• 70°

Mack Williams: Remembering ‘Ernest T’ (Wesley L. ‘Wes’ Carter Jr.)

Mack Williams

This isn’t about the late Shakespearean-trained actor, Howard Morris, famed portrayer of “Mayberry’s” Ernest T Bass. It’s about another talented “Ernest T” portrayer, the late Wesley L. “Wes” Carter Jr. of Danville, Va., but originally, and for most of his life from Caswell County, North Carolina.

Wes performed “Ernest T” so well at churches, senior centers, and nursing home venues that many people in the area thought and said: “Ernest T Bass” whenever someone said: “Wes Carter.”

Wes also sought to educate his audiences about Ernest T’s originator, Howard Morris, stating that Morris had trained as a Shakespearean actor (as did the late Jim Varney, another “Ernest”).

Speaking of Shakespeare, when Wes’ Ernest T really got wound up, it was like hearing mountain “verse”: “Aunt Maria, jump in the fire; fire too hot, jump in the pot; pot too hot, jump in the fire; pot too black, jump in the crack; crack too high, jump in the sky…etc.”

Wes first asked me to accompany him as Mayberry’s Rafe Hollister in a presentation for a congregational dinner at Yanceyville’s Prospect United Methodist Church a few years ago.

For costume, I found bib overhauls and plaid shirt at the Goodwill (“the” Goodwill, like “the” Woolworth in “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” (sometimes Wes’ own “Soggy Bottom Boys,” sporting fake ‘mountain’ beards, performed for the public’s additional delight).

Since Rafe Hollister had once bootlegged, I brought along an air-line size liquor bottle to the church dinner, where the minister joined in our act (much to Wes’ delight), seizing it, and saying no “mountain dew” (the un-capitalized kind) was allowed in church! Since the brand might have been “Everclear,” it actually was the un-capitalized “mountain dew” (fortunately, it wasn’t opened, and there were no adjacent candle flames).

Wes had already contacted someone at the church to be his “Charlene” (an “Ernest T” must have a “Charlene”). At a nursing home performance, Wes scoped out a nurse for his Charlene.

Just like Santa’s Helpers, we were Ernest T’s and Rafe Hollister’s “helpers.”

Wes worked at Danville’s Midtown Market (like Salisbury’s long gone little grocery operated by the late Grover and Faye Roseman). Wes’ jokes abounded there; and he often performed “Ernest T rant!” When wearing my old East German top coat, we did an impromptu General Burghalter/Kommandant Klink routine there (including Sergeant Schulz for good measure).

Wes always said to shoppers there in our immediate vicinity, “Have you heard this man sing?” With Wes standing there, grinning so hard that his eyes almost squinted, I knew I wasn’t getting out of there without singing something, usually Rafe Hollister’s “Lonesome Road,” followed by “Ridin’ on that New River Train” (Wes was a promoter of sorts, urging each of us to join him in using our talents to help others through a weary world, sort of like Willy Wonka).

Wes told me last year he was writing a book about his life-long struggle with Type I diabetes, also including diabetic-healthy recipes. Fortunately, it was published last April and is obtainable on Amazon (“Bittersweet ‘How Sweet It Is,’ My Life Journey with Diabetes, a Never ending Road”), along with a children’s book he titled “Malachi.” “Malachi” is about an elephant bullied about his size; but I can’t help wondering if Wes himself may have received some childhood bullying because of his short stature (gosh, he was shorter than I; and I’m Peter Lorre height).

One of Wes’ many friends wrote on Facebook that he devotedly accompanied Wes to the rest room in grade school when he had to inject himself with insulin (reading that post, if your vision doesn’t “blur,” you have no soul).

Wes’ son, David graciously allowed me to sing Rafe Hollister’s “Lonesome Road” (by Shilkret/Austin) at his father’s funeral, following with the song lines: “Ridin’ on that New River Train; Ridin’ on that New River Train; the same old train that brought me here’s gonna’ take me home again!”
I then repeated those words softly, as if originating from a train moving far away.

About Post Lifestyles

Visit us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalPostLifestyle/ and Twitter @postlifestlyes for more content

email author More by Post



RSS budgeting for tens of millions in federal COVID-19 relief funding

East Spencer

‘Back in full swing’ for the spring: East Spencer community gathers for food, fun and fellowship at Spring Fest


Rowan native Lingle among those honored with NC Military Veterans Hall of Fame induction


Former pro baseball player, Tar Heel standout Russ Adams finds new career with Trident Insured


Profoundly gifted: Salisbury boy finishing high school, associates degree at 12


Cheerwine Festival will stick to Main Street, stay away from new park in September


Celebrating Rowan County’s early cabinetmakers


Service Above Self announces youth challenge winners


Economic Development Commission creates search tool for people seeking Rowan County jobs


Amy-Lynn Albertson: Arts and Ag Farm Tour set for June 5

High School

High school baseball: Mustangs top Falcons on strength of hurlers


Biz Roundup: Application process now open for Rowan Chamber’s 29th Leadership Rowan class


Keith Mitchell leads McIlroy, Woodland by 2 at Quail Hollow


States scale back vaccine orders as interest in shots wanes


Major US pipeline halts operations after ransomware attack


NC budget dance slowed as GOP leaders differ on bottom line


Judge limits footage that family can see of deputy shooting


People receiving first dose of COVID-19 vaccine grows by less than 1%


Rowan-Salisbury Schools brings Skills Rowan competition back to its roots


Weak jobs report spurs questions about big fed spending


Judge limits footage that family can see of deputy shooting in Elizabeth City


Woodland, two others share lead; Mickelson plays much worse but will still be around for weekend at Quail Hollow


Former NHL player to open mobster themed bar in Raleigh


California population declines for first time