Tuesday, August 29, 2006

O Brother, Where Art Thou Radio

As powerful as Radio is, it used to be more so. A suave good ol' boy from Ohio fooled Texas into thinking he was a Texan, then ran for governor and won then ran for Senate and beat out Lyndon Johnson for the spot. He did it with a live radio show and a good back up band. They spoofed him in a film not too long ago...

The character of "Pappy" O'Daniel, the Governor of Mississippi and host of the KPRC-AM radio show The Flour Hour, is closely based on W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel, one-time Governor of Texas and later US Senator from that state. O'Daniel was not a native Texan. He was from Malta, Ohio. As a young child, he moved to Reno County, Kansas. More here.

O'Daniel worked in the flour milling business and moved to Fort Worth in 1925 to work for the Burrus Mills. O'Daniel soon took over their radio advertising, wrote songs and hired a group of musicians. The band was originally called the the Allasin Laddies. He changed their name to Light Crust Doughboys.  Interesting side note, country musician Bob Wills got his start as a member of the Doughboys. As the story goes, in O'Daniel had to fire Wills in 1933 for drinking too much and missing their radio broadcasts.

After the Doughboys split up, O'Daniel formed the Western Swing band "Pappy O'Daniel and his Hillbilly Boys." The new group was named after O'Daniel's Hillbilly Flour Company.

W. Lee O'Daniel portrayed himself as simple fried-chicken loving hillbilly fighting the establishment. And for once the good-ol' boy image was pretty accurate. He was famous for refusing to sign bills he didn't understand. He fought bitterly with the Texas legislature and was overridden a record 17 times. You can listen to him pimp his flour here ...and while you're at it, buy something from the kind folks at OTRcat. they have a great catalog of old-time radio programs.

Of course, in the movie the only radio station noted by calls was WEZY-AM with the blind engineer. The WEZY calls never were assigned in Texas. Currently reside in Racine, Wisconsin. Fifty years ago they were not in Texas nor in Mississippi. In the mid eighties WEZY was just outside Tampa. There is a book about O'Daniel called Pass The Biscuits Pappy, you can read more about that here.