Jewell’s momentum seemed unstoppable in the ’50s. Many details are lost at the moment, but she was writing songs, penning articles for news outlets, booking shows and singing for fun on Friday nights for radio station KCMC’s Four States Jamboree.  


She was a good singer and at one point had a chance to record for Capitol Records, she told freelancer Presley, “but I had my boys and I wouldn’t dare leave them and you can’t take little boys on the road and sing for your supper. At one time I had a good voice and could sing.”  


When Webb Pierce and Jim Denny founded Cedarwood Publishing Co. in 1953 in Nashville, they included Jewell in their stable of writers. Pierce, like Sovine, was a particularly close personal friend of Jewell’s and her family and wanted them all in Nashville. He asked Jewell to move to Nashville and join Cedarwood as a staff writer. She declined, but Pierce told her his offer would be a standing offer in case she ever changed her mind.  


Jewell’s reason for declining the opportunity is heard in the stories of more than a few Country music women back then such as recording artists Jeanette Hicks, Ann Raye and Hannah Faye who were enjoying highly promising careers that ended prematurely because they put home and family first. Pierce’s offer and similar offers from Frank Rose and his son, Wesley, of Acuff-Rose in Nashville were alluring, but Jewell wouldn’t uproot her family and leave her mother and other relatives.  


In the mid-’50s, NBC invited her to New York City to appear on its Colgate Variety Hour. Again, she was flattered but for some reason didn’t accept.  


Cowboy Songs, a pulp magazine printed on orange newsprint, ran stories about her in their Women In The News column.  


An odd mention with her picture ran on Page 7 in issue No. 26: “For those of you who may be confused as to whether Jewell House is a man or a woman, we hope that this article will clear things up. Throughout HER career as a song writer and recording artist, MRS. House has been besieged with fan mail from all over the country ranging from the amusing to the impossible. Many of the writers are dead certain that she is a man … who is everything from an ex-convict to a home-wrecker."  

“Jewell performs with a local string band every Friday night on the ‘Four States Jamboree,’ which emanates from radio station KCMC in Texarkana, Texas.” In 1956, Jewell had her own country music show on KCMC radio, and Cowboy Songs wrote more about her on Page 8:  


“Radio Station KCMC, Texarkana, Texas, lays claim to being first for one of the best Country-Western d.j. shows in that part of the country. The show we’re referring to is the ‘Jewell House Program.’ Jewell has built a national reputation because of her ability as a songwriter and entertainer. Many of her compositions have been recorded by leading stars, and sales have been in the millions. A spokesman for the station said, ‘KCMC is proud and happy to add this brilliant show personality to its roster of stars.’  


“Many of Jewell’s fans will be happy to hear of her new location and show. The program features Folk, Western and Country artists only.  


According to the fan mail, the show is really liked and appreciated by those fortunate enough to hear it. Country stars and Country music is really doing well in the Texarkana area – and much of the credit goes to Jewell and the fine promoting and programming she features on her show. “Jewell is a real pretty lass, with a winning smile and beaming personality. Her show is a relaxed type of thing and makes the listeners feel that it’s coming from a cozy living room rather than a formal studio. The little comments that go with each record are just another touch that helps to keep Jewell’s popularity soaring. Since she is on very friendly terms with most of the top Country stars, she often reveals little episodes that please the audience as well as lets them in on little known, often amusing facts. “So, for a girl who’s a real gem – it’s Jewell House.”  


One night during her radio program, while a record was playing on air, Jewell got a phone call. Elvis Presley was on the line, she once told me, smiling at the memory of a young, rising star’s aggressive naivete. Jewell told me she was an ardent supporter of Elvis when he auditioned for the Hayride in 1954, and she was among those urging a skeptical Horace Logan to give Elvis a chance. When Elvis called her that night in 1956 at KCMC, he was miffed. “Jewell,” he said, “you’re not playing my songs.” “Well, Elvis,” she explained in her friendly way, “you sing that other music. This is a Country music show.” She brooked no compromise.  


