Content sharing in the ’30s

It’s probably 16 inches wide, and you hold it carefully by the edges. It could be made of glass or aluminum, coated with black cellulose nitrate. If you’re lucky the coating hasn’t started flaking off yet. Alternatively it might be made of vinyl, like an LP, but bigger. It plays at 33 1/3 RPM, holds 15 minutes of recorded sound, and was a key tool in the development of syndicated radio programming in the United States. We’re talking about transcription discs.

lacquer_metal

Picture 1 of 4

A cellulose nitrate over aluminum transcription disc. Note where the coating has flaked off. When that happens, that part of the recording is lost.

In the 1920s, radio stations needed a way to replicate and share programming consistently. They weren’t allowed to play commercially released records on-air because musician’s unions believed that hurt record sales. So radio content had to come from somewhere else. Live broadcast was inconsistent, time consuming, and expensive. Not every radio station could afford to have its own in-house musical groups, but all stations wanted to attract more listeners. At this time the first radio networks were beginning to form. The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) was created in 1926, and Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) was formed in 1927. As these networks made more programming and acquired more satellite stations, they needed a way to distribute programming. Larger radio stations were creating programming of their own that they wanted to share with the networks. In short, there was a huge market for pre-recorded radio programming, but distribution of content was still a major hurdle. Transcription discs were the solution.

By the 1930s, transcription disc recorders had become ubiquitous at larger radio stations. Program producers were able to pre-record a program, make copies, and distribute it to other radio stations for future broadcast. This meant that stations in networks could all get the same programs. Individual stations could also add out-of-network programming to their repertoire by purchasing them from distributors. A station could also record its own unique local program using transcription discs, and then re-use it later. As a result, small stations could avoid the expense of live programs. Bigger stations and networks could get their shows to a wider audience. This meant listeners in Boston, Kansas City, and San Francisco could hear the same program at the same time. The ability share programming is a big reason why radio contributed to the growth of popular culture across America. To paraphrase Marr Sound Archives director Chuck Haddix, “radio was like the internet” because it brought people closer through information sharing. Everybody got to hear the same radio programs and news broadcasts, giving people similar cultural and political knowledge. We take this for granted today. Imagine for a moment a conversation with someone from two or three states away. They hadn’t heard Adele’s latest song or weren’t able to listen to that Ted Talk that enthralled you. Of course the opposite would be true as well. Its 75 degrees here in Kansas City. What snow storm in Ohio? That political protest in Washington that they went to? You had no idea until weeks later. Certainly newspapers allowed content-sharing, but radio was a huge leap forward, and it’s largely thanks to the humble transcription disc. One of the big 1930s radio stations that made a lot of transcription discs was KMBC here in Kansas City. Many of these discs are now held in the Marr Sound Archives.

KMBC joined CBS in 1928 as the 16th affiliated station. In 1930 station moved to the eleventh floor of the Pickwick Hotel. Under the direction of Arthur B. Church, KMBC became a model for other stations. Church and KMBC produced a wide variety of syndicated shows which were recorded on transcription discs and then distributed. One of these programs was the Texas Rangers. Another example from the KMBC collection that highlights the importance of transcription discs is a recording of one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “fireside chats.” The recording can be heard below. It was made by CBS at the White House on May 2, 1943. It was then presumably broadcast by all CBS network stations, including KMBC. FDR could not have reached the entire country without transcription disc technology.

Sources

Museum of Broadcast Communications. Encyclopedia of Radio. Edited by Christopher Sterling. Vol. 3. London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004.

 

Tales from the Archives: Disc(h)ord on the Ranch

In October 2012, the Marr Sound Archives completed an 18-month National Endowment for the Humanities grant to catalog and preserve the nearly 3,000 broadcast recordings in the Arthur B. Church KMBC Radio Collection. Please enjoy this series of anecdotes recounting the unusual discoveries and amusing happenings in the course of working with this collection.

This is the fourth in a series of Tales from the Archives.

