About The Group
Kit and Kay were born Irene and Orlene Crouse in Saline County, Missouri on March 2, 1920 to Calvin and Mae Crouse. The family included their two older sisters, Anna and Margaret. When the twins were only a few months old, their paternal grandfather died, so the family moved to the ancestral home of their father in Harrison County, Missouri.
The farm was about two miles north of Cainsville, Missouri. The sisters were also joined by a brother, Willard.
Mrs. Crouse's sister was a music teacher in a high school nearby. She and another sister spent a lot of time with the twins' family.
From the time the twins were three years old, their aunts taught the girls to play the ukulele as well as to sing and dance.
Their father, Calvin, raised cattle on the family farm, and when he took the cattle to market in St. Joseph, Missouri, he would bring musical instruments home for the girls to learn to play.
It was not too surprising that the four sisters learned to play the guitars, banjos, and mandolins. They were called "The Crouse Sisters" and became the favorite entertainment at the county fairs and all other community activities.
On Saturday nights, they took the place of a band in the bandstand in the city square in their home town of Cainsville. From the age of eleven, the twins sang along with their two older sisters.
One Saturday in 1935, they received a call from Earl May, the owner of KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa, who asked if they would like to sing on the radio. This was during the Depression, so of course they wanted that opportunity very much.
Their fan mail surpassed expectations as their radio career progressed. Aside from the regular early morning shows, they also starred on a show called the KMA Country School, one of the early the live radio barn dance shows.
After a year there, the two older sisters left their singing career for a time. Later, the radio station, KMA, got the twins to return, but this time they would be known as "The Crouse Twins". The girls sang and accompanied themselves with their guitar and mandolin.
Later, the twins decided to move over to radio station KFNF in Shenandoah. Aside from their 15 minute singing spots there, Irene also had a part in the radio "soap" called "Pumpkin Valley".
In 1937, the twins decided to move on to St. Joseph, Missouri and try their luck at radio station KFEQ. Their shows were sponsored by the International Harvester Company, and they did do other appearances for the company at fairs.
While at KFEQ, the twins received a call from radio station KMBC in Kansas City, Missouri. KMBC offered them a five-year contract. At first the girls were afraid to accept a job in the big metropolitan venue, but their fellow entertainers encouraged them. The offer began to sound more interesting and acceptable to them, so they decided to take the bus to Kansas City to talk with the station management.
But since they were not old enough to sign the contract, they had to take take it back home to their father for his signature.
KMBC arranged for the twins to stay in a nearby apartment hotel, and the twins had now become "city gals".
KMBC held a contest for changing their professional name, and the winning name was "Kit and Kay". Around that time, KMBC was launching a new show called the Brush Creek Follies, so the twins celebrated their 18th birthday as Kit and Kay on the Brush Creek Follies show at the Ivanhoe Temple in Kansas City, Missouri.
The gals had an early morning show at KMBC and listeners would here the announcer introduce the show with, "Start Your Day with Kit and Kay". In 1939, that show aired every weekday from 5:30am to 6:00am. They accompanied themselves on the mandolin and guitar.
The Brush Creek Follies show became one of the biggest country shows in radio of that time, second only to the number one show, the WLS National Barn Dance which originated in Chicago, Illinois.
KMBC had their own booking agency, so Kit and Kay played theaters and fairs all over the Midwest. Colorado Pete was one of the singers at KMBC, and he was usually booked along with the twins in many of those appearances. He did all of the driving and became a great friend to the girls.
The KMBC booking agency managed to get them in the newspaper in various ways, taking advantage of their feminine status perhaps as well as being talented twins. In one undated photo, they're showed trying to 'lasso' a single gentleman by the name of Harold Lawrance who was about to be inducted into the military service. Another photo in an undated newspaper article from the Kansas City Jounral-Post shows the twins posing with the trophy for the Quewen of the American Royal, which was to be named from entrants from Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.
The twins were also booked along with The Oklahoma Wranglers, who later went on to Nashville and became members of the Grand Old Opry and were later known to fans as The Willis Brothers.
According to an undated newspaper photo and aritcle, the girls were on the Brush Creek Follies from 1938 to 1941.
An October 23, 1941 community newspaper article notes that the gals 'stole the show' when they appeared at a luncheon sponsored by the South Kansas City Business Club at the Billerive Hotel. KMBC provided the entertainers. But the article noted that Kit and Kay "stole the show with their Western songs and the strumming of their guitars and mandolins." The third member of their act, Colorado Pete was said to have been content to just "smiling and doing his stuff" during their appearance. The gals brought down the house when they introduced a new tune, "Wench From Wyoming". And the crowd brought them back for an encore.
In 1942, the twins decided to end their singing careers. Kit had married, and Kay has just received an engagement ring from Eugene Dierks. He had insisted that Irene resign and be a fulltime wife. The twins went in to ask station management if they could terminate their contract. They signed the agreement and retired.
Kit became Mrs. Chester E. Johnson and Kay became Mrs. Eugene H. Dierks. Kit and "Chet" had one daughter, Barbara, who lost her life to cancer in 2004. Chet died in 1999. Kit died in May of 2005, leaving three grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
Kay and Eugene had four daughters and three sons. Eugene died in 1970, and Kay moved back to Kansas City. The children had grown up in Colorado where Kay and Eugene had lived for 22 years. Kay has 22 grandchildren and 24 great grandchildren. At the age of 89, she is believed to be one of two surviving members of the old Brush Creek Follies.
Credits & Sources
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