Monday, July 25, 2022

The Blisard Brothers


Don and Norman Blisard were the Blisard Brothers. One promotional photo shows them in cowboy hats with a mandolin and a guitar standing in front of a microphone bearing a KUOA badge. Their parents were Ben D. and Mary Blisard of Gainsville, MO. Don was born February 22nd, 1919 and his younger brother Norman was born in Corral, ID August 3rd, 1920. The duo are obscure enough that only has a stub. 

Their radio program was on 1290 KUOA-AM in Siloam Springs, AR. The date it aired is uncertain, but their songbook was printed in 1945. Their songbook was published in shape note which is rare enough to narrow things down. The publisher is given as "The Blisard Brothers, KUOA Artists" at 50¢ a copy. More notably the introduction was written by Albert E. Brumley a prolific printer of shape note music into the 1960s.

KUOA started at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville first signing on in 1923. The station was acquired by John Brown University in 1933 who ran it as a christian station mixing Southern Gospel, and other religious music with preaching programs. The founder and first president of the eponymous university, John E. Brown Sr. was a long time radio enthusiast and this was far from his first radio station having owned KFPW previously and had a program on KMPC

The surname Blisard isn't common. Despite that random hits are few. There was  George C. Blisard of Waco, TX writing in the Sylvania newsletter from the service department of Cogdell auto supply advising on the repair of radio sets in 1942 and 1944. A relative perhaps.  A Thomas A Blisard Sr. testified in the HUAC, the House Investigation of Un-American Propaganda Activities in the United States hearings. He gives his birth date and place as 1880 in Philadelphia. But his statements were about Stalin on the radio, not southern gospel. Random searches produce Blisards, but no clear connections. The mystery endures.

Benjamin Donovan "Don"  Blisard was a landscape painter even back in the 1940s. He has some renown even now for his works. Because of that we know that he died in 1989,  his grave is in Aurora, MO and that his wife was Imogene. Hispainting style is similar to Charles Wysocki, which might be how they both ended up on jigsaw puzzles. 

I did find one relevant clipping from the Arkansas Times from January 13th 1969. It helped fill out the family tree a bit. Rex Wayne Blisard of Siloam Springs, son of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Blisard was killed in Vietnam January 9th. He had been born July 15th, 1949. He was survived by his parents (above) and his siblings Dale and Lana; his maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. W. T. Robinson and paternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Ben Blisard all of Siloam Springs.

Monday, July 04, 2022

Herman Darewski Conducts

Herman Edward Darewski was a composer of what was then called "light music".  Lets take a quick detour to explain what that actually was. These are short orchestral pieces, often just 3 or 4 minutes in length. The genre in many ways is the predecessor of both the easy listening and beautiful music genres. But light music itself has roots predating the arrangements of Mantovani, and Percy Faith going back easily into the 1800s. 

So when you see a reference to the radio program "BBC Light Programme", that is indeed the "light" in question. The BBC Light Programme ran from 1945 to 1967 which is really quite late in the heyday of the genre. More here. But in some ways it's also the antecedent of lounge music, Muzak, exotica and other more novel instrumental music; so there may be gems to mine in that crate. It's a big category.

But back to Darewski. He was born in Minsk when it was still part of the Russian empire, over 30 years before the revolution. Today it's part of Belarus, but he would probably have considered himself ethnically a "white Russian" though he and his older brothers lived most of their adult lives in London. Different biographies confuse him and his brothers with his father, Edouward Darewski. Nonetheless, his little brother Max, and older brother Julius had their own separate successful music careers.

Maximilian Arnold Darewski [LINK] was a musical prodigy in his own right. Julius did compose some tunes, but found more success as a variety agent. I did find some sheet music for "You Never Know" from 1915 with two different Darewski's on the cover. Even though Julius was Max's agent he didn't' manage to squeeze the third Darewski in.

