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.

“NAN WAS A SOLID GAS”…….. David Basse

nan hill2David Basse is one of Kansas City’s best-known contemporary jazz artists. During his tenure broadcasting at Kansas Public Radio in Lawrence, he met Nan Hill, a devout listener and dynamo with unfettered knowledge of the Blues and Jazz Scene. She would come to write the radio host often. She composed her letters as she listened to Basse’s show on the radio and critique his programs as she felt she needed to. This Jazz Aficionada took her job as Mr. Basse’s appointed co-pilot quite seriously. Never could this radio host have imagined, while spreading inspiration with the power of music throughout the airwaves, that he in turn would be galvanized by the passion of this dear soul reaching back to him. Following is a moving tribute by David honoring Nan after her passing.

1 June 2012
Nan Hill
I programmed a jazz tribute to Nan Hill on Kansas Public Radio last night. The evening sounded a lot like other jazz programming on KPR, yet she would have known the difference: Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Kurt Elling, Ahmad Alaadeen… music that Nan might have labeled “Nothing but class, and three solid hours of it – a symphony,” she used to say in her weekly handwritten letters to me at the station. I have every one of Nan’s letters saved meticulously – in the order she sent them. Most have been archived in my section of the LaBudde Special Collections at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Nan knew her jazz. She loved to listen to the radio while lying down, in order to REALLY LISTEN. Living in Lawrence, Kansas, her favorite shows were hosted by Bob McWilliams, Bob Parlocha, and me. Nan was a lifelong listener of jazz radio, and over the years, she named her all-time favorite hosts to me in her extensive letters. She listened to programming on KPR, sleeping and awake – something that I began doing as a teenager, to get jazz by osmosis, get it into my soul. Nan was the only other person I have ever met who could relate to that: listening to jazz while sleeping. We discovered many such similarities over the past few years.

Nan Hill was my co-pilot. I called her that on air when I needed to let her know that the next song, or preceding song, was played in answer to a request or comment that she had made in her weekly letter. That’s just how Nan and I rolled. If I took a new turn, and played some blues, she responded. If I played two ballads in a row – Dexter Gordon, or whatever, she knew, and she knew that I had programmed that with her in mind. Often times after programming a show, in the comfort of the air studio, I would have the time to savor Nan’s weekly letter, and would be surprised to read that she had requested the very same songs that I had programmed. We were completely in tune. If you are a close friend of Nan’s, or a family member, I may even know when you called her on a Saturday afternoon. Nan always gave me a complete rundown of what I had played and when, until someone who “wasn’t hip to jazz” happened to call and take her away from her “work,” which was listening to and commenting on my show. There was no messing around going on in this relationship. It was a jazz union. I tried, back in 2004, to get her to email me so I could respond in real time, but, Nan wrote letters, on yellow legal paper, stuffed into number 10 envelopes. The letters were “old school,” like the music she loved. I responded with a few letters a year to attempt to balance out the volumes that she put out in my honor. If she felt bad, which she often did, she would send a simple card with Billie Holiday or Charlie Parker on it, and a short note: “Stay hip,” or “Great show, you
are the hippest” ~Nan.

I miss Nan Hill more than anyone will know. She was my co-pilot; she was Ms. C.P. – in David-Bassereference to the John Coltrane composition Mr. P.C. The song was written for Paul Chambers, Trane’s long-time bassist, and I realized last night how much Chambers is the star of that piece, driving everyone in the band to perform fabulous solos without being featured himself. That’s a jazz thing. That is exactly what Nan did each week with her solid devotion to me and my colleagues: she pushed the music along, influencing us without getting in the way. Nan fell by the station for a visit once when her granddaughter was in town from California. Nan was dressed like Norma Desmond, with black sunglasses and a brocade wrap around her head. I know she was training her granddaughter to listen to jazz by insisting on the outing. The two of them sat quietly in the studio and watched me program the entire afternoon. From then on, the weekly letters not only included stories from Nan’s active memory and tales of her daily activities, Nan also kept me apprised of the goings on of her beloved granddaughter. It was the hippest. After several years of letters, I decided to call her. I invited her to attend a few jazz shows, the very special ones I offered to drive to Lawrence to pick her up and return her when she was too tired to hang. Once, she actually took me up on the offer, for a holiday jazz event that KPR sponsored at Liberty Hall. Nan reserved a room across the street at the Eldridge Hotel to be close to a bed if she needed to lie down. We talked and wrote back and forth several times while making plans. When the big day came, a serious blizzard hit Lawrence right at the end of my 4pm shift. Nan couldn’t make the scene. She had to hear the gig on the radio, listening and commenting on every nuance of the party – both times it aired!

Nan Hill heard Monk live in a nightclub. She went to shows back in the day at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit. She heard Trane, Duke, and Cab Calloway in movie theaters. Her knowledge of jazz was immense, her commentary on my programming, uncanny. When she first started writing me, I asked her in a letter to be totally honest, to tell me when the show was sub-par, or when I was off my game. She took the “job” very seriously; she listened intently. I played Lou Donaldson’s “Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman” in her honor to make her laugh, which brought on stories from the old days of drinking with her friends, of being in Detroit and attending jazz shows with her mother. Detroit is where Donaldson hails from, and Nan wrote of going out night clubbing when the greats of jazz actually went from town to town, club to club, playing their music.

