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James Wesley Huguely

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HUGUELY, James Wesley Jay Huguely, noted actor, director, theatre owner, playwright, singer, song writer, producer, and television writer, died suddenly in his home in Valencia, CA, on Dec. 13, 2008. He was 68 years old. Born in Richmond, KY, on Sept. 21, 1940, the son of Durrett and Cleta Huguely, Jay showed early promise as a performer by winning high ratings in debate and speech contests in high school. He worked as a DJ and newscaster at local radio stations while attending Eastern Kentucky State, and he directed shows at the Surfside Playhouse in Melbourne, FL. In 1960, he graduated from the American Theatre Wing in New York. Then, with a successful audition and financial backing collected from townspeople in London, KY, who believed in his talent, he set sail across the Atlantic to London, England, to enroll in the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Upon graduating with honors in 1962, Jay won a scholarship to study at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, where he discovered he had a talent for singing as well as for acting. He remained in England for a time doing both stage and television work. When he returned to the States, he was cast in the starring role of El Gallo in the off-Broadway musical "The Fantasticks." After working in summer stock, outdoor drama, and regional theatre, Jay met producer Bill Hartigan, and the two of them formed the soon-to-be well-known H&H Productions, a company that provided shows for theatres all over the Southeast. Jay himself was heavily sought after by theatre owners for both his directing and acting skills, and actors fought for the privilege of working under his inspiring tutelage. Jay's charismatic performances in such popular shows as "Music Man," "I Do! I Do!," "110 in the Shade," and "Man of La Mancha" will long be remembered by audiences and fellow performers everywhere. In 1974, Jay gave up life on the road for the job of creative director at Leslie Advertising, where 17 of his commercial campaigns won Addy awards. One assignment involved creating an ad for CB radios. Jay borrowed a CB, went on the interstate, and listened to the lingo for about an hour, taking notes. He ad-libbed about ten minutes' worth of material on tape for a client (who hated it). The president of the agency, however, was so impressed that he persuaded Jay to cut a record of what was to become "The White Knight," a hit single bought and released by Mercury Records, who signed Jay to a five-year contract. Jay, dubbing himself "Cledus Maggard and the Citizen's Band," wrote and recorded two albums' worth of songs under that name and went back on the road as a country music celebrity. He received numerous awards including Top Novelty Artist, New Male Artist of the Year, New Comedian Award, Top New Comedy Artist, and Best New Comedy Artist from "Billboard," "Cash Box," and "Music City News." He also appeared regularly on such televised shows as the famed "Grand Ole Opry," "Hee Haw," "Pop Goes the Country," and "The Porter Wagoner Show." His "White Knight" single reached number one on "Billboard Magazine's" Hot Country Singles chart in Feb. 1976, and the record went gold after selling a million copies. Another song, "Torn Flag," resides in the Library of Congress, and his song "My Turn" was recorded by Reba McEntire. After five years of touring as Cledus Maggard, Jay was cast in a lead role in the Broadway musical "Play Me a Country Song." After that show closed, he was called to Hollywood to direct and star in "That Other Woman's Child." When a Hollywood actor friend suggested that Jay try writing for television, Jay wrote and submitted a script for "Tales of the Gold Monkey." The script was accepted, and Jay was put under contract, opening up yet another career path for this man of many talents. Other scripts followed, and soon Jay landed on "Magnum, P.I.," the hottest show on television. He started as a story editor and worked his way up to full writer/producer status. He was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for his script "Sense of Debt," and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences honored him for his contribution to John Hillerman's Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. After "Magnum," Jay went on to write for "B.L. Stryker," "Once a Hero," "Tag Team," "Wolf," "MacGyver," "Airwolf," "Murder, She Wrote," "Quantum Leap," "Silk Stalkings," and "Street Justice." He also wrote the television movie "Bandit: Bandit's Silver Angel" and the feature film "Friday the 13th: Jason Goes to Hell." Jay retired in 1999, but he continued to lend his time and talents to others. He headed the Drama Ministry at the Valencia United Methodist Church, and many a service was enhanced by his dramatic vignettes. He also produced full productions for the church at Christmas and for fundraisers. In 2000 he wrote, produced, and directed a full-length play called "Home" to raise both money and awareness for the plight of the homeless. This production and his work at the shelter won him the Volunteer of the Year award for the Santa Clarita shelter. Jay Huguely was a Renaissance man. He made a success of every artistic endeavor that came his way, and he left a trail of fans and admirers everywhere he went. He was invariably generous with his time, talents, and money, and he mentored many an actor, writer, and musician. He was charming and entertaining, enthusiastic and unpretentious - a loving husband and father, and a loyal friend. Jay is survived by his actress wife Mary Krause, his son James Randolph (Andrea) Huguely, and his granddaughters, Carinna and Caroline. A memorial service will be held on May 2, 2009, at 2:00 p.m. at the Valencia United Methodist Church, 25718 McBean Pkwy., Valencia, CA. Memorial donations may be made in Jay's name to the homeless shelter through the Santa Clarita Community Development Corporation: SCCDC, 24901 Orchard Village Rd., Valencia, CA 91355.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Apr. 26, 2009
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