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WSB Barn Dance
Atlanta, GA
Year Started:  1940
Date Started:  November 16, 1940
Year Ended:  1950
Date Ended:  February 18, 1950

WSB Barn Dance

The WSB Barn Dance came into existence in 1940 during the peak of hillbilly music's popularity and revenue draw on the radio. Author Wayne Daniel points out in his book "Pickin' on Peachtree" that radio grew exponentially during the 1940's decade. The number of radio stations grew from 765 to 2,867.

By 1940, WSB was a powerhouse 50,000 watt clear channel radio station owned by Cox Enterprises, who wanted to revamp their hillbilly music programming. So, they brought in a consultant, a fellow from Chicago and WLS National Barn Dance fame and later Renfro Valley fame, John Lair. He put in place a revamped lineup of hillbilly music shows and one of them was a Saturday night show called the WSB Barn Dance. Mr. Daniel writes that WSB Barn Dance achieved such popularity that in the 1941 Hooper ratings, the show was the highest rated of any show on the air in the Atlanta area, network or otherwise.

The WSB Barn Dance made its on-air debut on Saturday night, November 16, 1940 at 10:30pm. The show was broadcast from the main studios of WSB, "the Voice of the South." The days leading up to the new show led to a sudden deluge of requests to see the show in person. The station accommodated some of those requests for the opening program, but said that tickets would be given out in the future.

The show was led by some former Renfro Valley performers. Judy Dell, barely over four feet tall, was one. Dwight Butcher and the Pine Ridge Boys, also from Renfro Valley along with Hank Penny, Harpo Kidwell, Lewis DuMont, Boudleux Bryant and Warren Sykes. The emcee of that first show was probably Dwight Butcher, author Wayne W. Daniel surmises.

It seemed to be a proved formula. George Biggar wrote, per Mr. Daniel, in a Billboard article that hillbilly music turned the early morning hours of radio from non-revenue to revenue producing air time. Likewise, on Saturday nights, another slow night on radio and known as 'bath night', it became known as Barn Dance and Jamboree night - it changed Saturday night habits.

Promo Ad - WSB Barn Dance - Woman's Club Auditorium - 1941

Promo Ad - WSB Barn Dance - Woman's Club Auditorium - 1941

WSB Barn Dance
December 20, 1941
Woman's Club Auditorium (20 week engagement start) — Atlanta, GA
Program Listing
Song Title Artist(s)
Old Joe Clark Cotton Carrier
Beneath That Lonely Mound Of Clay James and Martha Carson
Doubleneck Rag Boots Woodall
Way Out There Hoot Owl Hollow Girls
Sweethearts Or Strangers Pete Cassell
Wagoner Chick Stripling
Silent Night, Holy Night Swanee River Boys
Here, Rattler, Here Harpo Kidwell
I'll Keep On Loving You Hank Penny
Jingle Bells Jane Logan

The year of 1941 began with a change in venue. On the first show of the new year, it moved to a larger venue to accommodate the demand for seating. The show moved to the Woman's Club Auditorium at 1150 Peachtree (Peachtree and Fourteenth Streets). A small admission fee was to be charged; 40 cents for adults; 20 cents for children.

Audience demand was such that they quickly out grew the studios and on January 4, 1941, the show moved to the Atlanta Women's Club Auditorium at the corner of Peachtree and 14th Avenue in Atlanta. Still, that wasn't big enough to handle all the crowds that wanted to see the show. They went to doing two shows a night on Saturday nights and would usually broadcast the 10:30pm show over WSB.

At 3am on March 29, 1941, WSB changed its frequency on the radio dial to 750kc. It was part of a series of changes for stations across the country. Other stations in Atlanta with changes included WGST to 920kc; WAGA to 1480kc; and, WATL to 1400kc. The change affected 795 of the then 883 broadcasting stations in the country. It came about under terms of the Havana agreement which basically would to a large extent, eliminate interference from stations in Mexico.

Promo Ad - WSB Barn Dance - Woman's Club Auditorium - 1941

WSB Barn Dance
June 27, 1942
Erlanger Theater — Atlanta, GA
Program Listing
Song Title Artist(s)
When Pa Was Courtin' Ma Martha (Carson), Nell (Coleman), Jane (Logan)
Miss McCloud's Reel James Carson
Corine Corina Harpo Kidwell
Rock Of Ages Swanee River Boys
Farewell Blues Boots Woodall
TAke Up Thy Cross James and Martha Carson
Down Yonder Chick Stripling
St. Louis Blues Pete Cassell
Old Gray Bonnet WSB Barn Dance Cast

The WSB Barn Dance members also contributed to the country's World War II efforts. The WSB Artists Bureau subscribed to the "payroll deduction plan" to enable the purchase of U. S. Defense Bonds. It was indeed a 100% all out, all hands in for this campaign. The entire casts of popular WSB programs such as the WSB Barn Dance, Barnyard Jamboree, Cracker Barrel Gang and the Little Country Church joined the payroll deduction plan.