But since I'm writing about Herman Darewski, you already know it's because he did a turn on the radio... actually two of the brothers did. They were a musical family, dad being an actual music professor. Max was a novelty, a child musician, while he performed for the British crown, he was not an enduring success like Herman, or Julius. Max was born in 1894 in Lancashire, England. Max's radio references are few. A 1926 issue of Wireless World records a performance by Max and a Geoffrey Gwyther on the Saturday Night Revue broadcast on 2LO and 5XX. (An issue of the law times from 1923 also lists his bankruptcy.) The book Entertainers in British Films by Denis Gifford lists Max on film in 1907 as "boy conductor" when he would have been about 13 years old. He recorded some sides for Zonophone in 1925. I found some listings for his performances at dance halls and in theaters into 1926. He died in 1929. An issue of The Linguist, a decade after he died, mourned that his name was mispronounced "Darooski" on the radio.

But Herman is the most interesting figure here. He first appears in the BBC Radio Times in June of 1925 on 6KH in Hull. There are no notes about the appearance. The listing only refers to the "Hull Programme" and that it's relayed from "the Spa, Bridlington". I actually first found his name in a much later broadcast schedule in a 1937 issue of The Indian Listener [LINK] and there he was in Transmission IV at 11:55 PM on BBC Ballroom. "Dancing to-night to Herman Darewski and his new Melody Rhythm Band. (admission by radio only)."  Call signs are variously given as below:

17.79 Mc/s
15.26 Mc/s
11.75 Mc/s
15.8 Mc/s
9.51 Mc/s
15.14 Mc/s
9.58 Mc/s
21.53 Mc/s
GSH 21.47 Mc/s

In 1900 Herman became a composer for a music publisher in London. By 1916 he already had his own eponymous music publishing company: Herman Darewski Publishing Co. He was publishing his own sheet music and also scores by other musicians. [LINK] He was composing and promoting theatrical revues. In 1917 he wrote a popular WWI play, "The Better Ole." Times were difficult in WWI. The Musical Times posted an add asking for donations to be sent to the YMCA in Bloomsbury Square, but also specifically donations of musical instruments and music to Herman Darewski at the same address.  

After the war things perked up for Herman Darewski. In 1919 he published the The Darewski Jazz Chart: Learn to Jazz at Home, an odd pamphlet about both jazz and jazz dancing complete with diagrammed dance steps. He formed his first band in 1920 for a 2 week engagement at the Alhambra Theatre of Variety, in Leicester Square. That success was followed by a similar booking at the Coliseum in London.  By 1921 his name was of such note that he could trade barbs in the Daily News with Sir Hugh Allen on the topic of "beastly" popular music. That year is also his earliest known broadcast in April of 1921 on PCGG, also known as the Dutch Concerts station. The April 16th issue of Wireless World recorded the event:

"As a development of the Hague concerts a scheme has now been inaugurated under which Mr. Herman Darewski, the composer, will give Nederlandsche Radio Industrie the opportunity of transmitting by wireless from their station at the Hague his latest musical successes. The concerts are expected to reach a radius of 500 miles from the Hague. Transmissions take place on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. G.M.T. and Thursdays from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. G.M.T. on a wavelegnth of 1,100 metres."
PCGG was a very early European radio station. The station was founded by Dutch radio pioneer, engineer Hanso Idzerda, inventor of the triode IDZ tube. He began broadcasting regularly on November 6th, 1919. In 1922 the Daily Mail decided to sponsor Idzerda's station. In 1924 they revoked their sponsorship and PCGG went bankrupt, PCGG's license was revoked by November of that year. Mr. Idzerda died in 1944. During the German occupation. A V2 rocket failed at launch, and crashed near his home in Scheveningen. He went to investigate and was warned off by German soldiers. But curiosity got the better of him and he came back later to look at fragments. He was arrested and executed. His family did not learn his fate until after the war.  [LINK]

Anyway back to Herman. In 1924, about the same time that the PCGG license was revoked, he was named Musial director at the Bridlington Spa Royal Hall, a concert venue in a resort town. It was in this post-WWI era that he transitioned from conducting more theatrical revues to "light music." He left Bridlington Spa to become the resident bandleader at Empress Ballroom in the Winter Gardens, Blackpool for the summer seasons of 1927 - 1929. That year he also began recording for Parlophone's red label. In 1930 he returned to Bridlington where he remained until the outbreak of World War II.  By 1931 his fame was such that he copyrighted and sold an illustrated, 31 page pamphlet Herman Darewski's Wonder Way Music Tutor for Children and Grown Ups. One listing notes that it was written in collaboration with Geoffrey Clayton. He was 48 years old and arguably at the height of his fame.

