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National Barn Dance
WLS
Chicago, IL
Year Started:  1924
Date Started:  April 19, 1924
Year Ended:  1960
Date Ended:  April 30, 1960

Listen to:
WLS
National Barn Dance

WLS National Barn Dance

"Big foot up—little feet down,
Like a jay–bird walkin' on frozen ground;
Chicken in the bread–pan pickin' out dough
Big pig rootin' up a little 'tater' row—"

When the Cowbells Ring Out on Saturday Night
"Somehow it just wouldn't seem like Saturday night to a multitude of folks in the United States and Canada if they couldn't hear the "good ol' Prairie Farmer WLS National Barn Dance." From that very first radio barnd dance back in April 1924 (of which Edgar Bill, first WLS Director, was frankly skeptical), until a recent November, 1935, Saturday night when the 400,000th guest was honored at the Eighth Street Theatre— the old hayloft show has been "goin' right along." If you could read just a few of the many letters that come to WLS each week, you would realize that it is truly a national institution.

The show first went on the air and listeners were 'astonished' and 'delighted' - to hear the old tunes and square dance calls which had almost been forgotten, except back in the hills.

The program gained popularity and continued on each Saturday night and was carried on the National Broadcasting Company's (NBC) radio network from coast to coast.

People wanted to see this show, the WLS studios couldn't hold them, so, they put the Barn Dance in the Eighth Street Theatre and 'charged sufficient admission price to pay the cost.' In the WLS Family Album of 1935, they said at the time of printing, there had been 142 Saturday nights and 304,271 people had paid admission - about 2,142 per show.

We must not fail to mention those real personalities who have announced the Barn Dance as masters of ceremonies during various periods since the program first went on the air. To them should go much credit for helping to create the happy atmosphere of the old hayloft.

There were George D. Hay, "The Solemn Old Judge"; Edgar Bill, Dudley Richards, Steve Cisler, and Hal O'Halloran, not now identified with WLS. Today, we have Joe Kelly, Jack Holden and Harold Safford. Harold was with us from 1927 to 1929, and recently retured as WLS program director.

Some listeners were quoted as to their thoughts of the Barn Dance from letters they received.

"...Every Saturday night wherever there is a radio in the mountain homes, the neighbors will gather in and there is no going home until your program is finished. YOur programs are like a breath of fresh mountain air. You people are building better than you know and a great deal of the awakened interest in the old tunes is directly traceable to your influence."

Let's go back in time since we have the chance. Turn out the lights. Turn off the TV. Pull up to the radio. Put your mind back in time and pretend you can tune in to WLS on a Saturday night to catch the latest tunes...check around, we may have some sound clips of these folks to bring back those days... Or maybe you have the records yourself... Come on back next week to see who's doin' Saturday Night...

WLS National Barn Dance
Cast Photo from Program Circ 1933

WLS National Barn Dance Souvenir Program with Leizime Brusoe - Circa 1939
Reading From Left to Right, Front row: WLS Square Dancers; Three Little Maids; Uncle Ezra; Three Contraltos; More WLS Square Dancers
Second row: WLS Square Dancers; Hoosier Sod Busters; Spareribs (Malcolm Claire); Mac andBob; Eddie Allen; Lonnie Glosson; Max Terhune; John Brown; Grace Wilson; Bill O'Connor; Raymond Buch; Hal O'Halloran
Third row: WLS Square Dancers; Jack Holden; Leizeme Brusoe; extreme right: George Biggar, Arkie (Arkansas Woodchopper)
Top Row: Rube Tronson's Cowboy Band; Maple City Four; Cumberland Ridge Runners with Linda Parker; Bill Vickland

