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Bluff Creek Round Up
KOMA
Oklahoma City, OK
Year Started:  1944

Bluff Creek Round Up

Most of our information on this show comes from an old Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder magazine article written by a Dick C. Land (real name or a cute alias?) in 1946. The show first went on the air over station KOMA in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on a Saturday night in November 1944. By 1946, it was being touted as the "...largest stage and radio show ever run in Oklahoma."

Credit for getting the show started was attributed to Mr. Kenyon Brown, the manager of KOMA at the time. The article stated that when he first tossed out the idea for this type of program, he was met with resistance by others on the radio station staff who didn't think it would draw enough to be a profitable endeavor. But his instincts won out and the show was being held at the Shrine Auditorium, which held 2,000 people, on Saturday nights in Oklahoma City. And from the start, the show played to packed houses.

Once Mr. Brown decided on the show he wanted, his next step was to find a personality who could lead and drive the show a bit as emcee. He picked the legendary Hiram Higsby for the task. By that time, Hiram had already spent nine years at WLS in Chicago. He had worked for five years with the Brush Creek Follies of KMBC out of Kansas City, Missouri. He had also appeared with the Iowa Barndance on WHO, the Renfro Valley Barn Dance, the KMOX National Hillbilly Champion program and the WSM Grand Ole Opry. Hiram gave the show experience, comedy, singing and an emcee shows such as this would enjoy having. He ended up in the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame in 1995.

Bluff Creek Round Up

The article gives us some idea of who the stars of the KOMA Bluff Creek Roundup show were in 1946. Some of the names will be no stranger to hillbilly music fans.

Dick Reinhart, a singing cowboy star who had also appeared in many Western movies with stars such as Gene Autry by that time.

Mary Lou, who they billed as "America's Most Beautiful Cowgirl Singer" was a part of the show. Prior to joining KOMA's staff, she had also worked at the KSTP Sunset Valley Barn Dance show in St. Paul, Minnesota. They mention she had also appeared over WLS at one time and toured with such acts as Tex Ritter and Gene Autry.

Ann Bond was the "Personality Girl" of the cast, known as one of the most versatile females in radio. They said she sang Westerns, Hillbilly and Popular type tunes of the day and could hold her own in comedy and skits. She would team up with Mary Lou for duets and they billed them as the Prairie Songbirds.

Comedy on the show was handled by veteran performer, Lem Hawkins, who had previously worked on the WHO Iowa Frolic Barn Dance and at KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa, too. He joined the cast in mid-1946 or so they said but had already been known to be a 'show stopper'.

Another comedy act on the show was Fred Fauntleroy, who was said to be one of the highest paid stars of Vaudeville at one time. He could do comedy, pantomine, and played various musical novelty instruments as the musical saw or the one string broom fiddle.

Most of the Barn Dance shows usually had a quartet group of some sort. The KOMA Bluff Creek Roundup show was no different. The Carl Jones Quartette would "...sing the good old fashioned spiritual songs..." Their spot on the show was known as "Hymn Time" and was one of the portions of the show that audiences enjoyed.

The show did have one act that was rather unique when you compare the show to the other shows here. The article mentions a "truly sensational Negro tap-dancer" by the name of Billy Taylor. They said he had been with the show from the very start and wrote that his "...clever and breath-taking routines have always won him thunderous applause." Unfortunately, the photos accompanying the article don't show a picture of this gentleman who might be one of the few black stars associated with early hillbilly / country music.

Backing up the acts on this show was Guy Sanderson and his Bluff Creek Rounders. These fellows weren't the normal hillbilly music entertainers they wrote - during the week they played with popular dance bands at a large night club in Oklahoma City, but as the article said, "...learned to play "hillbilly" style and really do shuck corn in true country fashion." A picture of the band accompanying the article shows a trombone player and the leader, Guy Sanderson playing the clarinet.

The announcer for the show was Allan Page. Later in his career, he was associated with the KWKH Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, Louisiana. In 1946, he had just joined their cast.

In one of the few articles we've seen that mention the sponsors of the show, the 1946 writeup mentions that Roy McKee had the job of telling folks just how good the sponsor's tires were, but still, for some reason, they don't mention the sponsor's name.

All in all, this show proved that Kenyon Brown had good instincts when he thought the time was right for this show. Do the math, if they were drawing upwards of 2,000 people a show for 52 weeks a year, in just two years, the show had been seen by over 200,000 fans. And listened to over the radio by tens of thousands more.

Bluff Creek Round Up


Rusty Marion


Dick Reinhart


Prairie Songbirds


Ann Bond


Harpo and Tiny


Lem Hawkins


Fred Fauntleroy

 

Credits & Sources

  • The Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder; March 1946; (article provided courtesy of Dick Hill).