In 1937 the BBC even referred to that year as his 11th consecutive season at the Spa Royal Hall. (Though the math on that is somewhat dubious.) His orchestra, the Melody Rhythm band consisted of sixteen members. On August 19th be broadcast live from the Bridlington Spa Royal Hall at 11:15 PM. The listing in the Radio Times recalled that  he had traveled to London just a couple weeks prior to host a program of his own hits, with G. H. Elliott. He was a minstrel-era black-face singer... let's not get into it. Even the BBC pops up a little warning if you want to read the Radio Times from that era. His last appearance in the Radio Times was in the Fall of 1941 on the  Forces Programme and Home Service, the description notes that he has composed over three thousand songs and speaks of his career. More here.

His wife actress Madge Temple was a successful actress in her own right died in 1943. He seems to have stopped performing in public around this time. His son Neville Lawrence Darewski was the first generation of Darewski not to pursue a music career. He went into the military in WWII, and died serving with the Italian partisans in 1944. You should probably Google that. Herman died in 1947 at the age of 64 having outlived all of his own family with the possible exception of Julius... I can't find an obituary for him.

Monday, May 09, 2022

Jack Ruby and KLIF

Anyone with any level of interest in the Kennedy assassination from the student, to the historian, to the conspiracy theorist knows who Jack Ruby is. But many of them won't know anything about 1190 KLIF-AM, and even fewer the connection between the two. The Kennedy assassination was a tragedy of course but also a huge news event so the city was swarming with local news people. So as coverage ramped up for the Kennedy assassination beat it also proliferated a witness list for the Oswald assassination which included a huge number of radio and news people. 552 different witnesses' testimony was presented to the Warren Commission. It included police, attorneys and Oswald's acquaintances.  But that list includes multiple radio staff:

  • Corporon, John
  • Duncan, William Glenn, Jr
  • Jenkins, Ronald Lee
  • Pappas, Icarus M.
  • Richey, Warren E.
  • Stuckey, William Kirk
  • Underwood. James R.
  • Walker, Ira N., Jr.

That list has zero overlap with the Ruby trial witnesses. Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald on November 24th 1963 in Dallas. Access was limited in secure buildings, but KLIF-AM was on the scene for the prisoner transfer of Oswald but did not broadcast the shooting live. NBC was the lone TV network to have broadcast live coverage. NBC News correspondent Tom Pettit, was the voice everyone recognizes shouting “Lee Oswald has been shot!”  The first mention of the shooting on KLIF is at 9:51 on this video:

First the events you already know about.  Sunday morning, November 24th, the police were ready to move Harvey Oswald to the county jail. A distance of one mile.  At 11:20 AM Oswald emerged flanked by officers. Captain J. Will Fritz led two detectives escorting Oswald through a basement garage toward a car. Moments later, Jack Ruby wearing his fedora, stepped out from the mob of detectives and reporters and fired a .38-caliber Colt Cobra revolver at Oswald's chest. Oswald died at 1:07 p.m.

First you should know a bit more about Ruby.  He operated a strip joint called the Carousel Club. In addition to the local contacts he made through his strip club, he was very social, and made his daily rounds in Dallas visited acquaintances around Dallas. He'd hit the bank, the Statler Hilton, the police station, the courthouse, the bail-bond office, the Doubleday Book Store, the delicatessen, the shoeshine parlor, radio station KLIF. He actually bought that Colt cobra through a police friend of his, Joe Cody to avoid paying sales tax. 

KLIF was owned by Gordon McLendon. Born in Paris TX in 1921, graduate of Yale, and sports  director at WYBC in New Haven, CT. He made a name for himself at the Liberty Broadcasting System. Liberty was a network that mainly broadcast "recreated" baseball games starting in 1948. Reputedly many listeners were not aware the broadcasters were not announcing the live events. [LINK]Ruby once identified McLendon as “the world’s greatest American.” In those days at Liberty McLendon was billing himself as “the Old Scotchman.” He had founded KLIF in 1947.  Ruby name dropped him in his hand-written confession. Later in his career McLendon became a right-wing radio wonk, and made a failed senate run. His career stalled a bit when he started a campaign to ban suggestive songs like “Yellow Submarine” and “Puff, the Magic Dragon.”

