Embert Mishler came into this world on a farm in near Story City, Iowa in early spring
of 1922. The family moved Embert and his two brothers to Marhsalltown, Iowa, the place
he considered his home town.
Music began to become a part of his life around the age of 11 and found him performing
at variou social events around the area.
When he was just 15 years old, perhaps around 1937, he had his own 15-minute radio
show over radio station KFJB, which had broadcasting power then of 250 watts, in Marshalltown.
He got himself a guest spot on the famed WHO Iowa Barn Dance Frolic as well.
Embert ran into an interesting character in American history around that time. He had won
a guest spot on the WHO Iowa Barn Dance Frolic, so that meant he had to be in the station's
studio at 1:00 in the afternoon to rehearse his tune. But during his rehearsal, someone
yelled out "Quiet". It was time for the station's sports announcer to do his spot. That fellow
came in and sat at a desk in the studio and did his spot. After he was one, he got up and walked
over to Embert and said, "Kid, I was just listening to you in the control room
and I like what I heard. Keep up the good work; you'll do good someday." He shook his
hand and Embert's dad's hand and walked back into the control room. That sports announcer
was none other than Ronald Reagan, who later in life went on to star in Hollywood movies,
Governor of California and President of the United States.
Around 1942, Uncle Sam wanted the services of Embert and he joined the U.S. Navy to serve
his country in World War II. His tour of duty last about four years and three months.
When he got out of the service, he hooked up with some road bands that toured the North
Central states and helped get that musical urge going again. For about six months
he played with the Iowa Cornhuskers, a polka band that was based out of Waterloo, Iowa.
He played the upright bass.
Embert told us that about October (we estimate this was 1946 or 1947), he got a telephone
call from KFJB in Marshalltown to do a noon show with a trio. Then he worked at the Saturday
night barn dance at the local coliseum / hall which did double duty hosting basketball games
and other events. At that time, they had a six piece band. The group did a one hour show that
aired over the local radio station on Saturday night, then they played another three hours
for the audiences, doing waltzes, two-steps, square dances (some of which he called).
On January 1, 1949, Embert moved to Des Moines to take a position as part of the "Chore Gange"
that had a 6:00am to 7:00am show five days a week. That of course meant he was also
a regular on the WHO Iowa Barn Dance Frolic each Saturday night.
After a few months, he became part of a kid's show called "Uncle Stan and Cowboy Em". From
there he would start calling square dances on the barn dance. He soon had his own band
known as Cowboy Em and the Dosey Doe Boys.
He began to work with some names that some of you will be familiar with if you've watched this
site over the years. Zelda Scott. Ray and Kay, the Banjo Kids. A fellow named Dusty Owens joined
the station, moving from Michigan. Abby Neal and her all girl band along with Uncle Phil and
his Buckaroos. Skeeter Bonn came to the station for a short while, then moved on to WLS
in Chicago, Illinois. Embert tells us he can't remember all of the names he worked with then, but
it was sure a stage full of talent.
He was working constantly back then - either in the studio or on the road. He traveled in a new
Nash car that had a rack on top, taking along a bass and a Fender guitar in the trunk; accordion,
P.A. system; fiddles. The two bigger guys in the band sat in the back. The other smaller three,
sat in the front seat. His stature at WHO was such that he was handling some of the emcee chores
over the famed Saturday night show in Des Moines. He also earned a guest spot on the WLS
National Barn Dance. In 1951, he was voted one of Iowa's top square dance callers.
In 1952, he wsa part of a show called the "Crack O'Dawners" on WHO in Des Moines that aired
daily from 5:00am to 5:30am. But that wasn't all he did in the mornings then, he also did a
show called "The Western Hillbilly Square Dance Band" at 8:10am.
His career took him to Denver, Colorado where he became part of a group known as the "Riders of the Rockies".
Their leader according to one article was Jerry Osburn, who had over 20 years in the music business,
including stints on the Mutual radio network and the famed WLS National Barn Dance in Chicago. Harpo
Richardson was also a part of the group that was rounded out by Embert. The KFEL Farm and News
Editor, Gus Swanson, was part of their act at times, doing humor and telling interesting stories.
They had a one hour television show over KFEL-TV that aired from 12:00pm to 1:00pm each day
and was said to have had the highest ratings in their time slot.
He joined radio station KLAK in Denver in 1955, becoming one of their first disc jockies when
they switched to a country music format. Billboard magazine reported early in 1955 that
KLAK was one of only a few stations playing that format and was letting record labels know
that they needed records to spin. Billboard also reported that Embert was doing
personal appearances at a local night spot. September of 1955 found him doing a television show
And when we say he worked at radio station KLAK, we mean he did work. Consider his schedule around
1956. He was on the air at sunrise each morning, spinning records and entertaining his listeners
until about 9:00am. He came back for an encore show at 4:00pm and played records until the station
went off the air at sunset. For his lunch 'break', he hosted a noon-time pickin' and singin' show
that featured guest appearances by the many stars that came through the Denver area. Some of his
guests included Faron Young, The Wilburn Brothers and Roy Acuff. The band that backed Embert
on the "live" programs back then was called the "KLAK Ranch Hands". Members of the band included Embert
on guitar, Jimmy Wood on steel guitar, Jack Leetch playing accordion and Ralph Donahue on bass fiddle.
