About The Group
Monk and Sam were a comedy duo. Monk was from England. Sam was from Zanesville Ohio. During 1940, they appeared on the WSM Grand Ole Opry quite regularly. In fact, newspaper radio logs for WSM on Saturday nights showed they led 27 segments during the year. So one wonders, who were they?
Monk was Charles Olaf Hansen, Jr. He was born May 7, 1897 in Newport, England. Died August 10, 1949 of a heart attack in Knoxville. He became a naturalized citizen sometime after 1920 census. He moved to the United States when he was just six years old.
Sam was Samuel Lane Johnson. He was born January 4, 1901 and Died March 12, 1956 in Franklin, Indiana. He was buried in Zanesville, OH where he was born.
The Road Started In Zanesville, Ohio
Perhaps the earliest mention of Monk and Sam working together as entertainers was in a December 1925 article noting a musicale at the North Terrace church for the community. The entertainers would include a piano solo, vocal solo, saxophone solo, Hawaiian music and three banjoists, Charles Hansen, Loren Spurrier and Sam Johnson.
A few weeks later, the "banjo orchestra" was the news accounts reported entertained the attendees of the Zanesville Bank And Trust annual meeting. The 'orchestra' included Charles Hansen, Sam Johnson and Mr. Spurrier. They did music and vocal selections during their performance.
Their next efforts together, they were billed as a "banjo-duo" - Sammy Johnson and Charles Hanson. They entertained the audience at the supper meeting of the First United Presbyterian Church and Sabbath School in February 1926.
There was next a dinner meeting for the Men's Class of the First United Presbyterian Church. The meeting was said to be the best "in the history of the organization." Musical entertainment was provided by the Moores and Ross Saxophone Sextet along with Sammy Johnson and Charles Hansen, billed as "banjo artists."
Their next appearance together was at the Amrou Grotto Food and Style Show. One evening, a crowd of over 2,500 persons attended. The entertainment was provided by various acts. One was by Hindu magicians who locked a girl in a small bag, then in a few minutes, she appeared outside the bag even though the locks were still intact. Other "mystifying stunts" were also staged. The latest styles in apparel, dresses, cloaks children's wear were displayed by models. Sam Johnson and Charles (Monk) Hanson were said to have "...revived lagging interest with a classy selection of songs while May Mack whistled popular and classical tunes.
Monk and Sam were making a name for themselves early on in their careers in Zanesville, Ohio. A short article promoted the appearance of Monk Hansen and Sam Johnson doing their musical 'sketch' of "This and That" over radio station WEBC in Cambridge, Ohio. Their first broadcast over WEBC was on April 19, 1929. Their second broadcast on the station was on May 23. Both appearances were sponsored by the Royal Cleaning Company.
They were part of a trio that called themselves the "Sunshine Banjo Trio" that provided entertainment at a dinner to raise funds for the Boy Scout Fund in 1926. Members of the trio were Charles (Monk) Hansen Jr.; Sam Johnson and Lawrence A. Spurrier. "Their witty songs and music was greatly enjoyed by the entire gathering of team workers, who numbered about 85 persons."
In May of 1929, Monk and Sam were part of the entertainment at a dinner that featured Congressman M. G. Underwood giving an address to New Lexington Alumni. The "This and That Boys," a "renowned musical organization of six pieces were playing for the dance at the dinner. The group was well known through out Ohio for "pleasing and worthwhile entertainment and have found a place on the dial of every radio listener whenever they broadcast." A separate mention of Monk and Sam touted their fame. They were the group's comedians and "need no introduction for the whole of New Lexington is still talking about them for their part in the Kiwanis Minstrel, which in theatrical terms, "raised the roof of the auditorium" where the show took place.
Their names show up at various local events as part of the entertainment and had already formed a routine that articles were calling "This n' That." One event was the annual field meeting of Knights Templars of the eighth Masonic district held at the Muskingum County fairgrounds. Over 500 knights and their families attended the event marked by ideal weather. After the basket dinner, entertainment took place in the machinery hall. The attendees enjoyed music by the Moores and Ross Saxophone sextet, Limber Green's Jubilee Singers, stunts by Harry Martin and songs by Monk Hansen and Sam Johnson.
