Hillbilly-Music.com - Keeping Country Music History Alive
Hillbilly-Music Folio Display


WSB Barn Dance
WSB
Atlanta, GA
Year Started:  1940
Date Started:  November 16, 1940
Year Ended:  1950
Date Ended:  February 18, 1950

WSB Barn Dance

The WSB Barn Dance came into existence in 1940 during the peak of hillbilly music's popularity and revenue draw on the radio. Author Wayne Daniel points out in his book "Pickin' on Peachtree" that radio grew exponentially during the 1940's decade. The number of radio stations grew from 765 to 2,867.

By 1940, WSB was a powerhouse 50,000 watt clear channel radio station owned by Cox Enterprises, who wanted to revamp their hillbilly music programming. So, they brought in a consultant, a fellow from Chicago and WLS National Barn Dance fame and later Renfro Valley fame, John Lair. He put in place a revamped lineup of hillbilly music shows and one of them was a Saturday night show called the WSB Barn Dance. Mr. Daniel writes that WSB Barn Dance achieved such popularity that in the 1941 Hooper ratings, the show was the highest rated of any show on the air in the Atlanta area, network or otherwise.

The WSB Barn Dance made its on-air debut on Saturday night, November 16, 1940 at 10:30pm. The show was broadcast from the main studios of WSB, "the Voice of the South." The days leading up to the new show led to a sudden deluge of requests to see the show in person. The station accommodated some of those requests for the opening program, but said that tickets would be given out in the future.

The show was led by some former Renfro Valley performers. Judy Dell, barely over four feet tall, was one. Dwight Butcher and the Pine Ridge Boys, also from Renfro Valley along with Hank Penny, Harpo Kidwell, Lewis DuMont, Boudleux Bryant and Warren Sykes. The emcee of that first show was probably Dwight Butcher, author Wayne W. Daniel surmises.

It seemed to be a proved formula. George Biggar wrote, per Mr. Daniel, in a Billboard article that hillbilly music turned the early morning hours of radio from non-revenue to revenue producing air time. Likewise, on Saturday nights, another slow night on radio and known as 'bath night', it became known as Barn Dance and Jamboree night - it changed Saturday night habits.

Promo Ad - WSB Barn Dance - Woman's Club Auditorium - 1941

Promo Ad - WSB Barn Dance - Woman's Club Auditorium - 1941

WSB Barn Dance
December 6, 1941
Newnan City Auditorium — Newnan, GA
Program Listing
Song Title Artist(s)
Frankie and Johnny Harpo Kidwell
Just Remember Nell Coleman
Tift County Blues Chick Stripling
Foggy Mountain Top Hoot Owl Hollow Girls
Where The Old Red River Flows Pete Cassell
Rubber Dolly Rag Jane Logan
Hard Times Come Again No More Swanee River Boys
Georgia Rag Boots Woodall
Back Up A Little Bit Hank Penny
Precious Jewel James and Martha Carson
Devil's Dream Cotton Carrier

The year of 1941 began with a change in venue. On the first show of the new year, it moved to a larger venue to accommodate the demand for seating. The show moved to the Woman's Club Auditorium at 1150 Peachtree (Peachtree and Fourteenth Streets). A small admission fee was to be charged; 40 cents for adults; 20 cents for children.

Audience demand was such that they quickly out grew the studios and on January 4, 1941, the show moved to the Atlanta Women's Club Auditorium at the corner of Peachtree and 14th Avenue in Atlanta. Still, that wasn't big enough to handle all the crowds that wanted to see the show. They went to doing two shows a night on Saturday nights and would usually broadcast the 10:30pm show over WSB.

At 3am on March 29, 1941, WSB changed its frequency on the radio dial to 750kc. It was part of a series of changes for stations across the country. Other stations in Atlanta with changes included WGST to 920kc; WAGA to 1480kc; and, WATL to 1400kc. The change affected 795 of the then 883 broadcasting stations in the country. It came about under terms of the Havana agreement which basically would to a large extent, eliminate interference from stations in Mexico.

Promo Ad - WSB Barn Dance - Woman's Club Auditorium - 1941

WSB Barn Dance
August 29, 1942
Erlanger Theatre — Atlanta, GA
Program Listing
Song Title Artist(s)
Emcees Hank Penny and Herman Buggfuzz (Ivy Peterson)
Ragtime Annie Harpo Kidwell
Keep On The Sunny Side James and Martha Carson
Cacklin' Hen Chick Stripling
Ain't It Hard To Love Girls
There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere Pete Cassell
Rolling Stone Blues Jimmy Carson
Mississippi Valley Blues Betty and Ann (The Heifner Sisters)
China Boy Boots Woodall
I Found A Hiding Place Swanee River Boys
Cindy Chick Stripling

The WSB Barn Dance members also contributed to the country's World War II efforts. The WSB Artists Bureau subscribed to the "payroll deduction plan" to enable the purchase of U. S. Defense Bonds. It was indeed a 100% all out, all hands in for this campaign. The entire casts of popular WSB programs such as the WSB Barn Dance, Barnyard Jamboree, Cracker Barrel Gang and the Little Country Church joined the payroll deduction plan.

