About The Artist
Cross Roads Party
Readers learned in a 1944 that the Cross Roads Party he show had started in 1941 and after a three week run at the State Fair, it had to be moved to the downtown studios of WFAA-KGKO of Dallas.
Some of the stars included Uncle Ed Bryant as emcee. He paired up with a black-faced comic named Slocum (Harry LeVan) who had a nickname of "Hot Biscuits." Jeannie McDonald was touted as the 'yodelin' cowgirl and Sweetheart of the Cross Roads was another performer. Peg Moreland was dubbed the "Caruso of the Cow Barns." Also in the cast was the Cass County Kids, the Hedgehoppers (an instrumental group led by Mexican fiddler Fred Casares). It was reported to have debuted in June 1944. Floy Case told readers it originated from the studios of KGKO.
Saturday Night Shindig
In October of 1952, WFAA held a "Saturday Nite Shindig" at the Texas State Fair. It was said to be an enlargement of the program that was heard over WFAA over the previous nine years and sponsored by Gladiola Flour. It was held usually from 8pm to Midnight every Saturday night. On October 25, it was held at the State Fair Auditorium in the winter months, returning to the'bandshell' in the summer. In 1952, some of the stars to be featured at the State Fair presentation were Bob Shelton, Bobby Williamson and his band, Curly Sanders, Jeannie MacDonald, Herle Shelton, LaFawn Paul, Grady Hudgens and Shug Newman, Little Willie, Joe Price, Joe Kocks, Uncle Dave McNeil as well as Peg Moreland.
It appears from research that he had stopped performing regularly sometime in the mid-1950's.
Stay In The Wagon Yard
As noted above, one of his most popular songs was "Stay In the Wagon Yard." Columnist Paul Crume wrote in his "Big D" column in June of 1956 that a reader had asked for help in finding the origins of a 'west Texas expression' that went something like, "Am going to get a pint and go to the wagon yard."
That led Mr. Crume to go to an 'expert' on the song, Peg Moreland who had been on WFAA for a quarter century. He told readers its "pure and unsullied" form, the line went "I wished I'd bought a half-point and stayed in the wagon yard."
Mr. Crume provides some more insight from what was mentioned previously or 'embellished details'. It was a ballad. A countryman that came to town and met up with "roisterers." He woke up with a headache; his companions gone; but the bill was still there. The last verse was said to be:
Last night I slept in a dry goods box
Mr. Crume opined that "It is the nearest thing to a tone poem ever written about the kind of motel which served the west back in the days when the auto would never be able to supplant the horse."
He told readers that Peg had forgotten when he first started singing the wagon yard song. Peg put it together from "snatches of a song he had got from George Jones, a filling station man in his home town of Canyon. One smiles when Mr. Crume writes, "Peg had run for justice of the peace on a platform of a guitar and hillbilly songs long before Pappy O'Daniel ever came along. Mr. Jones had told Peg he had brought what he knew of the song when he moved from Oklahoma to Canyon.
Peg then took the fragments he learned, added verses of his own, seemingly smoothing things out and began singing the tune. The song caught on with radio listeners and audiences almost immediately. It sold records. It was in books and folios.
Mr. Crume doubted anyone could write a song about the modern motel. The wagon yard was made for stories and song.
"After all, the motor court lacks the pungency, the antique smell of the wagon yard. These were quadrangles enclosed on three sides by one-room sleeping units. There was usually a feed and grocery store at the front and there were pens at the back for the horses."
Not much seems to be known about Moreland's later life. Most of what is known comes from Tony Russell's new volume Rural Rhythm (Oxford U. Press, 2021).
Peg died in January 1973. His obituary gave a glimpse into his early life. He was born in Canyon, Texas and entered the family grocery business as a young man. He quit that job and took a job as a brakeman with the Santa Fe Railroad; he lost part of his right leg in an accident. He used a wooden leg made of ash and thus, he was nicknamed "Peg." In 1921 he ran for office of constable in Canyon. But he then moved to Dallas and joined WFAA in 1924. He would be on the WFAA early morning show 'Gloom Chasers' and later the 'Early Birds.'
Peg was on the 'Early Birds from 1935 to 1946.
Radio back then held an attachment to some fans. It was a part of their daily life. Take for example, Mr. And Mrs. D. A. Grey; they listened to the 'Early Birds' program for over a quarter century. In a 1955 article, it mentions they had been married 51 years. They were quoted, "It's insurance for a long and happy married life. Who could think of saying a cross word while listening to the 'Early Birds'?" Peg would appear on these celebratory shows going forward.
In early 1955, the WFAA 'Early Birds' program was having a 25th Anniversary Celebration. One visitor (a former instructor of music at the North Texas State Teachers' College in Denton, noted that Peg Moreland sang her favorites. She said, "I used to listen to Peg when I was my daughter's age. Those ditty's he sings are appealing folk songs."
A 1956 article recounting the origins of the "wagon yard song" indicated he had basically retired and was living at the New Oxford Hotel. Supposedly he still sang occasionally, "...but mostly for my own amazement."
The last few years of his life he was a familiar face in downtown Dallas where he lived in a fifth floor room at the Lawrence Hotel at Jackson and Houston Streets.
Peg once again sang over WFAA in 1964 during the station's 42nd Birthday celebration. Columnist Fairfax Nisbet wrote of the celebration which included a reunion of the alumni from "The Early Birds" variety show. The reunion took place on the Friday morning show from 7:30 am to 8:00 am. A portion of that reunion was also shown during the "Julie Benell Show" on channel 8 at 12:30 pm Friday.
The reunion show featured the various alumni in the specialties they were known for. The emcee was Jimmy Jeffries who was known as "Mr. Five-By-Five". Peg Moreland was among the cast that appeared.
Larry Grove interviewed Peg in 1964. One tidbit was the first guitar that Peg bought back in 1924 when he joined WFAA. It was resting in the corner of his hotel room, but Peg felt more comfortable with the guitar across his lap. Then he proceeded to tell Mr. Gove of a "...little ditty I got up all by myself" and he proceeded to sing it for him. Mr. Grove said the song spoke of a gambling man named Mose Jackson who fell in love with Ragtime Rosie who played the organ for the church choir. One particular day they were baptizing Mose in one of those rural dunking ceremonies and some Bicycle playing cards fell out of his pocket. On the surface of the pone was a Royal Flush. That impressed the minister so much that he remarked with a hand like that, Mose did not need any help from him.
He spoke of his introduction to radio. He had decided being Constable in Canyon was not for him. He moved to Dallas and thought of working his way into law, perhaps become a lawyer. But it seems he was not too keen about working. The radio job came along in 1924 and it fit him just fine. He said, "Wasn't any real big money in radio then. But if I'd had any gumption, I'd have filled my sock."
He told Mr. Grove he was feeling good for his age at the time. Peg injected, "I always say, 'I discovered America 400 years and 17 days after Columbus. Nobody bothers to figure it out."
The recordings he made for Victor in the 1920's brought him the princely sum of $50 per recording for the 19 songs he did.
He went on, "Never liked Chicago or maybe I'd have made it bigger and got filthy rich. NBC was just branching out. But you put on a white shirt in Chicago and you walk two blocks and you've got a black shirt. ... They put me in a monkey suit, lavender shirt and all. I did all right but nothing to what I could have done if I'd been smarter, 'stead of an ol' Hill County boy. People notice those things when they pass out that money." Which led Peg to mention, "It's like that song says, 'Wish I'd bought a half-a-pint.' "
"Don't monkey with them city ducks
His Texas death certificate indicates he was never married.
Credits & Sources
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