We learned in a 1930's feature on Monk and Sam that they took off on a tour of various states to try their luck at radio. A column in a Decatur, IL newspaper mentioned that WLS had a new act - a comedy team. The unnamed writer said of Monk and Sam, "They're very good. Their special forte is songs given in "hop, skip and jump" time — where the accompanist and singer each try to be at the finish line first. Another type of song at which they excel is the nonsensical story given in hurried monotone to see-saw chords."
In October 1930, they entertained the attendees of the monthly meeting of the Brotherhood of Pilgrim Evangelical church that included a chicken banquet. Entertainment included the Moores and Ross Saxophone sextet and the duo known as "This n' That," Monk and Sam.
From December 1931 through the first of April 1932, Monk and Sam were being heard over WKBF out of Indianapolis, Indiana. By the latter part of 1932, they were entertaining audiences over radio station WHAS out of Louisville, Kentucky.
WHAS — Louisville, Kentucky
The duo moved on to WHAS in Louisville in late 1932. The promotional items in the newspaper gave readers some insight as to their comedic leanings. Like the idea of a "song crop" in 1932. They were on in the morning over WHAS and had found one of their ideas had captured the interest of their listening audience. "They are planting the seeds of little songs, nurturing them tenderly and making them grow up into big, strong songs, which (it is hoped) will also bear seed. The song crop is coming along well, they say, and every day is planting day with Monk and Sam."
In another promotional blurb, it was said that Sam, "a wise man about town" was trying to get Monk a steady job. Monk wanted to marry a gal in his life, but the problem was he wanted to avoid work. Later in the day's station programming they would return with their request period known as "A Little of This and That."
In an interesting tidbit, the Courier-Journal told readers of a story about a fellow that worked in their stockroom, Charles Ferguson, who had a song in his mind, but did not know how to read or write music. Word was he might be a second Bing Crosby. Here's the story from February 1933:
Charles Ferguson is his name and "Rockabye, Lullabye" is his song, "which just came to him" one day when he was "singing around." For two weeks the tune has been floating over the air from WHAS sung by Monk and Sam. Now the song is being printed and already 1,000 orders have come in.
A Fly and a Flea
In another article, readers learn that Monk and Sam were a part of a popular show over WHAS - "Mrs. Randolph's Shopping Guide." In early March 1933, the show had its 1,000th broadcast. Monk and Sam, with their guitars, were the current entertainers on her show, responsible for the "...amusing skits and the harmony songs which are part of every Shopping Guide. Former entertainers on her show included Foster Brooks and Jack Turner.
Shortly after that article, Monk and Same were part of a series of sketches about various stars over WHAS that were featured in "The Courier-Journal Rotogravure Section." The first thing readers learned was the depths of their efforts to appeal to fans. They learned Braille so they could red letters from one of their friends who happened to be blind. They called her every two weeks to take a song and send a cheery word to her.
Sam said they kind of made 50th golden wedding anniversaries a specialty. He said, "You'd be surprised how much fun we have when we're invited to those."
Monk went on, "We haven't been in a night club since we came to Louisville. It sounds like a publicity gag, but we set our greatest pleasure from making shut-ins happy. We've called on almost every hospital in the vicinity, and the only reason we left any out was because we couldn't make arrangements with the directors."
They starred on Mrs. Randolph's Shopping Guide, a popular 8:15am weekday morning show and creators of the sketches listeners heard on the "Valley View Farm" at 11:30 in the morning. They knew the names of more of their fans than any other performers at WHAS before or since.
Monk related, "When we had other work, before we came to radio, we were always ready to try something new, and we quit when our hours were done. Now, we are satisfied with the joy we can give others, and we think nothing of working until 2 o'clock in the morning on a program."
The 1933 article indicated they had started radio work at WAIU in Columbus, Ohio around 1926, commuting from their homes in Zanesville for an experience "...were paid just good scare."
The two met at a "...Grotto minstrel, where Monk sat on a twelve-inch dice in a jockeys suit and inquired, "Who Takes Care Of The Caretaker's Daughter?" and Sam was an end man."
