The Shepherd of the Hills was a singer on radio station WIBW in
Topeka, Kansas back in the late 1940s when we first find mention of
him. He was a native of Petrolia, Kansas, later the family moved
to Elmont, Kansas, a town about ten miles north of Topeka.
It seems that he lived the life of a typical boy, had a sling shot
or two, liked to fish and hunt and found school a problem. A neighbor
talked him into getting a guitar for an orchestra that he said, "didn't
make the grade".
But he kept up with the guitar, said he learned "three or four chords" so
he could at least play for himself. But as fate would have it, one of
his teachers at Seamn Rural High School heard of his talents and actually
drove him to an interview with "Big Nick" Nickell, who was the
manager at WIBW back in 1928. It was Big Nick who also gave him
the tag, "Shepherd of the Hills" and he was on his way to
The old WIBW Round-Up magazines (they were half-sized booklets in fact
about 16 pages each) were written in a friendly manner as if they
were sitting across the dinner table telling you the latest goings on.
The articles about some of the artists appear to have been written by
the artists themselves or perhaps written in a style that made it sound
like they were writing to the fans. Let's "listen in" as the Shepherd of
the Hills relates a story of how another member of the WIBW Kansas Round-Up
got his start.
"I remember one program in those early days when Jim Parks would gather
folks into the studio while he told stories on a show titled, "Truthful
James." On one program, a fellow on the front row gave a good
stout laugh now and again throughout the show. After the
program Big Nick asked this fellow into his office. Said
Nick, "Son, your voice certainly carries on those mikes, I'll pay
you to sit in on every program and laugh at the stories
of "Truthful James."
Evidently Nick found also that the boy could fiddle, because in addition
to laughing he was assigned to a tune now and again on
still another program. His name is Keen, but you
know him today as Ezra Hawkins."
He mentions that he and Ezra became good friends over time and in their
spare times, went fishing together and relive some of the old times
at the station. There was one incident he recalled that was 'real' but
folks thought that it was one grand production. The studios at one time
he said were in the National Reserve Building. They called the stufios
affectionately at the time, "The Bungalow on the Roof". Now it seems
they had some rules in the studios, one of them being "No Smoking".
He said they would light up once in a while and when the cigarette
was done, toss them out the open window.
Well, they were broadcasting the "Dinner Hour" show as they did
each day and someone finished their cigarette and tossed it towards
an open window. But, it didn't make it out the window, landing instead
behind a radiator and then began to burn up the carpet. The draft
from the window took the smoke through the paneled wall and started
showing up through the light fixtures. They called the fire
departement of course, but being the entertainers they were,
the "Dinner Hour" show also went on and they would make mentions
of the smoke and fire at times during the show. One of the guys
tried to take a five-gallon water cooler and put out the flames,
but in the end, the fire department folks had to put it out.
And you could have imagined the fun they had convincing folks
it was not an act! Shep tells the WIBW audience that after the
broadcast, the station switchboard was buzzing with folks calling
and saying how real the fire sounded. Reality TV? Back then they
were doing Reality Radio!
Credits & Sources
- WIBW Round-Up; February 1949;
Published by WIBW Round-Up; Topeka, Kansas