Joe 'Country' Washburn
Born: Dec. 28, 1904 in Houston, Texas
Died: Jan. 21, 1974
Joseph Washburn was born December 28, 1974, in Houston, Texas. An only child, he grew up in Port Arthur, where his father was the postmaster. Joseph learned to play the tuba, and the double bass in his school band, and also enjoyed singing. From his high school band director, he learned how to arrange music for any combination of instruments. After
graduating from high school, Joe ventured off to New York to seek work as a musician. A stylish guy, he spoke with a slow Texas drawl, and was given the nickname "Country.”
After playing in several bands, Washburn eventually joined up with the Ted Weems Orchestra. They would gain notoriety for being the band that backed up Elmo Tanner when he was whistling the song "Heartaches." Washburn was the arranger, tuba player, bass player, singer, and announcer for the band.
Country had his own theme song with the band, "Good Morning, Good Evening, Good Night!" In 1940, the Ted Weems Orchestra was on the radio quiz show, Beat the Band. Contestants would hear song titles, then try to guess how the tune went. Johnny Carson would do the same thing many years later on The Tonight Show. Country Washburn sometimes had a segment on the show in which he told the audience a song title and then played it on his double bass. Beat the Band was sponsored by Kix cereal.
In 1942, Spike Jones, who was the drummer for the John Scott Trotter Orchestra (Bing Crosby's group), had an interesting idea for starting a new band. It would use the
instrumentation from twenty years earlier, which meant that a tuba was used for the bass instrument, instead of the string bass. Washburn was the perfect musician to perform that role in the new band.