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Henry, Zeb and Otto
KMOX County Fair

About the Group

Henry, Zeb and Otto were a bit of a musical comedic trio that we first discover were on radio station KMOX when they started the KMOX County Fair Show in August 1932. The three of them were all born in Topeka, Kansas.

Nancy Frazer wrote an article back then that introduced the trio. Fans of early country music might recognize who these fellows were.

Henry, was said to be Merle Hausch and played the guitar and sang numbers with Zeb. We think they may have spelled his name wrong and he was actually Merle Housch, as they mentioned he was part of the "Henry and Hiram" team at one time in Topeka, Kansas.

He started taking guitar lessons when he was twelve years old and the first tune he is said to have learned was "Gates Ajar". He left Topeka, went to Chicago and then to the Dixie Columbia Chain. That is where he met up with Zeb and they in turn recruited Otto. But up to that time, they had never met even though they grew up in Topeka.

Zeb was born as Rene Hartley. He was said to smoke a cigar and probably never spoke on the air. He was their fiddle player. He took his lessons from a negro who was in jail at the time, but was known as the best violinist in Topeka. Zeb made his way to the jail each day to learn more about his musical instrument and how to play it. He later studied at Bissing in Chicago. He is said to have led orchestras on his own and even composed several songs.

Otto was born Ted Morse. WLS National Barn Dance fans will surely remember him. He started playing the bugle to entertain neighbors and later, his family got him a trumpet. He appeared on stage at an early age and one of the first acts he worked for was the Six Brown Brothers group.

Otto is said to have been the leader of the 139th Infantry Band in France and a graduate of the American Band Leaders' School in Chaumont, France. He would sing second tenor with Henry on tunes that aired. Henry and Zeb gave him the name Otto when he joined them in Chicago. They wrote that his favorite tune to sing was "Ach die Lieber Augustine".

The trio was said to know over 7090 songs, including ballads, humns and hillbilly music.

Zeb would create the musical arrangements. Henry created the words for their tunes. Otto provided the 'droll wit'.

Credits & Sources

  • Radio and Entertainment in and around St. Louis; Vol 2 No 5; October 29, 1932; Metropolitan Publishing Company; 311 South Third Street; St. Louis, Missouri

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