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Hayloft Frolic
WTTV
Terre Haute / Bloomington, IN
Year Started:  1952
Date Started:  January 5, 1952

Hayloft Frolic

Old program booklets from the Hayloft Frolic tell us that the show originally went on the air on the wintery day of January 5, 1952 over WTTV in Bloomington, Indiana. But the host of that show, Uncle Bob Hardy, and his backup musicians, were no strangers to the viewing audience then.

Prior to the Hayloft Frolic show, Uncle Bob was hosting a show called the Happy Valley Folks over WTTV. But life sometimes throws a curve ball in one's career. Uncle Bob left the WTTV area to go to North Vernon in 1950. He turned the reigns of the Happy Valley Folks show over to its capable guitar player, Freddy Helms (the brother of Bobby Helms). But Freddy wasn't able to stay much longer either as Uncle Sam asked him to join the armed forces then and the show found a new leader in a youngster by the name of Jack Noel.

Uncle Bob came back to the station in 1951, but perhaps underestimating the connection with the fans or overestimating its current cast, Uncle Bob wasn't asked to rejoin the Happy Valley Folks show. But perhaps that wasn't so bad after all, for it seemed to spur further creativity on Uncle Bob's part and he decided to start a new show called the Hayloft Frolic.

Word got out among the station musicians that Uncle Bob had formed a new show. One Sunday morning at the home of Uncle Bob's mother, he got a visit from some of his former band mates of the Happy Valley Folks. Bobby Helms, Joe Edwards and Sandy Smith stopped by and just plain came right to the point - they simply asked him, "When do we start?". Taken aback for a few seconds he reminded them they were a part of the other show. But they told him they had just quit. The Hayloft Frolic had its first musicians.

When the show first started, it had no sponsors. But that situation didn't last long. Its first sponsor was a state-wide company called Raytheon Television Distributors. Uncle Bob notes that the pay for the show wasn't the reason they did it. The show gave them exposure which they could use to garner personal appearances around the area. As the show gained popularity, sponsors began to notice and in September 1952, when Raytheon's contract ran out, the Indiana Farm Bureau Co-op became the show's sponsor when it aired on Thursday evenings at 8:30pm. That partnership lasted for over four years.

The popularity of the Hayloft Frolic was such that at one time, its ratings were topping that of a major network hit at the time, "This Is Your Life" hosted by Ralph Edwards.

As time went by, the Hayloft Frolic was the number one rated country music show in Indiana and was number two to only the WLW Mid-western Hayride out of Cincinnati in the midwest.

The show's cast contained a fair amount of talent to go with those ratings. One of them who was starting his career was Bobby Helms. Bobby was honing his songwriting talents and learning to work with audiences back then but his talents were obvious to those who saw him. Uncle Bob felt he owed it to try and help him broaden his career beyond the regional television exposure he was getting but knew he wasn't the right person to do it. Uncle Bob used his contacts in Nashville and was able to get Bobby a session with Ernest Tubb and a spot on the Midnight Jamboree. Ernest must have liked what he heard - he told his manager then, Gabe Tucker that Bobby would "...sell records." Indeed he would - Fraulein, My Special Angel and Jingle Bell Rock would become classic country songs.

Another cast member was a guitar player by the name of Joe Edwards. Joe and Uncle Bob stayed friends over the many years, even when Joe eventually left the Indiana area and became part of the famed WSM Grand Ole Opry, working as a staff musician for the show for many years. In later years, Uncle Bob would stop by and visit Joe in Nashville and actually recorded a few tunes for his albums in Joe's studios. They'd also work together on annual shows back in Bloomington that Joe would sponsor.

Edde Lee was a local boy, from Indianapolis, and made his first television appearance with Uncle Bob on the Hayloft Frolic. An old folio notes he had an "unusually deep, mellow voice especially adaptable to ballads and tear jerkers."

Howard 'Scotty' Scott played the triple neck electric steel guitar on the Hayloft Frolic and was from Vincennes, Indiana. Prior to joining the cast, he had worked in radio several years and found his first appearance on television with the show.

In 1955, Dick Morgan was mentioned in a Cowboy Songs feature article on the Hayloft Frolic as one of the favorites on the show. Prior to joining the show, the article mentioned Dick had worked at various other radio stations and fronted other bands. That same article told us that no barn dance type show would be complete without a five-string banjo player and in this case, the show boasted the talents of Jack Perry.