Jewell traveled to Nashville as often as she could to meet with publishers, managers and artists. A Feb. 20, 1956, letter to her from Jim Reeves’ manager, Herbert L. Shucher, mentions: “When you get into Nashville, we can get together on the personal appearance out there. Also, while we’re talking about Nashville if you’d like I will be glad to make the reservations for you at any hotel you desire.”  


Great news came in Jewell’s mail in December 1956 – a letter to “Miss Jewell House” dated December 6 from Tom Kelly in Nashville. Kelly was the exclusive manager for recording artists Jean Shepard, among Country music’s greatest female singers, and Shepard’s husband, Hawkshaw Hawkins.  


“Dear Miss House,” he wrote. “This is just a belated letter to let you know that JEAN SHEPARD (sic) has recorded one of your songs, and it is my understanding that yours will be either the first release of 1957 or it will be the second record to be released.  


“I am planning a (sic) all out publicity campaign for Jean and her next two releases, as it has been quite a while since she has really had a shot in the arm as far as publicity is concerned. I have had a commitment (sic) from Cedarwood Publishing Co. as to how far they will go along with the promotion, and am still awaiting a reply from the other publisher of the flip side as to what extent they will go. Jean is going to match (in money and D.J. copies), the same amount and probably (sic) more.  


“I want to send out 3000 (sic) personal letters to all the dj’s and then send each of them a copy of the record. If you would be interested in taking part in the pushing of your song, I can assure you that it would be appreciated and of course you know that it would make the record just that much more stronger.  


Thanking you and with kindest personal regards, I am, Yours very truly, TOM KELLY Exclusive Mgr.”  


The song from Cedarwood was Tomorrow I’ll Be Gone, a song of utter despondence by a mother planning suicide after a judge had ruled her unfit as a mother and wife, awarding custody of her baby daughter to the father. The single was released in early January 1957. Jewell shared author credit with her friend, WSM Disc Jockey Eddie Hill. The Capitol release carried If You Can Walk Away by Gertrude Cox and Jack Rhodes on the flip side.  


“Pathos marks both of these songs,” a Jan. 19 Billboard review said on Page 47, “… each has a gripping tale of woe to unfold. Miss Shepard brings the tears flowing in both cases, impressing more than ever with her authority in this idiom. The lyrics of ‘Tomorrow I’ll Be Gone’ stand out; they reach some kind of a high-water mark for effective expression. This should be one of Miss Shepard’s best sellers.”  


Indeed it was, and it had taken shape in Jewell’s mind in that little frame house in Texarkana. Then-budding artist Jeanette Hicks had seen the lyrics three years earlier when she visited Jewell to get advice and look over Jewell’s newest material, Hicks told me in August 2011. Years later, she recorded Tomorrow I’ll Be Gone – “the saddest song I’ve ever heard and one of the best,” she said. {Hicks passed away the following November.)  


Another burst of songwriting success kept Jewell’s star shimmering. She was at the pinnacle of her career. But 1958 brought a crushing blow – the death of her beloved mother, Mama Minnie. 

In a December 1956 letter to Jewell, Tom Kelly, manager for Capitol Records recording artist Jean Shepard, was pumped about the upcoming release of "Tomorrow I'll Be Gone" and was planning an “all out publicity campaign

Jewell and Eddie Hill co-wrote Cedarwood’s 1957 Jean Shepard hit for Capitol Records, “Tomorrow I’ll Be Gone.”  

Career in High Gear



FOOTNOTES FOR COUNTRY MUSIC HISTORY
Do You Remember Jewell?

Join the Journey! Jewell House Tribute is an ongoing project. Subscribe here with link to http://jewellhousetribute.wordpress.com/   for periodic updates. If you have photos, news items, memories or any memorabilia involving Jewell House and wish to share them with this website, send them to  rememberingjewellhouse@gmail.com. Or mail to David House P.O Box 820913, North Richland Hills, TX 76182.

Jewell met with Hayride stars such as Jim Reeves (at top) and Van Howard (above), a banker by day, in their Hayride dressing rooms at Shreveport’s Municipal Memorial Auditorium to pitch her new songs and conduct other business.