WLS National Barn Dance
"Big foot uplittle feet down,
Like a jaybird walkin' on frozen ground;
Chicken in the breadpan 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
"...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
October 3, 1936
Red Foley and his Merrymakers
· Four Hired Hands · George Goebel
featuring Lulu Belle
· Maple City Four · Verne, Lee and Mary · Hoosier Hot Shots · Henry Burr · Sally Foster · Otto & His Novelodeons · Lucille Long · Lulu Belle · Skyland Scotty · and other Hayloft favorites · with Joe Kelly as master of ceremonies