Disc(h)ord on the Ranch

The KMBC Texas Rangers

The KMBC Texas Rangers “Gentlemen in the White Hats.” Credit: Arthur B. Church KMBC Radio Collection, Marr Sound Archives, University of Missouri-Kansas City.

It seemed like everyone on the project team had discovered some new interest when working with the collection. One student became so engrossed in the developing drama on the show Vic and Sade, she hoarded all the discs to herself. For me, it was the Western swing group, The KMBC Texas Rangers. The unedited cuts of this musical octet perfectly demonstrate the unique chemistry the group had. It was hard not to be captivated by them, with names like: Clarence “Idaho” Hartman (bass fiddle), Gomer “Tenderfoot” Cool (fiddle), Joe “Monty” Strand (accordion), Herbie “Arizona” Kratoska (guitar and banjo), Fran “Irish” Mahaney (tenor), Rod “Dave” May (tenor), Robert “Captain Bob” Crawford (baritone), and Edward “Tucson” or “Tookie” Cronenbold (bass).

Garbed in Western wear, topped with classic white hats, their versatile musical repertoire included hymns, cowboy songs, novelty, and western swing. When I guest lectured for the Conservatory (UMKC), I ended with the Texas Rangers’ rendition of “Hand me down my walking cane” which inevitably got stuck in everyone’s head. It’s entertaining and hopefully served as a distraction from the terrible guest lecture they just sat through.

Tex Owens

Image above: Tex Owens, the original Texas Ranger? Image courtesy of Orlene “Kit” Johnson and Irene “Kay” Dierks.

As we soon discovered, the Texas Rangers weren’t without their own drama. In their early radio programs, they were often fronted by special guest, Tex Owens. Owens, who played guitar and sang with the group on occasion, was never officially a member, but somehow left his mark in history as “The Original Texas Ranger.” There seemed to be a great deal of tension between Tex and the boys which reached its climax when Texas Governor, James V. Allred, commissioned the musical group The Texas Rangers, along with Tex Owens, as honorary members of the state’s famed law enforcement group. The honor bestowed upon the Rangers prompted them to compose an interoffice memo expressing their disappointment that Tex would be honored alongside them considering he had not been a member. The memo also included some disagreements between the group and Tex. You can read more about this controversy, see the original memo, and learn of the outcome from a blog post written by one of the project students: Tex Owens: A Case of Mistaken Identity?

Find out more about the Church-KMBC collection.

Tales from the Archives: Happy Hollow is a Real Place

In October 2012, the Marr Sound Archives completed an 18-month National Endowment for the Humanities grant to catalog and preserve the nearly 3,000 broadcast recordings in the Arthur B. Church KMBC Radio Collection. Please enjoy this series of anecdotes recounting the unusual discoveries and amusing happenings in the course of working with this collection.

This is the third in a series of Tales from the Archives.

Happy Hollow is a Real Place

Happy Hollow cast

Happy Hollow cast and others, including Brookings Montgomery, outside entrance to Pickwick Hotel at the start of troupe’s European and African tour. Credit: Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri.

Rural programming was pretty common in the 1930s and ‘40s, and KMBC had its own in the town of Happy Hollow which gave listeners a peek into the daily lives of Aunt Lucindy, Uncle Ezra, Harry Checkervest, George Washington White (their own blackface character), and other town folk, along with musical interludes by the Humdinger Quartet.The program’s creator, Ted Malone, would have a long and successful career in radio broadcasting, mostly known for his storytelling and poetry reading, and as we later discovered by going through his fan mail,  he was very popular with the housewives…in an uncomfortable way.

Listeners engrossed in the goings-on of Happy Hollow could find out more by subscribing to the newsletter Happy Hollow Bugle. We came upon the newsletter when I sent my most enthusiastic student upstairs to Special Collections to see if he could find out more about the program, specifically, what radio actors were cast in the various roles. My instructions were simple: Look over the finding aid and pull whatever seems like it might contain some information about the show. I figured this wouldn’t take long since there didn’t appear to be much in the Church-KMBC Collection finding aid. About ten minutes in, I received a phone call from my very excited student telling me that one of the Special Collections staff pulled a newsletter called Happy Hollow Bugle from the Ted Malone Collection, and that there was all kinds of helpful information in it. Relieved that he had found something useful, I instructed him to gather up the relevant data for identifying the characters in the show.