The Riders of the Rockies had guests from acts that were appearing in the local Denver clubs
at their personal appearances. The Nashville acts also worked with them when in town and
included such names as Carl Smith and Marty Robbins.
The Riders of the Rockies also played for President Eisenhower and the White House staff
when the paid a visit to the mountain state. Embert recalls they met the buses and limosines
singing the tune, "Take Me Back to Colorado". Then, the band got to eat a bit before
entertaining the President and his staff and guests for about three hours at the Smith Ranch
in Dillon, Colorado.
In 1956, he had been out of the television limelight for a time in the Denver area. He
walked into the TV station one day to say 'hello'. That led to a meeting in their offices
and before you know it, a new show called "Western Theatre" was going on the air.
In 1959, Embert was a part of a long running popular show on Channel 2 in Denver, the "Western
Theatre" which featured an hour long western movie. But the former member of the Riders
of the Rockies trio became a part of that show on Channel 2 and featured his pickin' and singin'
talents. A 1959 article tells the show was simply Embert and his natural, comfortable style. He
would chat with the audience, sing some of the old favorite tunes and sprinkle in some of the
newer tunes, then introduce the movie. The old cowboy movies back then were featuring
Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.
The station was beginning to take notice of the popularity Embert had. He tells us that one
day he walked in to the station to his show and afterwards they asked him, "You have a
band don't you?" After he answered them, they told him they wanted them on as well
on Thursday nights for a half-hour show. He recalls that they had a female singer by the name
of Jan Mingus. A local car dealer was the sponsor - Bill Goodrow Doge and Plymouth. It appears
the show went on for a bit more time as they got sponsors. The car dealer had the first 15 minutes,
then the Four Square Market had 15 minutes, a non-sponsored segment, then the car dealer having
the last 15 minutes.
In another twist to this saga, Embert tells us around this time he had just purchased a new 1955
Chevrolet. But the sponsor was not comfortable with Embert driving a Chevy. He turned around
and before you know it, Embert was driving a new Dodge, two-door hard top. The show aired
on Thursday nights from 8:00pm to 9:00pm and ran two years and five months.
That 1959 article also delved into the business side of the popularity of such a strong
show for sponsors. It not only attracted a good afternoon young and adult crowd, bit
also provided direct association with a personality who had fan clubs in Denver, Cheyenne,
Leadville and Longmont. The article perhaps was almost meant to attract sponsors as it closed
with a pitch to potential sponsors to consider such an outlet for their advertising dollars.
Embert wrote us about a few other details in his career prior to the Western Theatre spot.
He first met Patsy Cline when he was in Washington, DC. He was out there because a fellow
by the name of Jimmy Dean needed a bass player for his show. But local union rules would
not allow Embert to work the show. He got to meet such stars as Billy Grammer who became a friend.
He met Jim Reeves back in 1955. He hooked up with Hank Thompson when he appeared at the Rainbow
Ballroom in Denver.
In 1961, his career took him to Las Vegas, Nevada. He had signed on for a stint at the Maverick Club
in North Las Vegas. He hired a steel guitar player by the name of Curly Chalker. He also
hired another well-known name to be a part of the band, Hugh Farr, who had worked previously
with the Sons of the Pioneers. That stint ended in 1962 and he went to the Nashville Nevada on
Boulder highway to work as the 'relief band' for Wynn Stewart. Then, he had Curly Chalker, Jody
Walker and Roy Aldridge with him.
Embert tells us that Wynn's band included Bobby Austion on bass, ralph Mooney on steel guitar, Roy
Nichols (who later worked with Merle Haggard) on guitar, Peaches on drums, and later when the group
was in Nashville, Jane or June Pierce.
They lived about one and a half miles north of Motel Fergerson(?) in Las Vegas. Embert notes
that all the country music enterainers lived in that area. He recalls that his wife, Betty, (who died
on August 30, 2009), cooked up "two beer boxes of fried chicken" and took it down to the pool where
every one had a grand night.
In 1963, he was working at radio station KTOO in Las Vegas; the station was known then
as "The Country Smile On Your Western Dial". Embert relates that he got to meet a lot of the well
known acts that played Las Vegas in that era, including members of the legendary rat pack -
Sammy Davis, Jr.; Frank Sinatra; Nat King Cole and others.
He recalls that someone had compiled a list of all the songs that Embert knew back then and it
totalled up to over a thousand tunes. He noted, "In the old days of radio, if you're going to sing
it, you better memorize it."
Credits & Sources
- Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to express its appreciation to Embert Mishler
himself for allowing us to interview him by email with the help of his daughter, Cheryl. She
also provided other articles of interest to help us document Embert's career.
- Country Song Roundup No. 19; July 1952; American Folk Publications, Inc.;
- Cowboy Songs No.35; July 1954; American Folk Publications, Inc.;
- The Billboard; March 26, 1955; The Billboard Publishing Company; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; July 2, 1955; The Billboard Publishing Company; Cincinnati, OH
- Cowboy Songs No.44; January 1956; American Folk Publications, Inc.;
- Cowboy Songs No.59; January 1959; American Folk Publications, Inc.;
- Hillbilly & Western Hoedown; Vol. 1 No. 7; Narch 1954;
Hoedown, Inc.; 124 Government Place; Cincinnati, OH
- Country Song Roundup No. 80; May 1963; American Folk Publications, Inc.;
- Country Music Review; April 1964; Country Music Review.;
P.O. Box 1399; Orange, CA