About The Group
Back in 1922, there were only 30 AM radio stations in the United States and only 35% of the homes had what Alexander Graham Bell had invented, the telephone. It was also the year that Mary Miccolis was born in Melrose Park, Illinois. In 1924, her sister Ruth Miccolis, came into the world, when a young singer named Vernon Dalhart had a hit song called "The Prisoner's Song." They came from a family of ten children. The two sisters discovered music and began to sing together and entertaining fans with their close harmony and yodeling tunes. Their yodeling vocals were referred to as "triple-tongue" yodels.
A 1947 article about the sisters in the WIBW Round-Up publication noted that the girls sought to hone their talents any place they could whether it be a local neighborhood gathering, county fairs or amateur talent contests. They had dreams of becoming radio entertainers.
Another 1947 article indicates that the girls did a bit of songwriting as well. But the only one published as of that date was a tune called "Just A Little Spanish Prayer" that they co-wrote with Chaw Mank and Walter Haycraft.
One of the stories of their early career is found in an early talent contest - the Rubins Hour. The girls were still new to entertaining before crowds then and were said to be so nervous in those early days, that they almost didn't finish their song. But they must have overcome that stage fright - the judges of the contest awarded them the first prize - a wrist watch. But only one watch. So, the girls took to taking turns wearing the watch. But as they continued to work together and perfect their efforts, they won another contest (sponsored by Morris V. Sachs) and as luck would have it, another wrist watch so they no longer had to share that first one.
When they were just 14 and 16 years old (around 1938), a talent scout from radio station KMOX in St. Louis, Missouri had them audition and promptly offered them a job. While it was difficult to leave home and their siblings, they accepted the offer and moved to St. Louis and working on KMOX.
Their talents continued to blossom in St. Louis. The girls entered and won the National Champion Girl Yodelers contest that was held at Kiel Auditorium. Later, when television was first aired, the girls were deemed a natural for the new medium of entertainment. Ruth recalled in a 1998 interview in The Chanute Tribune (Kansas) that she wasn't that fond of television then due to the hot lights - she preferred working on the radio.
A 1990 article in a local newspaper indicated that the Miccolis Sisters appeared on the air in 1938 with Pappy Cheshire and the Barn Yard Follies over KMOX.
Audiences in St. Louis got to hear the girls over KMOX, but as many artists did back then, the radio shows were catalysts in a sense to draw fans to their numerous personal appearances. The Miccolis Sisters travelled around the midwest playing such venues as high schools, theaters, fairs, home-comings and many more. A 1947 article notes that seems to tell us the more they traveled, the more fan mail they would get at the radio station.
Later on, they met up with Ambrose Haley in St. Louis and became a part of his show with the Ozark Ramblers. That meant a change of radio stations - working with KXOK, being heard over the "Blue Network" which became the American Broadcasting System. This change of stations occurred during World War II. Their act was impacted a bit as many entertainment acts were back then because of the war. Ambrose Haley was doing the part of a comedian for the group, but the act needed a straight man. Mary was suddenly thrust into the spotlight to take on this role. She must have adapted to it rather well for she seemed to keep playing that part through the years.
It was during their stint at KXOK that they made some of their most memorable personal appearances. It seems that a cowboy movie star of that day and age, Roy Rogers, was going to be doing some personal appearances in the St. Louis area and the Miccolis Sisters were chosen to be a part of the entertainment roster during Roy's stint in St. Louis. The girls got to do appearances not only at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, but appearances with Roy at local hospitals and military installations.
When Roy Rogers passed away, the sisters were called upon by some of the local newspapers in 1998 to recall their experiences working with him. They said he was very nice to work with; he was "...really coming up at that time and very popular." The girls did background vocal work with him on "Pistol Packin' Mama" in those shows.
While at KMOX, the Ozark Varieties show was sponsored by Dick Slack's Furniture Company and was on from 7:15am to 7:45am. The Old Fashioned Barn Dance show was on the air from 10:30pm to 11:30pm on Saturday nights. They were also on the CBS network on Saturday mornings from 7:30am to 8:00am.
During that 1998 interview, we get a glimpse into some of the little incidents that entertainers sometimes run into during their travels to and from personal appearances. Ruth noted that one such memory occurred when they were appearing at one of those small towns. When they arrived to do the shows, the girls needed a dressing room to change into their stage costumes. The girls remember that particular experience for they had to change their clothes in a funeral home of all places.
To give you an idea of their work schedule with KXOK, they were featured daily on the Ozark Varieties show, that was sponsored by Dick Slack's Furniture Company from 7:15 to 7:45am. Then they were a part of the Old Fashioned Barn Dance that was heard on Saturday nights from 10:30pm to 11:30pm. In addition, they were heard on the Columbia Broadcasting System network every Saturday morning from 7:30am to 8:00am.
The Miccolis Sisters also appeared with Eddy Arnold when he was doing his show for Purina MIlls.
Another example of a typical working schedule for an entertainer at a radio station in that era was their schedule at WIBW. The Miccolis Sisters were on at 10:45am during the week doing the Ambrose Haley and his Ozark Ramblers show. They were also doing the "Rainbow Trail" show Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:30pm. And were on the weekly Saturday WIBW Kansas Roundup show that was on at 2:00pm.
The WIBW Roundup magazine tells us that the girls had a very distinctive style of their own and needed to be heard in person to appreciate. Ruth would play the guitar and they worked out their own vocal arrangements. In 1947 they had recorded already with the DeLuxe Recording Company.
A 1982 article written by Ann Hungerford indicates that their children enjoyed the talents of their singing as well as their radio fans. Robert Fulmer noted to Ann that he didn't come from a normal family home - he didn't get to hear any lullabies.
In 1982, the Miccolis Sisters were a part of an oral history project that was being put on by the local high school stud nets, who were trying to preserve the history of past students. During their appearance, Gordon Jump of WKRP television series fame also appeared with the sisters. Zula Bennington Greene noted in her column that the hit of the evening was the appearance by Ruth and Mary and their singing and one would presume, their yodeling as well. The sisters brought with them many photographs and recordings from their years of entertaining fans. She noted that "...they sang live last Wednesday, lilting and yodeling songs that brought the house down". They still had the magic to touch their audiences.
On the personal side, both sisters still live in the Kansas area, near Topeka. Ruth married John B. Williams and had two daughters and a son. Mary married Royce Fulmer and had two sons.
Sources & Credits
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