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

Listen to:
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...

Appearing This Week on WLS &
The National Barn Dance

March 28, 1936

06:00 PM
06:00 PM;

Thomas P. Gunning

06:15 PM
06:15 PM;

John Lair

06:45 PM
06:45 PM;

Roy Anderson, baritone · Ralph Emerson

07:00 PM
07:00 PM;
G.E. Conkey Co.
Prairie Ramblers and Patsy Montana · Henry Hornsbuckle · Hoosier Sod Busters

07:15 PM
07:15 PM;
Ferris Nurseries
Hilltoppers · George Goebel

07:30 PM
07:30 PM;
Keystone Steel and Wire Co.
featuring Skyland Scotty

08:00 PM
08:00 PM;
Murphy Products Co.
featuring Pat Buttram

08:30 PM
08:30 PM;
Alka Seltzer
Uncle Ezra · Maple City Four · Verne, Lee and Mary · Hoosier Hot Shots · Lucille Long · Sally Foster · Skyland Scotty · Otto and his Tune Twisters · and other Hayloft favorites · with Joe Kelly as master of ceremonies

09:30 PM
09:30 PM;

Ralph Emerson · Phil Kalar

09:45 PM
09:45 PM;

10:15 PM
10:15 PM;

Barn Dance contineus until 12:00pm CST with varied features · Prairie Ramblers · Otto & His Tune Twisters · Patsy Montana · Hometowners Quartet · Christine · John Brown · Henry · Georgie Goebel · Hilltoppers · Bill O'Connor · Grace Wilson · Hoosier Sod Busters · Eddie Allan · Arkie · and many others.

Flannery Sisters

Rhythm Riders

Everly Brothers

The Hilltoppers

Doc Hopkins

Zeke Clements

Wade Ray


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