Lulu Belle and Scotty were a husband and wife musical duet who were the featured act on WLS National Barn Dance radio program for nearly two decades. Bill Farrow was a member of an accordion quartet which accompanied Lulu Belle and Scotty as they played at state fairs during the summer of 1944. Bill’s parents had to sign a permission form for him to participate because he was only fifteen. Bill slept on the ground or in a tent during this entire tour, and the pay was minimal.
The WLS National Barn Dance troupe performed at state fairs around the Midwest during World War II and into the 1950s. A 1950 advertisement for WLS stated that the National Barn Dance’s “participation in Midwest State Fairs was (again) a major attraction” in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. 15
Lulu Belle and Scotty recorded a major hit titled “Have I Told You Lately that I Love You.” They wrote and recorded another tune named ‘Remember Me.’ Rem Wall loosely adapted the chorus of “Remember Me” as the theme song for his WKZO-TV program. Though Pat and Bill went to school together at Kelloggsville High School, Bill did not tell Pat about his summer tour with Lulu Belle and Scotty until many years later, when he realized that she was a big country music fan and might enjoy hearing about his encounter with famous country music musicians.
Bill Farrow assisted Lulu Belle and Scotty for a tour of Midwest state fairs in 1944, when he was 15 years old. Bill is one of the two young men with the accordion in this photo, situated third from the right. (courtesy of Bill Farrow)
Pat Boyd earned 50 cents per hour while working at this pop corn stand in May of 1948. It was her first job. It was located at 4402 South Division, in front of the Cities Services service station. (Pat Boyd Holton collection)
Pat Boyd and Larry Byle reigned as 1949 Kelloggsville homecoming queen and king. Pat was involved in numerous high school activities. She was on the cheerleading squad and performed in a school play, was co-editor of her senior yearbook, and was a member of the honor society. She was also elected as her class President, as well as the best arguer, class flirt and best dancer by her classmates. (Pat Boyd Holton photo collection)
Russell Formsma functioned as both the Principal and football coach at Kelloggsville High School while Pat was a student. He also worked as a security guard at General Motors during the summer break. In the summer of 1950, Formsma heard about a job opening for a secretarial position at General Motors. He asked the ‘commercial’ teachers at Kelloggsville if they knew of a good candidate.
Pat’s high school teachers had advised her to take classes where she could learn secretarial skills in the ‘commercial group.’ They recommended Pat for this position at General Motors.
Pat’s Mom did not drive, nor did they own a car, so Mr. Formsma offered to take Pat to the job interview. She was awarded the position, and started working immediately.
Phil Simon’s Promotion of Country Music Concerts
In 1949, Phil Simon, Marion Pearson and Samuel Hochman built The Stadium at 2500 Turner Avenue, slightly north of the Grand Rapids city limits. This building is currently known as the Delta Plex. 16 The first event at the new 7,000 seat entertainment and ice-skating arena was scheduled for September 26, 1949. This concert featured the musician and comedian, Spike Jones. 17
That same year Simon organized a lengthy tour for country music singer and film actor Tex Ritter, although he did not appear in Grand Rapids. 18 Pat Boyd maintains that Phil Simon was the primary promoter of country music shows in Grand Rapids during the 1950s and 1960s, as frequently as once every three months. This is not to say that these country music shows were the only type of concerts that he presented, as he also promoted various other types of musical and entertainment presentations.
Pat and her mother attended a Simon-produced concert by the legendary Hank Williams on November 23, 1951, at The Stadium. They walked backstage to meet Hank Williams. Pat recalls that “things were more relaxed and it was much easier for fans to meet the musicians back in the 50s and 60s. The performers liked having their picture taken. Even at the radio stations and recording studios in Nashville, people stopped by to see the musicians and no one would care.”
Pat, her mother and Hank Williams continued their conversation at a restaurant near the old Grand Rapids Airport. The restaurant was located on Madison near 36nd Street. Williams didn’t have much time to spend, as he had to catch a flight to his next destination. It is likely that they travelled that night in a 1947 Studebaker Club Coupe, which was Pat’s first car. She bought it “about a year after I started at G.M.”
This is a Grand Rapids Press advertisement for the Hank Williams concert at the Stadium on November 23, 1951 19
Pat became focused on acquiring as much information as possible concerning the country music industry. She familiarized herself with the many country music recordings which were available. Of course, her mother, who was also a country music enthusiast, provided her assistance and encouragement. As Pat describes it, “my mother watched over me.” Occasionally, this involved offering practical advice for her pretty young daughter. Carrie Boyd also accompanied Pat to numerous concerts and their annual trip to Nashville to see the Grand Ole Opry programs. Her mother sorely missed her family in Boma, so while they were in Tennessee, they usually visited Carrie’s family, and made a trip to the cemetery to put flowers on the graves of her relatives.
Del Wood Fan Club
In late 1951 Del Wood became famous as a country ‘ragtime’ pianist, primarily from the success of her million-seller instrumental recording called “Down Yonder.” Pat loved Del’s music, and proceeded to create a national fan club for her.