On May 23, 1942, the show moved to the Erlanger Theatre, located on Peachtree also. You can read in author Wayne Daniel's chapter on the WSB Barn Dance that the show would play at various other venues over the years throughout Georgia, especially during the summer. We list some of the places that Mr. Daniel noted at the end of this article.

In November 1942, Ernest Rogers reported that the 20 year old Erlanger Theater had been taken over by WSB. The station signed a five-year lease with Samuel Rothberg, representing the owners of the theater.

The theater would continue to book other show attractions as it had in the past and Harrison (Chick) Kimball would take over the bookings of shows and mangement of the theater. Once the lease was signed, WSB would renovate the interior and exterior of the theater. The remodeling project would be done without any interruption to the regular Barn Dance shows. The theater was located at 533 Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta.

Album - Barbi Doll - Barbi Benton - 1974 Single - Duet - Mickey Gilley - Barbi Benton - 1975

Promo Ad - WSB Barn Dance - Woman's Club Auditorium - 1941

Promo Ad - WSB Barn Dance - Martin Theatre - August 1942

WSB Barn Dance - 1942

Atlanta, GA, circa 1942—Left to right: Boots Woodall, Unknown, Pete Cassell, James Carson (real name James Roberts), Hank Penny, Mattie O'Neal (nee Opal Amburgey), Martha Carson (nee Irene Amburgey, Mrs. James Roberts), Jane Logan (nee Lily Perry, Mrs. Cotton Carrier)

WSB Barn Dance - 1942

Atlanta, GA, circa 1942— Left to right: Mattie O'Neal (nee Opal Amburgey), Martha Carson (nee Irene Amburgey, Mrs. James Roberts), Jane Logan (nee Lily Perry, Mrs. Cotton Carrier), Unknown Swanee River Boy, Billy Carrier (Swanee River Boy), Chick Stripling, Harpo Kidwell.

Promo Ad - WSB Barn Dance - Woman's Club Auditorium - 1941

WSB Barn Dance - 1943

WSB Barn Dance - 1943
Left to right: Harpo Kidwell, Oscar McGooney, Slim Idaho, Little NeHi (Willie Mae Thomas), Louis Innis, Harold Dunn, Dottie Castleberry, Chick Stripling, James Carson (real name James Roberts), Herman Horsehair Buggfuzz (Ivy Peterson), Martha Carson (nee Irene Amburgey, Mrs. James Roberts), The Sunshine Boys ( Tennessee Smith, Pat Patterson, Smitty Smith, Ace Richman, Eddie Wallace), George Hughes (emcee), Chick Kimball, manager.

WSB Barn Dance
February 20, 1943
Erlanger Theater — Atlanta, GA Program Listing
Song Title Artist(s)
Daddy and Home NeHi
Rolling Stone Blues James Carson
Mississippi Valley Blues Betty and Ann (The Heifner Sisters)
Catch That Coon Louis Innis
Did You ever Go Sailing Sunshine Boys
Run Away Train Chick Stripling
Roll On Buddy Girls
Fox Chase Harpo Kidwell
Great Speckled Bird James and Martha Carson

In lieu of a sound bite, perhaps we can let you see a bit of the ambiance of the show as it signed off one night, by Cotton Carrier, as quoted by author Daniel:

"Its about time for us to get off the wind now, but we've had a fine time at your house tonight, and we hope that you'll let us visit with you next Saturday night at the same time, 9:30 P.M., when we'll be broadcasting from the High School Auditorium in Covington, Georgia. The `WSB Barn Dance' is a regular Saturday-night feature of WSB, the Voice of The South, Atlanta, Georgia."