"How did we meet?" Sam repeats. "I sold Monk and old birds eye maple banjo." "Yeah, Monk lamented, you hooked me for 50 bucks." To which Sam said, "And you've been trying to get it back ever since." "To cap the climax," Monk adds, I sold it to a man who never paid me to this day."
Before they became entertainers, Monk was a locomotive machinist and Sam was a dry cleaner. In other words, one put in grease spots while the other took them out.
They decided to tour radio stations to see how that gig worked since they were getting such good responses in the local talent shows. Part of that tour took them to Davenport, Iowa and radio station WOC where reportedly they sang in their studios under rustic boughs bearing stuffed tigers and gaudy birds. They travelled to Cleveland and Richomnd and were having so much fun they almost forgot radio. They visited WKRC in Cincinnati and they were asked to return for an audition. They got a role there as Ray nd Bob doing a commercial. They were at other stations in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis before coming to WHAS and Louisville where they started on a permanent basis February 1, 1932.
In their routines, Monk takes on the role of a "tired, confused, but good-tempered rustic." Sam's role is to make him understand. Monk says, "And can I take it? I don't care how dumb radio listeners think I am, just so they laugh."
To cap their article, Sam said, "One other thing. We always keep our programs clean. We want our friends to be as happy to meet us as we are to meet them.
WNOX — Knoxville, Tennessee
They were known at times a banjo playing duo. Then their act combined fun, chatter and song with a guitar and banjo. When they went to Knoxville, Dr. Hamilton was their sponsor for their morning show selling a mouthwash type (Oral Antiseptic) product. A WNOX promotional piece claimed they had appeared "...before the microphones of over fifty of the leading radio stations throughout the country, presenting their original skits. The "Valley View Song Farm" allowed them to share their experiences and listeners heard the rustic character, "Silas Tewksberry." It was said their "...refreshing morning program will give you many a good old abdominal laugh.
In another promotional item, readers learn more of the "Valley View Farm." It was said to be jointly owned by "Sam, Si, and the pup Emaline." Listeners heard "...good harmony, human philosophy, and down-to-earth humor..." Dr. Hamilton was selling "Clean-o-Dent Tooth Powder."
But Sam Johnson one night left his guitar in an automobile that was parked in front of the radio station one night and a thief removed it from the car. That was the reason why listeners were hearing him pick a banjo on the show the next morning.
Monk was driving the car for the duo one day and passed or missed a stop sign. Monk told the court he didn't notice the sign on Broadway. The amiable judge said, "Well, sing me a song tonight. And pay $3 right up here. They were not the only ones having to pay for that mistake. The police had pulled two others over for passing that same stop sign in somewhat of a crack down.
Bert Vincent told readers that you hear a comedian over WNOX named Monk or if they saw the show in person on the Midday Merry-Go-Round, he is the derby-hatted big-mouthed one. But it wasn't always laughs for Monk. His partner, Sam, was in the hospital for about 9 weeks. Just about every night, Monk stopped by to visit Sam. He laughed, talked and 'cut monkey-shines' to cheer up his old pal. Sam was suffering from sciatica rheumatism, with pain being unendurable at times. But Monk said he was improving and thought they would be working together again.
In 1938, WNOX promotional ads in the local newspaper started to include a rhyme sent in by readers in their ads. Consider these:
Traveling to gigs in the early days for radio entertainers was not always a pleasant experience. Bert Vincent told readers of his "Strolling" column one December as they were promoting their annual Christmas holiday promotion about one such experience by Monk and Sam who he felt were one of the best at getting people in the holiday spirit for donations.
