Monday, July 15, 2024

Tom Mix Ralston Straight Shooters

 

It's important to start with the fact that most of Tom Mix's radio and film catalog has been lost.  He appeared in 291 films, 282 of which were silent. Reportedly only about 10% of those are known to still exist. Recordings of his radio programs are even more rare. There are only recordings of some 30 random episodes. But we do not know how many were lost. If you have or find Tom Mix recordings please store them properly and try to preserve them.

If you compare it to Lone Ranger as a program of similar popularity and duration there could have been as many as 3,000. Tom Mix radio program aired from September, 1933 thru June of 1950. We know there was a break in 1943. But sources disagree on how many episodes aired per season the book Radio Rides the Range states 2 to 5 times a week. On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio is more detailed and it gives the schedule, day(s) of the week and number of episodes. The first season September 1933 thru march of 1934 was 25 weeks long. At three per week that's 75 episodes. It aired for 16 years so an estimate of 1,200 episodes is plausible. Some of this is estimates of course but this is getting complicated, I made a chart and came up with about 1,764 episodes. I was only able to corroborate some dates in RadioGuide, the Variety Radio Directory, Broadcasting and Billboard magazine. It could easily be more.


Start Date
End Date
Weeks/Episodes
 Episode count
9/25/33  March 1934
25/3
 75
Sept. 1934
March 1935
25/3
75
Sept. 1935
March 1936
25/3
75
9/28/36
3/26/37
26/5
130
9/27/37
March 1938
25/5 125
Sept 1938
March 1939
25/5 125
9/25/39 March 1940
25/5 125
9/25/40
March 1941
26/5 130
9/29/41
3/27/42 25/5 125
 6/5/1944
1945 25/5 125
1945
1946 25/5 125
1946 1947 25/5 125
1947 1948
25/5 125
1948 1949
25/5 125
9/26/49 6/23/50
38/3
114
8/6/50 12/31/50
21/1
21
6/11/51 9/7/51
12/3
36
9/10/51 12/16/51 13/1
13

To most people's surprise, Tom Mix's real name was Tom Mix; it's not a stage name. He was born Thomas Hezikiah Mix in 1880. He had a strange career having fought in the Bower war, and the Spanish-American war, went AWOL, was a sheriff in Tennessee and/or a marshal in Oklahoma... at some point you have to decide what parts you want to believe.

But some parts are definitely true. He was actually a cowboy and worked at the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch in Oklahoma. The ranch was 101,000 acres (hence the name) and operated it's own touring Wild West show which is how Mix drifted away from real cowboy work into horse tricks, roping contests and competitive shooting. In 1905 the Millers invited members of the National Editorial Association to an exhibition. By the time the show took a hiatus in 1916 for WWI, Tom Mix was already in multiple films. He shot more than 100 films for the Selig Polyscope Company before he even joined the Fox Film Corporation and shot more than 100 more in the 1920s. More here.

You might notice we're getting into the radio era here and there's no mention of radio yet. That's because Tom Mix was never on the radio. I think I buried the lead a bit.

In 1933, Ralston Purina obtained his permission to produce the radio series Tom Mix Ralston Straight Shooters. Tom Mix then died in a car accident in 1935 cutting his career short. KDKA signed on in November of 1920 so there remains the possibility of other radio appearances. But as for the Ralston Straight Shooters, that relatively short overlap meant that Tom only had a short window to make a guest appearance on the radio program. In all the old news articles I've read I have found nothing.  I can't prove a negative, but it seems highly unlikely.

I did find two audio interviews, one with film so you can hear his voice at least. Unfortunately neither video cites their origin. Presumably it's for film but it's possible that it was used on the radio. Talk programs were rare in the 1920s so again, odds are slim. More here.

In 1933, Charles Claggett did an informal survey of local kids in St. Louis on their top heroes. Because of his work in film, Tom Mix topped the list. Claggetttook this information to his boss Elmer Marshutz at Gardner advertising. They got Tom's permission and needing a sponsor they pitched the idea to William Danforth the president of Ralston Purina.