Over an hour passed by, and just as I was beginning to wonder what was going on, he walked in. I saw him from a distance, all wide-eyed, headed straight toward me clutching a pencil and papers in his left hand, and I thought, “This is it. He’s going to tell me how he hit the jackpot of details on this show, and I might even be able to establish some names in the authority file.” He had spent an hour and a half in the archives, after all. But instead, he approached and exclaimed, “Happy Hollow is a real place!” As I was laughing (hard), he proceeded to tell me about the legal troubles that Uncle Ezra had found himself in, how some of the townsfolk had traveled to Africa, and other documented occurrences that had convinced him of its realness.

Tried and tried as I might to crush his new-found beliefs so suddenly (e.g., “So there’s just a guy in town who likes to walk around in blackface?”), he remained convinced and I remained amused. The good news: we were able to identify some of the actors. In fairness to my student, the cast of Happy Hollow and other KMBC stars did tour Europe and Africa. Kudos to KMBC for blending fiction and reality in their marketing so effortlessly. They had at least one person convinced 80 years later!

Find out more about the Church-KMBC collection.

Tales from the Archives: The Stampers Under the Stairs

In October 2012, the Marr Sound Archives completed an 18-month National Endowment for the Humanities grant to catalog and preserve the nearly 3,000 broadcast recordings in the Arthur B. Church KMBC Radio Collection. Please enjoy this series of anecdotes recounting the unusual discoveries and amusing happenings in the course of working with this collection.

This is the second in a series of Tales from the Archives.

The Stampers Under the Stairs (Not Surprisingly, Full of Spiders)

Disc stampers in crates

Stampers in original crates. Spiders, too. Credit: Arthur B. Church KMBC Radio Collection, Marr Sound Archives, University of Missouri-Kansas City

Shortly after I had hired the project students, I received that news that we all dread hearing. It goes something like, “Oh, by the way, we found a bunch more stuff that belongs to that collection you’re cataloging for that grant.” Ours was more like: “Oh, by the way, we found a bunch of metal stampers at the bottom of a stairwell. I think there’s about 1,000 of them, and they all belong to the KMBC collection.” Actually, it was exactly like that (and there were 1,400 of them). But since I’m always up for a challenge, I came up with a workflow, drew up some guidelines, and unleashed one of my deadliest students. She was a quick-witted graduate Public History major armed with a vast knowledge of home health remedies, construction cleanup experience, and a nice Southern accent with a “no bull” attitude who drank her French press coffee black. She was perfect for the job.

I often walked into the dusty space she was working in to check on her. I felt bad for subjecting her to all the dust and forcing her to handle the heavy stampers, but she didn’t complain much about it. She had accepted the job and planned on doing it right. As it turns out though, some complaint was warranted. About two weeks in, I received a call from the head of the sound archive informing me that they had sent the student back upstairs and she was forbidden to re-enter the space until it had been bug bombed. I was confused. What had happened? Apparently, when asked how things were going, the student casually mentioned the brown recluses crawling out of the crates. That generated an appropriate response of alarm and concern for the safety and health of the student and the archives staff. Her response: “I was just killin’ ‘em with two by fours. I had planned to keep killin’ ‘em.” Like I said. Deadly.

Find out more about the Church-KMBC collection.

Tales from the Archives: The untimely death of KMBC producer, Fran Heyser

In October 2012, the Marr Sound Archives completed an 18-month National Endowment for the Humanities grant to catalog and preserve the nearly 3,000 broadcast recordings in the Arthur B. Church KMBC Radio Collection. I served as the project cataloger, managed three students, and coordinated with sound archives staff on the preservation and digital reformatting of the recordings. When asked to write a special feature article for the Music Library Association Newsletter, an informal publication of MLA, I pondered what I should focus on. First, I thought it might be sensible to highlight some unique items in the collection or maybe talk a little about the project, but then I realized that I don’t normally make any sense, and when I do, it puts everyone to sleep. Instead, I decided to focus on a series of anecdotes recounting the unusual discoveries and amusing happenings in the course of working with this collection.

