Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – Praises Called in For Sapulpa Songs
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
In January 1925, Sapulpa’s very own Jimmie Wilson and his band Catfish String Band played proudly on the radio station KFRU in Bristow. It was one of the four largest stations in the southwest, along with Dallas, Fort Worth, and Kansas City. Representatives from almost every city in Oklahoma, including Jimmie Wilson and the band, on opening day.
The band was a regular show for KFRU in Bristow; when W. G. Skelly bought the station in 1928, he moved it to Tulsa. Skelly renamed the Station KVOO and advertised itself as the “Voice Of Oklahoma.”
This week in Sapulpa history, February 20, 1928, KVOO would broadcast more local vocalists from Sapulpa. And “radio fans like Sapulpa’s music.”
The Sapulpa program through KVOO reached coast-to-coast. “Messages from California to Washington, D.C., from Birmingham, Alabama to Grand Rapids, Mich., gave evidence of the popularity of the Sapulpa program. Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and states in between joined the throng of those sending messages to KVOO testifying to the merit of the Sapulpa concert.”
Chamber of Commerce of Sapulpa produced a program that aired from 10 to 11*.
*Note: the article did not specify 10 to 11 in the morning or 10 to 11 at night. In the same sentence, however, it said that the program “echoed from the Pacific to the Atlantic last night.” Either the program was taped and then broadcasted at night or it was live at night, it did not state. But it is believed to have been aired live that very night.
“Gene Redd, of the entertainment committee of the Chamber of Commerce was the announcer. He introduced Billy House, a Sapulpa youth who is now appearing prominently on Orpheum circuits, and whose company is at the Orpheum at Tulsa this week.
“The program of the [African-American] spirituals broadcast by the Booker T. Washington High School chorus of mixed voice, and the male quartet numbers from the school brought a shower of congratulatory messages to KVOO.
“T.R. Rice, a saxophone player, was also a popular entertainer with the radio audience. Mrs. Beatrice Roberts, soprano, broadcast several numbers which met with the approval of her listeners. She was accompanied by Miss Ella Thrasher at the piano.”
“Telephone calls from all parts of the state were received during the Sapulpa broadcasting hour.” It was truly a coast-to-coast praise for the Sapulpa songs.
If there was any questions as to where the singers were from the announcer made sure to give a brief history of the town. “Sapulpa, S-A-P-U-L-P-A, spelled and pronounced as the natives pronounced it. In announcing the Sapulpa Chamber of Commerce program, Redd described the geographic location of Sapulpa and made a brief statement about the community. He explained the pronunciation of the name, often mispronounced by visitors from other states.”
There was a radio interview between Groucho Marx and Tallulah Bankhead aired on November 20, 1950. It aired with Ezio Pinza, Fanny Brice, Hanley Stafford, Jane Powell, and Merideth Willson. It provided an entertaining half-hour to its listeners. Tallulah mentions Sapulpa around the 20-minute mark. She mentions she was touring for one of her plays that won cheers everywhere across the country except “Sapulpa, Oklahoma.” (Tallulah pronounced it as Suh-poop-lah). The audience laughs and gives great applause. Grouch even says, “Well, that is certainly a novel pronunciation. What happened there, Miss Bankhead?” She blames the play's failure in Sapulpa on Bette Davis.
But that’s a story for another day…
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The information found on this page has been researched through Sapulpa (and area) newspapers, Sapulpa Historical Society archives, books, and photographs, Sapulpa yearbooks, city directories, and other local authors. Any other sources will be labeled and named as the research continues. Any mistakes will be noted and adjusted as needed.