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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
February 15, 1941
Program Listing

Song Title Artist(s)
Way Out There Pine Ridge Boys
I'm Over Young To Marry Yet WSB Barn Dance Gang
Boo Hoo Blues Harpo Kidwell
Some Must Win Hank Penny
Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow Ginny Rodgers
Swing Low Sweet Chariot Coonhunters
Lonesome Road Blues Hoot Owl Hollow Girls, Jones Girls
That Silver-Haired Daddy Of Mine Guests
Molly Darling Dwight Butcher

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
December 26, 1942
Program Listing

Song Title Artist(s)
Comin' Round The Mountain Harpo Kidwell
Turn Your Radio On James and Martha Carson
Mississippi Sawyer Chick Stripling
San Antonio Rose Betty and Ann (Heifner Sisters) and Linda Lou (Louise Elder)
Georgia Blues James Carson
Ain't It Hard To Love Hoot Owl Hollow Girls
Shiek of Araby Hank Penny, Herman Horsehair Buggfuzz (Ivy Peterson) and Louis Innis
I Found A Hiding Place Sunshine Boys
Ida Red 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
May 27, 1944
Erlanger Theater — Atlanta, GA
Program Listing

Song Title Artist(s)
Corine Corina Harpo Kidwell
Will The Circle Be Unbroken James and Martha Carson
Grasshopper Settin' On A Sweet Pertater Vine Blackie Hastings
I'm Sending You Red Roses Dottie Castleberry
ALexander's Ragtime Band Swanee River Boys
St. Louis Blues Ray Adams
Red River Valley Prairie Songbirds
Try Me One More Time Jimmy Smith
Chicken Reel Bobbie Atcheson
Good Old Mountain Dew Chick Stripling and Oscar McGooney

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.

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, 1945
Dallas, GA
Program Listing

Song Title Artist(s)
The Man I Love Don't Pay Me No Mind Mattie O'Neal
At Mail Call Today Pete Cassell
Fire On The Mountain Bobbie Atcheson
Birmingham Rose NeHi
Shake My Mother's Hand James and Martha Carson
Steel Guitar Wobble Jessie Carpenter
Then You'll Know What It Means To Be Blue Jimmy Smith
In The Pines Georgia Peach Blossoms
Tiger Rag Harpo Kidwell
Watermelon Smilin' 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
February 2, 1946
Erlanger Theater — Atlanta, GA
Program Listing

Song Title Artist(s)
Many Tears Ago Jimmy Smith
Riding A Bucking Mule Chick Stripling
Don't Let Your Sweet Love Die Ruth and Ruby
Foggy Mountain Top Cousin Emmy
I'll Be True While You're Gone Little Nehi
Bugle Call Rag Jessie Carpenter
I Want To Be Ready To Meet Him James and Martha Carson
Wabash Blues Harpo Kidwell
I Walk Alone Jimmy Smith
Billy In The Low Ground Mattie O'Neil

WSB Barn Dance
December 27, 1947
College Park Auditorium — Atlanta, GA

Bob Williams and the Cumberland Mountaineers

Change of Venues: Erlanger 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 WSB Barn Dance show moved to the College Park Auditorium.

The old Erlanger Theater had new owners, Francis White and Harvey Smith. Among the changes they made were renaming the theater to The Tower Theater. The next change they made was the type of entertainment the theater would offer. When the theater opened under its new name, the first entertainment it brought was a movie run. Repairmen were remodeling the theater at the same time. Once done, the theater would implement a new "variety" policy, "...offering the best in moving pictures and stage shows." The first stage productions included "State Of The Union," "Joan of Lorraine," "Oklahoma!", "Harvey," and "Norway." These new stage productions would take place at the theater after the Christmas holiday and into 1948.

All of the old Erlanger marquees were taken down, to be replaced by "one of the brightest in town."

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 24, 1948
College Park Auditorium — Atlanta, GA

Bob Williams and the Cumberland Mountaineers

Bob Williams and the Cumberland Mountaineers

In January 1948, WSB's television permit was granted by the Federal Communications Commision (FCC). The station was owned by the newspaper, The Atlanta Journal. In an article touting the approval, then station manager John Outler Jr. stated that the station hoped to have a "...full schedule of daily television broadcasts ihn operation by late summer." The station was allowed to operate at a maximum power of 5,000 watts, the maximum for any television station back then.

The station had granted contracts for equipment such as the 600 foot tower and antenna, new studios, mobile units in December 1947. The studios and the tower would be located on 20 acres near the intersection of Peachtree and Beverly Roads. The expected radius of their signal was to be 40 miles. It would broadcast on channel 8.

Oddly the station had first applied for a television permit in April 1931, but for whatever reason, it was never granted. A new application was submitted in December 1947.

Television was not the only new technology being used by WSB. In November 1944, they started WSB-FM.

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.

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

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

Bob Williams and the Cumberland Mountaineers

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.

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
  • Erlanger to Reopen With 'State of the Union'; Laruen Norvell, Movie and Radio Editor; November 2, 1947; The Atlanta Journal; Atlanta, GA
  • Television Permit Granted To WSB; January 9, 1948; The Atlanta Journal; Atlanta, GA

Mac Wiseman



Nell Coleman



Doug Spivey



Ricca (Aunt Hattie) Hughes



The Pritchett Kids



Glenn Hughes



Fairley Holden



Pete Cassell



Willie Mae (Little Nehi) Thomas



Blackie Hastings



Cousin Emmy Her Kinfolk



Nehi



Jane Logan



Louie Innis



Dink Embry



Boudleaux Bryant



Bobby Atcheson



Linda Lou



Logan Sisters



Ace Richman (Sunshine Boys)



Dennis (Boots) Woodall and His Radio Wranglers



Jesse Carpenter



Prairie Songbirds



Fescue Boys



Marvin Taylor




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