On May 23, 1942, the show moved to the Erlanger Theatre, located on Peachtree also. You can read in author Wayne Daniel's chapter on the WSB Barn Dance that the show would play at various other venues over the years throughout Georgia, especially during the summer. We list some of the places that Mr. Daniel noted at the end of this article.

In November 1942, Ernest Rogers reported that the 20 year old Erlanger Theater had been taken over by WSB. The station signed a five-year lease with Samuel Rothberg, representing the owners of the theater.

The theater would continue to book other show attractions as it had in the past and Harrison (Chick) Kimball would take over the bookings of shows and mangement of the theater. Once the lease was signed, WSB would renovate the interior and exterior of the theater. The remodeling project would be done without any interruption to the regular Barn Dance shows. The theater was located at 533 Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta.

Album - Barbi Doll - Barbi Benton - 1974 Single - Duet - Mickey Gilley - Barbi Benton - 1975

Promo Ad - WSB Barn Dance - Woman's Club Auditorium - 1941

Promo Ad - WSB Barn Dance - Martin Theatre - August 1942

WSB Barn Dance - 1942

Atlanta, GA, circa 1942—Left to right: Boots Woodall, Unknown, Pete Cassell, James Carson (real name James Roberts), Hank Penny, Mattie O'Neal (nee Opal Amburgey), Martha Carson (nee Irene Amburgey, Mrs. James Roberts), Jane Logan (nee Lily Perry, Mrs. Cotton Carrier)

WSB Barn Dance - 1942

Atlanta, GA, circa 1942— Left to right: Mattie O'Neal (nee Opal Amburgey), Martha Carson (nee Irene Amburgey, Mrs. James Roberts), Jane Logan (nee Lily Perry, Mrs. Cotton Carrier), Unknown Swanee River Boy, Billy Carrier (Swanee River Boy), Chick Stripling, Harpo Kidwell.

Promo Ad - WSB Barn Dance - Woman's Club Auditorium - 1941

WSB Barn Dance - 1943

WSB Barn Dance - 1943
Left to right: Harpo Kidwell, Oscar McGooney, Slim Idaho, Little NeHi (Willie Mae Thomas), Louis Innis, Harold Dunn, Dottie Castleberry, Chick Stripling, James Carson (real name James Roberts), Herman Horsehair Buggfuzz (Ivy Peterson), Martha Carson (nee Irene Amburgey, Mrs. James Roberts), The Sunshine Boys ( Tennessee Smith, Pat Patterson, Smitty Smith, Ace Richman, Eddie Wallace), George Hughes (emcee), Chick Kimball, manager.

WSB Barn Dance
March 6, 1943
Erlanger Theater — Atlanta, GA
Program Listing
Song Title Artist(s)
Chime Bells Yodel Betty and Ann (The Heifner Sisters)
How Many Bisuits Can You Eat? Harpo Kidwell
Beneath That Lonely Mound Of Clay James and Martha Carson
Farewell Blues Louis Innis
When I Say Hello To The Rockies NeHi
Wake Up, Susan Chick Stripling
The Glory Special Sunshine Boys
Rolling Stone Blues James Carson
Where The Red River Flows Pete Cassell
Freight Train Blues Pete Cassell

In lieu of a sound bite, perhaps we can let you see a bit of the ambiance of the show as it signed off one night, by Cotton Carrier, as quoted by author Daniel:

"Its about time for us to get off the wind now, but we've had a fine time at your house tonight, and we hope that you'll let us visit with you next Saturday night at the same time, 9:30 P.M., when we'll be broadcasting from the High School Auditorium in Covington, Georgia. The `WSB Barn Dance' is a regular Saturday-night feature of WSB, the Voice of The South, Atlanta, Georgia."

