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
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