Memories and laughter at the Lansing Public Library

Lansing Historical Society remembers Homer and Jethro

by Melanie Jongsma

Homer
Tracy Haynes Vrab addresses a full house at the Lansing Historical Society’s March 26 meeting. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
LANSING, Ill. (March 26, 2018) – About 75 people crowded into the Community Room of the Lansing Public Library to hear Tracy Haynes Vrab share stories from her parents’ country music and comedy careers, how they came to live in Lansing, and their battle with kidney disease and heart disease.

Vrab is the daughter of Homer Haynes, of the Grammy-winning country music duo Homer and Jethro, which became famous for their parodies of popular songs. Vrab’s mother Elizabeth also had a musical career, as part of the Coon Creek Girls in the Renfro Valley Barn Dance show.

“Jethro” (left) and “Homer,” in a publicity photo from the late 1960s. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
Vrab had a lot of stories to tell, and she organized them in a way that allowed her to pack a lot of information into a presentation that lasted about 75 minutes. From Jethro’s buddy Chester (whom people know now as Chet Atkins), to Fender Stratocaster number 0001 (which Haynes owned), to playing at the TF South prom in the early 1960s, to being immortalized in Disney’s Country Bear Jamboree, the highlights of Homer Haynes’ life reveal a country music legend that remains unknown to most of Lansing. In fact, as Wikipedia says, “[Haynes] had lived the last decade of his life…in Lansing, Illinois, although his neighbors there were unaware of who he was, as he never talked about being a musician. He and Burns were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001 as Homer and Jethro.”

Homer
Tracy Haynes Vrab (far left) brought along memorabilia that illustrated the stories included in her presentation. Members of the audience could view the items while waiting to speak with Tracy following the event. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Homer
Top left: Walt Disney approached the Haynes family about using some of Homer and Jethro’s songs in a new attraction he was developing, the Country Bear Jamboree. The attraction opened after Homer Haynes’ death in 1971. Center: In 1964 Leo Burnett Advertising signed Homer and Jethro to do commercials for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Homer
Following the presentation, audience members flocked around Tracy Haynes Vrab (far left) to ask questions and to share their own memories of Homer and Jethro. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Tracy’s twin brother Trent is making a documentary about their father and the impact Homer and Jethro had on country music. Monday night’s audience was given a preview of a 10-minute trailer of the film.

Tracy and her husband now live in the same Lansing neighborhood she grew up in. “I can tell you that my parents loved Lansing,” she said. “They loved the town, they loved the people. My dad, when he was home, he would go all over town and just talk to everybody.” Homer Haynes particularly loved spending time at Gus Bock’s Hardware Store (now Gus Bock’s Ace Hardware), where he would sit on a box and swap stories with workers and customers. “And if they were busy, he would actually wait on people!” she laughed. “He loved it here.”

“I’ve lived in Lansing all my life and still live in Lansing,” Tracy concluded. “It’s still a great place to be.”

 

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