Hillbilly music fans knew him as Randy Blake. But his Mr. and Mrs. Winston named their son Harold.
He became one of the first popular hillbilly music disc jockeys with his Breakfast Frolic
and Suppertime Frolic radio shows over WJJD in Chicago, Illinois. His father
worked for the Western Electric Company and seemed to be one an inventor of sorts. He invented
the soap dispenser you see in the rest rooms. He was also part of the invention of the dial phone.
But back then, if you worked for a company, the invention belonged to the employer,
not the individual.
His first 'radio' job wasn't actually on the air, but in fact was as a sales position. He managed
a radio store in Chicago's famed Loop.
He first began singing while in high school. He kept earning 'scholarships' for his efforts
and would sing the lead in a professional production of Robin Hood at a Chicago theater
while he was still a teen-ager.
In June of 1974, Randy told interviewer Doug Green when he started performing. Randy began
as an opera singer and performed for three years on stage. His teacher back then was the legendary
Italian tenor, Tito Schipa. The two of them had a problem. Randy didn't speak Italian. Tito
didn't speak English. So, Henry DeVries, the esteemed music critic for the Chicago Herald-Examiner
newspaper back then became Randy's interpreter and coach.
Randy said he played on the Orpheum circuit for three years. He said he made good money back then,
$250 a week, all expenses paid. He was young and frugal at the time. He sent $200 home each week
to his father to put in the bank. He kept the other $50 and his golf clubs. He left the circuit
when they changed the schedule where he would have to do five shows a day.
When he went back home, seemingly quite well off having saved about $35,000 during that stint. (Note:
The math does check out - 52 weeks times $200 is about $10,400 a year). But he seemingly was
also a bit of a soft touch. Everybody he knew back then seemed to be broke, so he made a lot
of loans. He told Mr. Green, only one paid him back. He basically gave away most of what he had
He went out to California for a time after losing his truck driving job when he caught the flu.
He had two brothers living out in California and tried to find something out there. But he ended
up coming back to Chicago.
He got his start in radio in 1924 when he and Charley Garlan, one of his Chicago friends, went down
to the studios of radio station WBBM at the Broadmoor Hotel on Wilson Avenue and did a
"...15-minute spontaneous music show" with Randy singing while Garlan accompanied him
on the piano. The station liked them and put them on their roster. Mr. Garlan later became
an executive with the Columbia Broadcasting System.
Around that time, 'crooning' was a popular thing at theaters and clubs, and that led to him
thinking he could take his "...legitimate approach at music" and find an appreciative
audience on the radio.
Shortly after starting at WBBM, he met Harry O'Neill. Harry was a bit of a talent scout
and advertising salesman. He was looking for hillbilly music talent for radio shows. The two
of them became close friends. Randy found himself drifting into the hillbilly music field
because he saw the waning interest in 'crooning' and felt that hillbilly (or folk) music
was really the "American opera."
He began helping Harry find hillbilly and western talent. But eventually he felt the urge
to try his own hand at singing. He joined the Suppertime Frolic over radio station WJJD
in 1935 as a sacred singer.
Perhaps we can shed light on how he came to be known as Randy Blake. His daughter, Penny Winston Blake Stein, tells us
she has only heard one version of how he became Randy Blake. One day he was appearing live over WJJD
and the commercial announcer had not shown up. Harold stepped up to the microphone and on the spur
of the moment uttered, "Howdy folks, this is Randy Blake". It turns out that a representative of the
sponsor was in the station's control room at the time and heard Randy and stated, "I want that
man to be the voice for our commercials." He used this name on the air only; he never changed it legally.
A 1949 article tends to lend credence to this event, but doesn't mention he took the name
Randy Blake in doing so.
The Billboard ran a review of the Suppertime Frolic in June of 1937. They said
it was "a popular program for rural consumption, patched up to sell a number of products, most of them
patent medicines." They were impressed by the announcer they identified as Ervin Viktor who they said
also doubled as emcee. The talent roster for the show at that time included Jack McCoy and the
Cumberland Ridge Runners; Doc Hopkins; Buster Glosson; Karl and Harty; the Flannery Sisters;
Randy Blake (identified as a cowboy singer). The article noted, "They unearth selections, vocally
and musically popular long ago and those still enjoying a following in the rural districts. Entertainers
are well versed in this type of work and undoubtedly have an audience in the hick towns." One might
say that Chicago was hardly a hick town.
