Old program booklets from the Hayloft Frolic tell us that the show originally
went on the air on the wintery day of January 5, 1952 over WTTV in Bloomington,
Indiana. But the host of that show, Uncle Bob Hardy, and his backup musicians,
were no strangers to the viewing audience then.
Prior to the Hayloft Frolic show, Uncle Bob was hosting a show called the Happy
Valley Folks over WTTV. But life sometimes throws a curve ball in one's career.
Uncle Bob left the WTTV area to go to North Vernon in 1950. He turned the reigns
of the Happy Valley Folks show over to its capable guitar player, Freddy Helms (the
brother of Bobby Helms). But Freddy wasn't able to stay much longer either as
Uncle Sam asked him to join the armed forces then and the show found a new
leader in a youngster by the name of Jack Noel.
Uncle Bob came back to the station in 1951, but perhaps underestimating the connection
with the fans or overestimating its current cast, Uncle Bob wasn't asked to rejoin
the Happy Valley Folks show. But perhaps that wasn't so bad after all, for it seemed
to spur further creativity on Uncle Bob's part and he decided to start a new
show called the Hayloft Frolic.
Word got out among the station musicians that Uncle Bob had formed a new show. One Sunday
morning at the home of Uncle Bob's mother, he got a visit from some of his former
band mates of the Happy Valley Folks. Bobby Helms, Joe Edwards and Sandy Smith
stopped by and just plain came right to the point - they simply asked him, "When
do we start?". Taken aback for a few seconds he reminded them they were a part of the
other show. But they told him they had just quit. The Hayloft Frolic had its first
When the show first started, it had no sponsors. But that situation didn't last long.
Its first sponsor was a state-wide company called Raytheon Television Distributors.
Uncle Bob notes that the pay for the show wasn't the reason they did it. The show
gave them exposure which they could use to garner personal appearances around the area.
As the show gained popularity, sponsors began to notice and in September 1952,
when Raytheon's contract ran out, the Indiana Farm Bureau Co-op became the show's sponsor when it aired on
Thursday evenings at 8:30pm. That partnership lasted for over four years.
The popularity of the Hayloft Frolic was such that at one time, its ratings were
topping that of a major network hit at the time, "This Is Your Life" hosted by
As time went by, the Hayloft Frolic was the number one rated country music show
in Indiana and was number two to only the WLW Mid-western Hayride out of Cincinnati
in the midwest.
The show's cast contained a fair amount of talent to go with those ratings. One of
them who was starting his career was Bobby Helms. Bobby was honing his songwriting
talents and learning to work with audiences back then but his talents were obvious
to those who saw him. Uncle Bob felt he owed it to try and help him broaden his career
beyond the regional television exposure he was getting but knew he wasn't the right
person to do it. Uncle Bob used his contacts in Nashville and was able to get Bobby
a session with Ernest Tubb and a spot on the Midnight Jamboree. Ernest must have liked
what he heard - he told his manager then, Gabe Tucker that Bobby would "...sell records."
Indeed he would - Fraulein, My Special Angel and Jingle Bell Rock would become classic
Another cast member was a guitar player by the name of Joe Edwards. Joe and Uncle Bob
stayed friends over the many years, even when Joe eventually left the Indiana area
and became part of the famed WSM Grand Ole Opry, working as a staff musician for the show
for many years. In later years, Uncle Bob would stop by and visit Joe in Nashville
and actually recorded a few tunes for his albums in Joe's studios. They'd also work
together on annual shows back in Bloomington that Joe would sponsor.
Edde Lee was a local boy, from Indianapolis, and made his first television appearance
with Uncle Bob on the Hayloft Frolic. An old folio notes he had an "unusually deep,
mellow voice especially adaptable to ballads and tear jerkers."
Howard 'Scotty' Scott played the triple neck electric steel guitar on the Hayloft Frolic
and was from Vincennes, Indiana. Prior to joining the cast, he had worked in radio
several years and found his first appearance on television with the show.
In 1955, Dick Morgan was mentioned in a Cowboy Songs feature article on the Hayloft Frolic
as one of the favorites on the show. Prior to joining the show, the article mentioned
Dick had worked at various other radio stations and fronted other bands. That same article
told us that no barn dance type show would be complete without a five-string banjo
player and in this case, the show boasted the talents of Jack Perry.
The show's cast over the years included several husband and wife teams. One was
Johnny and Nan Beasley. Johnny was an old-time fiddle player from Texas. His wife,
Nan, was also from Texas and was said to have a "very deep alto" voice. Another
husband and wife team was that of Betty and Eddy Thompson, who left the group
One of the young talents on the show was a youngster by the name of Donald (Sandy)
Smith who became a good friend of Uncle Bob's when he joined the show. Early on,
he toured with Red Garrett and his Pioneers and appearing with Ernest Tubb as well.
Sandy earned his own show on WTTS that was called "Sandy and the Haylofters" and aired
every Saturday at 11:05am. He wrote his first song when he was just fourteen years
old, "Mother's Pride and Joy". But his career was all too short. One Friday night in
July of 1954, Sandy stopped by Uncle Bob's house to borrow a guitar to take with him
as he was going to take a friend of his to Vincennes to see a few other musician friends.
Late that night, on the way back to Bloomington, Sandy and his friend died
in an automobile accident when their car ran off the road.
The show enjoyed a long run by even today's standards. And its popularity gave the show
new opportunities to play before other audiences. Grand Ole Opry acts would call the show
asking Uncle Bob and the Hayloft Frolic musicians to be a part of their shows when
their tours took them through the WTTV viewing area. In 1956, 1957 and 1958, the group
was asked to entertain the United States Armed Forces who were serving overseas in Korea
and later those stationed in Germany.
As you might expect in the entertainment business, paths sometimes cross or nearly cross.
Uncle Bob was offered a position with a station in Terre Haute, Indiana, but turned it down
feeling he was right at home at WTTV. That position eventually went to an out of work
and hungry new comedian by the name of Jerry Van Dyke, the brother of Dick Van Dyke.