W-H-O RADIO STATION

a.k.a. Central Broadcasting Company.

Des Moines, Iowa

(circa) 1924

Its Call Letters stood for  “We Help Others”

 

WHO first use of call (or on the air was April 10, 1924).

 

HOW THE  “IOWA BARN DANCE FROLIC” WAS ORIGINATED.

 

  Beginning as a one-hour Saturday night-show (circa 193l) and broadcast from P.S.C. Auditorium in Davenport, Iowa, over WHO Des Moines and WOC its sister station in Davenport, Ia. A short time later, J.O. Maland (formally with WLS Radio, Chicago, Ill. moved to Des Moines and became vice president of Central Broadcasting Company. B.J. Palmer, then President of Central Broadcasting Company, had also been a pioneer in the development of programs planned particularly for Midwest listeners. Colonel Palmer’s original program ideas, coupled with Joe Maland’s successful experience  (the WLS Barn Dance broadcasts) plus the able showmanship of Peter MacArthur, soon led to the creation of the WHO Barn Dance Frolic, which later was named the “Iowa Barn Dance Frolic”. And again Ed Fellers gave material help in rounding out their plans. His commercial support made it possible to secure more and better artists for the WHO Barn Dance Frolic.   After a season in Davenport it was moved to Des Moines where a 1300-seat house, the President Theater, soon proved inadequate to accommodate the audiences. 

 

At this point in the history of broadcasting, advertisers still looked at radio more as a question of “how much time” rather than “how much audience”. But the public demanded to attend and since the show had out grown two ordinary theaters, the show was expanded to a three-hour production and it was decided in the fall of 1935 to move the “Live” broadcast show to the Shrine Auditorium in Des Moines, a.k.a. (the Radio Theater), where the 4200 seats were filled and the SRO sign hung out on more than one occasion, to take care of the crowds wanted to come and see the “Live” broadcast. Since 1947, The Iowa Barn Dance Frolic was taken to many towns in Iowa, on a number of occasions.

Broadcasting on Saturday nights from special events in local communities. It played one summer in the 4-H Club Auditorium on the Iowa State Fair ground; and for two winter seasons in the Hoyt Sherman Auditorium. In 1953 the

Show was revamped into a one-hour presentation, and was broadcast from Studio A, W-H-O Building 914-916 Walnut Street, Des Moines, Ia. Saturday night from 7:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M.

 

Between the radio audience and the artists who appeared on the Iowa Barn Dance Frolic stage each Saturday night, there existed a strong personal bond. Hearing your applause from the stage, or seeing it in your letters, the Barn Dance gang naturally had a friendly interest in you!  For this reason The Iowa/Midwest Country Music Heritage Museum, Library, Hall Of Fame, and Country Music Showcase International web site want you to meet them, see them individually in picture form or group pictures on stage on the following pages of our “Virtual” Hall Of Fame.

 

Ready To Broadcast  “Live” 7:30-8:30 P.M. Saturday Night One-Hour Radio Show “ In Studio “A”

Located In The Building Shown Below.  (circa)  1953 

 

Radio Station W-H-O Offices, Studio Building Established At  914-916 Walnut St.

In The Heart Of Downtown Des Moines, Iowa (circa) 1933

 

COLONEL  B.J. PALMER  President of Central  Broadcasting Company….sixteen years experience as a broadcaster with the longest  record of continuous service as a major station operator in Iowa and the Middle West, began amateur radio experimentation in  1921. He established W-O-C, radio station in Davenport, Iowa in March 1922 where he merged W-H-O radio Des Moines, and W-O-C radio, Davenport, in 1930…combined them into one Clear Channel Radio Station W-H-O in 1933 with 50,000 watts power! He then re-established W-O-C- at Davenport, Iowa in 1933.

Great demands were made on his time as a noted lecturer, world traveler, author of many books and owner of numerous business and professional enterprises, B.J. kept informed of every new development in radio broadcasting and was always among the first to utilize every improvement regardless of what the cost!