In the April 2, 1938 issue of WLS' weekly publication "Stand By", it mentions that Randy had recently
married about then. But actually, they were married in 1932. Randy noted in a 1974 interview
that when he got married, he didn't have a job. And when he did get one, it was driving a truck
at 4:00 in the morning delivering newspapers and magazines in Chicago.
In 1941, Constance Keith reported that she was hearing Randy over radio station WHAS in Louisville, Kentucky.
She noted the show was a Morning Jamboree and played music by transcription or by Uncle Henry
and his Kentucky Mountaineers. Randy found himself at WHAS due to his job with the Benson and Dall agency
because a friend of his owned the Consolidated Royal Chemical Corporation. He sold something
called Peruna (a tonic), Kolorback (hair coloring) and Zumol Trokeys (cough drops). He asked Harry O'Neil
if he could sing on the Suppertime Frolic show? When asked what he would sing, he noted, a hymn.
He was not welcomed with open arms at the show. They viewed him as a "nightclub singer". But he persisted.
Then he got a call from Dr. J. R. Brinkley to do a series of 15-minute programs for his radio
station in Mexico. He did those recordings in a studio at the Hyde Park Bank Building and Mr. Brinkley provided
the machinery, engineers and platters.
He knew the Peruna ads upside down and backwards. Was fooling around with them in the studio during
those recordings. The engineer asked him to do one 'straight' and that led to a phone call
to Harry and when he heard the result, he had Randy go to WHAS in Louisville two days later and be
ready to work at 5:00am on Monday. Performers such as Pee Wee King, Asher Sizemore and Little Jimmie
and Eddy Arnold were at WHAS back then. He caused quite a stir, generated a lot of mail that caught
WHAS off guard. That later led to an assignment with KNX in Hollywood, California.
In early 1942, Sam Abbott reported that Randy was the emcee of the 5am to 6am morning show, "Homefolks
Jamboree" over KNX. In January, Mr. Abbott reported that Uncle Henry and his Original Kentucky
Mountaineers joined the show's cast.
It appears he did not stay at WHAS continuously before going to Hollywood. He mentioned he
appeared for a time on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance and he and his wife took up residence
during his stint on John Lair's creation. While he was at WHAS, he tripled the mail pull
to over 210,000 pieces of mail.
Later in the spring of 1942, Mr. Abbott told his readers that Randy had left Hollywood to work
at radio station WHAS in Louisville, Kentucky. It was stated that Randy would return to KNX
and the Homefolks Jamboree in the fall.
But he apparently did not return to the West Coast in the fall. Sam Honigberg told The Billboard
readers that Randy had joined the announcing staff at WJJD in Chicago in September.
World War II had its effects on entertainers and it was no different in Chicago. In the spring of
1943, Bob Atcher, the music director at both WJJD and WIND, had joined the U. S. Army. His wife,
Bonnie Atcher (Bonnie Blue Eyes) took over his job while he was away and had her own show five days
a week from 7:15pm to 7:30pm. Randy was to appear on the show with her as well. Bonnie's show
was to start in June 1943.
In his May 1949 column, Arlie Kinkade reported that Randy Blake was signed to a record deal with Capitol
Records. But it appears at that time he was not on WJJD as Mr. Kinkade mentions Randy was a part
of the Suppertime Frolic show over WJJD prior to World War II.
Penny (Randy's daughter) recalls that they moved to Los Angeles / Hollywood during World War II.
CBS hired him during his time there to train the new up and coming disc jockeys. His fame
was such even on the west coast that it enabled him and his family to get housing in the
area even though it was scarce during that time. During that time, the U. S. Government awarded
him a medal for being in a necessary industry during the war. His shows were on wire recordings
that were sent to the troops overseas. Penny recalls he had both a "Breakfast Frolic" and "Suppertime
Frolic" show and he was rarely home for dinner with the family. And she told us another bit
of trivia - how many of you fans remember that his theme song was "Oklahoma Stomp" by Spade Cooley?
Mr. Blake took a break from WJJD during World War II and when he returned to WJJD, the station
decided they would have Randy play records during the Suppertime Frolic two-hour show. He
was on the last shift and was on until WJJD had to go off the air at sundown each day.