The show's cast over the years included several husband and wife teams. One was Johnny and Nan Beasley. Johnny was an old-time fiddle player from Texas. His wife, Nan, was also from Texas and was said to have a "very deep alto" voice. Another husband and wife team was that of Betty and Eddy Thompson, who left the group early on.

One of the young talents on the show was a youngster by the name of Donald (Sandy) Smith who became a good friend of Uncle Bob's when he joined the show. Early on, he toured with Red Garrett and his Pioneers and appearing with Ernest Tubb as well. Sandy earned his own show on WTTS that was called "Sandy and the Haylofters" and aired every Saturday at 11:05am. He wrote his first song when he was just fourteen years old, "Mother's Pride and Joy". But his career was all too short. One Friday night in July of 1954, Sandy stopped by Uncle Bob's house to borrow a guitar to take with him as he was going to take a friend of his to Vincennes to see a few other musician friends. Late that night, on the way back to Bloomington, Sandy and his friend died in an automobile accident when their car ran off the road.

The show enjoyed a long run by even today's standards. And its popularity gave the show new opportunities to play before other audiences. Grand Ole Opry acts would call the show asking Uncle Bob and the Hayloft Frolic musicians to be a part of their shows when their tours took them through the WTTV viewing area. In 1956, 1957 and 1958, the group was asked to entertain the United States Armed Forces who were serving overseas in Korea and later those stationed in Germany.

As you might expect in the entertainment business, paths sometimes cross or nearly cross. Uncle Bob was offered a position with a station in Terre Haute, Indiana, but turned it down feeling he was right at home at WTTV. That position eventually went to an out of work and hungry new comedian by the name of Jerry Van Dyke, the brother of Dick Van Dyke.


Earl Hoover


Darlene Wright


Eddy Tice


Jalene Joyce


Bruce Osbon


Nan Beasley


Joe Edwards

 

Timeline & Trivia Notes

Cast Members through the years:
  • Uncle Bob Hardy
  • Johnny Beasley, fiddle
  • Nan Beasley, vocals
  • Jack Brengle, steel guitar
  • Herschal Calbert, bass
  • Cliff Clendenin, steel guitar
  • Joe Edwards, fiddle; lead guitar
  • Ray Foster, bass
  • Billy Gardner, fiddle
  • Bobby Helms, vocals
  • Freddy Helms, rhythm guitar
  • Johnny Hiland, steel guitar
  • Bob Hoban, fiddle
  • Edde Lee, vocals; rhythm guitar
  • Dick Morgan, vocals; rhythm guitar
  • Sonny Norman, lead guitar
  • Bruce Osbon, lead guitar
  • Jack Perry, banjo
  • Lee Rather, bass
  • Bob Richardson, rhythm guitar
  • Barbara Jean Riggle, vocals; bass
  • Lynda Riley, steel guitar
  • Howard (Scotty) Scott, steel guitar
  • Sandy Smith, vocals; lead guitar
  • Betty Thompson, bass
  • Eddy Thompson, vocals, rhythm guitar
  • Eddy Tice, thump pump
  • Bun Wilson, vocals; comedy
  • Darlene Wright, vocals

Members who worked with Hayloft Frolic on Far East or European Tour Dates Only:

  • Arlene Hoban, vocals
  • Betty Hardy, vocals
  • Carol Prather, vocals
  • Don Wilburn, vocals; rhythm guitar
  • Earl Hoover, vocals; rhythm guitar
  • Hank Starr, vocals; rhythm guitar
  • Jalene Joyce, vocals; accordion
  • Ronny Patton, fiddle
  • Shorty Wise, fiddle
  • Whitey Stearns, drums

Credits & Sources

  • The Hayloft Frolic Folio No. 2
  • Uncle Bob Hardy Presents The Hayloft Frolic WTTV Folio No. 3
  • The Biggest and Best In the Mid-West Hayloft Frolic Folio No. 4
  • Growing Up In Country Music; Uncle Bob Hardy as told to Frank Love
  • Cowboy Songs; Number 42; August 1955; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
  • Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to thank Uncle Bob Hardy himself for the chance to interview and correspond with him to get more details about the show and his career.