The real Tom Mix did not have a voice "suited for radio." His voice, was damaged by a bullet to the throat and/or by repeated broken noses. So he was played by radio actors: Artells Dickson, Jack Holden, Russell Thorsen and Joe "Curley" Bradley. Curley is the most associated with the role btu he only took on the role in 1944.

The program actually climbed in popularity over it's run. Per the May 1941 issue of Broadcasting it was ranked 2nd among rural listeners but50th by urban juveniles. In September 1946 Billboard reported "Tom Mix, according to Hooperatings for 17 months, is indisputable king of the kid segs.  In a survey released last week, the Mutual seg copped all nine firsts in nine different categories of Hooper tabulations." That year Tom Mix beat Superman, Dick Tracey, Lone Ranger and Captain Midnight —everyone. In August 1950 the series was radically revamped. The new show, still sponsored by Ralston featured Curley Bradley under his own name as The Singing Marshal. I have no idea why. That continued until the end in 1951

But 30 years later we got an epilogue to this wtory. George Garabedian produced two "final" episodes in 1982 to complete one of the few partly complete story arcs "The Mystery of the Vanishing Village." In cooperation with Ralston, it was released as an LP on Mark 56 Records with some of the original cast, including Curley Bradley as Tom Mix.

Monday, June 24, 2024

The Goodwill Family

 

Let's start at the SHSM - State Historical Society of Missouri  [LINK]. The few images I can find of the Goodwill Family all seem to originate there. On one post card they stand in a row: Uncle George, Little Eddit, Slim, Aunt Martha, and an unnamed person titled merely "yours truly." In another picture, they pose with a couch, with a note from the Busy Bee Department store of Springfield, IL. The text at the bottom reads "Heard over KWTO every Monday - Wednesday - Friday 6:45 - 7:00 AM." This one is a smaller group: Martha, Slim, Junior and George. In that one Junior looks old enough to drive, it's maybe 5 years later or so.

Springfield News-Leader 2019

Little Eddie, grew up to become Herschel "Speedy" Haworth Jr., a cast member of ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee from 1955–1960. He died in 2008. More here. From George's biography we can learn more about the more obscure Goodwill Family. George was an Earle and was no relation to Slim and Aunt Martha. Martha was not his Aunt, but his mother, Vancie Martha Haworth (née Wilson). Slim was her brother, Clyde aka Slim Wilson. Yes, that Slim Wilson. Slim appears in the first issue of the KWTO Dial in August of 1941, playing with a trio, the Hoakum Boys. But the Goodwill Family appears on the schedule, Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:15 AM.  [SOURCE]

George Earle and Speedy were the first to get on the radio. Speedy played guitar and George read the funny papers aloud. It was a thing back then. Martha, Speedy, and Slim formed the first Goodwill Trio and began performing on KGBX-AM in 1932. KWTO-AM had the same owner at the time and they moved to the more powerful station after it signed on in 1933. In 1935, Guy Smith joined the trio as "Uncle George." With that addition, the Goodwill Trio became the Goodwill Family. Rev. Guy Smith didn't fit the musician model though, he was a  fundamentalist minister and he didn't stick around long. More here. He later turned up at KCKN and KANS, Cactus Jack Call got him a gig in 1963. More here.


Sources conflict sometimes. Little Eddie was also called Junior at one point which is confusing. Some sources clearly say that Junior grew up to be "Speedy." But the Springfield News-Leader says the "little boy" in that image above is Speedy. They cannot both be him. Speedy (Hershel) was born in 1922. If that image was taken in 1934 then he'd be 12 years old. Little Eddie is not 12, Junior might be so let's go with that theory and assume the image is just poorly labeled. This is consistent with another solo image of Speedy at the age of 12 that calls him a "Yodeling Cowboy." He's a little young to herd cattle but he'd already won a yodeling contest at the age of 10 so he was on his way.

That hymnal at the top has a single page of background on the troupe. It cites the 1932 date, but it makes some claims I find dubious. Firstly it states "...it's personal, with one exception remains the same as the day it first sang over the air on radio station KWTO..." Just between the two images we have an extra member and we know it began as a trio, not a sextet. Confusingly it describes them as "four people, a brother, sister the sisters son and a friend." That should be Martha, Clyde (slim), Junior and probably George (Guy) at that point in time. But it goes on to name them "Clyde "Slim" Wilson, "Aunt Martha" Baty, Junior Haworth, and George Rhodes" A PBS documentary on KWTO also cites Rhodes, specifically as a bassist. [SOURCE] But I'm lost again. Martha was a Wilson, like her brother Clyde (Slim). Her married name was Haworth. Where does the name "Baty" come from?


