This country singing-and-playing perennial earned the nickname of “Shug” early in life from his mother, who used to call him “sugar” as an infant. The native Oklahoman was born George Clinton Fisher in 1907, the son of a Scots-Irish father and part Choctaw mother. He learned how to play the mandolin, fiddle and guitar by the time he went on the road and later added comedy schtick to his traveling act. He finally took the plunge and headed west to California toiling in a series of side jobs (oil field cabler, tool dresser) before getting some work on radio. He joined various country groups, including the “Hollywood Hillbillies,” in which he played bass fiddle, and the “Beverly Hill Billies.” He finally found “gold up in them thar hills” saddling up with Roy Rogers in his western films and singing with the renown group “Sons of the Pioneers.”
On various radio broadcasts with the group, Shug’s talents soon included songwriting. Some of his songs included “Out on the Open Range” and “Ridin’ Down to Santa Fe,” tunes later recorded by such established stars as Merle Travis. Shug first joined the Sons of the Pioneers in 1943 as a bass player and comedian and appearing on their Lucky U Ranch radio program. He also performed with Stuart Hamblen’s “Lucky Stars” and partnered on and off with singer/actor/comedian Pat Brady. Following his break with the Pioneers, he worked with pre-Festus actor Ken Curtis (of “Gunsmoke” fame) in movies and on TV and radio. He returned once more with the Sons of the Pioneers (1955-1959), then went on to appear with Red Foley’s and his Ozark Jubilee TV show for a couple of years.
Shug continued on as various character types on TV and enjoyed a regular role with friend Curtis on the Ripcord (1961) adventure series. He also is remembered for his recurring role as Shorty Kellums on The Beverly Hillbillies (1962), and appeared in several films and TV episodes for Walt Disney in later years. He died in March 1984 after a lingering illness, with old friend Ken Curtis by his side.
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