WLS National Barn Dance
Cast Photo from Program Circ 1934

WLS National Barn Dance Souvenir Program with Leizime Brusoe - Circa 1939
Reading From Left to Right, Front row: Jack Holden; Hiram and Hank; George Goebel; Uncle Ezra; Dixie Mason; Skippy, Tom and Don;
Second row, Seated: Cumberland Ridge Runners; John Lair; Lulu Belle; The Westerners
Third row: Red Foley; Melody Men; Joe Kelly; Spareribs (Malcolm Claire); Maple City Four; Milt Mabie; Hal O'Halloran
Fourth row: Square Dancers; Ole Yonson; JOhn Brown; Grace Wilson; Walter Steindel; Bill O'Connor; Herman Felber Jr.; Roy Knapp; Elsie Mae Emerson; Ralph Waldo EMerson; Caller, Fleming Allan; Skyland Scotty; Square Dancers
Top Row: Margaret Sweeney; Louis Marmer; Ted DuMoulin; Eddie Allen; Emilio Silvestre; Chris Steiner; Gerry Vogt; Oscar Tengblad; Square Dancers

The Alka-Seltzer National Barn Dance Coast-to-Coast
Cast Photo from Program Circa 1936

WLS National Barn Dance Souvenir Program with Leizime Brusoe - Circa 1939
Seated on Floor of Stage (Left to Right): Possum Tuttle (Vance McCune Jr.); Evelyn Overstake; Pat Buttram; Jack Holden; Sophia Germanich; Lucille Long; Joe KElly; George Goebel; Eileen Jensen; Hoosier Sod Busters (Reggie Cross and Howard Black); Tom Roe; Christine; Howard Chamberlain; Jimmie Daugherty
Seated on Bales of Hay, first row (Left to Right): Ford Rush; Ralph Waldo Emerson; Paul Nettinga; Jack Eliot; Phil Kalar; Willaim (Rocky) Racherbaumer; Lee, Verne and Mary; Uncle Ezra; Lulu Belle; Scotty; Margarety Dempsey; Helen Jensen; Pa and Ma Smithers; Red Foley
Standing, Third row: Hoosier Hot Shots (Gabe, Ken, Hezzie and Frank); Grace Wilson; Prairie Ramblers (Jack, Chick, Patsy Montana; Tex; Salty (Holmes)): Henry Hornsbuckle; Chuck and Ray; Bill O'Connor; Pete Lund
Standing, Fourth row (Left to Extreme Right of Stage): Walt Wade; Glenn SNyder; Margaret Sweeney; John Brown; THree Neighbor Boys; Max Terhune; Maple City Four (Pat, Art, Al and Fritz); Eddie Allan; Oscar Morgan; Tom Owens; Otto and His Tune Twisters (Bill, Ken, Otto (Ted Morse); Zeb (Buddy); Bill Vickland; Arkie (Arkansas Woodchopper); John Lair; Hilltoppers (Tommy, Don, Ernie); Roy Knapp; Al Boyd; Harold Safford; George Biggar
Standing, Last Row (Left to Right): Glen Taflinger; Lavelle Carter; Leslie Clucas; Tom Blanchard; Tumble Weed; Romaine Lowdermilk; Leslie Dole; Earl Johnson; Dewayne Carnes; Harold Townsend; Jack Ermatinger; Square Dancers
In Hayloft: Square Dancers

The Alka-Seltzer National Barn Dance Coast-to-Coast
Cast Photo from Program of December 2, 1939