Let's go back to George for a moment. George was George Earle when the story started and was Guy Smith in the middle. That skips the third George, George Rhodes. That George played on KWTO’s Ozark Farm and Home Hour going back to at least 1944. Prior to KWTO he played with a band,
Lonnie and His Cornhuskers. In 1947 he was part of the "RFD Round up" with Ozark Red and Goo-Goo Rutledge. He was performing at KWTO at least until 1951 with Buster Fellows. But he is the George most often remembered in print. They all played together on the barn dance program "Korn's A-Krack-in'." Those barn dance style programs were happening as early as 1946, and there was at least one in 1949. A general article about Ozark county musicians [LINK] casually mentioned that George Rhodes became part of Slim Wilson’s family group, the Goodwill Family during the 1940s.


Martha opened a restaurant Aunt Martha’s Cliff House in the late 1940s. It was destroyed in a fire in 1958. By the time of the fire, she was married to the chef, Charlie Hicklin. It was her second restaurant. In 1948 Martha operated the Corn Crib Cafe at 302 South Jefferson in downtown Springfield, and after the fire, she ran Aunt Martha's Pancake house. Martha died in 1966. [LINK]  The obituary names numerous family members and in-laws, but not the date of her marriage to Hicklin. More here.

But a contemporary description of the old Cliff House restaurant property, the Springfield News-Leader again refers to her as Aunt Martha Baty. [LINK] I had thought this was a typo, or bad AI. But even the original 1958 article about the fire referred to her as both as "Aunt Martha" and "Mrs Baty."  I found the answer in the June 1949 issue of the KWTO Dial. Mrs T.M.D. of Birmingham Alabama wrote in to ask "How long has Aunt Martha been married to Mr. Baty?"  The answer was "A little over a year and a half."  Mr. Baty was pictured in the May issue and named as Everett Baty. His story arc is short. The October 23rd, 1954 issue [LINK] of the Motion Picture Herald includes a small obituary.

"Everett Baty, Jr., 62 years old, identified with theatres at Springfield, Mo., and husband of Martha Baty, radio entertainer, died recently in a resort cabin at Kissee Mills, Mo., just after he had returned from a fishing trip on a lake."
It's hard to say when the show was over for the Goodwill Family. Their time at KWTO wrapped up in the mid 1950s and Martha became a restaurateur. They recorded a few 78s, and a few 45s. But that pancake house outlasted everyone. It didn't close until October of 2015, lasting a full 55 years. That's longer than the Goodwill Family program, Aunt Martha and all three of her husbands, her famous brother Slim Wilson and even her most famous son, Speedy Haworth, who passed in 2008.


Monday, June 10, 2024

Testing a 1913 Deforest Sperical Audion Radio

 I only found this video recently but it's excellent. I've never seen a radio engineer go thru the circuit component by component and explain how it's working at this level of detail. He has several other videos all worth watching but this one is really something special. If you've never seen someone make a resistor with paper and a wood dowel this is a must-watch.



Direct Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6ZVqr0fPo4

Saturday, June 08, 2024

PDX to SFO

It's about 650 miles from Portland to San Francisco, that's a full day at the wheel. The plan was to spend as much of the drive on the coast as possible so instead of heading down I-5 or Route 99 I drove north west up Route 26 to join 101 in Seaside, OR; lost some time but gained some road miles.

The coast of Oregon is mostly rural, small towns separated by miles of forest. KXJM is located in Banks, along route 26 but at 68k watts is just another Portland station. KMHD petered out and I started looking for local stations. The Classic rock station 102.3 KCRX in Seaside was the first and their license is held by "OMG FCC Licenses, LLC" which is the best LLC name I've seen since "The Dude Abides LLC."  In this area OMG also owns 1230 KKOR and 1370 KAST-AM in Astoria which is too far north to receive here. (They also own a cluster of station in Alaska.) OMG sadly only stands for Ohana Media Group and not the exclamation "oh my god." Ohana's website has been down for quite a while and is excluded from the wayback machine so they're running dark online.


