued on a path of growth and stablilty, dedicating all efforts to maintain it roots of country and gospel music and providing a place for entertainers to come to the stage and perform for a grateful audience.
In May of 2016, Mobile Country Music Association will celebrate it's 30th year...a celebration that we are all looking forward to, hoping to reunite old and new members with a day filled with past, present and even a few future MCMA entertainers...Come on out and join us on any Saturday night.
We are thrilled to tell you that our next reunion will be on May 5th,Of course lunch will be served at 12 noon. We ask that you bring a covered dish. We will NOT have a show that night, since our benefit goes on all day. We will also have a raffle, with tickets $1.00 each on $100 cash By the way, you do not have to be present to win !!
Mobile Country Music Association