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Prairie Pioneers
WLDS Jacksonville, IL

About The Group

One of the 'cleanest, fastest and funniest' radio shows in the Midwest in the latest 1940s-early 1950s was put on by the Prairie Pioneers. Their popularity at WLDS can be shown by the fact that on October 18, 1951, they were celebrating their sixth anniversary there.

The leader of the group was none other than the "Old Man of the Mountain" who had achieved some fame previously on the Hoosier Hop.

Other members included Fred's daughter, Lois, known for her singing and instrument sound effects. Bob Berry provided some of the humor for audiences along with his fiddle playing. In early 1952, Johnny Harrington and his accordion were one of the recent additions to the group. "Little Jeff" Thompson was known as the "atomic singer" that added to the groups vocal arrangements.

We find them again in 1956, but only four members apparently in the group. Fred and Lois are still with the group. But now the group inlcudes Red Thompson - perhaps the same Jeff Thompson we read about in 1942. They mention Red was also a songwriter and one of the disc jockeys heard over WLDS. The band also included the man they called "Grandpop" who was known as the "...grand old man with his fiddle and fun". The group was still going strong on WLDS and had two shows each day at 7:00am and 11:30am.

Timeline and Trivia Notes

Group Members included:

  • Fred Oliver, vocals and yodels
  • Lois Oliver, (Fred's daughter), vocals, guitar and mandolin
  • Bob Berry, fiddle, comedy
  • Johnny Harrington, accordion
  • "Little Jeff" Thompson, guitar, vocals
  • Pete "Grandpop" Smith, fiddle

Credits & Sources

  • Cowboy Songs No. 21; July 1952; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
  • Cowboy Songs No. 47; July 1956; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT

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