KCRX
is classic rock if you think The Offspring is classic rock. It's fine but it's not all about Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Further down the coast in Cannon beach there's a whole cluster of FMs to check out. The best option was 94.9 KBGE an actual AAA format station: Gorillaz, Florence and the Machine, Blur, Genesis, Live etc. Nothing unexpected but at least it's not new country. Down the road Manzanita has a local Classical stick, KQMI and then down around Bay City  we have another cluster of FMs now audible from Tillamook. Two are public radio: KTCB and KTMK. But down on the AM band I can now clearly get 1590 KTIL. My info said that it was classic rock but all I heard was country music... Slim pickins' out here. Bay City next door has an actual LPFM station 92.9 KAYN. [LINK] They had a bluegrass program and it's the best thing I've heard since KMHD faded out. 

Route 101 swings inland and I can briefly hear Portland stations again before heading back to the coast. In Newport is Lane Community College and their stations 89.7 KLCC and 90.5 KLCO. It does have some local programs, notably Eye 5, a Saturday roots music show but it's not Saturday today so I get an NPR zombie. Another hour south, in Lincoln City there's another classic rock station KCRF. But they're silent today. That went dark in the Pacific West foreclosure. [LINK] and [LINK].

Around Newport, more Eugene stations came in range. It didn't add any great options, further south Reedsport and then Coos Bay there's even more NPR zombies; KLFO, and KSBA, and yet more classical: KZBY, KWAX, and KWVZ and further south are KSOR, and KOOZ. AAA outlet KTEE was playing some Roasanne Cash. But in Florence 90.7 KXCR, a hyper-local unassuming 900 watt station. I stuck around and I heard a show about poetry, and listened to a talk show KXCR Conversations. These get posted online here so you can hear that very show. Also notable is KMHS, a high school station with not one or two but three sticks: 1430, 105.1 and 91.3. I just wish it wasn't wasted playing modern country music.

The drive was beautiful of course. I stopped at a joint named Mr. Ed's Espresso, Juice, and Underground Pub. The walls and ceiling are all hung with guitars of every make and model. The pizza is great it was one of the best stops on the whole drive. As I approached the California border I could hear 790 KRJY-AM, the Travelers Information station out of Eureka. This station is interesting because it's privately owned. They signed on in 1980 as KEKA. Prior to 2000 it was an Adult Standards format, and under Westwood One it was Spanish Oldies until 2016.

Station 910 KURY-AM should be playing Nostalgia but it too has drifted forward a couple decades more like it's FM counterpart on 95.3. The first California FM station I can hear for sure is 91.9 KHSR, an NPR zombie. I hear it best near the coastline. 1480 KEJB-AM out of Eureka is playing some actual oldies: Chiffons, Martha Reeves, Bobby Fuller the first one I've heard all week. I drove through Brookings, past several state-line themed cannabis shops and was in suddenly California.

I might have missed something but the giant redwood trees do seem to only start south of the border. I have since read that they do grow in Southwest Oregon but are smaller. The first LPFM I hit was 101.1 KFUG in Crescent City but they were playing modern country music as I passed through town but according to their website it's a crapshoot. It could have been Noiseparade or all Elvis. More here. I could hear 104.7 KHUM out of Humbolt by the time I got to Kalamath, more true AAA: Dan Auerbach, Beatles, Lana Del Rey and way too much J.J. Cale. 

Down the road I hit the Eureka-Arcata market which has a more robust radio dial. Station 95.1 KMDR playing is listed online as Rhythmic Oldies but is actually Soft AC. 94.1 KLGE a loungy jazz station... not quite Adult Standards though it sports some Mel Torme. A couple years ago they did a real deal radio play called "Hard Boiled Humboldt, A Half-Baked Detective Story". Yes you can download it and you should. [LINK] I expected it to come in but 105.1 KRFH, the one college station in town was not audible.


