About The Artist
The year was 1922. The United States had 30 AM radio stations. And for those stations, 100,000 radios were manufactured. It was still two years before Vernon Dalhart would record his million seller, The Prisoner's Song. The NFL welcomed a new team from Green Bay, Wisconsin. And in Osceola, South Dakota the person folks would come to know as Balin' Wire Bob Strack was welcomed into the world by his parents.
Bob got the itch for playing country music at an early age. A 1953 article notes he had been playing in various bands and combos since he was 15 years old. Even when he was in the military service, he entertained the troops while a part of a USO troupe.
A 1960 articles tells us that when he got out of the military service, he went back to the Montana area. That's where he decided to marry the gal "...he decided he didn't want to leave behind." At the same time, he decided he wanted to try his luck at music and entertainment.
But we will bet you are wondering where the "Balin' Wire Bob" nickname comes from before we go any further. Bob wrote us after our conversation how that came about:
"Now, that name of Balin' Wire Bob...have (a) seat.
It was perhaps about this time he found work on KXLJ out of Helena, Montana. Bob recalls that this station as well as a later experience in Temple, Texas were the two best jobs he had looking back. When he left those stations, the station management left him feeling that they didn't want to see him go. They wanted to know where he would be next and what hours he would be on to let fans know where to find him.
In 1953, Bob was working at radio station KOGT down in Orange, Texas, a town due east of Beaumont near the Texas - Louisiana border. And when we say 'working' at KOGT, we do mean working. Its not often you'd find that a DJ or entertainer would be putting in a shift of nearly 7 hours as Balin' Wire Bob was doing back then. He worked from 5:00am to noon. He'd have a half-hour of singing songs to the listening audience with just him and his guitar. He'd play the many requests that fans would call in or write. He could also dish out what might be termed "foothills philosophy".
Bob told us in an interview that basically he invented a couple of characters who he would carry on a conversation with at the studio. These characters would never talk on the air, but he would talk to them as if they were in the studio and handling chores for him such as spinning the records while he went out and got a cup of coffee during a break.
While at KOGT, he was part of a show that was described as sort of a "young" Grand Ole Opry called the "South Texas Serenade". Bob said they tried, but the show did not last very long.
In 1954, Bob got a position at KTEM in Temple, Texas with a bit less hectic of an on-air schedule. A 1954 writeup indicated he was working on the air two and a half hours a day during the week and putting in four hours on Saturdays. He wore several hats - disc jockey, staff announcer as well as that of singer and musician. He tipped his hat to a friend, Charline Arthur for helping him get a spot on the KRLD Big 'D' Jamboree that aired out of Dallas, Texas.
Bob played several instruments, including the guitar, banjo, mandolin, the Jews harp and the mouth harp. He also started developing his songwriting skills while at KRLD and continued to write through the years.
The 1954 article notes that he was married and had two children, a son and a daughter.
While he was at KTEM, his career took another turn. A rising star from KWKH at the time and disc jockey by the name of Jim Reeves stopped by to visit Balin' Wire Bob one day. He got to talk with Jim during his show and later on, Jim sent him an album of his songs. Unbeknownst to Bob at the time, Jim went back to KWKH and told them he was getting ready to leave and try his luck in Nashville. That would have left a void on the show that followed the Louisiana Hayride on Saturday Nights. Jim recommended that the station look into hiring Balin' Wire Bob Strack as his replacement on the Red River Roundup show. And it wasn't too long before Bob got a call to come and interview at the station. He got the job.
If you do a search of the internet, you will find that during Bob's tenure at KWKH, he got to interview a young singer by the name of Elvis Presley at the time and describe the experience / reaction of the female audience at the time listening in or watching.
Sammy Lillibridge wrote in his column for Country & Western Jamboree magazine back in May of 1955 that he had appeared on Bob's show, the Red River Roundup on Saturday, March 5.
A short while later, Balin' Wire Bob had a fan club that was being run by Frances Marth in Temple. She duly wrote the folks at Country & Western Jamboree magazine in June of 1955 trying to get them to feature Bob.
Smokey Warren notes in his 1957 column that Balin' Wire Bob had wrote him about Jimmy Heap and the Melody Masters and their new TV show in Austin, Texas.
By 1957, Bob had moved to radio station KIMO in Independence, Missouri. His new fan club president was Mrs. Blanche Trinjastick who was in Avondale, Colorado. She noted in a letter to the Rustic Rhythm magazine that Balin' Wire Bob had a record out on the Fee Bee record label - "Anyplace I Hang My Hat is Home" b/w "Hillbilly Lovin'". Bob penned the tune "Anyplace I Hang My Hat Is Home".
Bob did a fair amount of writing for the folks at Country & Western Jamboree, contributing several columns in their "Cross Country Jamboree" columns from various parts around the country.
In one issue, the magazine featured the various hillbilly music 'theme parks' or outdoor venues where the artists would entertain fans. Bob wrote of three such parks in the Kansas City area.
One such park was Wildwood Park, about five miles south of Kansas City. He mentions the park had the "usual country music park facilities" and also had other attractions such as swimming, fishing, playgrounds, picnic areas and dancing
Another park Bob wrote about was Sportsmen's Park, about 35 miles south of Kansas City. It featured a large outdoor dance floor where square dancing was the attraction.
Balin' Wire Bob goes on to write that the newest park in the area back then was tiny Tillman's Happy Hollow Lake, about 35 miles southeast of metropolitan Kansas City. He noted that top country acts were being booked to play the park on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons during the summer season.
Balin' Wire Bob goes on to note the connection in history to these outdoor entertainment venues. It all started perhaps at the old time camp meetings, gatherings and picnics or perhaps a lone mountaineer strumming his banjo or guitar and singing to the folks who had gathered nearby or even a cowboy singing around the campfire with his partners. Or even just the farm boy enjoying a break playing the music on the front porch with friends.
By 1960, Balin' Wire Bob was working at KOAM in Pittsburg, Kansas, a town straight south of Kansas City and west of Springfield, Missouri. Bob was up an at it at 5:00am at KOAM, spinning records and entertaining the listening audience. That 1960 article mentions his hobby then was collecting miniature horses. At this time, he was recording for the Del Ray label. He had released "Ramblin' Eyes, Gamblin' Heart" b/w "Is This The End". Among the over 350 songs that are attributed to Bob in BMI's database is the tune "Is This The End".
Bob has retired from the working life and the entertainment industry. He is enjoying the settled life in the northwest United States.
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