Come on everybody, get ready to go, this is the Brush Creek Follies show! There’s singing and dancing and fun galore, and maybe if you whoop and holler we will do some more! Saturday night in Kansas City was a night of comedy, singing, dancing, and pure entertainment for the public provided by the local variety show, the Brush Creek Follies. Similar to the Grand Ole Opry, this live radio program showcased western-style musicians, comedians, and the occasional special guest. Thanks to the Arthur B. Church collection available in the Marr Sound Archives, you can have access to the shows that aired in 1941 as well as a select few others.
The 1941 season of BCF was smack dab in the middle of World War II, but you could hardly tell because of the excitement the show brought every Saturday night. Each week, BCF had a theme, which gave the performers a central focus for their weekly material. Some themes were targeted towards a certain population of listeners, such as “Irish night”, “Kid’s night,” or “Couple’s night.” Other themed nights were celebratory, such as the 3rd anniversary of Colorado Pete, a yodeling cowboy. My personal favorite, “Beaver’s night,” entailed all the men not shaving throughout the week, and a contest was even held to find the longest whiskers in the audience. What made the show successful were the performers, who all had extremely devoted fans. Kit and Kay, twin singing cowgirls, were especially popular and often received flowers and gifts from audience members.
The show’s regular performers appealed to all ages: a favorite for the kids was ventriloquist Kenny Carlson and his dummy, Scrappy O’Brien; the older generation could listen to the “Remember Time” segment, in which singing couple, Smokey Parker and Penny Lynn would sing “oldies but goodies;” and you could hear young girls literally swooning over the singing cowboy groups, like the Oklahoma Wranglers and Rocky and Rusty. Of all the acts that I had heard, nothing was quite as original and still mysterious as Little Mary’s comedy skit, often done with BCF co-host, Charlie Napier. What makes Little Mary mysterious is that I haven’t figured out just what she is. I have created this idea that she is either a man dressed up like a little girl or a puppet. All the same, her high-pitched voice and constant antagonizing Napier is very amusing. Click here to listen to an excerpt from the show.[audio:http://info.umkc.edu/specialcollections/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/2012-01-24_BrushCreek1_Church_kmbc-757.mp3|titles=Kenny and Scrappy]
Coming up in the second installment of this two-part Brush Creek Follies special, we will look at some super-talented musicians and the catchphrases that I couldn’t forget if I tried.
Gabby Tuttle, KMBC Project staff/Liberal Arts (BA) student
For more photos, information, and audio clips on the Brush Creek Follies, visit the Brush Creek Follies web exhibit.