Ken Carson and his wife Gretchen ‘retired’ in 1979, moving to Delray Beach, Florida. Kenny wrote to a friend soon after moving:
“we are truly ensconced in our new home in Delray Beach, & tho’ at times 18 John Alden Road [their home of 29 years in NY] brings pangs of homesickness, we are enraptured with our new home in a lovely area of Delray, and the golf course is 1 block away!!!”
Ken was an avid golfer, thus his excitement at living at such close proximity to a course. He’d first been exposed to the sport as a young boy in the 1920s, working as a caddy for a well-to-do doctor in Wichita. He quickly gained an enthusiasm for the sport, and went on to be a master in it. At the age of 22, Ken won the NBC golf tournament, the first of many tournaments where he came away the victor.
Ken was left-handed, and shot accordingly with left handed clubs. He shot consistently in the 70s, which put him in the top 10-15% of all golfers, and was consistent with a 2 handicap, sometimes hitting a 0! (I know, this doesn’t make a lick of sense for those of us who don’t understand golf..)
During his Hollywood years he was a member of the notorious Lakeside Golf Club located in the beautiful Toluca Lake area of California. In 1949, the first year of the Garry Moore Radio Show, Ken felt that his game had lost the excitement of challenge. He was just too good. So, upon the advice of pro golfer Harry “Lighthorse” Cooper (also a member of the Lakeside Golf Club), he switched to shooting with right handed clubs! That’s like having beautiful handwriting with one hand, then starting all over again with the other!
In addition to his golfing, Ken kept a lively schedule entertaining in his new hometown. He did a good deal of charity work. His son, Scott, writes: “He had the ability to mimic anyone with any kind of accent or trait. It always amazed me how later in life he would play at Italian weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, or whatever nationality and fit in just perfectly.”
He was a popular Emcee for events, as he had been in New York. He often appeared in the newspapers, listed as announcer and band leader. Everyone loved Ken’s easy, personable mannerisms, his sense of humor, and his quick wit.
Ken was the musical director for the Hunters Run Golf and Raquet club in Boynton Beach, FL for many years. He also mentored a number of small bands, which weren’t particularly successful, but as Ken remarked, “It pays the rent once in a while.”
He performed anything from old standards to traditional Country (i.e. this late recording when he performed Roger Miller’s King of the Road). He loved the real, old Western music and frequently gave his audiences Bob Nolan’s classic Tumbling Tumbleweeds. “Everybody wants to hear Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” he remarked. His repertoire included the music of Gershwin and Porter and Rodgers & Hammerstein, as well as the mellower songs of Billy Joel and Stevie Wonder. He said that he also liked the more traditional country music by Randy Travis, Clint Black and George Strait.
But as the years wore on, time was running out for the lively performer they called Ken Carson…….
[to be continued!]