you ever strike up a conversation about duck calls with someone
in Reelfoot Lake, the name Johnny Marsh will certainly be mentioned.
Although Johnny was not a native from Reelfoot, he frequently visited
the area to participate in the rich heritage of duck hunting Reelfoot
Lake was known for. It wouldn't be until the early 1940's that Johnny
would begin his call making quest and compete against several of
the well know call makers like Tom Turpin and Sarpie Shaw who were
already known within the duck hunting community. The rest is history
as most would say and Johnny Marsh became known as one of the Legendary
call makers in the Reelfoot Lake area.
Although Johnny Marsh passed away in 1983
his legacy and call making would continue with the help of Larry
Hickerson who apprenticed under Johnny prior to his death. What
started out as a student with the desire to learn all aspects of
call making, over time evolved into a bond that made Johnny and
Larry the closest of friends? Over the last remaining years prior
to Johnny's death, Larry would devoted much of his time learning
from the master and what was involved in building Reelfoot duck
calls or as some reference it the old metal reed calls.
Hickerson was born and raised in Hohenwald TN and currently resides
in Nashville TN. Born in 1935 he has spent a majority (60+ years)
of his life hunting. He has traveled across much of the country
hunting a variety of game, but now spends most of his time hunting
ducks and geese in Reelfoot and Kentucky Lake and deer and turkey
in the surrounding counties. Prior to his call making apprenticeship
he spent 30 years working at Gun City USA Inc. and 15 years at the
Metro Water Services in Nashville, TN. Now retired Larry spends
his time fulfilling two of his favorite hobbies and passions, call
making and hunting.
After the death of Johnny Marsh, Larry took
over the company and continued with the daily workload of building
duck calls and selling to the public. To ensure operations within
the company would continue under the name Johnny Marsh
he retained the registered trademark "Johnny Marsh Calls"
which now belongs to him and his family. Still today, each call
that leaves the shop bears the name "Johnny Marsh" just
as they did back in 1940.
The ability to follow in the footsteps of
a legend like Johnny Marsh is always a challenge and Larry will
be the first to admit he occasionally encounters "snags"
from time to time. But what call maker doesnt in todays
call making profession. Simply put, Larry states there is only one
thing to remember when making calls. "Take a block of wood
and turn off everything that is not a duck call".
Larry continues to build duck calls just like
Johnny did when he began. Although tempted by the advancements in
technology, which would allow him to outsource production or CNC
lathe, he remains steadfast in his decision to hand build each call
one at a time. His favorite wood to use is cocobolo. Cocobolo is
known for the excellent sound and finish qualities it provides and
it is also easy to work with. Other woods used to make Johnny Marsh
calls include: Walnut, cherry, maple, hedge apple, persimmon and
a variety of imported woods.
Today, Larry makes about 100 Reelfoot calls
each year and about the same amount in the Arkansas style. In addition
he also provides goose and occasional turkey calls. Customers looking
for something more along the lines of collector series can request
options such as checkering or carved and even laminated. Ultimately
whatever the customer desires whether it be field/hunting grade
or collectors grade Johnny Marsh calls are guaranteed to do one
thing. Work a duck just as they have since 1940.