Hillbilly music fans knew him as Randy Blake
Randy began as an opera singer and performed for three years on stage.
didn't speak Italian.
played on the Orpheum circuit for three years.
made good money back then, $250 a week, all expenses paid.
was young and frugal at the time.
sent $200 home each week to his
father to put in the bank.
kept the other $50 and his
left the circuit when they changed the schedule where he
would have to do five shows a day.
went back home, seemingly quite well off having saved about $35,000 during that stint. (Note: The math does check out - 52 weeks times $200 is about $10,400 a year).
seemingly was also a bit of a soft touch.
knew back then seemed to be broke, so he
made a lot of loans.
told Mr. Green, only one paid him back.
basically gave away most of what he
went out to California for a time after losing his
truck driving job when he
caught the flu.
had two brothers living out in California and tried to find something out there.
ended up coming back to Chicago.
found himself drifting into the hillbilly music field because he
saw the waning interest in 'crooning' and felt that hillbilly (or folk) music was really the "American opera."
began helping Harry find hillbilly and western talent.
But eventually he
felt the urge to try his
own hand at singing.
He joined the Suppertime Frolic over radio station WJJD in 1935 as a sacred singer.
Randy Blake at WJJD in 1949
Perhaps we can shed light on how he
came to be known as Randy Blake
daughter, Penny Winston Blake Stein, tells us she
has only heard one version of how he
became Randy Blake
One day he
was appearing live over WJJD
and the commercial announcer had not shown up.
Harold stepped up to the microphone and on the spur of the moment uttered, "Howdy folks, this is Randy Blake
It turns out that a representative of the sponsor was in the station's control room at the time and heard Randy
and stated, "I want that man to be the voice for our commercials.
used this name on the air only; he
never changed it legally.
A 1949 article tends to lend credence to this event, but doesn't mention he
took the name Randy Blake
in doing so.
The talent roster for the show at that time included Jack McCoy and the Cumberland Ridge Runners; Doc Hopkins; Buster Glosson; Karl and Harty; the Flannery Sisters; Randy Blake
(identified as a cowboy singer).
The article noted, "They unearth selections, vocally and musically popular long ago and those still enjoying a following in the rural districts.
Entertainers are well versed in this type of work and undoubtedly have an audience in the hick towns.
One might say that Chicago was hardly a hick town.
In the April 2, 1938 issue of WLS' weekly publication "Stand By", it mentions that Randy
had recently married about then.
But actually, they were married in 1932.
noted in a 1974 interview that when he
got married, he
didn't have a job.
And when he
did get one, it was driving a truck at 4:00 in the morning delivering newspapers and magazines in Chicago.
In 1941, Constance Keith reported that she
was hearing Randy
over radio station WHAS
in Louisville, Kentucky.
noted the show was a Morning Jamboree and played music by transcription or by Uncle Henry and his
found himself at WHAS
due to his
job with the Benson and Dall agency because a friend of his
owned the Consolidated Royal Chemical Corporation
sold something called Peruna (a tonic), Kolorback (hair coloring) and Zumol Trokeys (cough drops).
asked Harry O'Neil if he
could sing on the Suppertime Frolic
When asked what he
would sing, he
noted, a hymn.
was not welcomed with open arms at the show.
They viewed him as a "nightclub singer".
In early 1942, Sam Abbott reported that Randy
was the emcee of the 5am to 6am morning show, "Homefolks Jamboree" over KNX
Later in the spring of 1942, Mr. Abbott told his readers that Randy had left Hollywood to work at radio station WHAS in Louisville, Kentucky.
It was stated that Randy
would return to KNX
and the Homefolks Jamboree in the fall.
apparently did not return to the West Coast in the fall.
Sam Honigberg told The Billboard readers that Randy had joined the announcing staff at WJJD in Chicago in September.
was to appear on the show with her
Bonnie's show was to start in June 1943.
In his May 1949 column, Arlie Kinkade reported that Randy Blake was signed to a record deal with Capitol Records.
Mr. Blake took a break from WJJD during World War II and when he returned to WJJD, the station decided they would have Randy play records during the Suppertime Frolic two-hour show.
was on the last shift and was on until WJJD
had to go off the air at sundown each day.
It was said that he
offered a minimum of comment as he
played the recordings from hillbilly music in that era.
Proof of his
popularity lay in the fact that he
got over 100,000 mailings from every state in the USA.
We get some indication of his
popularity from a 1943 article.
The Suppertime Frolic
show that was emceed by Randy
aired from 7:30pm to 9:30pm.
In 1946 Randy Blake
had a hand in getting Mercury Records to setup a Nashville operation.
knew Murray and suggested to the Mercury Records executives that they should contact Murray to setup a country music recording studio.
In 1947, Randy
hand at songwriting.
first tune, "You Never Shoulda Done That" .
December of 1947 found him cutting his
first recordings for the Gold Seal record label.
It was reported that the two tunes he
cut were "Howdy Friends, Good Evening, Neighbors" b/w "The Little Golden Locket.
The first tune was said to be based on the Suppertime Frolic
Randy and Ken Nelson were listed as the songwriters for that tune. (Note: Mr. Nelson was a long time executive for Capitol Records on the west coast and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.) A few weeks later, Billboard reported that he had already sold 5,000 copies of the record.
In 1948, another sponsor wanted Randy
for their products - records.
Columbia sponsored a nightly 15-minute segment that Randy
would provide short biographies of the artists and play their latest recordings.
National Jamboree magazine
reported in the summer of 1949 that Randy
had received a "huge" gold loving cup from Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl and Rod Brasfield for "...the many years spent in promoting folk music.
In April of 1949, Capitol Records
announced they had signed Mr. Blake
to a recording contract to record sacred songs for the label.
At that time, Randy
was being heard seven hours a day over border radio station XENT out of Laredo, Texas, presumably by transcriptions.
also had transcribed programs airing over 20 radio stations in the South.
Just how popular was Randy Blake?
But Randy was in the runner-up position.
In late 1949, Randy Blake's
father passed away.
Somewhere in the late 1940s, MGM records were being distributed in Chicago by the Zenith Corporation
that was on Jackson Boulevard.
Frank Walker called the sales manager and told him he
was sending him a record by Hank Williams and was not to open it, but take it to Randy Blake
didn't think much at the time.
told Mr. Walker that "...Obviously he has a lot of talent because he writes and writes and writes.
Walter Hudnall noted in National Hillbilly News
was featuring a song called "Charleston Is the Place For You" by Johnny Smolen over WJJD
In several older The Billboard magazines
, we have seen advertisements for records that featured Randy
or a quote about the air play and response the record was generating over WJJD
A 1950 publication noted that Randy
had received his
600th namesake that year.
Parents were naming their new born children after him.