WLS National Barn Dance Souvenir Program with Leizime Brusoe - Circa 1939
Reading From Left to Right, Center Front: Henry Burr and Uncle Ezra
First row, Seated: Caroline and Mary Jane DeZurik; Prairie Sweethearts (Essie and Kay; Prairie Ramblers (Jack, Chick, Patsy, Alan and Salty
Second Row, seated: The Hoosier Hot Shots (Frank, Gabe, Ken and Hezzie); Joe Kelly; Bobby Hastings and George Menard in rear; Verne, Lee and Mary; Jack Holden; Pat Buttram
First Row, standing: Ann, Pat and Judy; Arkie (Arkansas Woodchopper) with WLS Rangers (Harry, Clyde and Ozzie); in rear, Christine; "Widdy Green"; George Goebel; "Little Genevieve" (Ted Morse/Otto); Bob Ballantine; Rod Cupp; Bill JOnes; Pete Lund; Glenn Snyder, General Manager; Maple City Four (Fritz, Al, Art and Pat; in rear, Johnny Burke
Second Row, standing: Ray Ferris; Jack Stilwill; Harold Safford, Program Director; Al Boyd; Don Kelley; Bill O'Connor; Grace Wilson; Mac and Bob; the Boys of the Octet; Ella Long; Guy Colby, Barn Dance Caller; Tome Rowe, Chief Engineer; Walt Varnum and Bill Taylor, operators
Standing, rear left, second row: Augie Klein; HOward Black; Chuck Ostler; Rusty Gill; Reggie Cross
The WLS Orchestra with Francis Pfau; John Brown; Maurie Schraeger; Carl Schulte; Herman Felber; Gaston DuMoulin; Glenn Welty; Fred Vopatek; Emilio Sylvestre; Ted DuMoulin; Margaret Sweeney, harpist; Roy Knapp, Drummer; Tom Moore; Eddie Marks; Pappy Graham and Lou Klatt in center back, with Square Dancers grouped on each side of them

The Alka-Seltzer National Barn Dance Coast-to-Coast
Cast Photo from Program of March 28, 1942

WLS National Barn Dance Souvenir Program with Leizime Brusoe - Circa 1939
Reading From Left to Right, Center Front: Henry Burr; Eddie Peabody; Joe Kelly
Seated on Floor: Pat Buttram; Arkie (Arkansas Woodchopper)
First row, Seated: Ken and Hezzie (Of the Hoosier Hot Shots); Ann, Pat and Judy; Bob Ballantine; The Dinning Sisters and their accompanist; Chick (Hurt) and Salty (Holmes) (of The Prairie Ramblers)
Second Row, standing: Frank and Gabe (Of the Hoosier Hot Shots); The Hayloft Octet; Jack and Alan (of the Prairie Ramblers)
Third Row, standing: Jack Holden; Glen Welty; Walt Wade, director; Bill Jones, producer; Pete Lund, writer; Tom Rowe, chief engineer
Rear, standing: The Hayloft Orchestra

WLS National Barn Dance Souvenir Program with Leizime Brusoe - Circa 1939

Appearing This Week on WLS &
The National Barn Dance

June 27, 1936

06:00 PM
06:00 PM;
Conkeys
Henry Hornsbuckle · Hilltoppers · George Goebel

06:15 PM
06:15 PM;

Roy Anderson, baritone · Ralph Emerson at the organ

06:30 PM
06:30 PM;
Keystone Steel and Wire Co.
featuring Arkansas Woodchopper

07:00 PM
07:00 PM;

Pres. Roosevelt's Acceptance Address · Talk by Vice-President Garner

09:00 PM
09:00 PM;
Alka-Seltzer
Uncle Ezra · Maple City Four · Verne, Lee and Mary · Hoosier Hot Shots · Henry Burr · Sally Foster · Patsy Montana · Otto and His Novelodeons · and other Hayloft favories · Joe Kelly, master of ceremonies

10:00 PM
10:00 PM;

Varied Features until Midnight · Otto & His Novelodeons · Prairie Ramblers and Patsy Montana · Hometowners Quartet · Christine · John Brown · Henry Burr · George Goebel · Hilltoppers · Bill O'Connor · Grace Wilson · Hoosier Sod Busters · Eddie Allan · Red Foley · Arkie · 4 Hired Hands · Pat Buttram and many others



Joe Parsons



Patsy Montana



Wade Ray



Tommy Dandurand



Sunbonnet Girls



Kathleen Carnes (Ann, Pat and Judy)



Tom Corwine

 

Credits & Sources

  • From 100 WLS Barn Dance Favorites, Published by M.M. Cole Publishing Company, Chicago
  • Saturday Night program lineup from WLS Standby Magazines of 1936


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