About The Artist
Frederick R. "Chubby" Parker deserves to be remembered as probably the first star of the National Barn Dance at WLS radio in Chicago. He also proved to be one of the most elusive figures to trace in terms of learning biographical data. Part of this stemmed from researchers' thinking that like Bradley Kincaid and the Prairie Ramblers, he hailed from Kentucky. In reality, Parker was born and spent his growing up years in Lafayette, Indiana.
Parker attended nearby Purdue University and graduated with an engineering degree in 1898. A few years later he appeared in Chicago where he worked as a patent attorney (see 1910 census) among other occupations (electrician - see 1920 census). Initially, music was primarily a side occupation for Parker as he began appearing on the National Barn Dance at WLS. Small blurbs in an Indiana newspaper indicated he may have been appearing on WLS as early as 1922.
In the early days of radio, one measure of popularity was the amount of mail performers could generate. Chubby argued in 1927 that the old time melodies were still favorites. To back up the claim, his mail pull was cited. Between October 2, 1926 and July 15, 1927, Chubby was said to have received 24,000 pieces of mail and telegrams. In an eight week period between January 22, 1927 and March 18, 1927, he received 15,078 pieces of radio mail. He received 2,853 letters, post cards and telegrams in one week that began February 12, 1927.
At times over the next few years, his musical activity seems to have been his main job (see 1930 Census) but he appears never to have totally neglected his other businesses either. His most requested song was "I'm a Stern Old Bachelor," but he had other favorites, some of which he recorded two or three times.
Chubby also seems to have toured extensively and for a short time appeared as a regular on WLW Cincinnati,
Besides the old bachelor song, Parker had several other numbers that were fan favorites. These included the nonsensical "Nickety, Nackety Now Now Now" and "Bib-A-Lollie- Boo" as well as nineteenth century minstrel oldies typified by "A Rovin' Little Darky" and "His Parents Haven't Seen Him Since," the latter being among the most politically incorrect lyrics of the era.
He also did universal favorites of the time such as "Oh Susanna" and "Little Brown Jug." Another favorite "King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki Me O" was his arrangement of the children's favorite "Froggie Went a-Courtin.'" Most of the many numbers recorded between 1927 and 1931 were initially for Gennett (especially the Sears-Roebuck Silvertone subsidiary) and then a single for Columbia in 1928, and finally in 1931 for the American Record Corporation, again with most releases on the Sears label Conquerer.
Parker left WLS early in 1931 to attend to other business interests, but sometimes returned for reunion appearances. At the time of his departure from the radio station, the stage advocate for bachelorhood had actually been married for twenty years to Frances Kischel and was the father of a daughter named Claudia. They were married on June 8, 1907; he was 30, she 17. He passed on in 1940 at the age of sixty-four. Efforts to find his obituary were not successful. Frances died in Los Angeles, California in 1986 and Claudia passed away in Los Angeles as well in 1992.
During research, one could not help but notice that only one picture of Chubby was ever seen and was used over and over in various promotional ads.
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