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Happy Jack Turner
Born:  October 18, 1898

Happy Jack Turner, as he was known, was was born in Hannibal, Missouri. Five years afterwards the family moved to Quincy, Illinois. While he was growing up in Quincy, friends knew him for his fine brand of "holler".

After he had been progressively a newsboy, bootblack, cobbler, tractor painter, piano mover and piano salesman, he became a piano player by watching the keys of a player piano in the La Crosse Music Store. Because of the player piano training Jack learned to play most of his chords on the black keys and he is still called "Black Key Turner" by some of his admiring friends.

In 1922 the piano firm built a radio station and used their salesroom as a studio. Jack, instead of calling on his customers, sang to them via their crystal receivers, and rang up a remarkable record of piano sales. Since then he has been selling automobile insurance over the air from Milwaukee; General tires, Dodge automobiles, Crazy Water Crystals, Sterling oil and Sears-Roebuck products from Louisville; and coffee, motor oil and, grocery products over stations WLW, WTAM and over National Broadcasting Company networks.

It was at La Crosse where Jack went to work on the player piano and it was there also that he made his first radio appearance. Because of the player piano training, Jack learned to play most of his chords on the black keys, and it was for this reason that he was heralded as "Black Key Turner". When the La Crosse pioneer station WKBH, then known as WABN, went on the air Happy Jack was the one who provided their first broadcast entertainment.

From that stint in La Crosse, he was been heard from on:

  • WTAM - Cleveland, Ohio
  • WHAS - Louisville, KY
  • WGAR - Cleveland, OH
  • WCCO - Minneapolis, MN
  • WJR - Detroit, MI
  • WSM - Nashville, TN
  • WLW - Cincinnati, OH

While at WHAS, Louisville, he began singing duets with himself, by using his headphones and harmonizing with the records he had recorded. This became one part of his show that stayed with him.

Jack's musical education was anything but orthodox. Although he was known as a splendid musician, and composed such tunes as "Crying My Eyes Out for You" and "Keep a Light in Your Window Tonight", Happy Jack never had any formal Piano Instruction.

Once, during a marathon broadcast at WHAS station Happy Jack sang and played for S 1/2. hours without repeating a song. As the story goes, he wore out two announcers and was, still going strong when the broadcast ended.

Happy Jack was married and had three children, two boys and a girl. He hoped one day to have a trio in the family, as the three kids showed some prospects of having inherited their Dad's vocal ability.

Happy jack has received many thousands of letters from his radio audience, along with such gifts as candy, flowers, ties, handkerchiefs, pictures, cakes, and at one time a complete fried chicken dinner.

In 1942, he was heard over the NBC Red Network, and has been with the National Broadcasting Company since the year 1931.

Later on, we found Happy Jack Tuner was still a 'one man show' as they put it in a 1945 issue of "Mountain Broadcaster". He played the piano and was working at KOA in Denver, Colorado at the time.

Credits & Sources

  • Happy Jack Turner Deluxe Edition, Mountain Songs, Western Songs, Home Songs, Cowboy Songs; 1942; M.M. Cole Publishing Co., Chicago, IL

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Recordings
 
Decca
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  5029 A When Jesus Beckons Me Home
  5029 B In The Garden
  5084 A Pretty Quadroon
  5084 B Stay In Your Own Backyard
  5265 A Was There Ever A Pal Like You
  5265 B Say You Love Me Truly


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