About The Artist
Marcus Dupont Williams was a Texan, born in Midlothian and a graduate of the University of Texas who became Brunswick Records' most noted cowboy singer. A native of Ellis County, south of Dallas, he grew up near the town of Midlothian and may or may not have actually worked for some time in early adulthood as a cattle herder.
Unlike his better known Victor rivals, Carl Sprague and Jules Allen, he also had a two decade career on radio, although much of it under an assumed name.
Marc Williams was better educated than most country-western vocalists and eventually obtained a law degree. Before he began radio work, Marc attended the University of Texas, but by 1928 had begun singing on KRLD in Dallas which also won him a contract with Brunswick.
Oral evidence suggests that he learned many of his songs from the John A Lomax book Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads (1910). Combined with his high quality dictions, it helps explain why he became known as "The Cowboy Crooner."
Over the next few years, Williams shifted his radio base to stations in Waco and Fort Worth. He left Texas by 1931 and went to KSTP in St. Paul, where at a theater appearance he actually had his name printed in ads much larger than future Hollywood legend Bob Hope. From there he went eastward where he had programs at WTIC Hartford and WGY Schenectady. Williams recorded for Decca in this period and also published a songbook.
In 1936, Billboard reported that "Happy Hank" had left WTIC in Hartford, CT for WGY in Schenectady, NY. Later on in 1938, Billboard provided a review of the Happy Hank show over WHO in 1938. A fifteen minute program that was sponsored by Little Crow Milling Co.
This program is set daily except Sunday and is sure-fire for the kids and mothers who need help to get the children dressed at this morning hour. Happy Hank booms kid songs, many of which are his own composition, and intersperses dressing contests, pick-up parades, safety reminders with kid humor that appeals particularly to children from ages five to ten. In the comedy line he exploits the antics of "Squeakie" and "Sputters" on the side of Charlie McCarthy, which he plays.
In 1939, Marc went back to the Midwest where he achieved considerable popularity with a children's western-flavored radio program as "Happy Hank." He also appeared on WHO's well received Iowa Barn Dance.
An article in Rural Radio in 1939 provided him with a real cowboy resume intimating that he had participated in actual trail drives from Texas to Montana-highly unlikely considering that trail drives this long had ended in the 1890's. By 1942, his sponsor Coco-Wheat transferred "Happy Hank's base to WJR Detroit where he worked for another decade, adding television to his musical accomplishments. He also returned to college in the mid-1950's and earned a law degree from Wayne State in 1960.
In 1956, while living in Detroit, he dabbled a bit into politics. He ran for a Congressional Representative seat that had been won by Paul Sutton in 1954 and was hoping to repeat. Marc was one of several candidates that put their names in the hat. Others included Zigmund Niparko, Gilbert H. Davis, and Jack L. Ward. The race was for the 18th district in Michigan to replace retiring incumbent George A. Dondero, a Republican. William Broomfield (R) won the election with 56.7% of the vote defeating Paul Sutton who got 43.8%.
Marc was one of 237 applicants that passed the Michigan State Bar exam in September 1960 became an attorney in 1960. He practiced in Detroit for a decade, until 1971 when he went back to Fort Worth and continued legal work. Interviewed by the Star-Telegram in January 1974, he reminisced about his career and expressed a desire to still sing a bit on radio. He told Kathi Miller that he kept his guitar in his office and would take some time to strum it every day.
He started off at KRLD in Dallas and WACO in Waco but he went north for greener pastures he said. "You just couldn't make much money down here in those days." He traded an $18 per week gig at WACO for a $50 a week stint at KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota.
He noted back then, "They had to have live entertainers on the staffs then because they didn't have the constant network feeds they have now."
From there, he went to WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio. He told Ms. Miller it was the only job he was fired from. He said he was doing a 30-minute program and the commercial break came up. The announcer asked him if he could borrow a minute of Marc's time. He said, "Sure, let's seal some of these Frigidaires." The only problem was the show's sponsor was Crosley Refrigerators. Marc in a defensive mode said, "To me, a refrigerator was a Frigidaire. That's just what everybody called them."
The interview delved into his work on children's shows. He said, "The most important thing is you never, never talk down to children."
At the time of the interview, he was a widower and while the couple never had any children of their own, Happy Hank in his hey day would get up to 9,000 letters a day from the small fans.
He told of a memory of a vaudeville theater in Minneapolis where the marquee read "Marc Williams In Person." And underneath his billing, "Also presenting Bob Hope."
While Marc had not done much performing after his return to Fort Worth, he noted, "I can still sting, I could still do a radio show, although people say I'm too old. I'm not going to get old if I can help it."
However, it never happened as he died at work in his law office six months later. Unlike those western singers who recorded for Victor in the 1920's, little detail on "The Cowboy Crooner" was known until recent years. One of his song's was featured by Tony Russell in his newly published volume Rural Rhythm (2021).
Marc's wife, Oral Morrow Williams passed away on October 4, 1970. At the time of her death, she was circulation manager of the Daily Sports News where she had been employed for ten years. She was born Ella Oral Morrow on September 8, 1908 to parents Alfred and Minnie (Stewart) Morrow in Downey Township, Perth County in Ontario, Canada. She had lived in Detroit for 40 years. She was survived by Marc and a son, Jack Norton. She had been previously married to George William Norton (November 30, 1925) when she was 17. Mr. Norton died in 1959. She was buried at the Avondale Cemetery in Stratford, Ontario.
Credits & Sources
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