This is the first in a series of Tales from the Archives.

The untimely death of KMBC producer, Fran Heyser

Clipping of report on Heyser's murder

Clipping of report on Heyser’s murder. In other important news, the local stamp club is meeting!

Just over two years ago, I found myself driving by the Pickwick Hotel at 10th and McGee Streets in downtown Kansas City. I wish I could say that I did this to satiate some intellectual curiosity to see the building in which former president Harry S. Truman wrote his autobiographical Pickwick Papers; or that I did it to fulfill a romantic notion that I should see that place which once housed the penthouse headquarters of radio station KMBC, the station whose collection I had been cataloging for the past several months. It was for neither of those reasons I ventured out on that inconspicuous evening.

The truth is hard to admit. In the midst of working with the Arthur B. Church KMBC Radio Collection, I had run across KMBC program producer and sometimes announcer, Fran Heyser, and as any good cataloger is wont to do, I set about establishing his name in the LC/NACO Name Authority File (basically, a huge registry of names). When I discovered in horror that he had been beaten to death with a metal table lamp at the Pickwick, I had the irresistible urge to investigate. I recently learned that this abandoned hotel is slated for redevelopment as apartments for “young urbanites.” Imagine them moving in with their reclaimed wood coffee tables and vegan faux leather couches (Hey, wait. I have these things…), having no idea their new apartment could be haunted by the ghost of Fran Heyser. I would totally watch that episode of Paranormal Witness on SyFy.

KMBC producer, Fran Heyser

KMBC producer, Fran Heyser

What didn’t occur to me when writing this short anecdote was that the living relatives of Fran might see the article and contact me. All praise the glory of the Interwebs! [which also terrifies me] So when I received an email from the niece of Fran Heyser who had been directed to my article by her cousin, I have to admit to being a bit nervous to open the email. After all, I had told the story of her uncle’s murder in such a casual and darkly humorous way (debate on whether any of the three readers found it humorous). But much to my relief, she had contacted me to inquire about additional information concerning her uncle, who she had only known through the stories that her grandmother and mother had shared. When I sent her a digital copy of his autographed photograph (shown here) and links to every audio recording that we had involving her uncle in some way, she expressed gratitude and even excitement, as she immediately recognized her uncle in the photograph. It was a relief that in my rare act of public service (it’s best that I’m kept behind heavy wooden doors) and in our Archives’ effort to preserve and provide access to the unique and valuable materials we hold, we had managed to provide family members a renewed interest and connection to the artifacts documenting the activities of a relative whose death was truly tragic.

Find out more about the Church-KMBC collection.

Contributed by Sandy Rodriguez, Special Collections Metadata Librarian

“Zion’s New Friend” – Radio Station KLDS

Number Two in an Occasional Series of Odd and Obscure Periodicals.

Early studio at KLDS.

Early studio at KLDS.

KLDS Control Room

KLDS Control Room

Battery Room

Battery Room

KLDS Orchestry

KLDS Orchestra

KLDS Studio

KLDS Studio

Autumn Leaves was a monthly magazine published for the youth of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (since 2001 knows as Community of Christ).  The publication was produced from 1888 through 1928 out of Independence, Missouri.  The October 1926 issue was almost entirely dedicated to the church’s radio station, KLDS.

First Presidency member Elbert A. Smith penned an ode to the station entitled “Zion’s New Friend” that appears at the beginning of the magazine, setting the tone for the remainder of the publication:

“Free from the slumber that bound him so long,
Radio leaps to the air with a song;
Taking his journey from Zion’s high tower,
Bearing his message in haste, yet with pow’r…

…Roused from the slumber that held him since dawn,
Radio leaps to the air and is gone!
Go, thou bright messenger, Zion’s new friend,
Preach thou the gospel till time shall have end.”

