If you lived in Chamblee in the 1960s, you might remember Musicland, a place for music lessons and musical instruments. Ruth Lockhart Bean and Al Bean ran the business with help from their son, Bob, and Ruth’s parents. Ruth achieved some fame in her early years in Atlanta, including a trip to New York, working in radio, and performing for a president.
Recently, I looked through the Ruth Bean/Musicland collection at the DeKalb History Center. The materials were donated by a former student of the Beans in Florida and includes many photographs, personal notes to the Beans and a few newspaper clippings.
Ruth Lockhart was born in 1917 in Atlanta to Oscar and Nelle Lockhart. The family lived on Rosalia Street in southeast Atlanta. She attended Girls High School. Her family owned Lockhart’s Pharmacy, with two locations, one in Lakewood Heights and another in Grant Park.
Lockhart graduated from Girls High in 1935. That same year, she entered the Ray Perkins National Amateur Hour competition, a singing competition held in New York. Lockhart won the contest and afterwards performed for one week at The French Casino on Broadway (Atlanta Constitution, July 24, 1964, “A Ukulele, Music and People-That’s Life for Ruth Bean”).
For nine years, Ruth Lockhart worked as a singer and radio personality for WSB in Atlanta. She worked alongside Bert Parks, Ernest Rogers and Perry Bechtel (also known as Banjo King of the South). You may remember Bert Parks from his many years as emcee of the Miss America pageant.
1935 was a busy year for Lockhart, as it was also the year she was asked to sing for President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Warm Springs, Ga. He requested the song “Home on the Range” nine times. After her visit at Warm Springs, Roosevelt told her to drop by and see him if she was ever in Washington, D. C. When she traveled there on a graduation trip, she took him up on the offer. She remembered that she was able to sit in the chair where he gave his famous Fireside Chats.
When Ruth Lockhart married Al Bean, she discontinued her music career temporarily. However, she later returned to music when the couple opened Musicland in Chamblee. She taught ukulele and guitar lessons to children of her friends and neighbors, comparing it to teaching music in a country store. A scrapbook of her earlier days of fame was kept close by and brought out on occasion to entertain the students and their parents.
Bean described her love of music in the Atlanta Constitution, saying “now my greatest joy is to project the joy I received as a youngster because of music. Playing ukulele was just something I had to do.”
She first began playing ukulele at age 6. The Beans formed a group of ukulele students from Musicland to perform for local clubs, civic organizations and student groups. Ruth and Al Bean later moved to Sebring, Fla., and continued to teach music to children at their new Musicland location.
If you took music lessons from Ruth or Al Bean and remember Musicland
in Chamblee, please write Valerie