Louise Thomason, literally the first lady of Bakersfield television, died Monday in Long Beach at age 96, her son Jody said Thursday.
Thomason co-hosted the “Jimmy Thomason Show” with her fiddle-playing husband from the time it premiered in 1953 as the first live music program on Bakersfield’s KAFY (later KBAK) until the mid-1960s.
For much of the 1950s, "The Jimmy Thomason Show" was one of three local music shows. The competition included "Cousin" Herb Henson, whose "Trading Post Gang" launched a month after the Thomasons' on KERO, and the "Chuck Wagon Gang," starring Billy Mize and Cliff Crofford.
With her fresh appearance and down-home style she was sought after by advertisers for live commercials on syndicated programs such “The Betty White Show” and many others. She declined major network offers in Los Angeles, preferring to remain in Bakersfield to raise her boys and stay close to her extended family, her son told The Californian.
Thomason was born Mavis Louise Kilgore in Lorena, Texas, a small farming community near Waco, one of five children. At age 15 she won a beauty-talent contest, which gave her the opportunity to sing on radio station WACO. It was there that she met Jimmy Thomason, who would be her husband for 58 years. He died in 1994.
In 1942 Jimmy joined the soon-to-be Louisiana governor, Western Swing performer Jimmie Davis, and they moved to Baton Rouge. In 1948 they followed her parents’ emigration to Bakersfield where Jimmy became a popular country western entertainer, greatly aided, often reluctantly, by Louise.
After Jimmy's unsuccessful run for the California state senate, they returned to Texas in 1955 to tour and host the “Jimmy and Louise Thomason Home Folks Television Show,” from Waco. The show featured many popular guests, among them young George Jones and Elvis Presley.
They returned to Bakersfield for good not long afterward.
“Meme” Thomason is survived by her son, Jody, daughters-in-law, Mona, and LouJean, sister, Wanda McElroy, nieces and nephews, six grandchildren, 17 greats and 10 great, greats. Her husband Jimmy and son Jackie preceded her in death.
A chapel service will be held Jan. 27 at 1 p.m. at Hillcrest Memorial Park in Bakersfield.