Woody Wooddell led a group of entertainers called the Ridin' Rangers. He was
born in Greenbank, West Virginia, a town about 52 miles south of Elkin, near the foot of Cheat
Mountain. He first learned to play the guitar when he was just seven years old. His parents
were apparently musically inclined as well. His dad was a banjo picker and could "take off" on the
old time tunes he noted in his old song folio.
Prior to World War II, Woody traveled around the country with various country and western bands.
He was based in places such as Key West and Miami, Florida as well as in New York and the midwest.
Woody and his band, the Ridin' Rangers played for a time at various radio station ssuch as WKBN in
Youngstown, Ohio, WJW in Cleveland, WSPD in Toledo. In fact, he worked for seven months with "The Montana
Kid" in Toledo.
He worked for a time with the White Horse Show that was from Naper, Nebraska. That got him an appearance
at New York's famed Madison Square Garden along with Gene Autry's Flying A Ranch.
On September 15, 1942, Woody married his wife the former Shirley McCahan.
He joined the U. S. Army in 1943, but was discharged within six motnhs due to a physical disability.
Texas Frank reported in his Cowboy Music World column in early 1945 that Woody and his band were
part of a large package show that played in Youngstown, Ohio on February 11, 1945. The attendance
was over 6,000 people and reportedly they had to turn away 2,500 more. Slim Carter and his band
were the headliners. Others on the show were Slim Braynt, Pie Plant Pete and Bashful Harmonica Joe,
Natchee, the Indian Fiddler, Marty Licklider and his Missouri Fox Hunters and Jack Osborne.
In 1946, Woody and his Ridin' Rangers made a move with Jimmy Wakely called "Moon Over Montana"
for the Monogram Pictures studio. Woody and his band sang "Ramble On" in the movie.
Also in 1946, the band was doing a Monday through Saturday one hour show at 5:30pm over WPIC
in Sharon, Pennsylvania. In the summer of 1946, Buddy Starcher had his own outdoor park known
as "Traveler's Rest". It was located on Route 40, 17 miles east of Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Woody's
band was one of the featured acts that summer. Others were well known stars of the area in that era,
Gay Schwing, Ed Moose, Doc Williams with his Border Riders, Budge and Fudge, Lee Moore, Hawkshaw Hawkins,
Curly Miller, Al Hendershot, Blaine Smith with his brother Cal, Slim Bryant and on the list goes.
Mary Jean Shurtz wrote in her 1948 column that she had seen Woody and his band the Ridin' Rangers
at Hillside Park in Newcomerstown. She mentioned she had seen Woody's show a year earlier and told
folks it was a memorable experience. She wrote fondly of having her picture taken with the band
and Woody noting the picture might be in their next songbook.
Ms. Shurtz reported that on March 28, 1948, Woody was one of the acts that appeared on one of the
biggest shows staged in Akron, Ohio at the Armory. The show included other acts such as Slim
Bryant and his Georgia Wildcats; Lulu Belle and Scotty of WLS; George Morgan along with Harry Smith
and his Rubber City Trio. Cliff Rodgers of local station WHKK was the emcee for the show.
In 1948, Matt Pelkonen reported that Woody Wooddell and his Ridin' Rangers released their first
recording on the Dome Records label.
When he left the Army, he came back to Sharon, Pennsylvania and began working at radio station WPIC.
He had a daily show back then and it was said to have consisted entirely of listener requests. Part
of that show included a "mail call" where he would read their letters or entertain their requests.
Along about 1952 or so, he had a bit of a hit record on the Dome Records label with a tune called
"Elfie the Elf" that he recorded with the Bailey Sisters. That song evidently stayed around
a while as Billboard was reporting in 1966 that Jack Swanson was promoting that record
by mailing out small t-shirts with a picture of an elf on them. Later, he did another holiday novelty
type of tune called "PInky Hopalong" for the label.
Woody looks to have been more than just a recording act for the Dome label. We learn in a later article that
Russ Hull of Country Music Enterprises incorporated the label in 1952. Russ had two other associates with
him at that time on the label - Woody Wooddell and Lorraine Yuhasz. The label's roster included such folks as
Eddy Wayne, Marty Roberts, Blaine Smith and others from the Pine Hollow Jamboree including Walt Dayton,
Johnny Bernat, Bill Clarke and the Bailey Sisters. The label had ten distributors back then. Mr. Hull
was said to be the A&R Head, with Mr. Wooddell being the musical director and recording supervisor. The label's first
release was the tune mentioned above, "Elfie the Elf".
In 1952, he organized the Pine Hollow Jamboree show. The show was sponsored by Schuster Coal and Ice back
in 1953. That show grew in popularity. The radio audience was invited to attend the show in person.
The crowds filled the radio studio each Saturday night and began to spill out into the station's library
and lobby as well. The show then moved to the Elk's Auditorium in Farrell, PA and began to charge an
admission fee. That did not deter the audience and eventually it moved to the Reynolds Auditorium
on Sharon-Greenville Road, where 1,200 to 1,300 people would attend each weekend. The Jamboree had a bit
of a network back then - ten stations carried it in Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania.
A 1953 Billboard magazine listing indicated Woody and his band were doing about 14 personal appearances a month.
In 1956, a fan wrote into Country & Western Jamboree indicating that Woody had a was doing an
afternoon stint as a disc jockey over WPIC on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Credits & Sources
- Picture and Song Album Woody Wooddell and his Rdin' Rangers; Circa 1946; Unknown
- Cowboy Music World; Vol. 1`No. 5; January-February 1945; Frank Karpinski;
154-40 10th Avenue; Long Isalnd, NY
- National Hillbilly News; June 1946; Poster Show Print Co.; Huntington, WV
- Mountain Broadcast & Prairie Recorder; June 1946; Mountain Broadcast Pub. Co., Inc.;
45 Astor Place; New York, NY
- Billboard; April 20, 1946; Billboard Publishing Co; Cincinnati, Ohio
- National Hillbilly News; August 1946; Poster Show Print Co.; Huntington, WV
- Buddy Starcher Fan Club Newsletter; Vol. 3 No. 1; August - September 1946;
International Buddy Starcher Fan Club; Craig, MO
- National Hillbilly News; May-June 1948; Poster Show Print Co.; Huntington, WV
- National Hillbilly News; July-August 1948; Poster Show Print Co.; Huntington, WV
- Billboard; October 11, 1952; Billboard Publishing Co; Cincinnati, Ohio
- Billboard; November 15, 1952; Billboard Publishing Co; Cincinnati, Ohio
- Billboard; November 29, 1952; Billboard Publishing Co; Cincinnati, Ohio
- Cowboy Songs; No. 25; March 1953; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
- Billboard; December 5, 1953; Billboard Publishing Co; Cincinnati, Ohio
- Billboard; March 3, 1956; Billboard Publishing Co; Cincinnati, Ohio
- Country & Western Jamboree; June 1956; Maher Publications; Chicago, IL
- Billboard; January 1, 1966; Billboard Publishing Co; Cincinnati, Ohio