WSB Barn Dance
January 15, 1944
Erlanger Theater — Atlanta, GA
Program Listing
Song Title Artist(s)
Roll ALong, Silver Moon Prairie Songbirds (Mary and Marjorie)
The Gal I Left Behind Me Bobbie Atchison
Please Don't Leave Me Anymore Dottie Castleberry
Bully Of The Town Harpo Kidwell
I Want To Be A Cowboy's Dream NeHi
I'll Reap My Harvest In Heaven James and Martha Carson
College Hornpipe Blackie Hastings
Angel Of East Tennessee Jimmie Smith
I Found A Hiding Place Swanee River Boys
Foggy Mountain Top WSB Barn Dance Gang

Research will sometimes pop up some surprises and an occasional chuckle. A letter to the editor in the Atlanta Journal on February 20, 1944 was one such occasion. A reader from Kennesaw, GA wrote a note:

"WSB is our favorite radio station, and one of our favorite programs is the Barn Dance every Saturday night. In the commercial they sing, "Hi, Baldy." Imagine our suprise when little two-year-old Patricia begann calling her baby sister, "Hi, Baldy," for the baby has plenty of hair. When we asked Pat how the name fitted, she said, "Cause she bawls a lot. — Mrs. C. Booth; Kennesaw, GA"

The show's cast included some of familiar names in hillbilly music history. And they included most of the different types of entertainment one might expect to find on a show such as the WSB Barn Dance. There were fiddlers, steel guitarists, harmonica players, accordionists, banjoists, male vocalists, female vocalists, sister acts, brother duets and more.

But What Are Their Real Names?

Research of the decade this show was on WSB has uncovered the fact some names were actually stage names or chose to not user their real names. First, Aunt Hattie - her real name was Ricca Hughes. James and Martha Carson might be the most obvious example - he was James Roberts. She was Irene Amburgey. But they both ended up using Carson as their last name for performing. And Martha Carson is actually the name on her tombstone. A small in stature female singer by the stage name of Ne-Hi (or NeHi or Nehi) was really Willie Mae Thomas. The Logan Sisters were really Betty and Christine Buice; they had their own radio program for a time over WSB as well. He was one of the show's emcees this Herman Horsehair Buggfuzz but his parents named him Ivay Peterson. The Prairie Songbirds appeared on many other radio stations including WSB. They were two sisters, Mary and Margie Humes. The Dixie Blue Bells were a female trio created by WSB. The three members were: Martha Carson (Irene Amburgey), Dottie Castleberry and Violet (Koehler?).

WSB Barn Dance
August 25, 1945
Erlanger Theater — Atlanta, GA
Program Listing
Song Title Artist(s)
Careless Darlin' Dottie Castleberry
Leather Britches Harpo Kidwell
I Dreamed That My Daddy Came Home James and Martha Carson
Mississippi Sawyer Bobby Atcheson
Oklahoma Hills Nehi
Blues in "A" Jessie Carpenter
Just A Little Talk With Jesus Swanee River Boys
Each Minute Seems A Million Years Jimmy Smith
Mule Skinner Blues Mattie O'Neil

Author Wayne Daniel chronicles in more detail the life of the various cast members and the roles they played in his book, including some of the other directions the careers took for some of these artists. You can find more information about them and other WSB Barn Cast members throughout this site.

One of the performers was a blind singer and guitar player by the name of Pete Cassell. He was also on the WWVA Jamboree out of Wheeling, WV and was known to write a song. In 1941, he wrote a theme song of sorts that was heard for a while on the WSB Barn Dance.

"Howdy Friends and neighbors Both near and far away,
The WSB Barn Dance Will drive your cares away.
We always wear a great big smile And never shed a tear.
We try to spread some sunshine With songs you like to hear.
So, won't you come and join us And spend a little while;
We'll try to make you happy In good old country style.
So, come on to the Southland Way down here in Dixie
For you're always welcome To the WSB Barn Dance party."

WSB Barn Dance
January 12, 1946
Erlanger Theater — Atlanta, GA
Program Listing
Song Title Artist(s)
My Little Boy Blue Ruth and Ruby
Mississippi Sawyer Bobby Atcheson
Free Little Bird Cousin Emmy
Birgmingham Rose Nehi
Hilo March Boots Woodall
Dust On The Bible James and Martha Carson
Hang Your Head In Shame Jimmy Smith
Sweet Water Blues Mattie O'Neil

WSB Barn Dance
December 20, 1947
College Park Auditorium — Atlanta, GA

Bob Williams and the Cumberland Mountaineers

Change of Venues: Erlanger Theater to College Park Auditorium

Earlier in this saga, readers learned that WSB had signed a five year lease for the Erlanger Theater in November 1942. When November 1947 rolled around, the lease was not renewed. The WSB Barn Dance show moved to the College Park Auditorium.

The old Erlanger Theater had new owners, Francis White and Harvey Smith. Among the changes they made were renaming the theater to The Tower Theater. The next change they made was the type of entertainment the theater would offer. When the theater opened under its new name, the first entertainment it brought was a movie run. Repairmen were remodeling the theater at the same time. Once done, the theater would implement a new "variety" policy, "...offering the best in moving pictures and stage shows." The first stage productions included "State Of The Union," "Joan of Lorraine," "Oklahoma!", "Harvey," and "Norway." These new stage productions would take place at the theater after the Christmas holiday and into 1948.