It was said that he offered a minimum of comment as he played the recordings from hillbilly
music in that era. Proof of his popularity lay in the fact that he got over 100,000 mailings
from every state in the USA.
We get some indication of his popularity from a 1943 article. The Suppertime Frolic show that
was emceed by Randy aired from 7:30pm to 9:30pm. Each 15-minute segment of the show had a
sponsor; most of them said to be mail order businesses. The results for those sponsors
were said to be solid and we quote from the article, "...in spite of the goshawful, bombastic
commercials." But they did get results. An insurance company using the Suppertime Frolic show
received over 27,000 requests for policies over a period of six weeks. In one week, it
received 7,193 requests from 1,445 out of the total 3,070 counties in the United States.
The time line gets fuzzy with Randy's career. He took another leave of absence from WJJD and
worked at radio station WCKY in Cincinnati. When he left WCKY, a young disc jockey took his
place that would himself become one of the legends, Nelson King.
That 1943 article was highlighting the pull of "mountain music" in Chicago and the success
it was generating for sponsors. The Chicago market for hillbilly music at that time was
dominated by two stations - WLS and WJJD. The article concluded by noting that there were
a few other hillbilly music artists on other stations. It noted that one such artist stated it was
why Chicago was "Hillbilly Heaven" at that time.
In 1946 Randy Blake had a hand in getting Mercury Records to setup a Nashville operation. Murray
Nash had just left RCA Victor. Randy knew Murray and suggested to the Mercury Records executives
that they should contact Murray to setup a country music recording studio. That first Mercury studio
effort in Nashville was at the Cumberland Lodge, near the WSM radio station. The studio operations
later moved to a 7th Avenue location in downtown Nashville.
In 1947, Randy tried his hand at songwriting. He penned his first tune, "You Never Shoulda Done
December of 1947 found him cutting his first recordings for the Gold Seal record label. It
was reported that the two tunes he cut were "Howdy Friends, Good Evening, Neighbors" b/w "The Little
Golden Locket." The first tune was said to be based on the Suppertime Frolic opening.
Randy and Ken Nelson were listed as the songwriters for that tune. (Note: Mr. Nelson was a long time executive
for Capitol Records on the west coast and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.)
A few weeks later, Billboard reported that he had already sold 5,000 copies of the record.
In 1948, another sponsor wanted Randy for their products - records. Columbia sponsored a nightly
15-minute segment that Randy hosted. He would provide short biographies of the artists and
play their latest recordings.
National Jamboree magazine reported in the summer of 1949 that Randy had received a "huge" gold loving
cup from Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl and Rod Brasfield for "...the many years spent in
promoting folk music." The cup was inscribed with the words, "To Randy Blake,
who has done so much to promote folk music." It was given to him to honor the many years
he promoted hillbilly and western music over WJJD on the popular Suppertime Frolic show.
Later in 1949, Rosalie Allen wrote a bit of a review of one of Randy's releases on Capitol Records - "The Old
Rugged Cross" b/w "The Lesson of Love". She told readers that Randy had "...always been one of my
favorites when it comes to hymn singing, and in this release he has the fine sincerity and feeling
that makes listening a real pleasure."
That 1949 feature article in National Jamboree notes that he never thought he'd be a "top folk music
disc jockey", but was happy it turned out that way. To him, there were only two types of music.
One was opera - the folk music of Europe and then there was good old American folk music.
In April of 1949, Capitol Records announced they had signed Mr. Blake to a recording contract
to record sacred songs for the label. At that time, Randy was being heard seven hours a day
over border radio station XENT out of Laredo, Texas, presumably by transcriptions. He also
had transcribed programs airing over 20 radio stations in the South. Also signed to the label
around the same time were James and Martha Carson.
Just how popular was Randy Blake? In 1949, The Billboard published its list of the 'Favorite
Hillbilly Disc Jockey' based on a poll of disc jockeys and folk artists. Yes folk artists. Back then
it seems there was a bit of a struggle how to classify the music - as hillbilly and for a time,
it was coined folk music - in the ever evolving marketing strategies to get an extra sale or two.
Nelson King over WCKY in Cincinnati, Ohio ruled the top of the list that year. But Randy
was in the runner-up position.
In late 1949, Randy Blake's father passed away.