Del Wood’s “Down Yonder”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idURSDVwIVE 20
Pat quickly assumed a dynamic role with Del’s fan club, which occasionally involved travelling to Nashville to visit with Del, as well as composing and distributing the club newsletter. They soon became good friends. As a result of her relationship with the ‘queen of the ragtime pianists,’ Del introduced Pat to numerous country musicians who lived, recorded and performed in Nashville.
Del Wood 21
“Make Mine Country Style”
Near Christmas of 1954, WMAX-AM began broadcasting radio programs from Grand Rapids. Joseph C. Hooker served as the commercial manager of WMAX. At that time, he owned a horse named Max. Hooker decided to create the station’s call letters based on his horse’s name.
Hooker and Charles A. Sprague, the general manager, gradually employed the talents of a number of talented disc jockeys. Most of them eventually acquired some considerable popularity in Grand Rapids or in other markets. Among this group of announcers were Ed Fitzgerald, Lee Lyons, Jack Stack and Tom Quain, as well as Bob Martz, a Toledo native. Jack Stack and Tom Quain left WMAX by January of 1959 and were working for WGRD at that time.
Pat recalls that in 1958 Bob Martz was presenting a ‘Top 40’ show which featured some rock and roll music. Lee Lyons contends that Bob Martz is probably the first local DJ who worked with the Top 40 format, as well. That same year, Bill Barber, a disc jockey for WOOD, was receiving criticism from irate parents and other adult listeners for airing rock and roll music on his 3:30 P.M. show called the “Barber Shop.” His show was targeted for teenagers who were just getting home from school in the afternoon. Dick Wolf recalls that “Bill was sneaking in a few rock and roll songs along with the typical country music and dance tunes of the time.”
In 1958, Martz ’spun’ records for teen dances at the Plantation on Plainfield Avenue. He was the same age as Pat, and was just getting his start as a disc jockey during the late 1950s. He worked for WMAX for about one year and then returned to his hometown of Toledo after June of 1959.
Bob Martz 22
Ed Fitzgerald poses with a transcription disc (Dick Fitzgerald collection)
Jack Stack (courtesy of Virginia Quain photo collection)
Tom Quain at WMAX studio (Virginia Quain collection)
Lee Lyons at WMAX (Pat Boyd Collection)
The cover of an WMAX advertising rate card (Pat Boyd Holton collection)
During the early months of 1955, Pat sang ‘on the air’ with R.K. Freeman and some other country music ‘pickers’ at the WMAX studio in the Keith Theater building. She was introduced to Joe Hooker and Charlie Sprague that same day. Freeman’s band played at German Village on the south east corner of Lake Michigan Drive and Wilson Avenue, and supplied ‘live’ music for this half hour morning radio show.
“In the summer of 1955 I wrote a letter to Joe Hooker at WMAX. I asked him if I could try out for the morning country D.J. position and things just started to happen. I got a telegram back from Joe, telling me to come to the station. I had listened to countless country music radio programs by then, and I knew a lot about the various musicians and their recordings. I also felt that I was aware of how this type of radio show should be done.”
“Ed Fitzgerald was already doing a morning country show at WMAX. When I wrote to Joe, I stated that it was obvious that Ed didn’t know anything about country music. Yet when Joe told me to come to the studio, it was Ed who spent three days teaching me how to operate the equipment and how to become an announcer. Come to think of it, Ed was probably relieved to not have to do that country show anymore. Actually, he was one of the first local D.J.s to play rock and roll and Top 40 music on the air, even before Bob Martz.” Ed Fitzgerald had previously worked as both a radio and TV announcer for WOOD, as early as 1951.
“Ed put me right on the air! Nothing to it, just learning to use the two turntables and the ‘up and down’ volume knobs. You could ‘talk over’ top while a record was playing by simply turning the microphone on. I had to learn how to conduct station breaks, and ‘meet the network,’ also known as station identification. Every so often we had to acknowledge, on the air, that we were part of the Mutual Broadcasting System.“
Pat Boyd at work at WMAX (Pat Boyd Holton Collection)
“I named my show ‘Make Mine Country Style.’ I used the same closing statement at the end of every show: ‘put the coffee pot on, mama, I’m comin’ home.’ Using this slogan was my mother’s idea, but actually it was stolen from Hank Williams, to be perfectly honest.”
Another radio announcer named Ted Brown, who worked at various New York City radio stations from the early 1950s until 1989, reportedly used a very similar ‘send-off’ for his radio show: ‘warm up the coffee, Ma. I’m coming home.’ 23
This is an 1940s street view of the Keith Theatre building at 113-117 Lyon N.W.. WMAX studios and offices were located on the top floor from late 1954 until 1962. This structure was demolished during the ‘urban renewal’ fervor. The building contained no elevator, so everyone had to take the stairs to get up to the WMAX studio. (This photo is the property of Grand Rapids Public Library Local History Collection.)
The stairway and landing of the Keith Theatre building 24
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Two of Seven
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Three of Seven
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Four of Seven
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Five of Seven
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Six of Seven
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Seven of Seven