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KWFT Western Barn Dance
KWFT
Wichita Falls, TX
Year Started:  1950
Date Started:  October 7, 1950
Year Ended:  1952
Date Ended:  May 31, 1952

KWFT Western Barn Dance

Radio Log - KWFT - October 7, 1950 In October 1950, the Times Record News of Wichita Falls, TX ran an article announcing a new "live" program.

The hosts would be Hiram Higsby and Eddie Edwards, two people with each having histories in radio work spanning nearly 25 years.

Hiram was known for his comedic flair. Eddie Edwards was a known for his black face comedic efforts as George Washington White on the KMBC Brush Creek Follies show in Kansas City, MO. He would become a character known as Ebony Ulysses Edwards on the show.

The show would originate from Memorial Auditorium in Wichita Falls on Saturday nights at 8:00pm. KWFT would air one hour of the show each Saturday night from 9pm to 10pm.

The cast of the show would primarily be the KWFT staff with additional performers from the surrounding area, including square dance teams.

The show was patterned after many of the other barn dance / jamboree / Opry type shows of that era. There would be quartets, trios and duos that would sing western tunes, gospel songs and old traditional favorites. Backing the performers up would be an instrumental combo ('band'), vocal chorus and square dancers.

The producer of the show was Eddie Edwards having some 25 years in vaudeville circuits and produced many minstrel shows. He developed the "Happy Hollow" show for CBS from Kansas City. It was that show where he originated the "George Washington White" character that became part of the Brush Creek Follies show as well.

The article notes that Kenyon Brown of KWFT had "discovered" Mr. Edwards when he saw the Brush Creek Follies show. He persuaded him to come to Wichita Falls to produce the new show for KWFT.

Mr. Higsby was also a 25 year veteran of radio. He was once the emcee and writer for the WLS National Barn Dance in Chicago. He did a similar role with the Brush Creek Follies as well as the KOMA Oklahoma Roundup in Oklahoma City. His specialty was "rube monologs" as well as harmonies and comedy songs.

The Western Barn Dance Guests — 1950

  • Wiley and Gene (October 7, 1950)
  • Herrington Sisters - Homecoming Tonight (November 11, 1950)
  • Stamps Ozark Quartet's Cigar Box Opera (November 18, 1950)
  • Speedy Ross and the Wagonmasters (November 25, 1950)
  • Annie & Herbie - Sweethearts of the Barn Dance - Blaine Cornwell - mind reading (December 2, 1950)
  • Blaine Cornwell's Singing, Dancing and Comedy Routine (December 16, 1950)
  • Dixie Boy Jordan's Special Act - Ebony Edwards Playing a Stringed Instrument Without Strings - Hiram Higsby playing Harmonica backwards (December 9, 1950)
  • Santa Claus - Gifts for all children in audience (December 23, 1950)
  • Baby New Year in person (December 30, 1950)

Other performers when the show started included Dixie Boy Jordan, Dusty Rivers and his Wagon Masters, Ann Bond, Blaine Cornwell and others.

It was reported that "movie show prices" would be charged. The first promotional ad stated prices (taxes included) would be 60 cents for adults and 30 cents for children.

The Municipal Auditorium (as it was called back then) was constructed in 1927 and modeled after the State Fair Music Hall in Dallas, TX. It is now called Memorial Auditorium and current seating capacity is listed as 2,700.

Of interest is the fact that not long after the show started, the show evidently went on the road. On Saturday, November 4, 1950, the show was held at the Municipal Auditorium in Amarillo, TX and presented by KLYN. The same cast of performers were on the show with one exception. A young KLYN announcer / disc jockey named Bill Mack was also on the show along with guests from his "Mack's Mix-Up" program that was popular on KLYN. As far as can be determined, this is the only show that was held away from Wichita Falls.

Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Memorial Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Hiram Higsby - Ann Bond - Dixie Boy Jordan - Blaine Cornwell - Ebony Ulysses Edwards - October 1950
Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Memorial Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Hiram Higsby - Ann Bond - Dixie Boy Jordan - Blaine Cornwell - Ebony Ulysses Edwards - McGowan Sisters - October 1950

Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Hiram Higsby - Ann Bond - Dixie Boy Jordan - Blaine Cornwell - Ebony Ulysses Edwards - Wiley and Gene - October 1950
Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Memorial Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Hiram Higsby - Ann Bond - Dixie Boy Jordan - Blaine Cornwell - Ebony Ulysses Edwards - McGowan Sisters - Wiley and Gene - October 1950

Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Memorial Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Hiram Higsby - Ann Bond - Dixie Boy Jordan - Blaine Cornwell - Ebony Ulysses Edwards - Stamps Ozark Quartet - October 1950
Promo Ad - KLYN The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Amarillo, TX - Hiram Higsby - Ann Bond - Dixie Boy Jordan - Blaine Cornwell - Ebony Ulysses Edwards - Stamps Ozark Quartet - Bill Mack - October 1950

The Western Barn Dance Themes — 1951

  • Barber Shop Harmony (January 20, 1951)
  • Hiram Higsby and Blaine Cornwell - Recall the Good Old Days of Vaudeville (January 13, 1951)
  • Hymn Fest - Your favorite Hymns and Spirituals (January 6, 1951)
  • New Personality - Bill Mack - Singer - Announcer - M.C. (April 14, 1951)
  • Gerry Wright and Herrington Sisters - Surprise Act (February 3, 1951)
  • Gin Cornwell - Singing Old Time Favorites - (April 7, 1951)
  • Santa Claus will be there with gifts for the children (December 22, 1951)
  • The Variety Act - Bill Mack, Dixie Boy Jordan, Gillespie Sisters (November 3, 1951)
  • Special Feature - Cousin Wilbur, Blondie Brooks, Log Cabin Folks (November 27, 1951)

Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Bill Mack - Dixie Boy Jordan - Herrington Sisters - Blaine Cornwell - Ann Bond - Stamps Ozark Quartet - Ebony Ulysses Edwards - April 1951
Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Hiram Higsby - Dixie Boy Jordan - Herrington Sisters - Blaine Cornwell - Ann Bond - Stamps Ozark Quartet - Ebony Ulysses Edwards - April 1951

Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Hiram Higsby - Herrington Sisters - Blaine Cornwell - Ann Bond - Stamps Ozark Quartet - Ebony Ulysses Edwards - January 1951
Promo Ad - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Grand Ole Opry - Little Jimmy Dickens - Hank Williams - Grandpa Phezz - Cedric Rainwater - The Drifting Cowboys - The Country Boys - Hiram Higsby - Western Barn Dance Stars - January 1951

Promo Ad - Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Hymn Fest - Hiram Higsby - Herrington Sisters - Blaine Cornwell - Ann Bond - Stamps Ozark Quartet - Ebony Ulysses Edwards - January 1951
Promo Ad - Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Good Old Days Of Vaudeville - Hiram Higsby - Herrington Sisters - Blaine Cornwell - Ann Bond - Stamps Ozark Quartet - Ebony Ulysses Edwards - January 1951

Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Good Santa Claus - Cousin Wilbur - Blondie Brooks - Little Wilbur - Blaine Cornwell - Billy Walker - Bill Mack - Log Cabin Folks - Duke Bowman - Lillie Mae - Gillespie Sisters - Stamps Ozark Quartet - December 1951
Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Good Santa Claus - Cousin Wilbur - Blondie Brooks - Little Wilbur - Blaine Cornwell - Billy Walker - Bill Mack - Log Cabin Folks - Duke Bowman - Lillie Mae - Gillespie Sisters - December 1951

The year of 1951 saw changes in the makeup of the cast of the show. Eddie Edwards who played the role of Ebony Ulysses Edwards (a black-faced comedian) left the show after May 12, 1951 performance. The show apparently went on break during the summer months. When promotional ads returned later in October of 1951, the ads no longer listed his appearance.

Research shows that Judge Atwell directed a verdict against the Rowley Brown Broadcasting Company to pay Eddie Edwards $1,954 stemming from a breach of contract lawsuit he had filed. Mr. Edwards had sued for about $5,000, including $3,800 for wages and the remainder of other expenses. He claimed that radio station KWFT hired him in March of 1950 and "...that his contract was automatically renewed April 1, 1951, but that he was dismissed in violation of the contract May 26."

March 31, 1951 was also the last time Hiram Higsby was listed as part of the show. This may be due to the hiring of a new staff member from KLYN in Amarillo.

In 1951, KWFT introduced a new triple threat performer to the show. He would become a well known Disc Jockey Hall of Famer in his long radio career — Bill Mack. Jos first appearance was on the Saturday, April 14, 1951 program. He was promoted as a "Singer - Announcer - M. C." He started his own afternoon show on KWFT on June 8, 1951; it ran from 2pm to 4:30pm. Prior to coming to KWFT, he was being heard over KLYN in Amarillo, TX.

Research shows that Hiram returned to Kansas City and resumed his role with the KMBC Brush Creek Follies show.

