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Smilin' Sam
Born:  November 8, 1901
Died:  November 14, 1980
WHO Iowa Barn Dance Frolic
KHJB Marshalltown, IA
KSO Des Moines, IA
WMT Cedar Rapids, IA
WOC Davenport, IA
WHO Des Moines, IA (1931)

About The Artist

Albert Joseph Bysinger was born in Rock Island, Illinois to parents Charles and Mary Imhof Bysinger in 1901. Later, audiences would get to know him as Smilin' Sam. They said he always brought both "...his grin and his guitar to the microphone for one of his many versed hill-billy ballads."

They said he got his start in broadcasting back in the late 1920's, using his real name then. He came to WHO in 1931 and continued to entertain the audiences of the Iowa Barn Dance Frolic through it appears at least the late 1930's.

Before he became Smilin' Sam on the Frolic show, he was known as Happy Bysinger. In the summer of 1926, he was hired as instructor to teach the boys at Denkmann Park to play the harmonica at the age of 19.

The city held a contest and Happy Bysinger placed third in the city wide contest among participants from the various playgrounds. For his performance, Happy played, "My Pal, Jerry."

In December of 1932, Happy Bysinger was part of a group of entertainers who pooled their resources to help raise funds for the "Good Fellow" fund of the Moline Dispatch newspaper, the Rock Island Argus newspaper and, the Davenport Times. Radio station WHBF donated its facilities for the event. Happy Bysinger was stated to be "...the quad-cities best known and best-liked singer of hill billy songs."

"Happy" Bysinger was another name he was known by. He was one of the first entertainers heard over radio station WHBF. He was known for a style termed "...down home type of folk, cowboy and western music."

In the 1930's, he was one of a trio of entertainers from the Tri-Cities (Rock Island and Moline, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa_ area that traveled about 400 miles each week, going back and forth from their homes to the WHO Iowa Barn Dance Frolic in Des Moines. In addition to Albert, there was Roy Klove (aka Lars Larson) of Rock Island and Oliver Burkhart (Barnyard Pete) of Moline.

In 1939, he was part of the entertainment program for the East Moline - Silvis Association of Commerce. After the speakers, Don Sweet directed a six act vaudeville program. Mr. Sweet was known as a magician. The group of entertainers included dance numbers by the Swanee-Lane trio; song and tap dancing by Elaine Abrahamson, a baton twirling exhibition by Beverly Ecklund and cowboy songs by Smilin' Sam, listed as a former radio star.

His obituary indicated he left the entertainment business due to the strain and pressure from the traveling and personal appearances. He took a job at the International Harvester Works where he worked for 30 years before retiring in 1965.

On June 30, 1937, he married Ruth M. Nelson. They raised a son, David.

Credits & Sources

  • Harmonica, Uke Teachers Needed For Playground; July 14, 1926; The Rock Island Argus; Rock Island, IL
  • Ruth Parmekee Is Winner of Medal in "Uke" Contest; August 21, 1926; The Daily Times; Davenport, IA
  • Good Fellow Radio Frolic Will Start at 10 tonight; December 10, 1932; The Dispatch; Moline, IL
  • Over Thousand Attend Eagles Lodge Fish Fry; March 9, 1931; Rock Island Argus; Rock Island, IL
  • Souvenir Program, W-H-O Barn Dance Frolic; Publication date, circa 1939
  • Radio Scraps 'N Sensations; August 28, 1934; Quad City Times; Davenport, IA
  • Co-Starred In Minstrel; February 8, 1935; The Daily Times; The Daily Times; Davenport, IA
  • Large Attendance Expected at Local Commerce Dinner; January 26, 1939; The Daily Times; Davenport, IA
  • Rites Set For Albert Bysinger, former singer

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