KVOA Barn Dance
The KVOA Barn Dance was a popular dance program and broadcast show in
Tucson, Arizona. It appears to have started in February 1942 according to what
we have been able to piece together in our research and looking at old newspaper
articles and ads.
The KVOA Barn Dance was held usually on Friday nights at the Pioneer Hotel
in Tucson from around 9pm to midnight. The radio broadcast was usually around
10:00 or 10:30pm for 30 minutes.
Ticket prices in those early days were just 55 cents and included tax. We then saw
the price increase from 60 cents to finally 75 cents in latter part of the 1940's.
The band / music appears to have been provided by Larry Cockerel and His Sunset Riders.
Sometimes the band was named Larry and his Sunset Riders or Larry's Sunset Riders. But we did find mentions
of Larry as early as 1940, appearing at the Better Homes Show in Phoenix, Arizona.
Not much else could be determined as to who was in the band. But a 1953 article featuring
Woody Mercer indicated that Woody was a part of the band when he was in high school and
before he was called to military service.
For several years, ads for the dance included the fact that dance instructions would be
provided by Mr. and Mrs. George Clawson.
One article was found in 1944 that tells readers that Sue Allen Winkle was a featured
entertainer of the barn dance for "the past year". She was part of a show that was to entertain
troops in the area. And in fact Sue had entertained the troops at the Marana base eight times
for a couple of seasons.
A 1945 article boasts that the shows to entertain the troops would include more featured
entertainers than such typical shows. The director of the show's production, Carl Walle, stated
"In a usual turnout to a talent call, 90 per cent are those who have no special talents,
but who have unbounded energy and a wish to do something toward the entertainment of the boys.
This results in group and chorus numbers. The other ten per cent are persons who through
past experience or schooling are capable of adding the specialty parts of a program. But he
then elaborates, "In this production however, the percentage of those with special talents is
much greater than the usual groups. About 50 percent of our regular turnout
out for rehearsals consists of those capable of doing solo numbers, terpsichorean or vocal."
One such group would be the "VNL Trio", made up of Larry, Vera and Nola who would "present
a series of western songs as a part of the program" and were said to be featured on the KVOA
Barn Dance programs. We assume the Larry refers to Larry Cockerel. Vera is a name we have seen
mentioned in ads for the barn dance.
In February 1946 we saw an ad touting the 4th anniversary of the show. Then in July of 1946,
we found an ad promoting the 50,000th visitor to the show. We took a stab at estimating
the average turnout based on the anniversary show and the 50,000 mentioned. Our estimate is that the
show averaged about 250-300 each Friday night and taking into account a couple of times the
show was cancelled to accommodate other local functions.
The ads indicate an occasional guest appearance by other stars of the day. In October 1946,
Tex Ritter was the attraction and the doors would open at 7:30 with the program starting
at 8:30. Another guest was Kenny Delmar who was known as "Senator Claghorn" on the radio. A July
1946 article stated of his appearance: "At 7:15pm the directors of the Chamber of Commerce
will feast the "senator" on southern fried chicken. No doubt Delmare will then pay for his meal
with a few typical witticisms." Then at 8:30pm he was to be on the KVOA Barn Dance program.
Our research indicates this show appears to have run to at least 1948.