Bill Kirk was a member of the WIBW Kansas Round-Up staff back in the late 1940s
and 1950s. His roots were in East St. Louis, Illinois and lived there
up through the time he served in the military.
Bill's musical career started on the piano when he was just ten years old,
but he couldn't quite master it, so gave it up. But he still liked music,
so his parents got him a small accordion that was actually more like a
concertina he said because it had buttons instead of the normal keyboard.
He got his first piano accordion when he was twelve.
He made his first radio appearance was on a local station in East St. Louis
when he was 17 with a band of five. It was the first radio experience for
all of them Bill mentions in that 1948 article and they were proud of the fact
that they kept the same sponsor for nearly two and a half years. The war
interrupted their careers at that point and he joined the Navy. He was
with them for 37 months, but his duty was entirely stateside. He was
assigned to the Franklin D. Roosevelt carrier, but got his discharge a week
before its "shakedown cruise".
The war affected many lives back then and Bill's was no different. He married
a hometown girl, but they were married in Norfolk, Virginia by a Navy chaplain
who was in a bit of a rush as he was getting ready to ship out for sea duty.
After his discharge, he played for several stations in the St. Louis area.
He appeared on KWK and the Mutual Network at times with a group called
the "Buckeye Four", then he joined a band called "The Range Riders"
that appeared on radio station KSD in St. Louis.
Ironically, he worked for the same sponsor that he had on his first
broadcast job just before the war. That program aired each day
and on Saturday nights, he appeared on the Saturday night Barn Dance
on KMOX in St. Louis.
He also got appeared on television while with KSD, which was the only
television station in St. Louis at the time. Bill says they had
a 20-minute program every week. Bill states further:
As far as I know, we were one of the first hillbilly bands
at that time in the country to have a regular program
on television. We were just about ready to get a daily sponsored
show when difficulties with the union put an end to that.
Television is sure a great thing and we thought it was something
to be seen as well as heard for forty miles. Of course, someday
we will look back and probably laugh at that distance, as
it will be put on from coast to coast just like radio is now.
When the job at KSD ended, Bill proceeded to work
personal appearances at fairs and other venues in Missouri,
Illinois, Arkansas and Indiana.
But about the time things were getting slow,Ambrose Haley of WIBW
At first Bill hesitated to leave the nice apartment he had at home
and move to Topeka, but a former alumni of WIBW, Billy Starr gave
him a sales pitch and told him what a great place it was. So, along
about 1947 or 1948, Bill joined WIBW.
Bill and his wife, Delores had a son named Gary around 1946
or so in July.
Credits & Sources
- WIBW Round-Up; September 1948;
Published by WIBW Round-Up; Topeka, Kansas