He also name-dropped KLIF, DJ Russ Knight, better known as The Weird Beard.(No connection to the WAKY weird beard.)  When FBI Agents found Knight's personal phone numbers in Ruby's possession he won an interview. He had been at KLIF since 1960 and left in 1964 for a spot at WXYZ. Somewhere in there he was also on KILT. Knight had known Ruby for a year and had hung out with him half a dozen times, even taking his wife to the Carousel Club. Ruby for his part, ran ads for the club on Knights program at KLIF. [SOURCE]

Another familiar name that pops up at Liberty is sound man Wes Wise. Back in the 50s he was doing foley work to fake baseball games. Somehow he moved from there to at sports director for WFAA in 1961.  By 1963 Wes Wise was at KRLD-TV (CBS).  He was there with Bob Huffaker. He testified that he bumped into Ruby at the now infamous School book Depository building that Saturday Nov. 23rd; just a day before the assassination. In 1971 Wes Wise would be elected Mayor of Dallas, and he'd serve 3 terms despite being originally from Shreveport, LA. It's worth nothing that Wise kicked off a conspiracy theory in December of 1963 taking poor notes about a possible Oswald sighting. He got a plate number correct but the wrong color and make of the car. By random chance (ahem) the car listed was owned by a Carl Mather at Collins Radio, a company that worked with military communications for the CIA. [SOURCE]  

According to Ruby's own account, he he was trying to find a local disc jockey from KLIF and went into the police station to locate him to deliver some sandwiches from Phil's Delicatessen. He worked his way around the police station, and found instead some staff from KBOX. He asked for  KLIF's Gary DeLaune. Witness Willian Duncan Jr. testified that Ruby delivered sandwiches and soda to KLIF around 1:30 on Friday Nov. 22nd. He asked about DJ Russ Knight and left after 20-30 minutes. More here 

Gary would see Ruby again when Oswald was shot. DeLaune was standing right next to photographer Bob Jackson when the latter took his Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald. Gary's 's presence begat a conspiracy theory of it's own since Jack Ruby had a few connections to KLIF. Despite personally knowing Ruby, DeLaune testified that all he saw was "figure with a gun."  More here. Delaune later worked in Houston, then moved to San Antonio in the early 1970s to cover the San Antonio Spurs. Eventually he joined the sports broadcasting team at KENS-TV where he stayed for decades until his retirement.

Was there any more to any of this?  Probably.  But knowing DJs as I do... the basis of these friendships was probably free sandwiches, and drinks at the carousel club. It an unusual event where in covering the news of one crime find a dozen DJs testifying in the trial over another related crime. I can't think of another event like this one in that one respect.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Glaskarten Archiv


Kait Moon aka DJ Glas has dug into her archive and posted a few episodes of her old radio program on KAOS some 20 years ago. The audio quality is actually really good, maybe even better than the new programs. So this is a great place to start your goth and synth rock flash backs. She was on air for about 5 years but only about 20 programs were saved.

You listen at her Mixcloud here [LINK] but you can also unlock content on her patreon site here [LINK]. Below is a list of what's been posted thus far, it's almost an entire day of audio.

03-17-2003 PART 1
Saint Paddy's 2003
03-17-2003 PART 2
Saint Paddy's 2003
12-09-2002 PART 1 All German Show
04-21-2003 PART 1 The crunchy oontz oontz Show
04-21-2003 PART 2 The crunchy oontz oontz Show
03-24-2003 PART 1 Hope and Despair
03-24-2003 PART 2 Hope and Despair
03-03-2003 PART 1 New Music 2003
03-03-2003 PART 2 New Music 2003
01-03-2003 PART 1 The Sloooow Show
01-03-2003 PART 2 The Sloooow Show
04-14-2003 PART 1 Driving with Joe
04-14-2003 PART 2 Driving with Joe
07-21-2003 PART1 Kaits Birthday Show
07-21-2003 PART 2 Kaits Birthday Show
2021 EP 1
Starting at the End
2021 EP 2
Death Means Nothing
Love: LUST [1 of 3]
02-14-2022 EP4
Love Letter to the Planet

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Quarantine Takeover on WLOY


I'm doing a program over at WLOY that's airing tonight. You can check it out HERE