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Peg Moreland
Born:  October 29, 1892
Died:  January 11, 1973
WLS National Barn Dance
KGKO Fort Worth, TX
KRLD Dallas, TX
WFAA Dallas, TX
XEBN Mazatlan, MX

About The Artist

Promo Ad - Gladiola Gloom Chasers - Peg Moreland - WFAA - WOAI - April 1935

Jackson Arnot "Peg" Moreland came by his nickname the hard way, having lost half of his right leg in an accident working as a railroad brakeman.

He hailed from the area near Canyon, Texas, and in earlier times worked as a clerk in his family grocery and read law enough to be named a justice of the peace (which was not necessarily very much).

He may have punched cattle for a short period. But Moreland made his mark in life as a singer on WFAA in Dallas for many years. He generally sang with his own guitar accompaniment.

In 1935, he was part of the Gladiola Gloom Chasers program on WFAA. Even at that time his reputation was such that he was named an honorary member of the West Texas Veteran Cowboy Association. An article told readers that 'football' was the impetus for him to learn the guitar and set him on his way to performing. One of his friends at Canyon State Teachers College had attempted an end run that did not end well; he ended up on a hospital bed with a broken leg. Peg set about to learn the guitar so he could entertain convalescing football playing friend. It was said his radio debut was over WBAP in 1924. He joined WFAA the following year.

In 1933, it was reported that he began his "Ain't We Crazy" number which became the theme song on the Gladiola Flour program.

While WFAA was Peg's main radio base, he did leave for short periods, spending brief stints in Oklahoma City and at WLS in Chicago with its National Barn Dance. Moreland styled himself as a "ditty singer" and claimed — probably correctly — to know the lyrics of over a thousand songs from memory. Between 1928 and 1930, he recorded a number of his ditties for the Victor label.

Research has shown that newspapers would attach descriptive 'names' to Peg's program listings. One radio station program log for WFAA in January 1927 listed him as "Peg Moreland, the tambourine voice from the barn yard." In September 1927, he was "Peg Moreland, singing tambourinist, the Voice from the Barnyard." Appearing at the Renovize exposition in Waco in 1933, he was billed as "Peg Moreland, The Gloom Chasing Ditty Singer." The Dallas News called him "The grand old man of hillbillies."

When his recordings were first released, the local newspaper took the opportunity to tell readers they had "met with the popular demand." The article cited W. L. Browning as he was finally able to get a copy after some delay due to the great demand in the Southwest.

His best-known number was "Stay in the Wagon Yard," a humorous look at a rustic farmer who sells his crop, decides to enjoy city life, and regrets it. In retrospect, he wishes he had "bought a half-pint of liquor and stayed in the wagon yard," viewing city life and electric lights looking over the fence. The record sold over 23,000 copies and inspired covers by Lowe Stokes, Earl Johnson, Lew Childre, and the Shelton Brothers.

Peg recorded other comic numbers that had a long life, too, such as "I'm Saving Up Coupons," sentimental ones like "Over the Hills to the Poorhouse," and the rare western ballad "Make Me a Cowboy Again for a Day." Overall, songs with a humorous bent seemed to dominate his repertoire.

Cross Roads Party

Readers learned in a 1944 that the Cross Roads Party he show had started in 1941 and after a three week run at the State Fair, it had to be moved to the downtown studios of WFAA-KGKO of Dallas.

Some of the stars included Uncle Ed Bryant as emcee. He paired up with a black-faced comic named Slocum (Harry LeVan) who had a nickname of "Hot Biscuits." Jeannie McDonald was touted as the 'yodelin' cowgirl and Sweetheart of the Cross Roads was another performer. Peg Moreland was dubbed the "Caruso of the Cow Barns." Also in the cast was the Cass County Kids, the Hedgehoppers (an instrumental group led by Mexican fiddler Fred Casares). It was reported to have debuted in June 1944. Floy Case told readers it originated from the studios of KGKO.

Saturday Night Shindig

In October of 1952, WFAA held a "Saturday Nite Shindig" at the Texas State Fair. It was said to be an enlargement of the program that was heard over WFAA over the previous nine years and sponsored by Gladiola Flour. It was held usually from 8pm to Midnight every Saturday night. On October 25, it was held at the State Fair Auditorium in the winter months, returning to the'bandshell' in the summer. In 1952, some of the stars to be featured at the State Fair presentation were Bob Shelton, Bobby Williamson and his band, Curly Sanders, Jeannie MacDonald, Herle Shelton, LaFawn Paul, Grady Hudgens and Shug Newman, Little Willie, Joe Price, Joe Kocks, Uncle Dave McNeil as well as Peg Moreland.

It appears from research that he had stopped performing regularly sometime in the mid-1950's.

Stay In The Wagon Yard

As noted above, one of his most popular songs was "Stay In the Wagon Yard." Columnist Paul Crume wrote in his "Big D" column in June of 1956 that a reader had asked for help in finding the origins of a 'west Texas expression' that went something like, "Am going to get a pint and go to the wagon yard."

