Possum Holler Opry
The Possum Holler Opry was a relative late-comer into the jamboree
type shows. It appears to have been only a television show that started
over WGEM-TV, channel 10, out of Quincy, Illinois around 1961. An article in 1963
refers to the show having started its third year. You'd hear the announcer
sing out, "Hi Ho Neighbors! It's Possum Holler Opry time!" The show was
on every Sunday at 12:30 and was telecast "live" from the studios of WGEM-TV.
"Toby" Dick Ellis was the leader of the show, having also done
other 'tent shows' throughout the Tri-State area of Illinois, Iowas
and Missouri. He was said to have also appeared in radio, stage
and motion picture productions as well. "Toby" also was known as
R.W. Elsenpeter, who owned Elsenpeter Productions, who produced the
Possum Holler Opry.
The show was said to have been the top rated television show in the Tri-State
area of Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, being viewed by over 75,000 viewers. To
show you the popularityof the group, in 1963, they had just made an appearance
at the Keokuk Iowa Street Fair, known as the largest Street Fair in the USA and
drew the largest attendance in the history of the fair.
Members of the Possum Holler Opry also did personal appearances in the area
and provided backup band support for such stars as Tex Ritter, Flatt and
Scruggs, the Wilburn Brothers, George Hamilton IV, Joe Dowell and
Billy Grammer. They also appeared to capacity crowds in Springfield,
Illinois during the winter season at the 4-H Building, where Grand Ole
Opry acts appeared and were heard 'live' over seven radio stations in Illinois.
Toby Ellis' style included the usual emcee chores of comedy, chatter,
song and chatting with the audience.