About The Artist
Lazy Jim Day was a hillbilly comedian whose main claim to fame was a song with changing lyrics called "The Singing News" which put into rhyme humorous or human interest stories from contemporary newspapers.
He also had a limited repertoire of comical songs such as "The Old Maid and the Burglar" and "I Tickled Her Under the Chin." He plunked a banjo which he termed a "Minner Dipper", (e. g. Minnow Dipper) interspersed with down home stories from Short Creek, Kentucky.
Just as Minnie Pearl had stories from Grinder's Switch about imaginary relatives such as "Brother," "Uncle Nay-Bob" and "Aunt Ambrosia;" Rod Brassfield in Hohenwald had "Uncle Cyp," "Aunt Sap" and his gal "Suzie," Lazy Jim had tales from Short Creek concerning "Uncle Billy Spra-Daddle," "Aunt Esther Zicky-Foose, "Cousin Step and A-Half" and his "Pap."
A native of Grayson County, Kentucky, Day as a young adult moved to Illinois where he found employment as a janitor at WDZ Tuscola. On a side note, research shows that WDZ is the third oldest radio station in the U.S.A.; KDKA in Pittsburgh (Cleveland?) and KMOX in St. Louis were on the air first. It was known as the "buckle of the corn belt." His entertaining stories soon led to a regular spot at the station and opened up a career change. From there he moved on to WHO Des Moines, WKRC Cincinnati, and then to powerful WLW.
George Biggar wrote an article in Rural Radio magazine telling readers about a 'farming program' that WLW aired at the 'unusual' time of 8:30am on Saturday mornings. It was called "Everybody's Farm." Mr. Biggar wrote that the "...stories of progressive farm community enterprises are brought to the listeners of "Everyboyd's Farm," not only for their informational value but also to recognize real cooperative achievement." The show was a one hour program that attempted to provide a variety of helpful information and entertainment of interest to folks. Helen Diller (The Canadian Cowgirl) and the "Hired Man", Lazy Jim Day provided the entertainment.
He was interviewed on WLW's "Let's Get Acquainted" show in 1938 that was used primarily as a way of getting fans to know members of WLW's Boone County Jamboree and Top o' The Morning shows. The reviewer wrote, "Day revealed his likes and dislikes, his height, weight, color of eyes and hair, how he obtained his start in radio and his clothes preferences. His happened to e denim overalls. He polished off by giving his impression as to how news should be reported (in song, adding his own verse to make items rhyme) and offereing what he termed a jig dance."
While at WLW, he enjoyed success as part of the Boone County Jamboree cast. In April 1942, he was part of the group that took in over $12,588 at the Colonial Theater in Dayton, OH - a house record and topping what they had did the previous season. Other members in the performance were Girls of the Golden West, Pa and Ma McCormick, Prairie Sweethearts, Curly Fox and Texas Ruby, Drifting Pioneers, Roy Starkey, Hugh Cross and His Radio Pals, Grandpappy Doolittle and Hal O'Halloran.
A bit of a tongue-in-cheek article by Dan Senseney for Radio Mirror in March 1942 offers a glimpse into the roots of Lazy Jim's entertainment career. He writes that "...the rural comedian of station WLW's famous Boone County Jamboree ... likewise (known) as the "Pride of Short Creek" down in Grayson County, Kentucky, whereis pa and ma and four sisters and three brothers 'reckon city folk are plain teched in the haid to pay Jim jest to carry on like all git-out in front of strangers."
Jim was working at a dollar a day farm near Matoon, Illinois (around the same time Red Belcher was in the area) when the WDZ (Tuscola, IL) station manager, Clair Hull, heard him at a County Fair and was impressed by his talent and offered Jim a job at the station. But Jim was a hard sell and after a few weeks more of corn shucking, he made his debut in a fifteen minute program in 1936. Lazy Jim was very thankful to Mr. Hull; in one year, he sold enough 10-cent pictures to buy himself a new car.
In 1942, he was on two shows, Top o' The Morning and the Boone County Jamboree. He would play the guitar, sing, do jigs or "just talk to the folks." He viewed a microphone as a tin cup on the end of a tobacco stick. His preferred manner of dress as we have seen in other stories was overalls and a checked shirt. That caused him some grief once when trying to gain admission to a county fair to entertain the folks, he was almost refused admission because he was seen as a "rustic no-account."
He reportedly lost his driving privileges for a month due to a fine for speeding. He hated walking so he bought a second-hand bicycle with white wall tires and a sheep-skin seat for all of $9.00. But that did not last long as someone stole it and he was aback to walking.
Part of his attire was a "watch chain mader of sales tax tokens, which he displayed across the waist of his Sunday overalls."
Even back 1942, Lazy Jim had thoughts of retiring, perhaps on a farm near Short Creek. But he found life interesting day and night. He was quoted, "If I sleep on my back, I have a nightmare every time. So I often sleep on my back to see what I'll dream."
Floy Case reported in her September 1946 column that Lazy Jim Day was a welcome addition to the Grand Ole Opry cast.
In 1947, readers learned that Lazy Jim Day was part of a tent show tour headed by Curly Fox and Texas Ruby. Also on the list of performers were Banjo Murphy and Jamup and Honey as well.
By the early 1950's, he was a regular at WSM and the Opry where he usually toured with Cowboy Copas.
When Copas broke up his band, Jim moved to WWVA and the Jamboree where he toured with various groups but usually Dusty Owens or Skeeter Bonn. In keeping with Lazy's image, he typically signed his autographs with the phrase "good loafin." On one tour to the East Coast, he became ill and died of a stomach aneurism.
Jim and his wife whom he met in Iowa had four children.
Like many other comedians he recorded sparingly—four numbers for what he termed "the King Gramophone Record Company"—on January 25, 1950. None were released in his lifetime although in the 1960's two came out on a 45 rpm while all of them appeared on a mixed artist long play album called Homespun Humor: "Jim Day's News," "When I Worked on the Farm," "The Old Maid and the Burglar Man," and "I Tickled Her under the Chin." They present a good sampling of his talent and style.
The original version of "The Singin' News" was published in a song folio in 1941 by M. M. Cole — Favorite Songs of the WLW Boone County Jamboree. It contained six verses in addition to the chorus. Below is a sampling of the lyrics. The "Jim Day's News" issued on a compilation CD is probably a later version of this tune (a search on youtube will find the tune).
Singin' The News
One might think if he had lived long enough, he would have fit right in with the folks in Kornfield County on Hee! Haw!.
In the summer of 1959, Lazy Jim Day was the only non-Canadian artist on a Wilf Carter tour across Canada. In early August of 1959, he was appearing with WWVA artist Bill Browning and his Echo Valley Boys in Bridgeport, CT.
Lazy Jim Day was doing a personal appearance in Massachusetts in early September of 1959. On September 5, he passed away suddenly due to a ruptured ulcer. The Tennessean did not report his passing until October 1959.
At the time of his passing, it appears he was living in Wheeling, WV as a news account in Mattoon, IL newspaper indicates his three surviving sons, Bill, Rickie and Maurice Jesse who were said to be living in Wheeling. He was survived also by three brothers, Howard Day, J. V. Day and Kenneth Day as well as four sisters, Miss Imogene Day, Mrs. Russell Hash, Mrs. Jean Rankin and Mrs. Eddie Fitzgerald. He married the former Audrey Katherine Hooker. No mention was made of her in his obituary; she appears to have married again to Vernon Mitchell. She passed away at the age of 95 in 2010.
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