Somewhere in the late 1940s, MGM records were being distributed in Chicago by the Zenith Corporation
that was on Jackson Boulevard. Frank Walker called the sales manager and told him he was sending
him a record by Hank Williams and was not to open it, but take it to Randy Blake at WJJD. Randy
didn't think much at the time. Neither did Fred Rose when Hank recorded "Lovesick Blues". But
Hank knew different because of the reaction by the audiences at his personal appearances. The song
was so popular that audiences wouldn't let him sing until he did the tune. Randy told Mr. Walker
that "...Obviously he has a lot of talent because he writes and writes and writes. I'll tell you
what I think of this record. I think you should put it out. I'm giving you an order right now for
10,000 of them."
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, some publications included columns that seemed to plug the new
songs being published during that era and where they were being featured. Walter Hudnall noted
in National Hillbilly News that Randy was featuring a song called "Charleston Is the Place For You"
by Johnny Smolen over WJJD. In several older The Billboard magazines, we have seen advertisements
for records that featured Randy or a quote about the air play and response
the record was generating over WJJD.
A 1950 publication noted that Randy had received his 600th namesake that year. Parents were
naming their new born children after him.
Randy entered into a new venture in 1950. Art and Leonard Keller had formed a music publishing
company called Len-Art Music, which was affiliated with BMI. They added a hillbilly and Western
'department' and signed up Randy Blake to lead that effort. In April, they announced that
Lou Camito was going to help promote the firm in New York City. Later that summer, Ted Browne
was said to be heading up the hillbilly and Western song department and that Randy was an 'official'
of the firm.
The Billboard published another popularity list in October 1950. To show you again the mix of
how they were describing the music back then. The article headline is "Favorite Folk Disc
Jockeys" but when you read the details of what they asked the disc jockeys and folk artists,
they asked, "Who is your favorite Hillbilly disk jockey?" And yes, they did capitalize Hillbilly.
The 1950 poll was very similar to the 1949 one. Nelson King still on top of the list and Randy
Blake taking the runner-up spot.
It's a bit difficult to pin down the exact years Randy led the Suppertime Frolic
show over WJJD, but The Billboard reported in its "Disk Jockey Doings" column in October 1950
that he had completed his ninth year as country music emcee on September 25.
Randy's name even popped up in Letters to the Editor type of columns. Country fans were loyal
to their favorites and were outspoken if they felt their favorite wasn't getting their just due.
One such fan was Pearl Smith in Kokomo Indiana who was a Ray Price fan and in 1953, felt he wasn't
getting enough air play and noted that Randy wasn't even playing his records.
While Mr. Blake was on the Capitol Records label, he managed to get out of the studio
and participate in what was termed "Artistry in Golf" tournament for the label's artists,
personnel and disc jockeys in the Chicago area. He and WIND's Jim Lounsbury were
said to have been the winners in 1950.
In 1953, The Billboard announced its annual DJ poll. This time the question they asked was
"Which three disk jockeys in your opinion have had the best local radio and/or TV jockey
shows over the past year?" The top two DJs were unchanged from the earlier 1949 and 1950 polls. Still
number one was Nelson King and runner-up was Randy Blake.
But 1953 may have also been the start of a shift in fortunes for hillbilly music in the Chicago
scene or at WJJD. It was reported that Randy had started doing a new hour long show that
featured the pop tunes of the day. In another article by Bob Francis reporting on what
was going on with record dealers, Randy Blake noted his Stewart Sales mail order company
that specialized in folk records had included some pop records in their catalog. The results
were some surprising sales increases for artists such as Sammy Kaye ("Dance of Mexico") and Jay White
("On The Trail").
According to Randy's daughter Penny, The Stewart Sales Company would purchase surplus
records that the record company did not sell and did not want to return to inventory. That meant
his company would get a very good (low) price. In addition to the mail order business, the
surplus records were used in promotional deals. Such as "Buy a stereo and get 10 Free albums," or "Buy
a bag a chips and get a record inside." Randy told interviewer Doug Green in 1974 the company
was named for his son.
The record company did well. It worked with Syd Nathan of King Records and were selling records
by such artists as Cowboy Copas, Grandpa Jones, the Delmore Brothers and the Carlisles. He'd sell
the records very simply. Listeners didn't have to send any money. Back then, they would pay
the postman $2.98 plus 35 cents on delivery. Uncle Sam was their account receivable department.
