Hillbilly-Music.com—The People. The Music. The History.
Jimmy Pierson
and his Novelty Boys
Born:  April 16, 1910
Died:  October 18, 1996
WIBW Kansas Roundup
KGBX St. Joseph, MO
WJAG Norfolk, NE

About the Artist

Jimmie Pierson was born into one of the more musical families in country music history some five miles from White Cloud, Kansas in 1910 as he tells it in an old WIBW Round-Up magazine. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. F.O. Pierson who later moved to Hiawatha, Kansas. He said he was named after the doctor that brought him into the world. His real name was Dana Marvin Pierson. Jimmie wrote that he was "always rather a runt" - so his dad took to calling him "Jimmie" - a name that stuck with him during his professional career.

Jimmie wrote that there were eleven children in the family and most of them played one musical instrument or another and sang, too. He said it "...looked like a threshing crew every time we got around the table for a meal."

During his career, he played guitar, banjo, sang and yodeled. He would also do the '...cowboy Indian tap dance' on personal appearances.

Jimmie and Dick (Dick Klasi) the Novelty Boys with Cora Deane were interrupted as many families were then by World War II. Jimmie's brother, Willie, joined the Novelty boys when Jimmie was inducted into the Army in September, 1943. And Willie stayed with them until Jimmie got his honorable discharge on December 1945, Willie filling in for Jimmie as one of "The Novelty Boys" & Cora Deane Trio. During his stint in the service, Richard H. Keeler wrote in the June 1945 issue of "Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder" that Jimmie was still in the Philippines at the time, asking friends to drop a line and say hello.

An indication of the tunes they sang back then and how sometimes journalism could blur the lines a bit was seen in Matt Pelkonen's column, Matt's Chats in the July 1946 issue of National Hillbilly News. He wrote that April 12th was the first anniversary of President Roosevelt's death. Country music always seems to find topical songs about events of the day. Mat, Bill Boyd and Lew Mel wrote a song called "Our President Was Called Away to Heaven" and he noted that folks such as Jimmie and Dick the Novelty Boys and Cora Deane had used it over WNAX in Yankton as did Claude Casey over WBT, Bill Boyd over WRR, Jim Boyd and others.

In line with what Willie Pierson noted in his article in an old WIBW Round-Up, Richard H. Keeler reported in his "News from Old New England" in a January 1947 issue of Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder, that Jimmie and Dick and the Novelty Boys left WABI in Bangor to go back to the midwest. Mr. Keeler noted that he didn't know what station it was, but Willie indicated that they may have used those months back in the midwest to relax.

In late 1949, Claude J. Dugay of National Hillbilly News was noting that the Jimmy Pierson Radio show was a daily feature over WABI out of Bangor, Maine each weekday at 8:15am and again at 1:30pm on Saturdays. Mr. Dugay also noted he was a guest on Jimmie's show once over WABI, got to talk to him quite a bit and also did a solo guitar number on the show. He also had himself a show over WGUY in Bangor at 6:45pm. At the time, the Jimmie and Dick, the Novelty Boys troup had split due to illnesses in the group. Cora Deane, his sister, was in the hospital they reported. In Jimmie's band at the time were:

  • Chris Rube, vocalist
  • Jack Woodberry, singer, yodeler, harmonica, guitar
  • Bob Harnish, saxphone and clarinet
  • Frank James, piano and accordian

In a 1951 article, Jimmie noted that his youth was typical of a kid being raised on the farm. He did chores, helped with the farming, but as he told it - he'd try to skip them if he could so he could go out and play with the neighbors. They'd go swimming in the nearby creeks when they could find a hole deep enough. He mentioned that snow was a common site in the winter but they would often "...throw some hay or straw in the old lumber wagon, hitch a team and go visit the neighbors." He told readers that was quite a few years before radio came into existence, a time when people would visit a lot more often than they did in 1951. When the seasons changed and the snow had melted away, he told us that the shoes came off and they didn't wear them again until the cold weather came back. Sundays were for pitching horseshoes. Or they would visit a neighbor who had the most calves so they could see how many they could ride.

Jimmie said he attended an old country school, Cedar Creek District No. 29, which happened to be the same one his parents attended. When he attended school, he would usually rush home to grab his dad's five-string banjo and find an empty room so he could practice playing the instrument until his fingers would get too sore. But he notes, "...never could play as well as my dad, though."

Jimmie was part of a troupe that was known and Jimmie and Dick and the Novelty Boys that we'll write about elsewhere. But each member of that group has their own story as you will see in your visit to the site.

Jimmie started his musical career by playing at parties, dances and box-suppers at the surrounding schoolhouses. Jimmie's radio career didn't start at WIBW or in Kansas as he had hoped. His first radio appearance was over WJAG in Norfolk, Nebraska. However, he wrote in 1951, that it was actually KGBX in St. Joseph, Missouri. He wrote in a March 1951 feature article for WIBW that he thought at one time his radio career might not include WIBW, but he was glad that it finally did at that time. He said he had appeared in the Topeka area many times, but could never seem to make the right connections to make being a part of WIBW happen.

The first radio (Continued on Page 11)

He said he learned to type using the hunt and peck system when he 0was at the Henry Field Seed and Nursery Company in Norfolk, Nebraska.

Jimmie wrote in 1951 that the first radio station he appeared on was KGBX in St. Joseph, Missouri. He mentions the station may have moved to Springfield, Missouri. He humorously opined that he hoped his singing and playing hadn't caused the move. To further emphasize that his first radio experience was at KGBX, he notes that he had gotten a couple of letters in the mail while at KGBX. One was an offer from the Ted North Players and another was from the Henry Field Seed and Nursery Company. He wrote that he had decided to try radio and was then sent from Shenandoah, Iowa to Norfolk, Nebraska, where the company had a store. One would then surmise that he then appeared on WJAG in Norfolk.

Jimmie makes mention of why he came to yodel by noting that "...there's no reason to open your mouth unless you're gonna be heard."

Jimmie served with the armed forces from September 1943 to December 1945. During that time, he served in New Guinea and the Philippines for nineteen months. But he continued to enjoy his music, taking his guitar with him and entertaining the troops when he could. He mentioned that he was busy during his stint "...driving the ambulance, guarding bridges, giving first aid, etc." Jimmie relates that every time he had to move to another location, you couldn't see much of him except for the 'baggage' he was toting - which usually included his guitar that was getting warped in several places along with his gas mask, rifle, helmet and other essentials. He notes that each time he moved, the load got heavier for this fellow that was just only five foot five.

Jimmie wrote that while at WIBW, he would get up around 4:30 or 4:45am and walk to the station. He said there was nothing like a cool morning walk to make him feel like singing.

He notes that he had written a number of tunes that he would sing for the folks over the air in Kansas. He thought he would only entertain a few more years back in 1951 then settle down and work a farm somewhere in northeast Kansas.

Credits & Sources

  • Jimmie and Dick Folio of Original and Favorite Songs; 1941; Peer International Corp.; New York, NY
  • Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder; June 1945; "News from Old New England" by Richard H. Keeler; Mountain Broadcast Pub. Co. Inc.; New York, NY
  • Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder; January 1947; "News from Old New England" by Richard H. Keeler; Mountain Broadcast Pub. Co. Inc.; New York, NY
  • Jimmie and Dick Folio of Original and Favorite Songs; 1947; Peer International Corp.; New York, NY
  • National Hillbilly News; November - December 1949; "Matt's Chats" by Matt Pelkonen; The Vias; Hunting, WV
  • WIBW Round-Up; March 1951; Issue No. 72; Topeka, KS