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Country Al Turner Dies At 72

San Diego's Country Music Ambassador succumbs to pneumonia

For several years I had the pleasure of working with Al Turner, first as the "KSON Cowboy," later as the leader of the "KSON Flatbed Show." Talented, jovial and always enthusiastic, Al was a true showman and a distinguished ambassador for Country Music. -Nick Upton

Country Al Turner, September 16, 1941-August 1, 2014

Allen Lawrence Turner was born in Poplar Bluff Missouri, the youngest of three children born to Lawrence and Mary Turner. At a young age Al's father began working for the MKT Railroad and the family moved to Denison Texas where he grew up attending grade school and high school.

In 1959 Al joined the Navy where he was stationed in San Diego. Al traveled around the world as a young sailor during his 4 years in the service. In 1961 he met Paula Jean Woodburn at a dance in Imperial Beach. They were soon married and upon his honorable discharge from the Navy in 1962 he and his new bride moved back to Dallas Texas to start their new life. Al was an auto mechanic by day and a musician at night.

Al and Paula had two sons, Clyde Alan, born in 1964 and Christopher Wayne in 1968. Al and Paula relocated back to San Diego in the summer of 1971 where Al worked as a transmission mechanic at Lamb Chevrolet in National City while still pursuing his music career at night and on the weekends. Al and his band played in many clubs around town including a long stint as the house band at The Golden Barrel nightclub in National City.

In 1974 Al and his band performed at "The Country Star," a concert featuring local Country & Western bands put on by KSON Radio. It was through these performances at "The Country Star" that Al met the program director and music director of KSON, Dan McKinnon, who was also the owner of KSON radio at the time. During the mid 1970's local radio station KGB had a station mascot, The KGB Chicken and Al had made such an impression on the folks at KSON that Dan McKinnon hired Al and "The KSON Cowboy" was born. Al represented KSON at all station events, concerts, club nights and promotions. Al was honored as Grand Marshal of the Mother Goose Parade one year and was voted "San Diego Radio Personality of the Year" 4 years in a row.

In 1980, Country Music competitor KCBQ hired Al away from KSON to be their station personality. In 1982 Al decided that there was a better way to be an "Ambassador of Country Music" to San Diego and that was by playing Country Music throughout San Diego and "Al Turner and the KCBQ Flatbed Band" was born. Al and The Flatbed Band played from a Flatbed Truck (usually loaned to them by RCP) in parades, station events, concerts as well as at private functions; everything from Grand Openings to weddings and bar mitzvahs. Al Turner and the Flatbed Band remained with KCBQ until the station changed formats in 1985.

After being let go from KCBQ in 1985, Al found himself without a job for the first time in his adult life, but it wasn't for long. Just a few short days later, Al got the call to bring the band and himself 'back home' to KSON. "Al Turner and the KSON Flatbed Show" hit the streets of San Diego playing Country Music and representing the KSON brand. Al converted an old Frito Lay delivery truck into "The Show Wagon" -- a vehicle with built-in stage, lights, sounds and electricity -- making it possible to pull up and be performing in less than 15 minutes. Because of the ease of the Show Wagon, Al Turner and the KSON Flatbed Show played 300 live public and private performances a year, mostly on weekends. Although Al was non-political (he said everyone's money was green) he was quite proud to have been asked to play for President Ronald Reagan at his last campaign stops in San Diego when he ran for President in 1980 and 1984. Al also played for Vice Presidents Bush and Quayle, several Senators, Congressman, dignitaries, San Diego Mayors and was the opening act at concerts by some of the biggest names in Country Music including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Pam Tillis, Alabama, Freddy Fender, Lacy J Dalton, Eddie Rabbit and Keith Whitley just to name a few. Al literally performed for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of his fellow San Diegans. Al just loved to entertain people.

In 1999, Al was having problems singing and upon seeing a doctor got the worst news a singer could get when he was diagnosed with cancer of his larynx. Al was treated with intense radiation for 6 months but the cancer came back and in 2000 he had his larynx (voice box) removed. His days as an entertainer, musician and singer were over. Al had a hard time adjusting to life after music and KSON and over the years his health declined. In 2006 Al lost his right leg to a bone infection and in 2008 he lost his other leg in an automobile accident and was confined to a full time care facility in La Mesa. His health continued to decline over the years even though his fighting spirit remained intact.

That fight came to an end on Friday, August 1, 2014 at 10:56 am when Al Turner died of a complications from Pneumonia and another infection. He was 72 years old.

Al hated funerals and memorial services and would not have wanted one for himself. He will be cremated and, at a later date, he will return to Denison, Texas where he will be buried next to his Mother, Father and Nephew.

Al is survived by his sons Alan and Chris as well as his ex-wife Paula, four Grand Children (Jackie Hayes, Jefrey Turner, Teaona Turner and Felicity Varney) as well as his brother John and sister in law Sharon of McKinney Texas and his sister Elizabeth Jade of Sherman Texas.

In lieu of flowers, or if you would like to memorialize Al in any way, his family requests that you make a donation in his name to the Gentiva Hospice Foundation.

-- Christopher Turner

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  1. Jacqueline G_6672 posted on 08/07/2014 01:13 PM
    A beautiful tribute for an outstanding gentleman! My thoughts and prayers go out to Chris Turner and the entire KSON Family.
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