In another testament to the reaches of his popularity, he told The Billboard in November of 1953
that he had received an order for a product that was being pitched on his show
from a listener in England.
The Billboard published its seventh annual list of Favorite Deejays in 1954. Nelson King
was still at the top of the list, but Randy was now listed in the number five position
behind Eddie Hill of WSM, Paul Kallinger of XERF and Marty Roberts also of WCKY.
The Billboard noted that Randy was celebrating his 20th anniversary as part of the Suppertime Frolic show
over WJJD in 1955. He started as a producer on the show, then became one of its singers
and eventually took over the show.
Mr. Blake reported to The Billboard in May of 1955 that he had seen record sales
for sacred music had tripled in the past couple of years. He stated that his Stewart Sales
Company, Inc. that specialized in handling mail order requests for country and western
records had seen the sacred music records increase to almost 50 percent of his request
mail and accounted for 40 percent of his mail order volume. The records he noted that
were selling were by such artists as Red Foley, The Johnson Family, Hank Snow, Hank Williams,
Ernest Tubb, the Chuck Wagon Gang, Martha Carson, the Smith Brothers, Stuart Hamblen
and on it goes.
The Billboard C&W Jockey Of The Year list in 1955 showed Nelson King again at the top
of the list. Randy Blake was now listed as number 12. It is interesting to note the changes
in the name of the list over the years by the magazine in this list.
Variety magazine noted the long-running Suppertime Frolic show in a 1955 article. They noted
the long run and that the show had a waiting list of sponsors. It mentioned that Randy
began directing the show in 1935 for Benson & Dall, Inc., an advertising agency.
The show started off using live talent, but eventually the record industry took hold
and over the years, the show featured the hit records of the day and hosted by Randy.
The advertising agency in 1955 handling the program was O'Neil, Larson & McMahon which
had offices in Chicago.
In 1956, The Billboard called it the "Country and Western Jockey of the Year". Eddie Hill
unseated Nelson King as number one. Randy Blake was tied for tenth place with Lee Sutton
In 1956, a Country and Western Jamboree magazine poll showed that Randy was the fourth most
popular Disco Jockey that year. That same magazine noted Randy was the No. 1 "non network" disc jockey
On March 31 1957, his contract with WJJD in Chicago as host of the Suppertime Frolic had
expired. He had been a part of the show except for some brief interludes during World War II
for over 22 years. Al Bland, vice-president of WLW radio in CIncinnati stated that they
had hired Randy to fill the 8:05pm to 9:30pm time slot each night except Mondays. WLW
wanted stronger ratings during that time slot. Mr. Blake would continue to live
in Chicago and tape his WLW shows. He noted that he would not be changing the format of the show; he would
continue to feature country music along with gospel recordings. His show was to begin
airing over WLW on March 12, 1957. In a later article, The Billboard noted his show's move
and noted he was still going to work from his offices on South Wabash Avenue, but we wonder if they
meant the office where he was working out of rather than literally his home address.
Later on after his radio work, he went to work at WGN-TV (channel 9) in Chicago. At one point
he did commercials for a program that was a "man on the street" type of show and was hosted
by the legendary Chicago Cubs baseball announcer, Jack Brickhouse. Randy's daughter tells
of some of the 'special effects' that were used to do those commercials sometimes. She did a commercial
for a brand of hair waving shampoo. They had her pose as a 'before' picture, but then the 'after'
picture was not because she used the shampoo, but because they took her to a back room
and used curling irons on her hair. It's probably still true today - be a bit skeptical about
those claims in commercials.
Towards the latter end of his career, he was invited to conduct a class on diction at both
the University of Illinois and Northwestern University. He felt it was quite an honor and
took advantage of it.
The pictures we've seen of Randy always seem to show him with a suit coat and tie. Penny tells us
that was his everyday apparel on the job and may have loosened the tie once behind the microphone.
In many of the photos of her father especially those that show his hands, you should see him
wearing a gold ring on his pinky finger - which was part of the male fashion of that era. She now
wears that ring on the middle finger of her right hand.
Mr. Blake was from an era where the hillbilly music disc jockey played an important part
in the growth and promotion of that musical genre. Johnny Sippel in The Billboard in 1951
and Hugh Cherry in The Music City News in 1980 both spoke to this aspect. Mr. Sippel points
out in his article that the disc jockey was a "paramount promotion force in any branch of the music
business." But it was even more important to Country and Western music.