That led Mr. Crume to go to an 'expert' on the song, Peg Moreland who had been on WFAA for a quarter century. He told readers its "pure and unsullied" form, the line went "I wished I'd bought a half-point and stayed in the wagon yard."

Mr. Crume provides some more insight from what was mentioned previously or 'embellished details'. It was a ballad. A countryman that came to town and met up with "roisterers." He woke up with a headache; his companions gone; but the bill was still there. The last verse was said to be:

Last night I slept in a dry goods box
I wish I'd bout a half-pint and stayed in the wagon yard.

Mr. Crume opined that "It is the nearest thing to a tone poem ever written about the kind of motel which served the west back in the days when the auto would never be able to supplant the horse."

He told readers that Peg had forgotten when he first started singing the wagon yard song. Peg put it together from "snatches of a song he had got from George Jones, a filling station man in his home town of Canyon. One smiles when Mr. Crume writes, "Peg had run for justice of the peace on a platform of a guitar and hillbilly songs long before Pappy O'Daniel ever came along. Mr. Jones had told Peg he had brought what he knew of the song when he moved from Oklahoma to Canyon.

Peg then took the fragments he learned, added verses of his own, seemingly smoothing things out and began singing the tune. The song caught on with radio listeners and audiences almost immediately. It sold records. It was in books and folios.

Mr. Crume doubted anyone could write a song about the modern motel. The wagon yard was made for stories and song.

"After all, the motor court lacks the pungency, the antique smell of the wagon yard. These were quadrangles enclosed on three sides by one-room sleeping units. There was usually a feed and grocery store at the front and there were pens at the back for the horses."

Inside each one room living space were beds, for which it was better to provide your own bedding, a table, a chair or two and a round-bellied coal stove for heating and cooking. No carpets, no pictures on the wall. The wagon yard didn't see any use in furnishing you all the comforts of home. After all, it wasn't home.

We personally have long mourned the demise of the wagon yard. Nothing will ever take its place."

Not much seems to be known about Moreland's later life. Most of what is known comes from Tony Russell's new volume Rural Rhythm (Oxford U. Press, 2021).

Peg died in January 1973. His obituary gave a glimpse into his early life. He was born in Canyon, Texas and entered the family grocery business as a young man. He quit that job and took a job as a brakeman with the Santa Fe Railroad; he lost part of his right leg in an accident. He used a wooden leg made of ash and thus, he was nicknamed "Peg." In 1921 he ran for office of constable in Canyon. But he then moved to Dallas and joined WFAA in 1924. He would be on the WFAA early morning show 'Gloom Chasers' and later the 'Early Birds.'

Peg was on the 'Early Birds from 1935 to 1946.

Radio back then held an attachment to some fans. It was a part of their daily life. Take for example, Mr. And Mrs. D. A. Grey; they listened to the 'Early Birds' program for over a quarter century. In a 1955 article, it mentions they had been married 51 years. They were quoted, "It's insurance for a long and happy married life. Who could think of saying a cross word while listening to the 'Early Birds'?" Peg would appear on these celebratory shows going forward.

In early 1955, the WFAA 'Early Birds' program was having a 25th Anniversary Celebration. One visitor (a former instructor of music at the North Texas State Teachers' College in Denton, noted that Peg Moreland sang her favorites. She said, "I used to listen to Peg when I was my daughter's age. Those ditty's he sings are appealing folk songs."

A 1956 article recounting the origins of the "wagon yard song" indicated he had basically retired and was living at the New Oxford Hotel. Supposedly he still sang occasionally, "...but mostly for my own amazement."

The last few years of his life he was a familiar face in downtown Dallas where he lived in a fifth floor room at the Lawrence Hotel at Jackson and Houston Streets.

Peg once again sang over WFAA in 1964 during the station's 42nd Birthday celebration. Columnist Fairfax Nisbet wrote of the celebration which included a reunion of the alumni from "The Early Birds" variety show. The reunion took place on the Friday morning show from 7:30 am to 8:00 am. A portion of that reunion was also shown during the "Julie Benell Show" on channel 8 at 12:30 pm Friday.

The reunion show featured the various alumni in the specialties they were known for. The emcee was Jimmy Jeffries who was known as "Mr. Five-By-Five". Peg Moreland was among the cast that appeared.

Larry Grove interviewed Peg in 1964. One tidbit was the first guitar that Peg bought back in 1924 when he joined WFAA. It was resting in the corner of his hotel room, but Peg felt more comfortable with the guitar across his lap. Then he proceeded to tell Mr. Gove of a "...little ditty I got up all by myself" and he proceeded to sing it for him. Mr. Grove said the song spoke of a gambling man named Mose Jackson who fell in love with Ragtime Rosie who played the organ for the church choir. One particular day they were baptizing Mose in one of those rural dunking ceremonies and some Bicycle playing cards fell out of his pocket. On the surface of the pone was a Royal Flush. That impressed the minister so much that he remarked with a hand like that, Mose did not need any help from him.