"Not so long ago Monk and Sam had been putting on a show at a mountain school house north of Williamsburg, KY. They were returning to Knoxville. Their car chugged into a mud hole. They couldn't get out. Step on the gas and the wheels would spin, and that's all. Finally Sam said to Monk that he guessed he'd have to find a farmer and a horse to pull them out.
|Sam||Say Monk, old Cholly Benn has invited us to be guest artists on the Top Ten today. What do you think of that?|
|Monk||Old stuff for me! I've guessed on everythin' goin'. Why one time Big Ben had me guessin' on what time the train come in at our home town. 'n' I said —|
|Sam||Ten Ten, I suppose.|
|Monk||Nope. I guessed Thursday but it didn't git in till the next Monday.|
|Sam||This isn't a train schedule so your one track mind could hardly be expected to know much about schedules of radio programs. Or did you know radio programs have schedules?|
|Monk||I knowed there was sumpin' wrong with 'em. Can't they scratch'em off—|
|Sam||I might have known you wouldn't understand. Now, just look at the schedule for this evening and tonight. Why at 5:45, 'Sophie Tucker and her Show' ... Sophie Tucker, blonde singer of the blues, who croons in your ear "Some of These Days," and then leaves you with the reminder that "An Auto A Day Is Given Away." That's Sophie Tucker — 5:45.|
|Monk||U had a girl named Sophie one time. She kinda crooned a bit, too. I had a swell auto, too. I used to take Sophie fer rides in my auto 'n' she'd keep hummin'' 'n' croonin' "Some Of These Days" till I sorta got what she was meaning by "Some of These Days."|
|Sam||I see. She crooned to you and you planned on marrying the girl?|
|Monk||Yeh! I sure did. But she turned me down, run out on me.|
|Sam||She left you? What happened to your swell auto?|
|Monk||Sophie Tucker. (Get it? "Sophie took-er.")|
|Sam||Say, this is really radio night tonight. Paul Whiteman's on the air at 7:30 to 8:00, featuring Joan Edwards and Clark Dennis and the Modernaires. They've just come back from a trip to Chicago, New Orleans and way down to Tampa's Gasparilla Festival.|
|Monk||Aw, who wants to tramp way down there for a sarsaparilla. I'll stay home and have a choc'late soda.|
|Sam||Tonight's a good night for it then. Star Theatre is on from 8:00 to 9:00. Frances Langford and Kenny Baker singing. Ned Sparks and Charlie Ruggles for comedians. Ken Murray as Master of Ceremonies. And they're starring Constance Bennett in the play "Processional." How would you like to be a new star sometime?|
|Monk||Nope! I wouldn't want to be a star nohow cause it takes too long for your light to be seen on earth.|
|Sam||Well, here's a new star and a brand new production in radio. "Raymond Paige. 99 Men and a Girl," from 9:00 to 9:30. They're featuring the old black folk tune, "Shadrack," and "The Merry Widow Waltz," and Hildegarde is singing "The Night Is Young And You Are So Beautiful." 99 Men and a Girl! I believe he's got something there — Raymond Paige.|
|Monk||That's nuthin' at all. You just me 99 girls 'n' Monk. 'n' it won't be a Paige; I'll make it a whole book.|
|Sam||You just don't know good radio programs when you hear them.|
|Monk||I reckon I do! I listen at the Mid Day Merry-Go-Round!|
|Sam||Now you're talking. But I wonder who is the most important part of the Merry-Go-Round in your estimation?|
|Monk||That's easy. I kin tell you —|
|Sam||No! No! Let Me guess. (I'm a guess star, too) Is It Lowell Blanchard?|
|Sam||Hmmmm! The String Dusters?|
|Monk||Nope! Not the string busters.|
|Sam||Gene McGhee or Tony Musco? Or the Vaughan Four?|
|Sam||Let's see. Harry Nides, or the Arizona Ranch Girls?|
|Sam||That's all I can think of. Oh, wait a minute. You mean Monk & Sam?|
|Sam||Why, Monk, I've named everybody on the program. Then who do you think gets the most results?|
|Monk||Walter, the boy what cleans up. He gets all the dirt.|
|Sam||WNOX has some new programs on the morning schedule. The Cheer Up Boys at 9:00 o'clock. And by the way, did you know the Vaughan Four have a program "Songs of Security" at 6:00 each morning?|
|Monk||Sure, I know it. Didn't Stacy Abner tell me he had to stay up all night himself to get the boys out in time for it each morning?|
|Sam||They certainly do have a fine program. Hymns as only they can sing them. Do you listen to Mary Lee Taylor's program at 10:00 o'clock in the a. m. ? Just look at this recipe of hers for Marble Cake with fudge icing! Maybe you'd better tune in tomorrow morning at ten and get it direct from Miss Taylor.|
