Monday, December 12, 2011


In the early 1950's Syracuse was rich in non-rock entertainment. Country and Western music was extremely popular in Upstate New York. WOLF & WNDR Radio aired special programs to accommodate its large following. The most popular was WOLF Radio's Sandman Serenade aired daily from 10 PM to 2 AM. This program used listeners' requests to determine the popularity of the music played. The songs were played in order, from the most popular to least liked. This was the show that attracted the most young listeners, along with WOLF Buckaroos aired earlier in the day. WOLF was owned by T. Sherman Marshall a radio pioneer who was the first in the United States to transcribe singing commercials. Today almost all commercials are recorded in this fashion.

Programing at WOLF was handled by Ham Woodle. Mr. Woodle back in 1950. made what was one of the greatest decisions in the history of rock radio. He hired Dick Clark, then a senior at Syracuse University. This was Dick Clark's first professional job in broadcasting, which would later lead him to national prominence via American Bandstand.

Born Richard Wagstaff Clark on November 30, 1929 in Mt. Vernon, New York. He attended A.B. Davis High School where he was elected Senior Class President. One evening Dick's parents took him to see a live radio broadcast of the Jimmy Durante- Garry Moore Show. Young Clark's imagination was instantly ignited by the exciting aura of that evening. He knew then that he wanted a career in the broadcasting. In 1947, Dick enrolled at Syracuse University. From the moment he arrived at S.U. his favorite haunt was "Radio House"," a three-studio student run radio station on campus. Clark was soon running the school's station WAER-FM. During his first year on Piety Hill he lived in a dorm and the next year he joined and resided at Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity.

It was in his senior year that he called WOLF owner T. Sherman Marshall for his first job interview. An audition was arranged with program-director Ham Woodle. Clark's first opportunity was working weekends and within a month, Dick had a full time position. He hosted the WOLF Buckaroo's which featured Eddy Arnold, Marty Robbins, Gene Autry and other popular county music stars.

Dick soon learned through Ham Woodle something that Todd Storz (known as the father of the pop radio format) would discover years later by taking requests, via the phone on WOLF's Sandman Serenade, that the same forty or fifty songs were repeatedly asked for. Storz turned the same observation into what was to become Top 40 format that dominated radio through the sixties. Dick Clark stayed at WOLF during morning, midday and evening shows earning one dollar an hour until July 1951. It was then that he secured an announcing position at Utica's WRUN Radio, a station then owned by his father.

He only stayed there a short time and then joined WKTV Utica's only television station. He changed his name to Dick Clay, doing newscasts and hosting a country music show as "Cactus Dick and the Santa Fe Riders." In six short months he joined Philadelphia's WFIL TV where he soon became the host of "Bandstand" (replacing Bob Horn). The rest is history- TV, radio, movies, and his live stage shows know as the "Dick Clark Caravan of Stars."

Few remember Dick Clark's WOLF broadcasts, but all remember Syracuse's most popular listened to program of the fifties WOLF's Sandman Serenade. Former WOLF Sandmen include Jack Morse (Channel 5 & 9) and Lou O'Donald known as "Mr Trolley" on Channel 5's longest running children's show "The Magic Toy Show." The Sandman Serenade lasted until WOLF was sold to Irv Broadcasting in 1957.

Across town WNDR was known basically as a sports station (Chiefs Baseball & Syracuse Nationals Basketball), but it aired country music. Wayne Schram and his Ozark Mountain Boys graced the early morning hours daily. Schram also hosted the Hillbilly Talent Show on WHEN TV (then on Channel 8), which helped boost his popularity. Wayne was booked continuously at dances, parties and concerts. He shared the stage with such stars as Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Roy Acuff. The Ozark Mountain Boys recorded many songs at Syracuse's Dufford Studio with none reaching national recognition. The group met more success appearing in three motion pictures as well as performing live on WWVA Radio ((home of the Grand Old Opry) in Wheeling, West Virginia. Wayne Schram owned and operated the Ozark Inn in nearby Delfi Fall, NY for over 25 years. It became known as the crossroads of country music in Upstate New York.

Embellishing the WNDR airwaves with Schram was a stream of country music from Ken Demaree, Bob Ehle, Bob Hart (the Night Herder) and Mr. Sunshine (Carl Swanson). Swanson shared the airtime with remote broadcasts of local Syracuse sports. Schram and Mr. Sunshine were the first to showcase the legendary Bigtree Sisters (Norma, Jean & Sandy) and local pop singer Jennie Lee Lambert.

WSYR Radio also responded to the country music market. Thousand woke up every morning for over two decades to the rustic " Deacon Doubleday" lived from the "Wired Woodshed."

If the names of Dick Clark, Wayne Schram, Deacon Doubleday and Mr. Sunshine didn't fill you complete diet of country music, then look a bit to the south to Cortland, NY and WKRT Radio. WKRT featured the dean of country music announcers Tex Roe. Tex graced the airwaves from 1947 through 1982. His musical background features appearances with Buck Owens, Ernest Tubb, Boots Randolph, Eddy Arnold and "Little" Jimmy Dickens to name just a few.

Tex Roe's career started in his hometown of Oswego, NY  In 1941, Tex was serving a stint at Paris Island in the services of Uncle Sam.  There with southern musicians Tex started his first band. This southern association led him to appear with Butterball Page the lead guitarist for Ernest Tubb's band. At the Wars end Tex Roe relocated to Cortland where he joined the WKRT Radio Trailblazers. By 1949, he had his own Syracuse television show "Andy's Bar" on WHEN TV-8. That show featured Tex's own band the Bar-O-Range Boys a seven piece band with double fiddle.. The late 1960's found Tex on Wheeling WWVA's Star Maker Radio Program. The show would elevate Tex Roe to a new plateau. He was now a national act appearing with Ernest Tubb on powerful Nashville station WSM Radio. Tex recorded many singles the last in 1968, with Glen Campbell and ex-Elvis Presley drummer D.J. Fontana.

No comments:

Post a Comment