His experience, showmanship, knowledge and visionary abilities provided the best possible program service and most efficient broadcasting equipment that was available at that time for the success of W-H-O Radio, “a good station to deal with” and the reason  it became the greatest advertising medium in Iowa and The Middle West for many years.(circa) 1933-1953

(1917-1997)        Paul P. Hayes a.k.a. “Slim” Hayes a professional singer and fiddler at the young age of 15, from Des Moines, Iowa was a regular on WLS National Barn Dance cast (circa1932 to 1939) Learn more about “Slim” Hayes (click Here) for his memorial “Hall Of Fame” Page.

 

In the “old days” of radio broadcasting WHO Radio created a theoretical town called “Sunset Corners” and in the middle of that town was the  “Sunset Corners Opry House” and that is where the Iowa Barn Dance Frolic would do its “Live” radio

Broadcast from every Saturday night. Everyone who listened to the program thought the town really existed… but it only existed in their minds as they listened to their radio. People wanted so much to “see” this town that existed on the radio that WHO Radio put a artists concept of the town in its souvenir program to use as promotion. Shown below is the picture that appeared in all souvenir programs and promo.

 

The Picture below was taken on the stage of the Shrine Auditorium a.k.a. Radio Theater then later known as KRNT Theater.

 

 

Hoyt Sherman Stage  (circa) 1950

 

 

Some of the Entertainers who performed on the “Iowa Barn Dance Frolic” over the years.

 

 

And this is how popular the “Iowa Barn Dance Frolic” was in 1935. The map shows how much mail was received at WHO Radio, and how many people listen to the broadcast.

 

 

Every Saturday night, according to careful estimates, more than a MILLION people were radio guests of Radio Station WHO at the Barn Dance Frolic. In 1935 The Frolic was broadcast direct from the stage of the SHRINE AUDITORIUM in Des Moines, Iowa one of America’s largest theaters. A typical Saturday night audience is pictured on this page! For everyone in the crowd that filled this auditorium each week during the winter, there were thousands of guests on the other side of the microphone, sitting beside radios from coast to coast listening. We respectfully dedicate this  “Virtual” Country Music Heritage Museum, Library, Hall Of Fame to those that may still be around, in the hope that our effort may help you reminisce a little bit about the WHO Barn Dance Frolic and how much enjoyment you got out of each Saturday night broadcast.

 

Could Des Moines, Iowa have become Nashville, Tn.?   If a little more fore-sight was given by everyone involved in

the shrine auditorium, the radio station, the city of Des Moines  and the barn dance frolic….in my humble opinion  (Harold L. Luick, Historian/Curator) CMSI Museum/Hall Of Fame….it was feasible and could have happened…but it didn’t?

 

Des Moines, Iowa had one of America largest auditorium, a 50,00 watt clear channel WHO radio Station, the greatest radio show on earth, over a million radio listeners every Saturday night, this lack of fore-sight by everyone involved….became Nashville, Tennessee…Gain.

As Paul Harvey would say “And now you know the rest of the story.”  

 

Note: we will continue to update and add info and pictures, as we build up this particular WHO pages. If you have any suggestions or WHO artifacts you want to contribute or if you did attend the Iowa Barn Dance Frolic please write to us.

 

Credits-Acknowledgements

 For writing, editing, researching, documentation of history: Harold L. Luick, CEO, of CMSI, Historian, Curator for the Iowa/Midwest Museum, Library and Hall Of Fame. Music Industry reference books used for research/documentation: The Chronology AM Radio Broadcasting (1923-1960), from Harold L. Luick personal library collection.  W-L-S and W-H-O Radio History, from Janet Weaver, private, personal history memory collection (circa) 1959-2003. Slim Hayes personal info from:  PMECI Echo Chamber Newsletter, Betty Scovel, Editor (circa) August 1977.   Ruby Blevins a.k.a. Patsy Montana mini bio info from: “Keep It Country”, Bob Timmers, site mgr. P.O. Box 70 Kimberly, Wi. 54136

 

Copyright © 1984 Harold L. Luick, Author, Historian of CMSI.All Rights Reserved.

Publisher, CMSI-Iowa/Midwest Country Music Heritage Museum, Library, Hall  Of Fame.

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