The Western Barn Dance Guests — 1952

  • Special Guest - Riley Crabtree (February 29, 1952)
  • Dixie Boy Jordan (March 8, 1952)
  • Ida Red and the Kentuckians (March 15, 1952)
  • Mr. and Mrs. Bill Mack (March 22, 1952)
  • Jimmie Davis, the Singing Governor (April 5, 1952)
  • Gin and Blaine Cornwell (April 12, 1952)
  • Ann Jones (April 19, 1952)
  • Stamps Ozark Quartet - Cigarbox Opera (April 26, 1952)
  • Billy Walker (May 3, 1952)
  • Bill and Joe Callahan (May 10, 1952)
  • Featuring Ida Red and the Kentuckians (May 24, 1952)
  • Final Stage Presentation of the Season (May 31, 1952)

Perhaps the show suffered the fate of many "live" such audience shows of that era. Was it the beginning of rock and roll? Or more likely was it the developing new medium - television. KWFT made a big effort in early 1953 to ramp up for the new station. Announcers on KWFT radio such as Bill Mack, Ed Hamlyn and Doc Warren were voices expected to be heard on the new channel, but their specific duties had not been defined. Other personalities such as Lillie Mae (Comiskey) known for her organ music were to be part of the effort.

But suffice to say, KWFT abandoned the effort for the "Western Barn Dance" after that last performance in May of 1952. But the performers did find other ways to entertain audiences in personal appearances.

Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Jimmy Davis - Blaine Cornwell - Billy Walker - Bill Mack - Duke Bowman - Lillie Mae - Gillespie Sisters - February 1952
Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Riley Crabtree - Country Boy - Stamps Ozark Quartet - Elmer Laurance - Nat Fleming - Mac McCray - Billye Bryant - Ranch Hands - Black Mountain Boys - Blaine Cornwell - Billy Walker - Bill Mack - Duke Bowman - Lillie Mae - Gillespie Sisters - February 1952

Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Blaine Cornwell - Billy Walker - Bill Mack - Duke Bowman - Lillie Mae - Gillespie Sisters - Elmer Laurance - Nat Fleming - Mac McCray - Billye Bryant - Ranch Hands - Black Mountain Boys - May 1952
Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Ida Red and the Kentuckians - Blaine Cornwell - Billy Walker - Bill Mack - Duke Bowman - Lillie Mae - Gillespie Sisters - Elmer Laurance - Nat Fleming - Mac McCray - Billye Bryant - Ranch Hands - Black Mountain Boys - March 1952

Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Jimmy Davis - Dixie Boy Jordan - Blaine Cornwell - Billy Walker - Bill Mack - Duke Bowman - Lillie Mae - Gillespie Sisters -  April 1952
Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Ann Jones - Stamps Ozark Quartet - Billy Walker - Bill Mack - Elmer Laurance - Nat Fleming - Mac McCray - Billye Bryant - Ranch Hands - Black Mountain Boys - Blaine Cornwell - Billy Walker - Bill Mack - Duke Bowman - Lillie Mae - Gillespie Sisters - Ranch Hands - Black Mountain Boys - February 1952

Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Gin and Blaine Cornwell - Stamps Ozark Quartet - Billy Walker - Bill Mack - Elmer Laurance - Nat Fleming - Mac McCray - Billye Bryant - Lillie Mae - Ranch Hands - Black Mountain Boys - Gillespie Sisters - April 1952
Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Stamps Ozark Quartet Cigarbox Opera - Billy Walker - Bill Mack - Elmer Laurance - Nat Fleming - Mac McCray - Billye Bryant - Lillie Mae - Ranch Hands - Black Mountain Boys - Gillespie Sisters - April 1952

Postcard - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX

Promo Ad - Promo Ad - KWFT The Western Barn Dance - Municipal Auditorium - Wichita Falls, TX - Final Stage Presentation Of Season - Stamps Ozark Quartet - Billy Walker - Bill Mack - Elmer Laurance - Nat Fleming - Mac McCray - Billye Bryant - Lillie Mae - Ranch Hands - Black Mountain Boys - Gillespie Sisters - May 31, 1952

Credits & Sources
  • Western Barn Dance Series To Begin Saturday Night; October 4, 1950; Times Record News; Wichita Falls, TX
  • Film Displayed in U. S. Court - Breach Of Contract Suit; November 20, 1951; Wichita Falls Times; Wichita Falls, TX
  • Guest Stars (photo w/caption); October 7, 1950; Times Record News; Wichita Falls, TX
  • Entire KWFT Staff To Help In Television Operations; March 1, 1953; Wichita Falls Times; Wichita Falls, TX

Bill Mack



Elmer Laurance



Hiram Higsby



Hank (Hank the Cowhand) Harral



Billy Walker and the Traveling Texans



Eddie Edwards



Lillie Mae



Dusty Rivers and the Wagonmasters



Ginny Cornwell



Blaine Cornwell



Stamps Ozark Quartet



Cousin Wilbur



Herrington Sisters



Ann Bond



Little Wilbur



Dixie Boy Jordan



Blondie Brooks




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