WDZ RADIO, TUSCOLA, ILLINOIS

THE NATION'S THIRD COMMERCIAL RADIO STATION

CENTRAL ILLINOIS ENTERTAINMENT SOURCE

PART B

127.

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SPECIAL SECTION PART B-- WDZ, TUSCOLA-- ILLINOIS' FIRST COMMERCIAL RADIO STATION HISTORY


WDZ "THE CORN WAS GREEN"

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"MOM BUSH" ORGANIZES TALENT IN ONE ROOM

 

       The new commercial WDZ would offer grain reports, but now saw a chance to help the poor and down-and-outs of the Depression Days in Illinois and nearby states with a little entertainment. The new manager of the station was "Mom (Edith) Bush". In organized confusion, singers and performers were wandering all over the grain and radio operation. As it was described, "the corn was green." Mom Bush insisted that all entertainment be performed live and in one room to prevent complete chaos. A song would be written by the famous Smiley Burnette about Mom Bush, entitled, "Momma Don't Allow No Music Played in Here."

 

 

SMILEY BURNETTE ARRIVES AT WDZ

 

        About 1930, a gangling kid was hired at WDZ. He was a song writer and singer and would stay at the station for a number of years. Ray Livesay tells the story of Smiley Burnette. He said that "Lester "Smiley* Burnette was a talent at the Tuscola station from 1930-1934, when he was hired by Western star and singer Gene Autry.  Autry had come from Chicago to audition Burnette in Tuscola. Burnette later gained stardom as Gene Autry's sidekick in more than 60 motion pictures with Autry and in several with another legendary cowboy star, Roy Rogers.  A singer, actor and comedian who could play dozens of musical instruments, Burnette was also well-known on national radio and television. He was featured as engineer Charlie Prattin in the "Petticoat Junction" series. Livesay ended his story of Smiley Burnette by stating that Burnette was a native of Fulton County and died in 1967."

 

OLD-TIME "LIVE" ENTERTAINMENT PERSONALITIES AND PERFORMERS IN "MOM BUSH'S" ONE-ROOM STUDIO

         Ray Livesay recalls other popular talents at the old Tuscola WDZ. One performer was from Jewitt in Cumberland County, His name was Denver Darling and he played the guitar and sang on the station in the early 30's. He later made over 120 records in New York City* He died in 1981 at the age of 72.   Livesay also mentioned "Blue Grass Freeman", a balladeer and "Lazy Jim Day", a comedian who sang the news in the late 1930's. He put everything in rhyme, including the news.

 


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