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Lloyd “Arkansas Slim” Andrews was best known for film roles as a sidekick to western stars in the 1940s through the early 1950s and, after that, as a host of children’s television programs. Before his move to Hollywood, he had been a comedian and musician in tent shows traveling throughout the mid-South. In his later years, he was a featured guest at film festivals. He was a member of the Screen Actors Guild and a lifetime member of Musicians Local 47 of Hollywood.
Lloyd Andrews, also known as “Arkansas Slim” and “Slim Andrews,” was born on December 8, 1906, the seventh son of Norma Blau and George Willis Andrews, who had a farm on Spavinaw Creek in rural Benton County seven miles from the town of Gravette. The elder Andrewses’ passion for music was passed on to their children, and the youngest son learned to play fiddle from his father and picked up the rudiments of guitar from his mother. He had a few lessons on the pump organ but never learned to read music. He taught himself to play piano. The father and sons performed as a family band for local events such as pie suppers, literaries, and similar occasions. Andrews received his formal education at Meadow Brook School, a country school near Gravette, where he completed the eighth grade. He married Lucille Kinsey of Pineville (Izard County) in 1929. The couple had one son, John, who was also an actor. Lucille worked as the leading lady with her husband when they were on the tent show circuit.
In 1924, at age seventeen, Andrews, who at a slender 6'8" was now called “Slim,” had caught the attention of Watso the Musical Wizard, a traveling showman. With money earned from raising strawberries, Andrews had purchased a 1923 Model T Ford and customized the car by lengthening the body and adding ten horns and eleven lights. The horns were rigged to play “Pretty, Little Blue-Eyed Sally,” a popular song of the time. Watso needed transportation as well as an assistant and envisioned Andrews’s unique car as a way to promote his shows. Watso developed Andrews’s comedic talents into a Toby country boy act, also teaching him to play handsaw and banjo and how to be a one-man band. Leaving Watso after two years, Andrews had a successful solo touring act, which he gave up to accept an offer to be the Toby comedian with one of the larger itinerant tent shows. These shows were a form of rural vaudeville in the early decades of the twentieth century and were centered around the figure of Toby, a slapstick comedian costumed with a red wig, freckles, blacked-out teeth, bare feet, and baggy clothes. The shows featured a melodrama with Toby ad-libbing lines as the leading heroic character, followed by a musical concert with the actors also playing in the band. In addition to the tent shows, Andrews and his wife also worked for a short time in a medicine show hawking Satanic, a potion of colored water and Epsom salts.
Andrews was proficient on a number of conventional music instruments, but what distinguished him from fellow musicians was the ability to make music on funnels, tire pumps, rubber gloves, fishing poles, and many other such objects. He was reputed to have played more than 100 different instruments. Andrews appeared as a one-man band, simultaneously playing four instruments, in Rhythm of the Rio Grande, his first Hollywood film, with Tex Ritter in 1940. Ritter had discovered Andrews during a 1939 tour when the two were playing competing shows in Monticello (Drew County). Upon learning that the Toby show had drawn the larger audience, Ritter investigated and found Andrews to be the main attraction. This encounter resulted in an invitation to Hollywood.
Andrews was in ten Ritter westerns in 1940 and 1941, playing the sidekick in eight of the films. He basically played his Toby role in western garb, astraddle a mule, ad-libbing his lines, and repeating signature phrases such as “Hi Ho Josephine” and “Great gobs of goose grease.” When Ritter left Monogram, the film partnership with Andrews ended, but the two remained friends and continued to tour together for nearly ten years. Andrews played sidekick to Tom Keene in his next four films before moving to Republic Pictures, where, in 1942, he appeared in two films with Don “Red” Berry and in Cowboy Serenade with Gene Autry. Over a fifteen-year period, he had parts in approximately thirty-four films, including musical shorts, and played a major supporting role in Clayton Moore’s 1952 film Buffalo Bill in Tomahawk Territory, in which Andrews received second billing for his role of Cactus.
In 1950, as the popularity of B-westerns was on the decline, Andrews found a niche in children’s television, working for three years in Los Angeles before moving to KMJ-TV in Fresno, California, where as “The Forty Niner” he hosted weekday afternoon shows. After ten years in Fresno, Andrews landed at KOAM in Pittsburg, Kansas, and hosted The Fun Club, which aired on Saturday mornings from 1963 to 1984.
Among other highlights in Andrews’s career were a ten-month tour as a comedian and musician with Bob Wills in 1947; playing harmonica, accordion, and other instruments with a Wills satellite band led by Harley Huggins in 1948; nearly 10,000 television appearances; and a speaking role as the ferryman in the television miniseries The Blue and the Gray (1982). He received composer credits in the 1940 Ritter film Arizona Frontier for the song “Wastin’ Time.”
Andrews and his wife returned to Gravette in 1970 while he was still working at KOAM in Pittsburg. He died in Gravette on April 3, 1992, and is buried in the Bethel Cemetery in Benton County.
For additional information:Franklin, Grady. “The Western Film.” Classic Images, May 1992, p. 14.
Jines, Billie. “Slim Andrews Made Debut at Meadow Brook.” Northwest Arkansas Morning News. May 7, 1989, p. 6B.
McNeil, W. K. “Arkansas Slim: Tex’s Buddy.” Old Time Country, Spring 1994, pp. 4–11.
Rothel, David. Those Great Cowboy Sidekicks. Waynesville, NC: WOY Publications, 1984.
“Slim Andrews.” Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0028852/ (accessed February 12, 2007).
Elliott HancockOzark Folk Center
Last Updated 5/5/2010
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