Thursday, November 05, 2009

DJ Dave Dudley

I was reading the back of a Dave Dudley LP "George and the North Woods." Like most releases of it's day the back cover includes a short bio which tipped me off to the story. Successive bios all disagree but I'll start where the trail went cold. More here.
"...It was while convalescing from his injury in his hometown of Steven's Point, Wisconsin that Dave went to visit a friend who was a disc jockey on a local radio station. Dave was asked to sing in a fashion that would do Hollywood scenario writers proud-a star was born."
Which radio station? Was the first question. Turned out the bio was a lie or an exaggeration or a massive understatement from a copy-writer at Mercury records circa 1969. George typically put out two or three records a year at that time in his career so a little summarizing was probably in order. The injury was a semi-pro baseball injury, one that ended that sports career. His first record "Where there's a will" was recorded in 1959 for the NRC label.

So that dubious biographical note would have occurred before that date.Most bios state that Dudley was a DJ at WTWT in Wausua, WI KBOK in Waterloo IA, and KEVE in Minneapolis, MN. It seems beleivabel that it was at 1010 WTWT-AM where the station owner encouraged Dudley to venture out as a performer. This bio put him as performing as the The Texas Stranger at WTWT in the late 1940s. It's even more dubious when you recall that WTWT only first went on air in 1948. But this bio dates his baseball injury to 1950. There is clearly some confusion.The Country Music Encyclopedia clearly identifies the neighbor in the Mercury records bio as Vern Shepard. Vern liked Dave's music, and got him a gig playing on the station in the fall of 1950. While Dudley wasn't from Texas he had played in the Texas minor leagues. This is certainly his The Texas Stranger phase. In late 1951 he began playing on KOBK Waterloo, IA.

This conflicts KBOK as noted in other bios, I suspect it's a typo even though Billboard Magazine repeats it as recently as 2004. To further confuse the matter White Log in 1952 lists no KBOK, but lists KOBK-AM as 1390 in Owatonna, MN. But the 1951 edition lists a KBOK on 1280 in Waterloo. The 1950 edition lists neither. So maybe he did play on a short-lived station in Waterloo... Or maybe biographers confused the stations, KOBK is still on the air today as KRFO-AM.

It might be a coincidence but WTWT became WSPT in 1952 and that same year he relocated to Charles City, ID and started work on KCHA. There he started the Dave Dudley Trio. In 1960 they disbanded and he moved to Minneapolis. He started a new group there, The Country gentlemen. They did well enough he managed to get a spot on KEVE-AM.

KEVE was his last stop in broadcasting.He went on to have charting 40 singles across at least 70 albums. Much of his catalog remains out of print. He died in 2003 he was 75. More here.