At the time this issue was published, radio broadcasting was still a relatively new phenomenon.  One of Kansas City’s premier radio pioneers, Arthur B. Church, was the guiding force behind the implementation of KLDS.  Referred to as “A.B.C.”, Church contributed two articles to the magazine, detailing the development of KLDS from a small, weak station to a broadcasting powerhouse.

Programming was predominantly musical in nature, and the numerous musicians associated with KLDS are pictured throughout this issue.  Broadcasts of Sunday services were routine, and in the winter months lectures courses and special sermons were offered.

By 1927 Church has secured a separate license for KLDS – which, according to Autumn Leaves, stood for “Knowledge, Liberty, Divinity, Service” – and it then became Midland Broadcasting Company.  A second license was obtained for a commercial station, KMBC, with which Church found even greater success.  Much more about his work at KMBC can be found here.

Wartime woes with Whitehouse

Vic & SadeNowadays, the experience of living in a country at war often appears to affect only those Americans whose friends and family members deploy to combat zones. In the 1940s, however, the experience of war pervaded nearly every aspect of everyday life in America. For people living during those dark times, listening to Vic & Sade — one of America’s most beloved radio dramas — was no exception. The show, which centered on the life of a married suburban couple, Victor and Sade Gook, and their adopted son, Rush, had been extremely popular among radio listeners for almost a decade prior to America’s entrance into the Second World War. The demands of the war, however, quickly tested the program’s durability. According to Wikipedia:

“During World War II, the actor who played Rush, Bill Idelson, was called into military service, and he left the show. The spring months of 1943 were a tumultuous period, but eventually a second son figure, Russell Miller (David Whitehouse), was brought in, and the program continued as it always had. The show faltered somewhat with Whitehouse, who sounded as if he was reading his lines aloud in school. Idelson later returned as Rush.”

The Arthur B. Church collection contains numerous episodes of Vic & Sade from the program’s later years on the air. While cataloging, we’ve come across only one episode from the Whitehouse run. Nevertheless, it was enough to convince us of the fairness of Wikipedia’s assessment. Listen to a sample here. [audio:http://info.umkc.edu/specialcollections/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/2012-03-22_VicSade_Church_kmbc-258.mp3|titles=Vic and Sade]

It might be a stretch to propose that the failure of this substitution led to the discontinuation of the show only shortly after Bill Idelson’s return in 1945. Nevertheless, listening to the sample that you’ve just heard lead us to believe that it contributed to what was likely a premature end.

Christina Tomlinson, KMBC Project staff/History (MA) student

Tex Owens: A case of mistaken identity?

As he is often referred to as the “Original Tex OwensTexas Ranger,” it is commonly assumed that Tex Owens was an original member of the Texas Rangers, a western music group from the Kansas City-based radio station KMBC who became nationally recognized stars in the 1930s and 1940s.

Understandably, it is easy to make that assumption when programs featuring the Texas Rangers such as “Life on Red Horse Ranch” featured Tex and his serenading of the “dogies” in nearly every episode. However, the Texas Rangers radio program, hosted by Hiram Higsby, never referred to Tex as a member but rather as a special guest. So what was it? Was Tex Owens the “Original Texas Ranger” or was he an associated act? Well, it depends on whom you ask.

Thankfully, due to a recent discovery in the LaBudde Special Collections here at UMKC, we can learn more about this question. Tex Owens, at least according to the Texas Rangers, was not a member of the group, but rather a popular musical affiliate. In January 1939, Governor James Allred of Texas planned to honor the members of the group–Tex Owens included–by declaring them Honorary Texas Rangers during a radio broadcast. This inclusion of Tex in the honor was not well-received by the Rangers and their jug and bass player Clarence Hartman sent an internal memo on behalf of the group to Stuart Eggleston, a member of Arthur B. Church’s senior staff, expressing their frustrations. Hartman opened the letter by stating that the Texas Rangers were disappointed that the honor was being shared by “someone whom [they considered] entirely outside [of their] group.” He also added that they, and the listeners, felt that Tex hadn’t “added anything” to the broadcasts, and that it was unfair to the other Rangers to promote him as a member of the group.

