Friday, June 25, 2010

Virgil Oliver Stamps

Virgil Oliver Stamps was a singer and composer but much more importantly he was a promoter.  He promoted gospel music, and was big on shape-note singing. He was born in 1892 and attended the singing school of Richard M. Morgan in 1907.  Born in Upshur County, Texas, raised listening to Gospel he eventually became a key figure in early gospel music publishing. This story doesn't start with radio.. but it ends there I promise. Let's start with the obligatory quote of reference courtesy of the book "American Popular Music and Its Business" by Russell Sanjek.
"The roots of the modern South's religious-music publishing business which was started prior to World War I by James D. Vaughn, Virgil Oliver Stamps, and J.R. Baxter..."
In 1914 he became a field rep for the above-mentioned James D. Vaughan Music Company. Stamps worked for them until 1924.  Then he started his own music company, the V.O. Stamps Music Company, based in Jacksonville, Texas. The following year he published his first song book  "Harbor Bells" In 1927he joined forces with his J. R. Baxter and formed the Stamps-Baxter Music Company. All very interesting.. but no radio quite yet.

He organized a gospel quartet in which he sang bass. They began playing gigs on the radio.American Beauty Flour sponsored his programs. In 1936 five years later, this group gave Stamps his big break. 1936 at the Texas Centennial Exposition he landed two daily broadcasts on KRLD-AM.Interestingly his brother was also in a gospel quartet; the Frank Stamps Quartet. they had a similar sweet deal at WHO-AM in Des Moines. V.O. Stamps also played across the border in Mexico. The book "Daddy Sang Lead" by Stanley Brobston ran the following quote:
"Mr. Stamps also had a fifteen-minute program on a 50,000 watt radio Station in Mexico just across the Rio Grande River from Del Rio. he sold hundreds of thousands of song books with the program on that station..."
Clearly this is a border blaster that was active in the 1930s.  Across from Del Rio, TX is Ciudad Acuna in Mexico. I thought at first this was 1570 XERF-AM but they only began broadcasting in 1939. More likely this was XER or XERA. XER ceased broadcasting in 1933, but that doesn't rule it out. 760 XERA-AM was on air from 1935 to 1939, making a brief but also possible window. XERA was also 50,000 watts broadcasting from Ciudad Acuna, very closely fitting the description. What Brobston does not note is that those programs were recorded on wire.  It was not live.

Virgil Oliver Stamps died of a heart attack on August 19, 1944.  He was 52 years old.