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Local History

Leon "Abner" Weaver

Abner Weaver Dies in North Hollywood
News & Leader, May 28, 1950

"Leon Abner Weaver, 68, Springfield’s best-known contribution to the movie world, died at 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon following a heart attack.

"The body will be forwarded to the Herman Lohmeyer funeral home and Mr. Weaver, who was born at Ozark, will be buried in the Weaver cemetery at Ozark. His death followed by one day a divorce obtained here [Springfield] by his wife, Mrs. Wreatha Weaver.

"Mr. Weaver was one of the three most famous members of a famous vaudeville and movie family. According to his brother Max, Leon Weaver had been in the show business since 1908 or 1910. With A.C. Loveless of Springfield, he organized back in those days one of the first shows held here. Later he worked with Gus Bennett, another prominent theater man here.

"With his brother Frank, (Cicero) and the latter’s wife, Mrs. June (Elviry) Weaver, they became the  most successful Ozark Hillbilly performers in vaudeville. Elviry joined the act in 1920. They played from coast to coast in the vaudeville act, and even made two trips to Europe, touring England, France, Sweden, Denmark and other countries. At the London Hippodrome they played a six-weeks engagement once.

"Leon Weaver could play any kind of musical instrument and invented some unusual types. He was the originator of the musical handsaw and he and Frank Weaver played a double saw together. He also played the rake.

"In 1937, he made his first movie, 'Swing Your Lady,' with Humphrey Bogart and Penny Singleton in the cast. The Weavers’ most famous movie was 'The Arkansas Judge,' and they made about nine altogether.  At one time 22 members of the Weaver family, including wives, were in a traveling troupe. They sometimes drove their own special bus and at other times rode a special train.

"Leon Weaver had a hand at managing Springfield theaters immediately after the war, trying the Mozark and the Mullikin. But he had been back in Hollywood for the past four years, and recently had been making personal appearances and participating in television shows.

"During his entire career of 35 or 40 years, Leon Weaver was known in acting as 'Abner' and never departed from his hillbilly character role. The western actors Buck Jones and Gene Autry were among his best friends in Hollywood. To the Weavers, vaudeville was more 'real' than the movies and they always hoped for its return. They were somewhat scornful of the tinsel glamour of Hollywood but did not remove themselves entirely from it.

"Leon Weaver owned some property in Hollywood, and was also the former owner of two fine residences south of the city.

"There was 18 years’ difference between Leon Weaver’s age and that of his youngest brother, Max, 50. Charley Weaver of Springfield was the second brother and Frank (Cicero), who lives in Hollywood, the third. Other survivors include a daughter, Gloria, of Springfield, a son, Billy Leon of Hollywood; and three sisters, Mrs. Rena Doling of Dayton, Ohio, Mrs. Lucille Brown of Chicago and Mrs. Anna Chappell of Route 8."

For more information see The Ozarks' greatest hits: a photo history of music in the Ozarks by Wayne Glenn.

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