Founded by a group of railroad policemen who enjoyed pickin' and singin', the Norfolk Southern Lawmen today are one of the nation's top corporate entertainers. Employed by Norfolk Southern, they are full-time professional musicians who log some 250 performances a year.
How It All Began...
In 1951, D.W. Brosnan, Southern Railway executive vice president of operations and future chairman, began holding meetings for company officers in Almond, N.C., a small town in the mountains west of Asheville.
He asked Snow Baker, a lieutenant in the railroad's police department, to put together some musical entertainment. In short order, Baker rounded up a harmonica, a washtub bass and a guitar from railroad staff, then recruited a "mountain man" who could play banjo and crack jokes, cleaned him up and hired him for the band. Thus was born the "Almond Hillbillies."
With the help of ad hoc groups such as the "Diddie Singers," a chorus of men who led the audience in sing-alongs, and bawdy skits put on by employees spoofing the foibles of the railroad, the Hillbillies entertained the railroaders under a large tent in Almond until 1965, when the Almond meetings ceased and the band disbanded. Some of the original musicians continued to play on their own.
When Brosnan became Southern Railway president, he began to develop the company's conference center in Brosnan Forest, a timber preserve west of Charleston, S.C., that Southern had purchased in the 19th century to ensure a supply of fuel for wood-burning locomotives and later developed as a timber resource. In 1972, Brosnan invited the erstwhile Hillbillies to the Forest to entertain his guests on the cabin porches. This practice grew as the Forest accomodations grew and the meetings became larger. Because the band was composed of Special agents (the police department), it became known as The Lawmen. Over the years, band members came and went, but The Lawmen became an abiding tradition that carried over to Norfolk Southern.
67 years later, Today's Lawmen are the Ambassadors for Norfolk Southern and continue to entertain employees and guests at the Forest with an extremely wide variety of music and shows during the fall and winter months. The spring and summer months find the Lawmen on the road traveling throughout the system to perform at company functions and public events. They are full-time professional musicians who log some 200 performances a year and over the years, have appeared on national television, The Grand Ole Opry, Hee-Haw, and performed on-stage with some of country's top stars!
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