All of the old Erlanger marquees were taken down, to be replaced by "one of the brightest in town."

By the end of the 1940's decade, the world was changing. Radio station owners were finding it cheaper to have a disc jockey to play records rather than have live shows. Television was creeping into the world and eating into the ability of the artists to make money from personal appearances as folks stayed home. The WSB Barn Dance aired its last show on February 18, 1950.

WSB Barn Dance
January 24, 1948
College Park Auditorium — Atlanta, GA

Bob Williams and the Cumberland Mountaineers

Bob Williams and the Cumberland Mountaineers

In January 1948, WSB's television permit was granted by the Federal Communications Commision (FCC). The station was owned by the newspaper, The Atlanta Journal. In an article touting the approval, then station manager John Outler Jr. stated that the station hoped to have a "...full schedule of daily television broadcasts ihn operation by late summer." The station was allowed to operate at a maximum power of 5,000 watts, the maximum for any television station back then.

The station had granted contracts for equipment such as the 600 foot tower and antenna, new studios, mobile units in December 1947. The studios and the tower would be located on 20 acres near the intersection of Peachtree and Beverly Roads. The expected radius of their signal was to be 40 miles. It would broadcast on channel 8.

Oddly the station had first applied for a television permit in April 1931, but for whatever reason, it was never granted. A new application was submitted in December 1947.

Television was not the only new technology being used by WSB. In November 1944, they started WSB-FM.

Change of Venues: College Park Auditorium to Hapeville City Auditorium

On October 29, 1949, the venue for the now "WSB Barn Dance Party" was moved to the Hapeville City Auditorium. WSB ran ads in the Atlanta Journal for several days leading up to the new venue's debut.

Promotional ads for the show were becoming increasingly scarce by this time. The show was at late hour on Saturday night. Ads were only touting shows prior to 10:00 pm on Saturday night. The usual listing of artists and tunes to be sung or played were gone. Television and the priority WSB was giving it was perhaps making its mark.

WSB Barn Dance
October 29, 1949
Hapeville City Auditorium — Atlanta, GA

Bob Williams and the Cumberland Mountaineers


The Barn Dances also seemed to provide an opportunity for 'cupid' to play a role as well. The WLS National Barn Dance had its share of activity. The WSB Barn Dance also had several cast members get married during its run.

  • On October 29, 1939, author Wayne W. Daniel noted in his book that Chick Stripling married Cassie Nelle Coleman.
  • In 1941, Lillie Mae Perry (her stage name was Jane Logan) married James A. (Cotton) Carrier. Cotton would become one of the popular emcees of the show. The 1940 U. S. Census shows that Cotton was living in Hopkinsville, KY as a 21-year old entertainer at the time.
  • Another husband wife duo on the show was James and Martha Carson. However, their real names were James Roberts and Irene Amburgey. They were married on June 8, 1939 in Indiana.

Pine Ridge Boys

Lonnie Glosson

George Hughes (Swanee River Boys)

Harold Dunn

Margie and Mary Humes

Dink Embry

Fescue Boys


Credits & Sources

  • Pickin' On Peachtree, A History of Country Music in Atlanta, Georgia; Wayne W. Daniel; University of Illinois Press; 1990 & 2001; 295 pages-paperback edition
  • Photos and identification of artists in photos provided courtesy of author Wayne W. Daniel.
  • Program Listings courtesy of Wayne W. Daniel; different listing each time page is viewed.
  • WSB Barn Dance In Debut at 10:30; November 16, 1940; The Atlanta Journal; Atlanta, GA
  • WSB's Barn Dance Moves To Atlanta Woman's Club; January 4, 1941; The Atlanta Journal; Atlanta, GA
  • WSB Takes Over Erlanger Theater; Ernest Rogers; November 29, 1942; The Atlanta Journal; Atlanta, GA
  • WSB Goes to 750 kc In Change Saturday; Ernest Rogers; March 28, 1941; The Atlanta Journal; Atlanta, GA
  • Barn Dancers Buy U.S. Bonds; February 7, 1942; The Atlanta Journal; Atlanta, GA
  • Erlanger to Reopen With 'State of the Union'; Laruen Norvell, Movie and Radio Editor; November 2, 1947; The Atlanta Journal; Atlanta, GA
  • Television Permit Granted To WSB; January 9, 1948; The Atlanta Journal; Atlanta, GA


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