So Virginia didn't get much play, but she did show it around with the censorship seal." In their roadshow escapades, the Ormonds frequently passed through Nashville, and the budding music-industry boomtown began to appeal to them as a new center of operations. June recalls they always liked the city; what's more, it was a place where they had developed connections. Among the Ormonds' Nashville friends were Smiley and Kitty Wilson, who had known Ron and June since their vaudeville days. Smiley was a talent agent, and one of his clients was a fledgling girl singer named Loretta Lynn.
The late 50s found Ron Ormond producing weekly installments of ROLLER DERBY at KTLA-TV in Los Angeles for impresario Leo Seltzer, a fine person by June's remembrance. Leo hired Ron to make a series of films about the Roller Derby using two female skaters, "Elbow" Anderson and "Tuffy." The project turned into a TV series. Every Monday night, Ron went to the Olympic stadium in LA and filmed the evening's slugfest. Seltzer and Ron ended up producing 100 episodes, which played for years in national syndication. After the Derby days, Leo asked Ron and June to produce the SELTZER'S LITTLE PEOPLE series, starring a group including some of THE WIZARD OF OZ Munchkin actors. "We have the first one for sale on video," Tim says. It features an appearance by UNTAMED MISTRESS co-star Alan Nixon as a giant.
While Ron worked behind the cameras as producer and (briefly) manager, his son Tim elbowed and jostled other kids as a ROLLER DERBY contestant. (During this time Tim skated in the junior league and for a time held the league record for knockdowns.) But the experience wasn't pleasant. Trouble with a recalcitrant skater, in addition to the regular pressures of weekly TV, was giving Ormond an ulcer. After a year, Ron had had his fill, and he told Seltzer, "I like you too much to work for you." They remained friends for life, but Ron didn't spend much time at the Olympic auditorium after that. Hollywood was literally making Ron Ormond sick.
It would be almost five years before Ron would mount his next independent feature, WHITE LIGHTNIN' ROAD (65). Very much in the style of Robert Mitchum's THUNDER ROAD (58), a hooch-hauling classic that played rural drive-ins for 15 years, WHITE LIGHTNIN' ROAD was a moonshine-runnin', hot-rod-drivin', farmer's-daughter-lovin' white-trash epic of the first degree. Racing sequences were lensed at the then-modest Atlanta International Speedway. Other location footage was shot in rural Cummins, Georgia, 20 miles north of Atlanta.
The event that would convince Ron to finally leave California came during post-production of WHITE LIGHTNIN' ROAD. Ron learned that Nashville was home to an inexpensive film-editing facility at Trafco, the film-production arm of the United Methodist Church. (The facility now houses Jim Owens Productions, which produced a number of shows for The Nashville Network there.) That was all the incentive Ron needed. In 1965, the Ormonds moved their base of operations to Nashville. Settling in, they would eventually earn the title "Nashville's First Family of Film" and go on to create one of the most colorful, and most curious, chapters in Music City's history. For an enterprising low-budget Hollywood producer in the mid-1960s, Nashville looked like nirvana. Grand Ole Opry performers were just beginning to sense the power of television and film to promote their music, and multinational conglomerates had not yet seized control of Music Row. First and foremost, the drive-in movie trade was still thriving. There was still a large and insatiable market for first-run exploitation films. And when it came to exploitation filmmaking, Ron Ormond ruled.
With the help of Smiley Wilson, the Ormonds wasted no time in getting their first Nashville project in front of the camera. FORTY ACRE FEUD may have been a humble cornpone musical, but Ron was able to convince major Grand Ole Opry stars to perform in the film for the mere pittance of $250 per song. "All of the people here when we first came to Nashville were very congenial and nice," June recalls. "They all wanted to get into the movies. We turned down offers to become personal managers of big country stars because it would have tied us down. We wanted the freedom to be able to take off and go anywhere whenever we chose." After raising money from various local backers and securing talent, Ron and June began filming their slight story, which involved feuding country kinfolk and a fundraising show, at the original Bradley's Barn, a legendary Nashville studio where stars ranging from Patsy Cline to Conway Twitty recorded. The cast reads like a Who's Who of Opry stars, with endearing (if somewhat static) performances from Minnie Pearl, George Jones (lipsynching with sideman Johnny Paycheck), Loretta Lynn, Ray Price, Skeeter Davis, Del Reeves, Roy Drusky, and Bill Anderson, among others. WSM disc jockey Smilin' Eddie Hill oversaw the proceedings on screen, with comic turns by Ferlin Husky and Del Reeves. "I thought the world of Ron," said Reeves, who was "hot as a firecracker" at the time with his 1965 smash "Girl on the Billboard." He remembers Ron as an extremely professional filmmaker, watchful of every penny.