ClenRoy Geist, a.k.a. Crazy Elmer, celebrates 70 years as an entertainer
Originally from Alburtis, ClenRoy Geist began his entertainment career at age 13 by joining his father and older brother as a minstrel show singer in Longswamp.
In 1949, Geist became a member of a local country group, Earl Keller and the Melody Rangers. When one of the end men, (literally the band members who sat at the open ends of the rows) left the group, Keller asked Geist to fill the role of the band’s comedian. Geist accepted and Elmer was born.
When asked why he uses the stage name Elmer, Geist explains, “[Keller chose the name, and] I just thought if he wanted to call me Elmer, God bless him.”
Geist appeared with Keller’s troupe for the next 19 years. During that time he honed his comedic skills.
Much of his first material was borrowed from the group’s previous comic. Over time, new jokes and stories based on personal experiences were added to his repertoire. Geist also incorporated physical comedy into his act. He sometimes appeared on the stage roof or climbed in and out of trees.
One of his funniest memories was, as he recounts, “not intentional.”
During a performance at Valley View Park, he slid down the trunk of a tree but failed to notice a protruding nail. His pants caught on the nail and he remained stuck. He twisted, turned, clowned and pattered until help and a stepladder arrived.
Geist has also experienced his share of difficulties, but has always appeared as scheduled.
In 1962, Geist severely injured his hand in a car accident. In spite of the trauma, he missed only the shows that took place during his hospitalization. His fans have reciprocated his loyalty. In response to the accident, a benefit was held in Macungie Park. More than 8,000 fans came out to demonstrate their support. Geist describes the event as “... another wonderful experience...[I] didn’t know how many people knew me.”
Geist fondly remembers appearing with a variety of country music luminaries. He greatly respects Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn because, in his words, “They were down to earth people and really impressed me.” He also has high praise for Philadelphia’s favorite television cowgirl and one-time owner of Ontelaunee Park, Sally Starr. Geist describes her as, “... one wonderful woman.”
During his long career, Geist has performed throughout much of Pennsylvania and in neighboring states. His wife Diane Geist states, “We like Alburtis Park because it’s in our backyard and it’s like the old-time parks.” However, Geist’s favorite performance venue is in Pillow, Pa. where he has appeared annually for 62 consecutive years. According to Diane Geist, “The people put lawn chairs out at 5 a.m. when he is appearing there at night.”
In most places Geist and his band give two shows and usually end by 10 p.m. In Pillow, they stick to the original three show schedule which starts at approximately 8 p.m. and may not conclude until 1 a.m. Geist smiles and recalls that “[Pillow} is a very small town, but it gets jammed.” This strong support brings every band with whom Geist appears back to Pillow.
After Keller’s 1968 retirement, Shorty Long and the Santa Fe Rangers incorporated Geist’s act into their show. At that time, Shorty made the decision to change Geist’s stage name to Crazy Elmer. In 1977, Geist left the Santa Fe Rangers and joined another local country band, The Outlaws. This year marks his 42nd year with The Outlaws.
Although he has cut back on his winter appearances, Geist is already booked for multiple shows during the summer season.
Crazy Elmer has appeared with several country bands, numerous country stars and as a solo act. Currently, he shares the stage with a very special musician, The Outlaws’ lead guitarist and vocalist, his grandson, Kyle Isamoyer.
Through hard work and talent, Geist has generated a loyal following. He especially delights in meeting lifelong fans who first came to see him with their grandparents. He credits his work ethic to his father who told him when he first took the stage as Elmer to “Do it right, or not at all.” Having no plans to retire, ClenRoy Geist looks forward to his 70th summer of clowning and singing with a glint in his eye. He is once again ready to “Do it right!”