The area between Eureka and Ft. Brag is pretty rural but I noticed, starting in Eureka what KMUD has become. Firstly it is the station I remember. I tuned in and the first thing I heard was some talk about Shamans and then Native American music. They are now a real deal public radio network: 91.1 KMUD, 88.1 KMUE, and 90.3 KLAI. Don't ever change.

The dial got quiet until we hit Ft. Bragg and then Mendocino, home of 89.3 KAKX. The kids are surprisingly adept, nice mix of indie rock. Then the highway routed further inland. In Santa Rosa I can hear a repeater for KCSM on 90.7, and KWMR is keeping it weird. Kay Clements was still MD last time I came through, she's not listed on the staff website anymore but they just celebrated 25 years of broadcasting[LINK], congratulations! I also bumped into KRJF-LP which I've not heard before [LINK]. In the mid-afternoon I caught the New Music show, mostly a mix of AAA and indie rock, nice driving music. From there I could already hear San Francisco stations like KPFA, but I stuck with 93.7 KJZY, one of the few Nostalgia stations left, then all jazz 91.1 KCSM all the way into the city.

Filled with tacos from Tacos Oscar next door, I paid a visit to 1-2-3-4 Go Records on 40th Street in Oakland. Among other things I got a few stickers there, one for 92.7 FM KEXP.  The problem is that KEXP is on 90.3 in Seattle. Much like KYA Gold in Seattle... this station is 800 miles away from this sticker. The truth was a big surprise. In 2009 KEXP bought the station we now know as 92.7 KEXC. I'm not sure how I missed the news, but KEXP bought the old KJAZ stick from Flying Bear in 2022. There were other sights and other sounds, but you can't stay on the road forever.

Friday, May 31, 2024

PSC to PDX

I didn't drive directly from Tri-Cities to San Francisco. I drove from Portland to Tri-Cities and back to Portland, and only then down that long winding coastal road. Route 101 originates in Washington state where it wraps around the Olympic peninsula. Most sources give  that location as Olympia but I think the start of the ramp off is technically in Tumwater. The southern Terminus is in Los Angeles 1,540 miles away. The ramp  roughly at the ramp for S. Grande Vista Ave.

Two stations call Tumwater their city of license: 1340 KUOW-AM, and on 95.3 K237FR, the HD2 repeater of KYYO. Many stations give their city of license as Olympia: KAOS, KPLI, KXXO, KKWF, and seven repeaters and translators. Almost none of those towers are actually in either city. KAOS or course is local, as is KPLI; even KXXO way out on Capitol Peak at the Weyerhaeuser Radio Site in the Capitol forest is technically in Olympia. Strangely it's the repeaters that seem to be out of town like K270CJ and  K262CY repeater, are out of town.


K270CJ reminded me of something I've been observing for years now: the slow migration of oldies and classic rock playlists into the 1980s and even 1990s. By extension Country Oldies has also time-traveled to the 1980s which is frankly not a good era and I'm sorry to report that Nostalgia, the old big band format is basically extinct. But more on all that in a bit. 

Appropriate, to this topic, K270CJ at one point did broadcast "Olympia's Boomer Rock and Roll" as "Boom FM." But it's the HD3 channel of KRXY, that's not front row. HD3 is the back seat of the station wagon. (On the 94.5 FM stick they're broadcasting Hot AC.) But if you go to the website it has very mixed branding. It has KYA-FM in the header, but the URL is still Theboomfm, and the text describes the music as "Classic Hits" which is not oldies or classic rock. Notably the banner at the top is broken. I had forgotten this existed but this is all that remains of the old KYAgold site. That last flip of the FM stick happened in march of 1994 at 93.3 KYCY in San Francisco ending a brand stretching back into the early 1970s. [LINK] Per a December 2022 conversation on radiodiscussions.com [SOURCEK270CJ flipped to SuperCFL and the steam flipped to sports which is what I found. However, I've found multiple other KYA streams... that are on-brand and still running.

I stocked up on  Calvin Johnson mix tapes at the Rainy Day Record Co. . but there's no tape deck in the car. So I spent this leg of the trip doing a bandscan while driving along the Columbia River gorge. This was an interesting experiment as there are no AM or FM transmitters in side of it but alternately behind the bluffs and hills around it. 

