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Circle 6 Ranch Boys
KWKH Louisiana Hayride

About The Group

The Circle-6 Ranch Boys performed the first live music show on KCMC Channel-6 TV (which later became KTAL-TV) when the station was still in its infancy and originated from Texarkana, Texas.

The five piece band were originally known as the "Circle-J Ranch Boys". In 1953, KCMC-TV's first Station Manager, Walter Windsor, auditioned the band in the station's entry hallway, since the studio was still under construction. The Abilene Reporter-News told its readers on February 6, 1953, that the FCC had authorized a new television station in Texarkana and construction permits went to KCMC, Inc.

KCMC-TV went on the air on August 16, 1953 and reception was reported in Louisiana, Arkansas and east Texas. The station was owned then by Clyde E. Palmer, who was also the publisher of the Texarkana Gazette and Daily News.

His offer and terms with the band included the band's change of name from "Circle-J Ranch Boys" to "Circle-6 Ranch Boys" (NOTE: it may be stating the obvious, but the station aired over channel 6).

During 1953, the Circle-6 Ranch became a regular Friday and Saturday evening broadcast. The original "Circle-6 Ranch Boys" were comprised of (shown left to right in KCMC's on-set photo) were Hank Grant (Guitar and Vocal, standing), Monroe Grant (Fiddle and Vocal, kneeling), Leland Ivey (as Comedian "Oliver Slingshot" and Bass player, kneeling), Gene Harrell (Lead Guitar and Vocal, standing) and Jim Evans (Steel guitar, kneeling).

Circle 6 Ranch Boys on KCMC-TV 1953

Jim Evans, band's steel player, was also periodically playing the KWKH Louisiana Hayride broadcast backing artists like Billy Walker, Jim Reeves, Red Sovine, and Johnny Horton.

In the classis April 1953 "Hayride-Cast-Photo" (attached), he is seen standing fourth from the left side behind his steel guitar in a loud plaid shirt near Claude King, Slim Whitman, and Johnny Horton, and other regulars.

Due to the Circle-6 band's rapidly expanding TV-fan-base, Shreveport's Louisiana Hayride requested a tape of the bands performance. This was to allow them to consider adding the group to the Hayride show cast.

At first the Hayride's producer Horace Logan determined that the bands music genre was a little too "Western Swing" to match the hard-core country that characterized the Hayride's flavor. This "flavor" was, at the time, developing around sounds of artists such as Slim Whitman, Webb Pierce, The Bailes Brothers, Johnnie and Jack with Kitty Wells, Red Sovine, and the Wilburn Brothers.

Meanwhile, the KCMC show producers decided to "test the water" by asking over a weeklong period for fan mail of listeners who would like to write in naming their favorite TV program. The station was pleasantly surprised when the next week's mail brought in an avalanche of cards and letters, with over two thousand participants voting for the Circle-6 Ranch Show as their number one choice.

Due to additional requests for live audience participation, KCMC constructed a studio audience section with multi-level bleacher-seating. This accommodated a listening crowd of about three-hundred. Live audience response became an integral part of the weekly broadcast.

One of the show's sponsors (Acme-Auto-Salvage) would periodically bring the owner's family pet chimpanzee ("Maggie") to the studio set and would appear unrehearsed on performances, usually doing antics with the band's comedian "Oliver Slingshot" (Leland Ivey).

Other notable TV personalities (announcers) were making early debuts, by working as emcees with the band during broadcasts. Some of these were George Dobson, Haskel Hayes, Les Eugene, and Bob Mitchell.

Shortly afterward, the Louisiana Hayride program format came to have a temporary opening for an additional staff band to play behind (singles) artists with hit records, who would make guest appearances on the Hayride. The Hayride again contacted KCMC TV for visual audition footage. Since video recording techniques were not yet fully established KCMC producers recorded a Circle-6 performance as a 16-mm sound movie and sent it to Hayride management.

The band's popularity and the station's promotion and persistance paid off. In 1954, the Circle-6 Ranch Boys were added to the KWKH Louisiana Hayride cast.

The band was assigned to a rather large dressing room that was to also double as a production room, to rehearse with the guest artists they were backing on the show.

KWKH Louisiana Hayride Cast - 1953 - Jim Evans

During their time with the Hayride, the band offered to share this dressing room with a young newcomer named Elvis Presley. Elvis, who was quite shy at the time, felt comfortable with all five band members. He would spend time backstage associating privately with them, rather than with his own band who shared dressing rooms in what was known as the "fan traffic areas".

The Circle-6 band had no idea that the music of this young artist they had befriended would lead to the largest change of music style ever and originated from the Hayride Stage.

All members of the Circle-6 band were family oriented, with good day jobs that took precedence over travel and personal appearance tours, which were often deemed important to a show's image.

This is why the band took only a six month contract with the Hayride. When the contract expired, the band elected to concentrate their musical performances within a 150 mile radius of its own East Texas area.

The band kept in touch and remained friends with Hayride performers and worked shows with them when they would cross paths at special events like outdoor fairs in the Tyler and Longview areas.

In 1957, KTAL contracted another television series with the Circle-6 Ranch Band. This time it was for an early morning show, with heavier emphasis on instrumental performances. The revised band featured the twin fiddles of Monroe Grant and Buddy Beasley. Beasley is historically best known as a violinist in the "Bob Wills Texas Playboy Band", where he worked alongside other violinists like Johnny Gimble, Tommy Alsup, and Tommy Canfield.

Jim Evans relates that having Mr. Beasley with the band helped bring in another professional affiliate, Pete Waller. Waller was an excellent bass player and vocalist and doubled as a comedian. He replaced Leland Ivey who had relocated.

At this time of writing in November 2013, surviving members of the Circle-6 Band are Buddy Beasley, Jim Evans, Gene Harrell, and Pete Waller.

Group Members:

  • Hank Grant, guitar and vocals
  • Monroe Grant, fiddle and vocals
  • Leland Ivey, comedian - Oliver Slingshot - and bass
  • Gene Harrell, lead guitar and vocals
  • Jim Evans, steel guitar
  • Buddy Beasley, fiddle
  • Pete Waller, comedy and bass

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com would like to express its apprecation to Jim Evans, steel guitar player for the Circle 6 Ranch boys for providing us with biographical details and photos related to the group.
  • Abilene Reporter-News; February 6, 1953; Abilene, TX
  • Corpus Christi Caller-Times; August 17, 1953; Corpus Christi, TX

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