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Arkansas Woodchopper
Born:  March 2, 1906
Died:  June 23, 1981
WLS National Barn Dance
KMOX St. Louis, MO
WFAA Dallas, TX
WIBW Topeka, KS
WKY Oklahoma City, OK
KMBC Kansas City, MO (1928)

The Arkansas Woodchopper or as he was called "Arkie" was one of the mainstays of WLS' National Barn Dance show. He was a native of the Ozark mountains, near Knobnoster, Missouri and was said to have actually chopped wood. He also worked on his father's farm and at a general store in town and was later a gas station attendant.

The story goes that he used to trap. So, once after selling some skins one day, bought a watch. At the time, he was already calling square dances at parties, but had an itch to play the fiddle at the dances, too. He pawned the watch, bought a fiddle and learned to play. Jos first job—was playing the guitar and fiddle at at square dance, for $4.00, for SIX hours! Later, when performing, it was usually with his guitar. When he did play the fiddle, it wasn't from the shoulder position, but from the hip, using a sort of cross-cut saw action.

Arkie's singing and radio career started in Kansas City. During the war years they said he had a good reputation as a weather prophet, but that it couldn't be talked about, for military reasons. He was said to be just like some of the fruit cake they made down in the hills: the older it got, the better it was.

Arkie the fiddling man

The National Barn Dance made appearances regularly at the Illinois and Indiana State Fairs. In 1932, they wrote that they came in at five o'clock in the morning to watch as well as listen to the show.

In the WLS Family Album of 1938, they noted that Arkie was chosen by vote of the listeners as one of the three most popular acts on WLS.

The Arkansas Woodchopper

Arkie evidently enjoyed to laugh. Early on they said that "...some of the boys found it was a lot of fun to make him laugh in the middle of a song, inventing the most outlandish stunts to accomplish this. Since then, Arkie's laugh has been heard from coast to coast." And they say he never knew what to expect. In another issue, they wrote that no one had ever gone through what he had to go through while performing. Manhandled. Wrapped in bandages. Sheet music set afire. Guitar pulled out of tune. Shoes unlaced. And he laughed and sang right through it all.

Timeline and Trivia Notes

  • Started on WLS around 1930
  • Real name was Luther Ossenbrink
  • Married the former Vera Firth, from Perry County, Illinois in December 1937
  • Had a dog named Chips, another named Laddie
  • Was expert trainer of dogs
  • Had a daily radio show called "Arkie's Coffee Time"
  • Was a skilled auctioneer
  • Co-starred with Joe Kelly on Chicago's PBS station WTTW on Totem Club, a children's show

Related Web Links  

Sound Sample—(RealAudio Format)
My Daddy Was A Rabbit

Appearance History This Month

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Recordings
 
Columbia
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  15463 D A The Dying Cowboy
  15463 D B The Cowboy's Dream
  20444 A Arkansas Traveler
  20444 B Mississippi Sawyer
  20445 A Sallie Goodwin
  20445 B Soldier's Joy
  20446 A Walking Up Town
  20446 B Waggoner
  20447 A My Love Is A Lassie
  20447 B Lightfoot Bill
 
Conqueror
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  7879 A Mrs. Murphy's Chowder
  7879 B Frankie and Albert
  7880 A Sweet Sunny South
  7880 B If I Could Only Blot Out The Past
  7881 A Just Plain Folks
  7881 B What Is Home Without Love?
  7882 A The Last Great Roundup
  7882 B Cowboy Jack
  7883 A Texas Cowboy
  7883 B Bronc That Wouldn't Bust
  7884 A When It's Harvest Time
  7884 B The Little Green Valley
  7885 A Old Pal
  7885 B Daddy and Home
  7887 A Little-Ah-Sid
  7887 B Dollar Down And A Dollar A Week With Chicken Pie


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