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Chuck Bowers
Born:  May 16, 1921
KWTO Ozark Jubilee

Chuck Bowers was a tall, wavy haired hillbilly singer from Wichita, Kansas. He had two sisters and two brothers and was the youngest in the family. His father died when he was about 12, in 1933. His mother was living in California about 1959.

Chuck was called into military service in 1942, serving in the 33rd Infantry and served overseas in the Pacific arena until July 1943. He was discharged from the service in 1945. He took a break for a while, then started working in a department store in Pacific Grove where his mother lived.

He later got a guitar and decided he wanted to move back to Wichita. There, he started working with the Highway Department, but he kept thinking he would get into radio and let music be his career.

In March 1948, he moved to Springfield, Missouri and got himself a job on radio station KWTO. He achieved a great deal of popularity with the local folks there with his singing style.

He appeared regularly on the famed "Ozark Jubilee" television show that aired out of Springfield. He also did daily programs over KWTO and television station KYTV. He did personal appearances with the Ozark Jubilee group. At one time he was recording on the Decca record label.

In browsing through some of the old "The KWTO Dial" magazines, we find glimpses of what Chuck was like and the shows he did. The program listings for KWTO shows Chuck had a 9:00am radio show on Saturdays. By June, he had moved to a daily slot at 8:00am. August saw his popularity still rising as he was also doing a stint at 2:30pm, too.

In February 1949, the weather was a big topic among folks at the station and they had a few notes from Chuck who reported they didn't lose their electricity during the bad bout of weather. His top coat got ripped and they finally found out how it happened. It seems he was racing his then girlfriend, Jean Wickersham, to the car, but she pulled on it to hold him back and that's when it got ripped. They mentioned that Chuck didn't miss a night of the Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament. It seems he did some boxing of his own when he was in the Army and had a couple friends in the fight business. One of those friends fought in Madison Square Garden, but they didn't mention a name. The other was an old Wichita friend named Kurt Kennedy who he saw up in Chicago over Christmas 1948 it appears and who had an exhibition match once with the legendary boxer, Joe Louis.

Along the way, that girlfriend of his we saw mentioned became his wife, Jean Wickersham. The got married on September 10, 1949. They were married by Faust "Matt" Mathews at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. Z. Matthews. Jean's dad, John Wickersham was from Springfield. They wrote about their wedding fashions and the reception they had at Jean's sister and brother-in-laws home, Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Shaw. They were going to spend their honeymoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, but on the way, Chuck experienced some paralysis on the right side of his face that was caused by some kind of infection. It became more acute by the time they had reached Little Rock, Arkansas, so they had to return to Springfield. It took him a bit of time to get his normal voice back as the infection subsided. They ended up in a three troom apartment at the corner of Elm and National that they furnished with their wedding gifts. By 1959, they had two daughters, Cindy Sue and Vicky Lynn. His fan club publication, the "Jayhawk Songster" was to have the wedding picture in their October 1949 issue.

In another issue we find one of his sponsors was the Staley Milling Company. It seems they had a gimmick whereby they were putting an actual wishbone in every stack of their pultry feed and Chuck got into it so much, he wrote and asked for one himself. But he got disappointed when he found out he couldn't enter their contest - "Why I Like Chicken Every Sunday" - because he worked for them. He grumbled a bit over not being able to win the $1,000 prize or a trip to Hollywood.

Chuck was a familiar face around town and the neighbors as he lived just a short distance away from the station. Often those getting their coffee in the afternoon at Bracken's would see him 'dawdling' down the street to the station as they put it. In fact, the said if he "...were more easy-going than he (was), he'd walk backwards."

Around mid-1949, Chuck was hopeful of getting a song he apparently wrote recorded, as it had been accepted by the reknown publishing company, Hill and Range Music Publishers. The song was "The Noise You Hear On A Dark, Dreary Night". They said when he sang it on the air, Chuck was the one making the ghostly shrieks, Dale Martin would make the "...mournful, horror sounds" on his guitar, Bob White would do the 'low moan' on the bass and Zed Tennis would do a squeaking door on the fiddle while Doc Martin would do a reverberating howl on the steel guitar. Sounds like a perfect tune for Halloween.

Credits & Sources

  • Cowboy Songs No. 62 (July 1959); American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT.
  • The KWTO Dial; various issues, 1949; Springfield, Missouri.

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