Back then, as Mr. Sippel put it, the "rustic music warbler" did not have the same
opportunity to do personal appearances at major venues that the pop music and vaudeville
acts of the day had access to. Country music had a few exceptions. Reno and Las Vegas played
host to hillbilly music acts. Even in the movies, Mr. Sippel noted that h.b. (his article
abbreviated the term hillbilly in this manner throughout) and Western talent were only featured
or in supporting roles in horse operas that only got limited distribution and generally,
did not make it to metropolitan areas.
How did the h.b. and Western talents get heard by audiences? A survey back in 1951 noted
that there were 1,400 h.b. disk shows being broadcast over radio stations. Mr. Sippel pointed
out that the large 50,000 watt radio stations had by and large turned to h.b. and Western
programs for their all-night and early morning programming.
These disc jockeys put in a lot of work. The 'average rustic spinner' put in 11 hours of
disc jockey work each week, usually six days a week. Some of the well known disc jockeys
of that era such as Randy Blake, Nelson King were doing an average of three to six hours
The h.b. disc jockey was in essence the only really big promotional outlet for country talent
in their geographical area of coverage. Many of them became a part of country music parks
back then to give the artists a venue to be seen and heard. In other localities, the disc
jockeys were even investing in the promotion of the country talents by getting into the business
of staging and promoting the package shows of talent for audiences.
Others even opened a record shop - such as Jimmie Skinner. Or in Randy Blake's case, a mail-order
Hugh Cherry stated that Randy Blake was the first important hillbilly disc jockey in his 1980 article.
The Suppertime Frolic show he began hosting in 1941 over WJJD was heard in more than half of
the then 48 United States.
"Randy had a smooth, resonant voice. He played it straight, without
regional accent and his presentation of hillbilly music had a dignity and authority not before
identified with the music."
Mr. Cherry stated not only did he sell a lot of baby chicks
or fertilizer, but he also sold a lot of hillbilly music.
His commercials were the two or three minute litanies which sold baby chicks, fertilizers, patented
medicines and records packages known in the broadcasting industry as PI's (the sponsor does not
buy time but pays the station a commission Per Inquiry on each item sold as a result
of the commercial announcements.)
Mr. Cherry points out in the time after World War II had ended, the Federal Communications
Commission granted hundreds of licenses for new radio stations. These were often started
without any network affiliation. Most began by playing records. They would play hillbilly
music in the early mornings, mid-day or late night hours. When a new disc jockey came to
a station, Hugh points out there were often given the then 'undesirable' hillbilly music
shift. He noted that few disc jockeys back then identified themselves with hillbilly music
voluntarily. That's how he got into the business - because he wanted to keep his job.
But Hugh found out as time went on that instead of feeling like he had a stigma attached to him,
he had become a hillbilly disc jockey because ... "I liked the music."
Mr. Cherry points out that in the early days, there was a family feeling which prevailed
in the country music community. You were part of a group. It made no difference who you
were or where you were - it was a close-knit family. You could go to Nashville and stay at
a hotel, but more likely someone you knew would invite you to stay with them.
In perhaps a comment on what he was seeing in the industry then, he felt that the artists
of that generation had forgotten roots of the industry they were now enjoying being
a part of. He noted "...country music presentation has evolved into today's highly-impersonally
purveyance of a commercial medium." He felt while the industry was making gains, country music's
heritage and history was being lost and forgotten. He noted, "Let us remember what
happens when you kill the roots of a tree—it dies.
Earlier we wrote of how Randy started as an Opera singer. And he later told Mr. Green
how it compared to hillbilly music.
"I studied opera for many, many years. I see a similarity between opera and country music.
I'm talking about the country music that I know, that I took part in. Opera is a tragedy.
They all wind up with somebody dying or somebody leaving and "Why did you leave me"
and all that, and the same thing in country and western music as I knew it. It was
called hillbilly music, which was a stigma, as far as I was concerned, except when I had to
go to the bank. Then it was not a stigma anymore. But I mean, jeez, how can an opera
singer be a hillbilly, you know?"
