About The Artist
It appears that Don Churchill began his radio career over radio station KTIM out of San Rafael, California. They announced they were featuring "live" music over the air. In 1947, the station featured Don Churchill and his Texas Mavericks over the air from their Richmond, California studios.
In 1948, he appeared on radio station KQW which the CBS network persuaded to join its network when KSFO turned them down. That action led to KSFO losing its space in the building CBS owned in San Francisco and allowed KQW to move from San Jose to the CBS building in San Francisco.
Billboard reported in April 1950 that Don and his Texas Mavericks had signed on with Longhorn Joe at radio station KROW. During 1951, Don had a half-hour radio show that aired over the Oakland radio station at 4:00pm.
Don was also part of the arrival of television in the Bay Area. He had a half hour show over KRON-TV (channel 4). Early on it had no sponsors, but the program did see a few later on. The show was called "Hudson Hoe-Down With Don Churchill" for a time when it was sponsored by Walter Anderson, a Hudson dealer. In July 1950, the show was called "Wiseman Hoe-Down" and was sponsored by Wiseman Appliances.
In June of 1951, Terrence O'Flaherty wrote in his San Francisco Chronicle column "Radio and TV" about the success a local station, KROW was having while networks were struggling. Yes, Don was heard on more than one station in that era. At that time, KROW was a mix of personalities. Mr. O'Flaherty wrote a bit of a complimentary note in that Don was "KROW's concession to western music lovers who come near to being radio's most responsive audience. In a bit of an attempt at humor, Terrence noted that Don was "...slightly bow-legged from his experiences as a disc jockey on the air across the bay in Oakland.
During that era, up and coming young artists were often given appearances with the more mature acts of the day. One such talent was young Barbara Fay Logue who started singing with Bud Hobbs when she was just five years old. As a teen-ager she was appearing Saturday nights at Maple Hall in Richmond, California. She appeared with Don Churchill as well as T. Texas Tyler, Dude Martin, Tommy Duncan and Smokey Rogers.
Don Churchill had a 'dance' they said on Saturday nights over in El Cerrito, California (in the San Francisco Bay Area). He also had a daily show that aired over radio station KWBR. Brother Ginger, a female that was said to be part of the act missed being in the picture.
In the early 1950's, television was beginning to have an impact. Station KOVR-TV located in the central valley had a show called "Corral 13" which would feature young talents that were to be evaluated by three judges—Marty Landau, a disc jockey from radio station KECC in Pittsburg, California; Don Churchill from radio station KVSM in San Mateo and Bill Carter, a Modesto band leader and recording artist.
Ever the busy person in the Bay Area, the summer of 1955 also saw him teaming up with Cottonseed Clark apparently on Sundays over radio station KEEN in San Jose. Bob Foster wrote it was a two hour show. Cottonseed also had a gig that week where he did a show from a famous restaurant in that time called Hal's in Palo Alto. Mr. Foster asked Cottonseed what type of music he was going to play at Hal's. He noted "...Sweet Western". Bob noted "...That kind of music even the slickest city slicker can tolerate."
In doing this type of research one sometimes finds some unusual personal appearance engagements. In July of 1955, Don was the featured band along with singer Skeets McDonald at the Bay Meadows Race track in San Mateo. It seems a group of motorcycle riders were going to enjoy a western dance put on the host San Francisco club. Dancing and entertainment was to go from 9:00pm to 1:00am. Admission could be had for just one dollar.
A columnist named Dwight Newton for the San Francisco Examiner ("Day and Night") seemed to have a chip on his shoulder when he wrote about the local country music acts heard over the radio in the Bay Area based on several columns we have seen. One was in December 1955. The title of the lead item should have tipped one off - "Cattle Call". He told readers that Cliff Johnson would use a character he created called "Cactus Jack" in previous stints on radio stations KLX, KYA and KGO-TV in the Bay Area. He writes, "His melodius voice was as soft as a tin can kicked by a Hereford's hind hoof. He could split a hog's ear at fifty paces. With a whisper! But it seems that KLX, he noted, wanted him to be a city slicker. Mr. Newton stated he had to spin 'popular' records as well as recite poems to organ music. "...he grieved for the cattle call." At the end of November in 1955, Cliff put his "Cactus Jack" alter ego back in gear and was working over KVSM from 1:15pm to 2:00pm along with friends Longhorn Joe, Black Jack Wayne, Deacon Smith, Farmer Red, Elaine "Honey Chile" Doyle and one Don Churchill.
In 1954, he was working Saturday nights at the Wagon Wheel in El Cerrito, California with Ramblin' Jimmie Dolan.
Don worked as a disc jockey over the years, having his own show on several Bay Area stations. One was radio station KVSM in San Mateo. A columnist for the San Francisco Examiner roamed the dial one afternoon in 1957 and commented on the 'style' he heard in a manner that sometimes journalists in large urban areas thought it humorous to pick on the country person. The writer stated he KVSM was "...screeching hillbilly tunes. Believe it or don't, Don Churchill, the announcer, has a beautifully resonant voice when he's not on a corn cob kick."
In February 1959, Dwight Newton did another similar sort of sarcastic or attempt at humor walk through the radio dial in the Bay Area noting the sounds he heard. He wrote of radio station KROW going country with "...Black Jack Wayne and his corn belt records. Johnny Cash slaps a guitar. Wanda Jackson whines a song and Black Jack tells of "fantastic bargains" and things "they're gonna give you free along with that. Yippee!" Then he wrote of what he heard of Don Churchill's morning show over radio station KKIS in Stockton, California. "...is appealing to those who enjoy sawing fiddles and singers who sound like bawling calves. The voices are so abrasive that you will get the same effect by running your teeth over a fingernail file."
Credits & Sources
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