He spoke of his introduction to radio. He had decided being Constable in Canyon was not for him. He moved to Dallas and thought of working his way into law, perhaps become a lawyer. But it seems he was not too keen about working. The radio job came along in 1924 and it fit him just fine. He said, "Wasn't any real big money in radio then. But if I'd had any gumption, I'd have filled my sock."

He told Mr. Grove he was feeling good for his age at the time. Peg injected, "I always say, 'I discovered America 400 years and 17 days after Columbus. Nobody bothers to figure it out."

The recordings he made for Victor in the 1920's brought him the princely sum of $50 per recording for the 19 songs he did.

He went on, "Never liked Chicago or maybe I'd have made it bigger and got filthy rich. NBC was just branching out. But you put on a white shirt in Chicago and you walk two blocks and you've got a black shirt. ... They put me in a monkey suit, lavender shirt and all. I did all right but nothing to what I could have done if I'd been smarter, 'stead of an ol' Hill County boy. People notice those things when they pass out that money." Which led Peg to mention, "It's like that song says, 'Wish I'd bought a half-a-pint.' "

"Don't monkey with them city ducks
You'll find them slick as lard
I wish I'd bought a half-a-pint
And stayed in the wagon yard."

His Texas death certificate indicates he was never married.

Promo Ad - Peg Moreland - Barnyard Tenor Sings Of Range - November 1927

Promo Ad - Gladiola Flour - Peg Moreland - Whitewright, TX - January 1936 Promo Ad - Gladiola FLour - Peg Moreland and Gladiola Gloom Chasers - April 1934

Jackson Arnot (Peg) Moreland - Rural Radio Magazine - December 1938

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com would like to express its thanks to Ivan M. Tribe, author of Mountaineer Jamboree — Country Music in West Virginia and other books that can be found on Amazon.com and numerous articles in other publications for providing us with information about this artist.
  • Radio Programs - WFAA; January 22, 1927; Waxahachie Daily Light; Waxahachie, TX
  • WFAA Dallas - 499.7 Meters; September 22, 1927; Ft. Worth Star-Telegram; Ft. Worth, TX
  • Pet Moreland Records Are Very Popular; September 13, 1928; Canyon News; Canyon, TX
  • Radio Stars At Exposition; September 24, 1933; Waco Tribune-Herald; Waco, TX
  • Peg Moreland Was Named King of the Ditty Singers; September 10, 1952; Canyon News; Canyon, TX
  • King of the Ditty Singers; Dick Jordan; December 1938; Rural Radio; Rural Radio, Inc.; Nashville, TN
  • Hillbilly Talent On Sat. Nite Shindig; September 25, 1952; Hood County Tablet; Granbury, TX
  • Peg Moreland Of Radio Fame Will Play During Fair; September 19, 1935; Tyler Morning Telegraph; Tyler, TX
  • Floy Case Reports; Floy Case; September 1944; The Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder;
  • American Folk Tunes — Cross Roads Party; August 26, 1944; The Billboard; Cincinnati, OH
  • Funeral Service Set For 'Peg' Moreland; January 13, 1973; Dallas Morning News; Dallas, TX
  • 'Early Birds' Fans Credit Show For Happy Marriage; March 30, 1955; Dallas Morning News; Dallas, TX
  • Ex-Vocalists For 'Birds' Show Guests; March 31, 1955; Dallas Morning News; Dallas, TX
  • Big D; Paul Crume; June 21, 1956; Dallas Morning News; Dallas, TX
  • Poor Larry's Almanack — King Of Dittys Talks About Past; Larry Grove; Dallas Morning News; Dallas, TX

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Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

Rec. No. Side Song Title
  21548 A Over the Hills to the Poorhouse
  21548 B The Prisoner at the Bar
  21653 A Going Back to Dixie
  21653 B (This side by Johnny Marvin)
  21724 A The Maple in the Lane
  21724 B Clover Blossoms
  23510 A I Got Mine
  23510 B (This side by Harry McClintock)
  23539 A In Berry Pickin? Time
  23539 B (This side by Frank Luther)
  23593 A Cowboy Jack
  23593 B (This side by Blind Jack Mathis)
  VI40008 A The Old Step Stone
  VI40008 B Stay In The Wagon Yard
  VI40101 A He Never Came Back
  VI40137 A I'm Saving Coupons
  VI40137 B You're Gonna Miss Me, Hon'
  VI40209 A When I Had But Fifty Cents
  VI40209 B Thats A Habit I Never Had
  VI40272 A Make Me A Cowboy Again
  VI40272 B You'll Want Someone To Love
  VI40296 A When It's Moonlight On The Prairie
  VI40296 B In The Town Where I Was Born

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