Colonel Alex Zander Combs or Colonel Combs as he was known over
WIBW for many years was a ntaive of Worth County, Missouri.
Farming was a way of life back then where he lived and he
got to learn many of the 'tricks' to farming and later on compiled
them into a book called "Farmers and Planters Guide" that was quite
popular with the WIBW listening audience and was sold for many years.
When he was just 14, he started working at a saw mill. Soon, he
was running the mill himself.
In the evenings when work was done, it was common for the family
to get together and enjoy some music. They would sing, neighbors
would come by with their musical instruments to play along, too. But
it seems that more than a few came to just hear the Colonel play
the fiddle. Since his family were all musicians, he learned many of
the tunes he played over the air from them as he grew up.
But growing up though he had a desire to be a musician, his dad
thought it would be better to find a better line of work to earn
a living. The Colonel was sent to the "Auctioneering School of
Experience" in Davenport, Iowa where he actually picked up the nickname
of "Colonel". It seemed a natural job for him - as he could talk,
mingle with the crowd and when he felt he needed their attention, he'd
play a few fiddle tunes.
His career took another twist when a new invention arrived on
the scene - the radio. Suddenly, stations were looking for entertainers
to fill the airwaves. Colonel Combs got his start on a station
out of Grant City, Missouri. It wasn't long before a station in
Topeka, Kansas - WIBW recruited him.
In an old WIBW Round-Up article, they note that he came to WIBW
on April 1, 1934; seemingly to just play a 3 week stint as an
old-time fiddler. Well, they said someone got the better of that
April Fool's joke as they said the Colonel just forgot to leave
and was still hanging around to everyone's enjoyment.
They said Colonel Combs achieved many "firsts" while at WIBW.
- 1934 - played the first tune that was broadcast over
the new WIBW transmitter.
- 1939 - played the first tune to that over the new $70,000
transmitter at WIBW.
- The "Farmers and Planters Guide" was the first and only book
of its kind registered with the copyright office in Washington, DC.
Credits & Sources
- WIBW Round-Up; July 1948;
Published by WIBW Round-Up; Topeka, Kansas