About The Group
Howard Earl Handy was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on an early January day in 1927 to parents Linnaeus and Alice (Greenman) Handy. The world would come to know him as "Pappy Howard."
From the foreword of an old song folio, readers learn that Pappy's career on stage began when he was 18 as he was performing in stock shows in leading theatres around the country. But he was not yet satisfied.
He formed his first group, Pappy Howard and His New England Hillbillies. But as his popularity grew, he grew his group as well, adding comedy as well. The group was renamed Pappy Howard and His Conncticut Kernels.
In early 1939, newspaper ads from Brown Thomson's Department Store indicated that Pappy Howard and his New England Hillbillies were broadcasting from their downstairs radio studio Monday Through Friday from 3:15pm to 3:30pm over radio station WNBC. In another store promotion, Pappy was being promoted along with Cy Brown ("a hick if there ever was one") at the Newberry's Carnival Sale in May 1940.
Many entertainers, not just hillbilly or country, would often do appearances to benefit various charities or organizations. Pappy was no different. For excample, on September 14, 1940, Pappy's group the New England Hill Billies along with Doye O'Dell were part of a show put on by the Tara Club and its Ladies Auxiliary as part of an old-fashioned barn dance at the Foot Guard Hall to benefit the Newington Home for Crippled Children. At that time, Pappy and his group were being heard over WTIC, WNBC and WBRY.
While in Hartford, he entertained fans at many venues. One such venue was a KofC (Knights of Columbus) Hall in the Hartford area in 1942. A fan wrote to columnist M. Oakley Christoph about the event and said that there was "a very good crowd for opening night and everyone had a barrel of fun. I've seen a good many old-time orchestras but not one of them hold the candlelight with Howard." His show was a half-hour long and in that short span had the crowd "stamping and whistling."
A later column seemed to infer that Pappy was to be doing weekly dances at that hall every Friday night. Dotty Wriswold was the chairman of those dances.
Around March of 1945, Pappy left Connecticut and made his way to the Cleveland, Ohio area. A new show called the "Barn Dance Jamboree" was being held at the Armory in Akron, Ohio and being held on Sundays with shows at 2:30pm and 8:00pm.
In June of 1946, National Hillbilly News got a note from Pappy letting the readers know how they were doing over radio station WJW. He mentions there were eight members in his Pappy Howard and His Connecticut Kernels. They had two shows a day at that time. One was a Stumpus(?) Gang type of show. It was a fiftenn minute show sponsored by Lakeside Bakers. Following was a half hour show called the Cleveland Clambake that was said to have 49.2% of the audience per the Hooper ratings. But their day was not through. They followed up with a 15-minute show at 6:15pm called Campfire Melodies.
Saturday nights saw them hosting a two and a half hour show at the Masonic Auditorium in downtown Cleveland. First, there would be a half-hour broadcast then a one and a half hour show afterwards featuring his Connecticut Kernels. At that time they featured Pee Wee Menard on fiddle, Lou Mondon on the bass, Chubby on Clarinet, Norm Knituh on accordion. The vocals were done by the Corn Huskers Trio, Judy Dell and the yodeling cow girl, Tex Ann. Also on the group was Dancing Dotty. She was said to be able to can change her routines from week to week over a period of 15 weeks. She also helped out in the comedy area. Another part of the comedy was an act known as the Haystack Maniacs, Smiley and Sue. Each week the show featured guest stars.
After the show closed, a show called Country Store was on when some members of the audience got to take home "all the grocerties they can carry."
It seems that Pappy's popularity caught the audience attention in Cleveland. It was reported that the Cleveland Clambake was voted the number one show in a radio poll. The WJW Barndance Jamboree took a first place in for Weekend shows. Judy Dell took first place as female vocalist while Tex Ann took second.
Marion Lee Hall reported in her column that Pappy and his group appeared in Washington, DC on August 14, 1948 at Constitutional Hall.
Pappy owned his own restaurant or night club called the "Country Inn". It was located on 10502 Carnegie Avenue in downtown Cleveland, Ohio based on a matchbook found on eBay.
In the summer of 1949, things changed again for Pappy. The last ad for one of Pappy's shows in the Cleveland area was on June 15, 1949 for a Summerrtime Jamboree that was to feature Pee Wee King and his Golden West Cowboys at the Summit Beach Park Theater. The ad mentions "Pappy Howard and His Tumbleweed Gang" - another name change.
The next ad seen is from the Boston Globe and it was adrveriting dancing at the Totem Pole club in Norumbega Park in Auburndale, Massachusetts. The dance was featuring "Pappy Howard and his Kentucky Colonels" - indicating another shift in names.
Pappy took ill in September 1953 and passed away at St. Vincent's hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts on September 14. Articles in various newspapers reported on his passing and in one case, the local Hartford newspaper spelled his name as Jack Howard. The Courant noted that Pappy's last broadcast in Hartford was in 1944 over WDRC.
Though Pappy was born in the New England area and was doing a daily radio show and the weekend New England Barn Dance Jamboree show, he was to be flown back to Cleveland where the funeral service would be held.
After Pappy's passing, Chick Slocum, who had been Pappy's assistant in the weeks prior to his death, was to take over the emcee role on the New England Barn Dance Jamboree show.
Even after his passsing, folks still remembered Pappy. Worcester, Massachusetts had a special memorial day a year after he died to honor his memory.
Howard married the former Harriet Lull sometime between 1930 and 1940. They had three children - two sons, Howard Jr. (May 19, 1931 - August 8, 1975), and Robert (who died on December 16, 1946 at age of 13) and a daughter, Marla. With his previous wife, Judy, they had one son, Michael (August 25, 1952 - January 25, 1989).
Credits & Sources
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