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Uncle Jack and Mary Lou
WBAL Baltimore, MD
WBT Charlotte, NC
WEEU Reading, PA
WFMD Frederick, MD
WWVA Wheeling, WV
WAIU Columbus, OH (1928)

About the Group

Jack Nelson, who early country music fans came to affectionately know as Uncle Jack as part of the husband wife duo known as Uncle Jack and Mary Lou, was born in a small mining town of Buchtel, Ohio in the late 1890s. Mary Lou was said to have been born in the town of Patriot, Ohio.

In a rare instance, a Peer International song folio contained some biographical information about this duo. A folio published in 1941 mentions that radio audiences first got to hear Uncle Jack over radio station WAIU in Columbus, Ohio around 1928.

As was the case for many a hillbilly or country music artist back then, they developed a bit of a nomadic life going from station to station as you can see in the listing. By 1941, they were entertaining audiences over radio station WEEU in Reading, Pennsylvania.

In 1945, Richard Keeler reported that Johnny Moose, formerly with Dusty Dawson's group, had signed on with Uncle Jack's group as an accordion player.

In the fall of 1946, an article about the legendary armless musician, Ray R. Myers, notes that he had become a part of the Uncle Jack and Mary Lou group of entertainers while they were on WEEU in Reading, Pennsylvania. The article notes he stayed with the group through the winter and into the New Year. But he left for the new World's Fair in New York to see what work he could find. But things didn't work out for Ray in New York but he did get an offer to join WHAS in Louisville, Kentucky.

Nicola and Rose Fantetti reported in the summer of 1947 that Bud Bensen had joined the Uncle Jack and Mary Lou troupe again and was telling them he was "...sounding better than ever if that's possible." In another column, Matt Pelkonen noted that Uncle Jack Nelson had teamed up with Ben Shelhammer, Jr. and Dick Reynolds on a tune called "Can't You See You're Not The One For Me". It reportedly was being sung by such artists as Slim Stuart, Kenny Roberts and Cowboy Dallas Turner. We could surmise that the pairing of songwriting talents came about during a visit by Slim from his regular station, WBAL in Baltimore, on Uncle Jack's show as did the group the Hickory Nuts. We also read that Curley Gibson and his Sunshine Playboys were featuring that tune over WKAP as well as Mariam Horn at WGPA in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Dick Layton who was a member of Dopey Duncan and his Tophands at WKAP. Mr. Pelknonen's column was noteworthy for mentioning the various new songs being published and who was singing them. He noted again that the song was being aired by the Blue Sky Boys when they were at WNAO in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina in 1948.

Billy Wilson wrote in his Kilocycle Clipings column in 1947 that WEEU was home to a couple of other well-known acts at the time. After Uncle Jack and Mary Lou's show aired, they were followed by Ash Taylor and the Homesteaders and then Shorty Long and the Santa Fe Rangers, including Dolly Dimples.

In the summer of 1948, Matt again writes that the trio wrote another tune that was gaining airtime - "I'll Spread My Blanket Neath The Stars". This time, it was the Ertman Sisters who were at WBUX in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and a fellow known as Fred the Fiddler over WTTM in Trenton, New Jersey on his daily show from 7:30 to 7:45am.

In many of the articles that mention what stations they appeared on, we don't get a sense of what time their show aired. Charles Simpson wrote in his Dialing At Randum column that Uncle Jack's group were on WEEU from 5:30pm to 6:00pm, Tuesdays through Thursdays in the summer of 1948.

Matt also wrote in the winter issue of 1948 that Uncle Jack and Mary Lou made their way down to Florida for the winter to work at radio stations there. He noted that Uncle Jack had been on at least 28 radio stations around the country including a ten year stint at WEEU.

One of those articles did mention that the duo were the proud parents of a son. But our collection does not provide much other details about the two who ran the famed Himmelreich's Grove park where many country music entertainers passed through.

Credits & Sources

  • Uncle Jack and Mary Lou's Songs You Love To Hear Book No. 2; 1941; Peer International Corporation; New York, NY
  • National Hillbilly News; November 1946; Poster Show Print Co.; Huntington, WV
  • National Hillbilly News; July-August 1947; Poster Show Print Co.; Huntington, WV
  • National Hillbilly News; September-October 1947; Poster Show Print Co.; Huntington, WV
  • National Hillbilly News; November-December 1947; Poster Show Print Co.; Huntington, WV
  • National Hillbilly News; May-June 1948; Jenny and Orville Via; Huntington, WV
  • National Hillbilly News; July-August 1948; Jenny and Orville Via; Huntington, WV
  • The Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder; December 1945; Mountain Broadcast Pub. Co., Inc.; New York, NY
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