Nan was a solid gas. Nan was no square. Nan was hip and sharp until the day she left the planet. She hurt. She was in constant pain, but she did her job each week as if her life depended on it. She was a teacher and an incredible help to me, teaching me the ways of jazz, same as Alaadeen, Bobby Watson, Mike Melvoin, Phil Woods, and others have done. You see, jazz is passed on by mentoring. It can be a word, a nod, a slight mention that changes it all, just the way one note changes a composition. Nan will live on through the letters she wrote me and my colleagues. Nan and I will continue to produce jazz programming for many years to come. I have garnered her sensibilities and captured them for future use on my shows. I may no longer exclaim weekly, “This is for Ms. C.P., my constant companion,” or if I do, you and I may remember how I feel about Nan Hill.

The David Basse Collection is located in the LaBudde Special Collections, Miller Nichols Library, UMKC. Thanks to Mr. Basse’s love and diligence those many years, Nan Hill is with us still. To read her letters is to feel her soul. Her personality was infectious and it radiates in her every word.

Teresa Wilson Gipson – Libraries Information Specialist II, LaBudde Special Collections

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

Venereal Disease and Country Music

2013-08-05_VD_Goldin_RoyAcuffFor the seventh time, folk singer and songwriter Tom Glazer picks up his guitar, sees the red recording light go on, and sings at the microphone in all sincerity:

Don’t take a chance go see a doctor
Don’t take a chance go get examined
Don’t take a chance go see a doctor now.

Glazer was taking part in an experiment by the Public Health Service, began in the late 1940s, called “VD Radio Project” (the “VD” was a nicer way of saying venereal disease).  He wrote and performed this little song to introduce seven short announcements about venereal disease and the importance of getting seen by a doctor.

VD Radio Project’s goal was to educate the public and dispel taboos about syphilis, gonorrhea, and other venereal diseases. Other than the seven short recordings done by Glazer, the rest of the series consisted of fifteen minute episodes. Some were straight radio dramas, and some were real life stories and voices from those affected by venereal diseases. But the episodes of “VD Radio Project” that had the most impact used a powerful weapon–popular musicians like Tom Glazer, Woody Guthrie, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Merle Travis, Roy Acuff, and Hank Williams.

These episodes were typical radio dramas in one sense but were also partly told in verse and sung in ballad. The guest stars functioned as sort of narrators and sort of troubadours. These mixtures of music and drama Erik Barnouw, creator of the series, called “hillbilly operas.” The songs were sometimes reactions to situations, but also were used to move the plot forward. Alan Lomax, a pioneer in collecting and preserving American folk music, was key in creating this style of radio musical drama.

One episode written by Lomax, Looking for Lester, integrated Roy Acuff and His Smokey Mountain Boys into a drama based on a true story. The episode is about Lester, who falls in love with Ann, but sleeps with another girl and contracts syphilis. Or as Roy Acuff put it: “Old Lester was fit to be tied, went to the bar and got fried,” and then, “went on a spree that was a dilly, with a filly named Millie!”

Lester returns to Ann, and the young couple marry.

Sound your “G” chord boys and I’ll tell Lester’s story.

A chord is strummed on a steel string guitar and Roy Acuff and the Smokey Mountain Boys play this tune:

Is there anything nicer in the whole round world my honey
Is there anything nicer in the whole round world My babe.
Is there anything nicer in the whole round world
When a girl loves a boy and a boy loves a girl.
Honey o baby mine.

Lester and Anne got married in May my honey
Lester and Anne got married in May my babe
Lester and Anne got married in May
Life was happy and life was gay
Honey o baby mine.

But, alas, everything is not so happy. Ann gets pregnant and during a checkup with her doctor she finds out that she has syphilis. Lester leaves in anger and shame. Roy Acuff gives the drama a touch of reality by informing the audience that this is about someone he really knows who might be listening. He begs his friend to come back to his wife and their child, and tells him that syphilis can be cured.

J. David Goldin calls this radio play, “Good radio!” And I agree. Especially since it and the other “hillbilly operas” treaded new ground artistically for radio. They combined the popularity of musical celebrities, original song writing and singing, radio drama, real life experiences, elements of radio opera, and medical advice all to an altruistic end.

These musical episodes of “VD Radio Project” are getting attention today for the stars that were in them. The episode with Hank Williams has understandably been given much attention. A researcher in New Hampshire, Fred Bals, is currently writing a book about the series and plans to do research at Marr. We say, “good luck!” to Fred, and hopefully, lots more books will come out of the J. David Goldin Collection!

Troy Cummings, guest contributor

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

National Women’s History Month

2012-03-08_WomensHistoryMonth_Goldin_we-can-do-itNational Women’s History Month was initially only celebrated for a week during the month of March. In 1987, United States Congress passed a resolution expanding the observance from a week to a month due to the appeals made by the National Women’s History Project (NWHP). In celebration of National Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, I would like to highlight a few of the various radio programs available in the J. David Goldin Collection that feature women.

The collection contains interviews with the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Adele Astaire, Marian Anderson, Hildegarde, Ilka Chase, Gertrude Lawrence, (Savings Bond campaign. Prominent women series. Program nos. 7-12), and Jessie Street (A look at Australia. Program no. 42, Women in the United States) just to name a few.

In addition to interviews, the collection also contains dramas, such as the story of well-known suffragist, Susan B. Anthony who was arrested for trying to vote on Nov. 18, 1872 (Lest we forget. Second series, program no. 17), stories about women’s rights (The U.N. story. No. 55, A little bit of justice; U.N. story. #16, Adam’s rib), and stories about how women have contributed and been an integral part of society (Lest we forget. 5th series, program no. 8, A better world for youth; A story for you. Program no. 6, Princess Kartini schools for girls). Besides interviews and dramas you can also find debates with female political figures, music programs featuring a variety of female singers, and much more waiting to be discovered.

Patricia Altamirano, Library Specialist, Special Formats