Randy also revealed the types of music he would play. If it had a piano or electrical
instrument behind it, he would not play it. If it had anything to do with drinking
he would not play it either. He noted he was very, very careful about that. And his opinion
of modern country music was not flattering either - he thought it was comparable to the
sound of Andre Kostelanetz's orchestra music.
Over the years, this web site has received several email's from fans who recalled
the enjoyment of listening to Randy over WJJD. We only hope this helps the fans
bring back some of those memories and the legacy he left behind.
Harold Winston was his name, Randy Blake was the name hillbilly music fans knew. He
passed away on February 18, 1976. He was survived by his wife, Bernice. They had a son,
Dr. Stuart Winston and a daughter, Penny Winston Stein. At the time of his death,
he and Bernice had been married for 44 years. His wife was active in many philanthropic
organizations and was on the board of the Chicago Symphony. She moved to San Diego in her
later years and married Don Fraser, who passed away in 1994. Bernice passed away in February
On October 15, 1976, The Federation of International Country Air Personalities hosted its second
annual DJ Hall of Fame awards banquet at the Hyatt Regency in Nashville. Chuck Chellman, who
was a trustee for the Country Music Disk Jockey Hall of Fame Foundation, made the presentation
as they inducted Randy posthumously into their Hall of Fame.
Penny's son is a blues musician. When he first started, the leader of the band at his first
gig thought the name "Tom Stein" was a bit ethnic for an American blues singer. So, he
became Tomcat Blake to honor his grandfather's musical heritage.
Credits and Sources
- Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to express its thanks and appreciation
to Penny Winston Blake Stein for sharing information about her father's career.
- The Billboard; June 5, 1937; Cincinnati, OH
- WLS Stand By; April 2, 1938; Prairie Farmer; Chicago, IL
- The Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder; Vol. 2 No. 7; December 1941; Rialto Music
Publishing Corp.; 1674 Broadway, New York, NY
- The Billboard; January 24, 1942; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; March 28, 1942; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; September 19, 1942; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; May 29, 1943; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; August 21, 1943; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; May 31, 1947; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; December 13, 1947; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; January 3, 1948; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; June 19, 1948; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; April 9, 1949; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; October 22, 1949; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; December 10, 1949; Cincinnati, OH
- National Hillbilly News; May-June 1949; Orville and Jenny Via; Huntington, WV
- National Jamboree; August 1949; Vol. 1 No. 2; Words to Songs, Inc.;
1 East 42 Street, New York, NY
- National Jamboree; October 1949; Vol. 1 No. 3; Words to Songs, Inc.;
1 East 42 Street, New York, NY
- The Billboard; April 8, 1950; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; April 22, 1950; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; July 6, 1950; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; October 7, 1950; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; October 14, 1950; Cincinnati, OH
- Country Song Roundup; No. 6; June 1950; Charlton Publishing Corp.;
Charlton Building; Derby, CT
- National Hillbilly News; January-February 1950; Vol. 5 No. 3;
Orville W. Via; P. O. Box 9087; Huntington, WV
- Hillbilly and Western Scrapbook 1950; Jordon O. Zimmerman; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; June 2, 1951; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; September 15, 1951; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; February 28, 1953; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; March 21, 1953; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; April 18, 1953; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; November 28, 1953; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; September 24, 1954; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; May 14, 1955; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; November 12, 1955; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; November 10, 1956; Cincinnati, OH
- The Billboard; March 16, 1957; Cincinnati, OH
- Hillbilly and Western Hoedown; Vol. 1 No. 4; December 1953; Hoedown, Inc.;
124 Government Place; Cincinnati, OH
- Variety; November 5, 1955; (Copy of article courtesy of Wayne W. Daniel)
- Country & Western Jamboree; Vol. 2 No. 3; May 1956; Maher Publications, Inc.;
- Country & Western Jamboree; Vol. 3 No. 3; June 1957; Maher Publications, Inc.;
- The Billboard; May 27, 1972; Cincinnati, OH
- Country Music Foundation Oral History Project; Interview with Randy Blake;
June 12, 1974; Interviewer - Douglas Green; Chicago, IL; Transcribed interview copy from
Country Music Hall of Fame
- The Billboard; October 30, 1976; Cincinnati, OH
- Music City News; October 1980; Music City News Publishing Co.; Nashville, TN
- Chicago Tribune; Obituary Notice; February 24, 2008; Chicago, IL
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