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Town Hall Party
KXLA
Compton, CA
Year Started:  1951

Town Hall Party

The Town Hall Party went on the air in the fall of 1951. It was broadcast over radio station KXLA out of Pasadena, California. It aired from 9:00pm to 9:30pm on Friday nights. On Saturdays, it was also on from 8:30pm to 9:30pm over the NBC network. In addition, it was shown over KTTV, channel 11 from 10:00pm to 1:00am on Saturday nights and by the time we found an article about it in 1954, they were thinking it was the longest running live talent show on tv.

The Town Hall Party was held at the Town Hall which was at 400 Long Beach Boulevard in Compton, California. They drew in excess of 2,800 paid admissions each Friday and Saturday and they said that the attendance records they set were more interesting considering that they evidently charged more than other shows for admission.

The show was more than just the artists on stage entertaining the audience. The theater sat about 1,000 folks in front of the stage, but at the same time about another 1,200 or so would be dancing in the rear of the huge ballroom.

When history steps back to look at those who were part of this show's cast, it sees many legendary performers. We can start with Johnny Bond, who was the write for the show. Wesley Tuttle was the show's musical director. Producing the show was Bill Wagnon.

In a 1954 article, Wesley Tuttle was quoted as saying:

"Each show has a theme and we give the theme of the following week's show to our cast on Friday. They tell us the numbers they would like to do. On Monday, Johnny and I get together and routine the musical portion of the show. Then, Johnny takes the material to his office and writes the script."

Later, Johnny Bond tells of his routine in the same article:

"I try to keep down the talk and make the songs and artists the main feature. Aside from the dialogue introducing the artists and their songs, we have two talk spots on the show. These are comedy spots handled by Merle Travis, Texas Tiny and myself, with Merle, Tex Williams, Tex Ritter and myself alternating as straight man for Tiny."

Johnny would finish the scripts for the show on Wednesday, then there would be a meeting between Johnny, Wes and Bill Wagnon to talk over the radio and TV scripts before they got turned into the network and station script departments.

Thursdays were their day off - before the hectic pace of Friday and Saturday kicked in.

When Fridays came around, rehearsals were at 7:00pm and went for about an hour while Johnny was timing the script and Wes timing the music. On Saturdays, their routine was to run through rehearsal around 5:00pm.

As Wesley mentioned before, each show had a theme. Some of the themes included subjects like "Hank Williams Night", "State Nights", "Veteran's Nights", "Jimmie Rodgers Night" and on it went.

The emcee of the show was Jay Stewart. Heading up the ten-piece Town Hall band was Tex Williams. The band included such folks as Billy Hill and Fiddlin' Kate.

But it bears repeating some of the cast members the show had during its time:

  • Tex Ritter
  • Tex Williams
  • Fiddlin' Kate
  • The Collins Kids
  • Rose Lee and Joe Maphis
  • Johnny Bond
  • Freddie Hart
  • Wesley and Marilyn Tuttle
  • Merle Travis
  • Les "Carrot Top" Anderson
  • Texas Tiny


Slim Dossey


Joe Maphis


Skeets McDonald


Shirley Adams


Rose Lee (Rosalie) Maphis


Marian Hall


Wesley Tuttle

 

Credits & Sources

  • Country Song Roundup, Issue No. 33, August 1954, Published by American Folk Publications, Derby, CT