Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Reminiscing About the Radio Days

A pen-pal of mine, Janet McBride, suggested that I might throw a lasso of memories your way concerning the heyday of Hillbilly Music. I am 88 years old and was a "wanna be" part of that era in the 1930s and 1940s. I was raised in central Kansas so I was in the heart of some of the action.

Iowa was ruled by Jerry Smith of radio stations KMA and KFNF in Shenandoah and later WHO in Des Moines. It was Jerry who sold me my first mail order guitar for $8.75. Then of course, the power house was BORDER RADIO. I was determined to leave a mark in that realm of music by taking the handle of "THE SUNFLOWER WRANGLER". My idols were Wilf Carter (Montana Slim), Nolan Rinehart (Cowboy Slim), Dallas Turner (Nevada Slim), and of course Al Clauser (Oklahoma Outlaws), Tex Owens of The Texas Rangers of KMBC in Kansas City, Missouri, Texas Ruby, Curly Fox, Hank Thompson in Waco, Texas (when he was just home from the Navy), the WIBW Dinner Bell gang, Red Foley, Ozark Jubilee; the list goes on.

My short contribution was on our Great Bend, Kansas station KVGB, with Harry Wright of the Texas Border days. Our exposure came through Medicine Shows, Grand Opening appearances and I was a brief member of Cal and Alta Lee Shrum's band, as they toured with their B-Western Movies presenting an 'IN PERSON stage show' following the movie.

In Iowa radio they had Robert Taylor and Ronald Reagan at the time. Did you ever hear Ron Reagan give the chatter of a baseball game? When they had "technical problems", as they called them when transmission was interrupted, Ronald filled the space with a continuation of his rapid sports announcer/auctioneer chatter, with his explanation of the happenings on the baseball field. His commentary was stuff he just made up.

Yes sir, that was an era that shaped Country Music: LIVE Radio. My part was the early 6:30 AM Farm Hour with wired-in Commodity and Livestock Market updates out of Kansas City.

Much of live radio suffered when Mutual Broadcasting and network affiliations started to rule the roost. Also an exciting experience at the time was when ASCAP enforced their license fee, and BMI came on the scene without a license fee. Radio Stations were flooded with COMP BMI music. I am thrilled that I have this blog where I can commemorate and renew memories of that era. My thanks to Janet McBride for reminding me to write this so we can also share it with her friend Dave Sichak.


Janice Tracy said...

Great post, Ernie...enjoyed it and learned some "radio" history, too.

Brian D. said...

I very much enjoyed this post. I am going to "google" some of those musicians you mentioned and see if I can listen to some of them.

My Mother's parents lived in Kansas City during their working years that was about 1930-1960. My Grandfather was a truck driver and delivery person for Sears in KC during those years. Maybe he heard you on the radio while driving his truck ! They later retired on a farm between Boonville and Tipton, MO.

My Father's hobby is restoring old radios. He restored one for me that looks very much like the photo in your blog post. I listen to Nebraska football games on it now. Not much music on AM radio anymore.