|Monk||Shucks! I'll fix you up some stuff for a real marble cake. I'll even bake you a pie.|
|Sam||Monk, I know you've got the crust to try it, but to bake a cake you have know about good icing and I'm sure you wouldn't know how to put shortening into anything, let alone a pie.|
|Monk||I reckon I know all about them things 'cause I sing on the Mid-Day Merry-Go-Round 'n' I'll show you how to put shortenin' in right now 'n' make it "So Long."|
Bert Vincent was telling readers of how crazy mixups happened with folks in the military service. He related Monk Hansen's experience which nearly landed him an overseas assignment. Monk was rated a clerk. Bert writes that Monk and 76 other clerks were shipped to a port for departure. They were informed that in two weeks, the would be at sea with a convoy. But shortly before departure, the commanding officer took note of what was part of his crew. He called someone in Washington, DC. He asked someone what he as going to do with the 76 clerks under his command. But the response he got was that the clerks that had been shipped to his POE had already gone overseas. But the CO told him, they were still here and under his command and wanted to know what he was going to do with them. The voice at the other end of the phone said, "Hold them until further notice." Monk told Bert that was as close as he came to being shipped out. He put in an application for release under the War Department order for "over-38-years-old" guideline. Indeed, he got his release and went to work for a machiner company on Sevier Avenue.
Unfortunately, research has not found much about their time in Nashville and on the Grand Ole Opry. 1940 Census records do show them living in Nashville at the time.
It seems that out of state newspapers were fed information about the artists appearing on the Opry and even the songs they would sing on a given evening. On December 9, 1939, the Birmingham News (AL) told readers in a short paragraph that Monk and Sam were to sing "When I You Hoo In The Valley" and "Peggy O'Neal."
Monk and Sam journeyed to Scottsboro, Alabama for an appearance at the Ritz Theatre on December 13, 1939 along with the Andrews Brothers and George Wilkerson.
At the end of 1939, a Knoxville newspaper was reporting that Monk and Sam along with another former WNOX performers, Pee Wee king and his Golden West Cowboys were going to Hollywood with other WSM Grand Ole Opry stars to make a movie.
On February 2, 1940, the Circleville Herald in Ohio reported that Monk and Sam (a song and banjo duet) would be on the Opry that night and sing "The Little Tin Lizzie" and "Ida Red." Ford Rush was to sing "Memories;" Uncle Dave Macon would render "Nobody's Business;" and Roy Acuff was scheduled to perform "Love Somebody."
It appears the two of them went their separate ways towards the end of 1940, ending a partnership of about 15 years.
Samuel Johnson passed away after a short illness in May of 1956 in Franklin, Indiana. He was buried in his hometown of Zanesville, Ohio. He married Violet Marie Adams (B: June 2, 1914 — D: May 7, 2002) of Franklin, Indiana. She is buried in Franklin, Indiana. Samuel's obituary did not mention Violet but did mention the children they had. The Indianapolis Star reported that the couple had taken out a marriage license on August 21, 1934; he was living in Louisville, KY at the time. She died in 2002 and her obituary does mention her marriage to Samuel. Sam had worked for 11 years with Arvin Industries, Inc.
Charles Olaf (Monk) Hansen Jr. died in Knoxville, Tennessee in August 1949. He had lived in Knoxville the previous eight years working for the Power Equipment Company. He was buried in Zanesville, Ohio. He died of a heart attack though he had been ill the previous days but still showed up at work. He had recently married his wife, Nina Eunola Bailey. They were married in Knoxville on October 25, 1947. Lowell Blanchard was best man; Nina's sister, Mrs. Charlotte B. Winn of Huntsville,TN was made of honor. Charles had served in the U. S. Army for a year during World War II. She had worked in the disbursing office of the U. S. Naval Air Station in Fort Lauderdale. They took a honeymoon trip to Georgia and Florida.
Credits & Sources
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