 


Heading to (Yakima-Pasco- Richland-Kennewick) Most of the drive is decidedly rural, these are white areas of the metro map. You can see the course of the river in the shape of the surrounding counties. But Route 14, aka The Lewis and Clark Highway,  starts in Vancouver, WA; home of 91.9 KOUV-LP, which is still a CP and 97.5 KDOA-LP a Caribbean station with a complicated resume. They sold their stick on 101.5 in the Dalles to the religious satcaster Educational Media Foundation (EMF). That station became KJYV in 2019 and then KDLZ in 2022. KDOA moved to 97.5 in 2021 but in September of 2023 filed a CP to move to 99.9. Both CPs are still active,but EMF (the E also stands for Evil) has a translator on 97.5 for KLVP making 99.9 the safer bet. They did file a proper STA [LINK] to remain silent due to that "copious interference" which they were when I drove through.


The first town of any note is Camas which has two location stations KIEV-LP "outlaw country" [LINK] and KNRK and by extension the HD-2 channel of KNRK, Alternative Classics. They were playing Kings of Leon when I last checked, a new cut from 2024. Alternative perhaps, classic? No. The Freeway ends at Washougal and while KMHD comes in clear there's nothing new on the dial I couldn't hear in Vancouver. The transmitters on Mount Hood are mostly on the south side of that summit and not particularly clear here.

Further down the road was the town Skamania, a perfect town for a ska-fest, or ska band. It's never happened but there have been a few near-misses. In 1964 Carlos Malcolm And His Afro-Jamaican Rhythms put out a record "Ska-Mania" which opened with the single "Skamania" it's mostly about curry. The Supertones and Five Iron Frenzy did a tour in 1998  named "Skamania." The band the Skatalites put out a record in 1996 "Greetings from Skamania." That's both one first wave and one second wave ska band, but still no love for the unincorporated community in Oregon. But if you're looking for local music in Skamania, Matthew McDonnell put our a cassette in 1992 "A Musical history and tour of the Columbia River Gorge."  Good luck finding it. A few miles later I pass the Bridge of the Gods.


After a quick stop at North bank Books I hit the road. 104.5 KPLP reports a city of license right on the water in White salmon, but they use a stick 23 miles away in Parkdale. It's another christian contemporary station.  I headed on to The Dalles; home of KQHR, KOTD, KMSW, KACI, KDLZ, KACI, KODL and another 9 FM repeaters.  92.7 KMSW purports to be Classic Rock and 1440 KODL to be Classic Country; both have slide into the 1980s. On the AM band are two more: news talker KACI-AM and and KODL-AM, both simulcasting on their respective FM sticks. I can just get 102.3 KRSX a standard issue country FM station.  They're 12 miles inland up route 97 to nowhere. Further down the road I can just get 106.1 KWCQ out of Condon, OR 33 miles away.

By the time I get to Boardman, before the river hooks north, The dial turns over to mostly Tri-Cities stations. Public stations KOLU, KRBM and KFAE comes in clearly but just like my last visit the college station KWCW is elusive. Half the dial is country music stations. I tried for 980 KTCR looking for an oldies station and got more 80s music. I can however get two other classic country stations out here: 1240 KTIX-AM and 1360 KOHU. Both have playlists that also lean into the 1980s but KOHU is certainly more interesting with a lot more old style lap steel. Both stations cover an area in the hills south east of Tri-Cities proper out in those white areas of the map. Station 101.9 KNHK is also classic country but I couldn't receive it. 

On the drive back there was one RF mystery that took me hours to make sense of. On 1230 AM I could hear this Spanish music for most of the drive. In trying to guess the location of the transmitter, I found it was strong fore and aft even as I rounded sharp corners, and tall hills loomed over head. I even considered it being a pirate. It turns out that 1230 KDYM-AM Sunnyside (near Yakima) and 1230 KRYN-AM in Gresham both simulcast "Estacion de la Familia radio". They are 170 miles apart at opposite ends of the Columbia river, but because of the depth of the gorge you can usually receive it anywhere between Portland and Kennewick. But which one you receive depends on which side of the mountain you're facing.