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John Jensen
WIBW Topeka, KS
WNAX Yankton, SD

John Jensen appears to have been one of the earliest country music performers. Our information is rather scarce, but does place him at a couple of stations at least.

He published at least two song folios we surmise because we do have one that is entitled, "Old Timers Volume 2" and was published by John back when he was based in Yankton, South Dakota, probably at station WNAX, owned by the Gurney Seed Company then.

The folio itself is a bit of a small size, perhaps pocket size as its about 4 inches by 7 inches. Unlike some folios of the early days, John's booklet did not contain any personal information or biographical details. It only had a picture of him on the cover and contained the lyrics to many of the songs that he sung over the air and in his personal appearances.

The booklet does have the Yankton, South Dakota part marked out with a red stamp and in its place are the call letters, WIBW, the legendary station in Topeka, Kansas. We guess that John was at WNAX in the late 1920s, then moved on to WIBW. However, he had left the station prior to the station publishing its WIBW Roundup magazines in the early 1940s, so we have no other information on him.

The pictures we have seen of him are very similar. Posing in front of the radio station micrphone, seated in a chair with a guitar on his lap, playing it as a steel guitar and a harmonica on a shoulder holder of sorts.

The Gurney company's WNAX booklet from about 1929 shows a typical daily schedule of broadcasting for the station. John Jensen had a show at 8:00am, and later in the day at 3:00pm. In a bit of trivia for musical fans, another legendary musical figure was also working at this station, Welk's Novelty Band was the orchestra name and it was led by the fellow we came to know as Lawrence Welk. Welk's show was on between 6:00am and 7:30am and again at 2:00pm.

One might ask, well, what were the type of tunes that John perhaps performed in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The booklet is probably a good representation of what fans heard and fans will recognize the tunes that today are probably considered in the public domain.

The booklet included the lyrics to such tunes as:

  • (Oh) Susanna
  • The Old Time Cowboy
  • Just Tell Them That You Saw Me
  • My Blue Ridge Mountain Blues
  • Old Grimes
  • I Had But Fifty Cents
  • The Bum Song
  • Since My Mother's Gone
  • A Miner's Prayer
  • I Was Born Four Thousand Years Ago
  • Frankie and Johnnie
  • The Old Fiddlers Song
  • In The Good Old Summer Time
  • The Boston Burglar
  • Won't You Write A Letter Poppa
  • I'm In The Jail House Now

John's 1929 booklet also contains another bit of trivia - a listing of radio stations in the United States at the time - their call letters, their city and state, their location on the radio dial and their power. Many of the stations back then were just 500 watts.

Credits and Sources

  • "Old Timers Volume 2"; John Jensen; 1929; Yankton, SD
  • WNAX House of Gurney 1866-1929; Gurney See and Nursery Company; Yankton, SD

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