WSB Barn Dance
July 15, 1944
Erlanger Theater — Atlanta, GA
Program Listing
Song Title Artist(s)
Broadcast by Transcription WSB Barn Dance Cast on Vacation

Research will sometimes pop up some surprises and an occasional chuckle. A letter to the editor in the Atlanta Journal on February 20, 1944 was one such occasion. A reader from Kennesaw, GA wrote a note:

"WSB is our favorite radio station, and one of our favorite programs is the Barn Dance every Saturday night. In the commercial they sing, "Hi, Baldy." Imagine our suprise when little two-year-old Patricia begann calling her baby sister, "Hi, Baldy," for the baby has plenty of hair. When we asked Pat how the name fitted, she said, "Cause she bawls a lot. — Mrs. C. Booth; Kennesaw, GA"

The show's cast included some of familiar names in hillbilly music history. And they included most of the different types of entertainment one might expect to find on a show such as the WSB Barn Dance. There were fiddlers, steel guitarists, harmonica players, accordionists, banjoists, male vocalists, female vocalists, sister acts, brother duets and more. Here's a small list to introduce you to some of the talents the WSB Barn Dance had in its cast:

  • Bobby Atcheson, fiddle
  • Boudleaux Bryant, fiddle (and later, renowned songwriter along with his wife, Felice)
  • Harpo Kidwell, harmonica
  • Warren Sykes, harmonica
  • Buck Glosson, harmonica
  • Lonnie Glosson, harmonica
  • Kid Clark, accordion
  • Eddie Ross, steel guitar
  • Jimmy Colvard, steel guitar
  • Boots Woodall, steel guitar
  • Louis Dumont, tenor banjo
  • Mattie O'Neal, banjo
  • Cousin Emmy, banjo
  • Hank Penny and the Radio Cowboys
  • Mac Wiseman
  • Fairley Holden
  • Cotton Carrier
  • Pete Cassell
  • Dwight Butcher
  • Mattie O'Neal
  • Millie Jackson
  • Evelyn Head
  • Bertha, Irene and Opal Amburgey, known as the Hoot Owl Hollow Girls
  • Marvin Taylor and Doug Spivey, known as the Pine Ridge Boys
  • Swanee River Boys, a quartet
  • Sunshine Boys
  • Aunt Sarrie
  • Hot Shot Elmer (Bill Carlisle)

But What Are Their Real Names?

Research of the decade this show was on WSB has uncovered the fact some names were actually stage names or chose to not user their real names. First, Aunt Hattie - her real name was Ricca Hughes. James and Martha Carson might be the most obvious example - he was James Roberts. She was Irene Amburgey. But they both ended up using Carson as their last name for performing. And Martha Carson is actually the name on her tombstone. A small in stature female singer by the stage name of Ne-Hi (or NeHi or Nehi) was really Willie Mae Thomas. The Logan Sisters were really Betty and Christine Buice; they had their own radio program for a time over WSB as well. He was one of the show's emcees this Herman Horsehair Buggfuzz but his parents named him Ivay Peterson. The Prairie Songbirds appeared on many other radio stations including WSB. They were two sisters, Mary and Margie Humes. The Dixie Blue Bells were a female trio created by WSB. The three members were: Martha Carson (Irene Amburgey), Dottie Castleberry and Violet (Koehler?).

WSB Barn Dance
February 20, 1944
Transcribed Broadcast
Program Listing
Song Title Artist(s)
San Antonio Rose Peach Blossom Trio
Fire On The Mountain Bobby Atcheson
Shame On You Dottie Castleberry
Beneath That Lonely Mound Of Clay James and Martha Carson
Hawaiian Chimes Jessie Carpenter
The West Is Calling Me Home Nehi
Harpo's Waltz Harpo Kidwell
At Mail Call Today Jimmy Smith
Orange Blossom Special Mattie O'Neil
Watermelon On The Vine Swanee River Boys

Author Wayne Daniel chronicles in more detail the life of the various cast members and the roles they played in his book, including some of the other directions the careers took for some of these artists. You can find more information about them and other WSB Barn Cast members throughout this site.

One of the performers was a blind singer and guitar player by the name of Pete Cassell. He was also on the WWVA Jamboree out of Wheeling, WV and was known to write a song. In 1941, he wrote a theme song of sorts that was heard for a while on the WSB Barn Dance.

"Howdy Friends and neighbors Both near and far away,
The WSB Barn Dance Will drive your cares away.
We always wear a great big smile And never shed a tear.
We try to spread some sunshine With songs you like to hear.
So, won't you come and join us And spend a little while;
We'll try to make you happy In good old country style.
So, come on to the Southland Way down here in Dixie
For you're always welcome To the WSB Barn Dance party."

WSB Barn Dance
January 19, 1946
Erlanger Theater — Atlanta, GA
Program Listing
Song Title Artist(s)
It's Raining On The Mountain Mattie O'Neil
Remember Me Ruth and Ruby
Flat Foot Dan Harpo Kidwell
Milk Cow Blues Cousin Emmy
Parade Of The Wooden Soldiers Lang Howe
Will The Circle Be Unbroken James and Martha Carson
Johnson's Old Grey Mule Chick Stripling
Silver Dew On The Blue Grass Tonight Little Nehi
Steel Guitar Rag Jessie Carpenter
Tomorrow Never Comes Jimmy Smith

On Saturday night, October 29, 1949, a promotional ad announced that the WSB Barn Dance Party would orginate from the Hapeville City Auditorium from that night foward. The show moved once again, formerly it was from College Park, GA

Promotional ads for the show were becoming increasingly scarce. The show was at late hour on Saturday night. Ads were only touting shows prior to 10:00pm on Saturday night. The usual listing of artists and tunes to be sung or played were gone. Television was making its mark.

