The 1954 WLS Family Album
note: As WLS celebrated its thirtieth anniversary, the Prarie Farmer
Days of the 890 spot on Mid-America's radio dial were winding down. But the "WLS
National Barn Dance" and the rural-oriented programming of one of the
nation's premier 50,000 watt clear channel stations were still going strong. Here
you can enjoy the photos and text WLS provided its loyal listeners six years before
the fiddlers, the yodlers, the pickers, the strummers and the bucolic comics were
A crowd of country and city folk packs the auditorium of Chicago's Eighth Street
Theater on a Saturday night in anticipation of the "WLS National Barn Dance"
The "WLS National Barn Dance" cast on the stage of Chicago's Eighth
Street Theater. Given the resolution of the photo, it's difficult to identify
the individual performers. But I believe "Captain Stubby" Fouts is eighth
from the right. Eighth and ninth from the left (wearing business suits) are Homer
and Jethro. Johnny Frigo is almost dead-center with his fiddle at his chin. And
towering over everybody in the back is "Cousin Tilford".
Atcher. He sang and presided over the last days of the WLS National Barn dance
before he served as Mayor of Schaumburg, Illinois.
Belle and Scotty. Among the most durable of the WLS personalities (Lulu Belle
also had a career in politics when ABC pulled the plug on the WLS country folk).
Alas, they and their kids (whom you will see on this page) are all deceased.
and Jethro. Masters of parody (and Jethro was a master of the mandolin).
"Red" Blanchard. He was actually sort of funny.
Hewitt. An easterner who sang western.
Outlasted just about everybody at the Prairie Farmer station.
McFarlin. An African American who sang songs of faith.
Chore Boys. This versatile backup group featured the legendary Johnny Frigo
Rangers of the Air. They provided accompaniment for week-day programs on the
Prairie Farmer station.
Lee Holmes and Don Stevens. You heard them on the "Barn Dance Preview".
Bonn. He picks, sings and aspires to be a recording star.
An Arizona cowpuncher who found that radio was his true calling.
From Chicago's Southwest Side, she was noted for her diction.
Back in a time when radio had an educational component.
Holden. The "Dean" of WLS staff announcers.
WLS News Department.
It was more than "rip and read".
WLS Weather Department.
The farmers of Mid-America depended on these gentlemen.
Crane. Survived more than three decades at WLS.
WLS Orchestra. Live from studio A.
Busy at work in the 1230 West Washington studios and at the transmitter site near
Operator Max Thompson. If you wanted to spin records at WLS, you needed a
musician's union card.
Alumni. Honored for their WLS roots are Pat Buttram, George Gobel, Rex Allen
and Smiley Burnette.
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