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William (Doc) Riester
and His Hillbilly Band
Born:  September 9, 1874
Died:  May 20, 1968
KFH Barn Dance Frolic
KFH Wichita, KS

About The Artist

William Sanford Riester was born in Salem, Indiana in 1874. His parents were George Phillip and Margaret Smith Riester. His father's parents were from Germany. He was working as a blacksmith.

By 1910, William had moved to Sumner County in Kansas. Census records show he was a musician and a teacher in public school in Caldwell, KS. By the 1920 census, his occupation was now shown as dentist, which is probably where he got the nickname "Doc." His obituary indicated he graduated from dental school in Kansas City in 1915.

William S. Riester graduated from the Western Dental College of Kansas City in May of 1915; commencement exercises were held on May 22. He was due to arrive in Ellsworth, KS to begin treating local patients when he sets up his practice.

In September 1915, news reports indicated he was setting up a suite of office rooms on the first floor of the St. Charles (known as the brick hotel). It was reported he had three years of experience in addition to his education at the Kansas City Dental College.

Promo Ad - W. S. Riester - Dentist - Kanopolis, KS - February 1916
Promo Ad - W. S. Riester - Dentist - Morland, KS - December 1922

Promo Ad - W. S. Riester - Dentist - Wilson, KS - January 1920
Promo Ad - W. S. Riester - Dentist - Morland, KS - June 1922

A humorous tidbit showed up about one of his patients in the newspaper. A certain lady was visiting town and wished to see Dr. Riester for a new set of teeth. She spent the night with friends who lived near the doctor's offices. Before retiring, she put her set of teeth under her pillow. But during the night, they may have dropped to the floor. But she could not find them in the morning. She saw there was a rat hole near by and never did find the teeth. That left left her thinking the rats must have taken them down into their 'hole.' What she then wondered, what would they expect to do with those teeth?

While he was beginning his dental career, he was still maintaining his interest in music. When he arrived after taking the dental exam in Topeka, he was to be in charge of the bands in Ellsworth and Kanopolis during the summer. The thought was he would setup business in Ellsworth.

While living in Kanopolis, Dr. Riester took a hand in leading other bands. In 1916, he helped direct the Brookville band in their first rehearsal for the winter. They wrote, "...the prospects for the band never looked brighter. With an efficient leader such as Dr. Riester, who has had considerable experience, in directing many bands, also playing his part as a solo cornet in eminent bands such as Berry's Band in Kansas City, MO., besides his active experience in orchestra work, gives him a broad and liberal conception of music, so the prospects of the band, so far as the instructor, cannot be otherwise than bright."

In February 1922, a fire struck causing $25,000 in damage, wiping out several businesses including a couple of banks, a clothing store, cleaning business, real estate office, opera house and Dr. Riester's dental office. The doctor wrote a friend stating he had lost everything; he had no insurance. He was waiting on all his invoices to help him determine the amount to insure for. But he at least did save his violin and cornet.

Dr. Riester had sold his dental practice and facility early in 1922 and moved to Moreland. He was just starting to get settled when the fire struck. The only item that did not burn was a small cabinet. His auto was undamaged as it was in another building.

Promo Ad Fred Kirby - Junior Rancho - 1952 Promo Ad Fred Kirby - Tiny Town - January 1964

Articles started appearing in Wichita newspapers indicating he was leading the "South Wichita Band." They gave a sacred concert in December 1930 at the South Lawrence Christian Church. His band returned to the same church in February 1931. Their concert proceeds went to the "Because He Cared Club" of the church to enable it to help needy families in the south end of Wichita.

Doc Reister and his "Hill Billy" band made their first appearance on the KFH Barn Dance at the Uptown Theater on January 27, 1934; an article stated "...the audience accepted them readily. His group of artists carried the "hi-de-hi" spirit of the old time square dance in a convincing way."

Doc Riester's band may have been called "Hill Billy" for the sake of the Barn Dance show, but other articles always referenced the band as "The South Wichita Booster Band."

Very little is known as to who the members of the band were. A very, dark, blurry photo of the band appeared in the newspaper when they were on the KFH Barn Dance Frolic. But one 1930 article indicated the band had 25 members, made up of former professional musicians, many who were once circus bandmen. The band gave a benefit concert for aged Masons in July of 1930; the article provided the list of tunes on their program that day:

  • Military Escort - March (Filmore)
  • When It's Springtime In The Rockies (Harlow)
  • Old Home down On The Farm (Harlow)
  • Old Rugged Cross (Sacred)
  • The Premier Polka (Llewellyn)
  • Painting The Clouds With Sunshine
  • Twilight Echoes - Serenade (Miller)
  • Living Pictures - overture (Dalby)
  • SLidn' Easy - trombone smear (Alford)
  • El Capitan - march (Sousa)

What was called a "radio wedding" was held on Friday, May 31, 1935. It was said to be the most "elaborate and successful" ever stagee. Perfect weather; 15,000 in attendance; a beautiful stage setting in Central Riverside Park - tailor made for memories. The ceremony was carried over KFH with Vernon Reed handling the announcing chores. Prior to the ceremony, the audience was treated to a concert by the South End Booster Band led by Doc Riester.

Tragedy struck the Riester household in July of 1936. His wife, Mary (Gymme) Dye Riester, passed away at the age of 57. She had married William S. Ashens in 1898; both were said to be musicians. It was said that "Gymmy" was "...a clever musician, a bright, vivacious and agreeable young lady."

In December of 1937, Dr. Riester married the former Lenore Fisher. When Doc Riester passed away at the age of 93 in May 1968, he was survived by his wife, Lenore.

Credits & Sources

  • Gives Sacred Concert; December 13, 1930; The Wichita Eagle; Wichita, KS
  • Gives Benefit Concert; February 7, 1931; The Wichita Eagle; Wichita, KS
  • KFH Barn Dance Packs Theater - Crowd Highly Pleased With New Entertainment Idea Saturday; January 30, 1934; The Wichita Beacon; Wichita, KS
  • Claimed By Death; July 21, 1936; The Wichita Eagle; Wichita, KS
  • Radio Wedding Is Now History; May 31, 1935; The Wichita Beacon, Wichita, KS
  • Thousands To See Wedding; May 30, 1935; The Wichita Beacon, Wichita, KS
  • To Give Concert At Masonic Home; July 17, 1930; The Wichita Beacon, Wichita, KS
  • Wilson News; February 2, 1922; The Ellsworth Reporter; Ellsworth, KS
  • Graduates In Dentistry; May 13, 1915; Ellsworth Messenger; Ellsworth, KS
  • Dentist For Kanopolis; September 9, 1915; Ellsworth Messenger; Ellsworth, KS
  • Do Rats Wear False Teeth?; September 21, 1922; The Morland Monitor; Morland, KS
  • Items Of Local Interest; June 3, 1915; Ellsworth Messenger; Ellsworth, KS
  • Fire At Moreland; February 2, 1922; Ellsworth Messenger; Ellsworth, KS
  • Saved Violin and Cornet; February 2, 1922; The Wilson World; Wilson, KS
  • Wilson News; January 31, 1922; The Salina Evening Journal; Salina, KS
  • The Brookville Cornet Band Opens Winter Rehearsals; December 8, 1916; Brookville Headlight; Brookville, KS
  • Brookville's New Band; December 11, 1916; The Salina Daily Union; Salina, KS
  • A Popular Band Master; September 9, 1920; The Wilson World; Wilson, KS

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