Booneville. The Von theater, the little corner building in the above photo (circa 1984, long past its' heyday and missing its' marquee) is innocent-looking enough, but it has hosted a million dollars worth of talent inside its' doors. Singers and musicians of many descriptions have been on the tiny stage and some have gone on to achieve great fame and fortune in one way or another. Performers such as Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two, Lloyd McCullough, the Burnette Brothers (Johnny and Dorsey), Elvis Presley, and local favorites Hayden Thompson and Edgar Lee Carroll, just to name a few.
If you went to a live band country or rock 'n roll dance in the Baldwyn, Wheeler, or Booneville area in the 50s you may remember Hayden Thompson and his band. Hayden was in demand then and had a record or two that were doing very well. He was on the "Von" label, a subsidary of the Von theatre.
Hayden was from Wheeler, and I first saw him up close while at Gerald Hodges' print shop visiting. He was getting some printing done. I later saw the signs he had printed, advertising a dance that weekend, on power poles. I am almost sure he was a warm-up act for Elvis Presley at the Von on January 3rd, 1956 at which time I saw Elvis live for the first time. Elvis at that time was advertised as "The Folk Music Fireball". He did two shows that day at the Von, along with Johnny Cash and his band. I do not recall the times, but I was at the one after dark, probably 9PM. The usual patrons were replaced by young teenaged guys and their dates - picture that street with one of the biggest, noisiest crowds in a long while blocking traffic to a standstill. The show was played to a mostly standing crowd - seats were scarce and most had more than one person in them. I have tried to get photos of that event, but the cartoon representation of the Von (above) is how I remember the theater looking at that time.