The next paragraph is particularly interesting, as Hartman claimed that on a number of occasions Tex made damaging statements about the Rangers to people outside of the group. On one occasion, Hartman stated that following a poor radio performance by Tex he overheard Tex telling two other employees that none of the Rangers would help him improve, an allegation which Hartman flatly denied. Lastly, Hartman clarified Tex’s member status by adding that the “old timers” at the station asserted that Tex “never, at any time, has been a member of the Texas Ranger group.” Tex himself made that claim to membership, according to Hartman, and any doubts of these facts should be conferred with Gomer Cool, the Rangers’ violinist who had been a long-time employee of KMBC.

How was this letter received, you ask? Luckily, we know that too. We can assume that in the business of radio, Arthur B. Church made his decisions based on what would attract the most sponsors and listeners, and as the honoring of the Rangers was surely broadcasted over a vast audience, the matter had to be handled delicately. Church’s remark, penciled at the bottom of Hartman’s memo, demonstrated an unwillingness to ruffle feathers, as well as an assurance that all decisions were going to be made for the benefit of the station regardless of the feelings of individual members:

Stu — It is my feeling that the group has nothing to lose by having Tex included, and it means as much to him as to any person in the group; and even more important[ly] — is valuable to KMBC. — ABC, 1/10/39

Christina Tomlinson, KMBC Project staff/History (MA) student

More memorable moments with the Brush Creek gang!

Midland MinstrelsThe Brush Creek Follies may have easily been classified as a western rural variety show, and to an extent, that’s exactly what it was. However, quite a few musicians featured on the Brush Creek Follies did not devote their musical abilities exclusively to hillbilly and western music. Such groups as the Midland Minstrels (pictured right), Harvest Hands, Judy Allen, and the Payne Sisters all performed songs that appealed to novelty and popular music crowds. These musicians were incredibly good, especially the multi-talented Charlie Pryor, originally a member of the Midland Minstrels and later affiliated with the Tune Chasers. Listen to an excerpt displaying the versatility of the musicians on the Brush Creek Follies.[audio:http://info.umkc.edu/specialcollections/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/2012-02-13_BrushCreek2_Church_kmbc-785.mp3|titles=Whatcha know Joe]

In addition to the great musical performances, the show presented familiarity to its listeners with the use of catchphrases by certain cast members. Here are just a few that have been burned into my mind after many hours of listening:

“Well for gosh sakes!” — Scrappy O’Brien, Kenny Carlson’s ventriloquist dummy, would always follow this catchphrase with a laugh and the occasional “Aw, shucks.” The “gosh” part of this catchphrase could last a good five seconds.

“Now cut it out, will ya?!” and “No foolin’…” — “Radio’s original rube” Hiram Higsby always had something clever to say or do during the show. Playing the part of the emcee for the Brush Creek Follies, he also announced most of the performances and was a regular part of the comedy routines, which often included these two catchphrases.

The laugh of Rube Wintersuckle — Think of what it would sound like if while driving, you rolled over a series of bumps while laughing. This is exactly what Rube Wintersuckle’s trademark laugh sounded like. Playing a red-headed hillbilly, Wintersuckle tended to come off as brainless because of his appearance and demeanor, but in the end, he always had the last laugh (no pun intended).

“Oh man…” and “Ain’t you hear?” — Probably the most discriminating and cringe-worthy of all of the Brush Creek catchphrases would be George Washington White and his black-faced comedy routine.

“Timber, timber, timber, timber!” — Similar to the way the Three Stooges harmoniously sang their hellos, Rocky and Rusty always introduced their songs with their own theme song.

“Uncle Charlie!” — Little Mary, a latecomer to the 1941 season, always brought about big laughs from the audience with her high-pitched voice, and we may never know why or what she looked like.

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.

Memorable moments with the Brush Creek gang

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.