St. Louis Radio Was Hillbilly Heaven. (Radio History)

Article excerpt

(Editor's note: Information for this article was provided by the St. Louis Media Archives at the St. Louis Public Library.)

In the late 1940s, St. Louis radio was a sort of hillbilly heaven, and it seemed that every station had to have a group.

In previous articles SJR documented the rise of Uncle Dick Slack's Barn Dance on KMOX and the Carson's Melody Makers, which managed to be live on three different stations every Saturday. St. Louis stations that had network affiliation, like KMOX and KWK, fed several of their live hillbilly programs nationwide. We're not talking music like today's so-called "country" stuff. This was hillbilly, and more often than not, it was performed live in the radio studio.

One local disc jockey, Glen Davis of WTMV in East St. Louis, even published the "Yearbook of Hillbilly Artists of the Midwest" in 1949. Davis ran a daily lunchtime show called "Chuck-wagon Time." The cover story in his yearbook was a tribute to Skeets Yaney, who at that time had been on KMOX for 19 years and later worked as a deejay at several other local stations. Skeets headed his National Champion Hillbilly Band broadcasting every morning on KMOX at 7:15 and Saturday nights at 10:30.

Across town was Grandpappy Jones, the leader of the Carson Cowboys. He and his group were appearing on KWK, WEW and KSD each Saturday.

A quick check of the band roster in 1949 shows several members who had been in the KMOX band in earlier years and which ties in with stories told recently by Pat Pijut, who sang with Skeets once at age 4. She said many of St. Louis' hillbilly performers would move between groups. The pay wasn't all that good, but it was long-term work.

There were plenty of other groups on the local airwaves. KMOX also boasted the Range Riders. Roy Queen, who had done two stints on KMOX, had moved to KXLW, where he was often accompanied by his wife, Helen, and young son, whose air name was Sonny. …