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Blackhawk Valley Boys
WLS National Barn Dance
WOWO Hoosier Hop

About the Group

About The Group

Back in 1934 over radio station WROK out of Rockford, Illinois, the Blackhawk VAlley Boys were first organized as a radio act. They soon gained popularity in the surrounding area. The group took its name from the fact that the Blackhawk Valley was in Northern Illinois. That area got its name from the fact that several of the "Blackhawk" wars were fought there between the Winnebago Indians, led by Chief Blackhawk, and the early settlers.

The group was the headline act on the Rock River Barn Dance show that was broadcast over WROK once a week for 45 minutes and lasted 52 consecutive weeks. They drew consistent 'record' breaking crowds during the show's tenure.

The Blackhawk Valley Boys stayed at WROK for about four years. They embarked on a personal appearance tour that took them to the Southwest, appearing on stage as well as over several radio stations in Texas. During that time, radio station KXOK out of St. Louis contacted them and they became the first "talent broadcast" for them.

From St. Louis, they began working their way north again, to several Wisconsin radio stations before settling down at WOWO in Ft. Wayne in 1939, Indiana. There, they were heard 'several times daily'. Their stint there included appearing on the NBC "Hoosier Hop" for over two years as well as appearing on other network shows that originated from Ft. Wayne.

While they were working at WOWO, they made a series of fifteen-minute transcribed programs for a nationally known sponsor. (Anybody know who that was?) They wrote further in a song folio entitled "More Than Two Dozen 'Songs That Appeal' as featured by the Blackhawk Valley Boys", that this 'nationally known sponsor' also helped them appear in front of over 160,000 fans in 75 personal appearances.

Blackhawk Valley Boys

Don Lake was nicknamed "Ike" by the group and could actually lay claim to real Blackhawk citizenship, born in Rockford, Illinois. He was 5'10" with dark brown hair and eyes then. He played the accordion and sang the baritone parts as part of the quartet numbers. He also handled the comedy vocals using a character named "The Constabule".

Red Bicknell came from West Virginia. He was said to have varied his pounding of the bass fiddle with "...his clever impersonations of 'Axel Johnson'."

Pete Fall learned the guitar from his dad. He was said to look like a 'real movie cowboy' and the girls thought he was cute. But Pete just wanted to be a regular fella, so, when he could take a break from the group's many personal appearances, he'd head out to the nearest fishing spot and wait for the cork to bob.

Dean Maxedon was a native of Sullivan, Illinois. He served up some comedy for the group with his character of "Grandpappy Cuddlecush".

From a WOWO Hoosier Hop program, we found that around late 1944, the group included Pete Fall, George Arthur and Andy Anderson along with their 'sweetheart', Penny West.

By the time the Blackhawk Valley Boys had made their way to their debut on WLS back in 1945, the group had undergone some personnel changes and included a female singer, Penny West. Their roots were on WOWO in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Penny later married Dean Maxedon and took his place in the act when he had to take part in the war back then.

Blackhawk Valley Boys

They were said to sing a great variety of music. And in fact, "...continued to remember that WLS listeners like their music sweet, regardless of current styles in sour chords."

Timeline and Trivia Notes

Group Members included:

  • Pete Fall, tenor guitar, sang bass (B: July 2, 1918 — D: October 13, 1973)
  • Dean Maxedon, (B: August 6, 1920 — D: December 5, 1997)
  • Don Lake, (B: November 21, 1914 — D: December 22, 2002
  • Red Bicknell, (B: August 23, 1911 — November 10, 1963)
  • Penny West (on WLS), married Dean Maxedon (B: June 19, 1924 — D: February 25, 2005)
  • Andy Anderson (on WLS and WOWO 1944) (B: March 20, 1906 — D: ?)
  • George Arthur (on WLS and WOWO 1944)

Credits & Sources

  • Blackhawk Valley Boys Folio of 20 Favorite Songs; Bell Music Company; 20 E. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, Illinois; 1942.
  • More Than Two Dozen 'Songs That Appeal' as featured by The Blackhawk Valley Boys; Joe McDaniel Music Co.; 1658 Broadway, New York, NY.
  • The Famous WOWO Hoosier Hop Souvenir Program; Publisher Unknown; circa 1945.