WSB Barn Dance
December 6, 1947
College Park Auditorium — Atlanta, GA

Bob Williams and the Cumberland Mountaineers

Change of Venues: Erlanter Theater to College Park Auditorium

Earlier in this saga, readers learned that WSB had signed a five year lease for the Erlanger Theater in November 1942. When November 1947 rolled around, the lease was not renewed. The owners changed the theater name to Tower Theater and began showing movies. The WSB Barn Dance show moved to the College Park Auditorium.

By the end of the 1940's decade, the world was changing. Radio station owners were finding it cheaper to have a disc jockey to play records rather than have live shows. Television was creeping into the world and eating into the ability of the artists to make money from personal appearances as folks stayed home. The WSB Barn Dance aired its last show on February 18, 1950.

WSB Barn Dance
January 10, 1948
College Park Auditorium — Atlanta, GA

Bob Williams and the Cumberland Mountaineers

Bob Williams and the Cumberland Mountaineers

Change of Venues: College Park Auditorium to Hapeville City Auditorium

On October 29, 1949, the venue for the now "WSB Barn Dance Party" was moved to the Hapeville City Auditorium. WSB ran ads in the Atlanta Journal for several days leading up to the new venue's debut.

WSB Barn Dance
October 29, 1949
Hapeville City Auditorium — Atlanta, GA

Bob Williams and the Cumberland Mountaineers

Major Venues of WSB Barn Dance

  • WSB Studios, Biltmore Hotel, Atlanta
  • Atlanta Women's Club, Peachtree and 14th Street, Atlanta
  • Erlanger Theater,Peachtree Street, Atlanta
  • College Park Auditorium
  • Forest Park High School Auditorium
  • Hapeville City Auditorium
  • Other theatres and auditoriums throughout Georgia, mainly in summer

Emcees for WSB Barn Dance

  • Dwight Butcher
  • George Hughes
  • Dudley McCaskill
  • Chick Kimball
  • Bill Spencer
  • Jimmy Smith
  • Ivy Peterson, (Herman Horsehair Buggfuzz)
  • Cotton Carrier

Marriages

The Barn Dances also seemed to provide an opportunity for 'cupid' to play a role as well. The WLS National Barn Dance had its share of activity. The WSB Barn Dance also had several cast members get married during its run.

  • On October 29, 1939, author Wayne W. Daniel noted in his book that Chick Stripling married Cassie Nelle Coleman.
  • In 1941, Lillie Mae Perry (her stage name was Jane Logan) married James A. (Cotton) Carrier. Cotton would become one of the popular emcees of the show. The 1940 U. S. Census shows that Cotton was living in Hopkinsville, KY as a 21-year old entertainer at the time.
  • Another husband wife duo on the show was James and Martha Carson. However, their real names were James Roberts and Irene Amburgey. They were married on June 8, 1939 in Indiana.



Aunt Hattie



Mac Wiseman



The Amburgey Sisters



Boudleaux Bryant



Hank Penny



Willie Mae (Little Nehi) Thomas



Doug Spivey

 

Credits & Sources

  • Pickin' On Peachtree, A History of Country Music in Atlanta, Georgia; Wayne W. Daniel; University of Illinois Press; 1990 & 2001; 295 pages-paperback edition
  • Photos and identification of artists in photos provided courtesy of author Wayne W. Daniel.
  • Program Listings courtesy of Wayne W. Daniel; different listing each time page is viewed.
  • WSB Barn Dance In Debut at 10:30; November 16, 1940; The Atlanta Journal; Atlanta, GA
  • WSB's Barn Dance Moves To Atlanta Woman's Club; January 4, 1941; The Atlanta Journal; Atlanta, GA
  • WSB Takes Over Erlanger Theater; Ernest Rogers; November 29, 1942; The Atlanta Journal; Atlanta, GA
  • WSB Goes to 750 kc In Change Saturday; Ernest Rogers; March 28, 1941; The Atlanta Journal; Atlanta, GA
  • Barn Dancers Buy U.S. Bonds; February 7, 1942; The Atlanta Journal; Atlanta, GA


Hillbilly-Music.com

Yes, Hillbilly Music. You may perhaps wonder why. You may even snicker. But trust us, soon your feet will start tappin' and before you know it, you'll be comin' back for more...Hillbilly Music.

Hillbilly-music.com ...
It's about the people, the music, the history.