Saturday, April 10, 2021

WSAL and Kid Smith


WSAL was the second radio station Salisbury had.  The first was WSMD which went out of business in the early 1930s. It was followed by WSAL that operated on 1200 KC with 250 watts of power.

It was on WSAL in 1939 that Delmar Mayor L. T. Lockerman gave his history of Delmar on the segment called “Know Your Town”. It was transcribed to the Bi-State Weekly February 10, 1939 edition and is used to this day as a reference on Delmar. Joe Long at one time emailed me saying his self and other baseball players would stop by the station and talk on air about the games they played. Willis Conover worked at WSAL in 1939 as a part-time radio announcer. He was attending the State Teacher's College at Salisbury, Md at the time. Willis Conover was one of the most famous American Jazz announcers in the world but was virtually unknown in America. He did a Jazz show on Voice of America Radio for forty years, and was known to millions of people around the world but since Voice of America was forbidden to broadcast in the U.S., it was only the rest of the world who knew him. WSAL, Salisbury, Md. Broadcast License of licensee belonging to Frank M. Sterns was revoked, effective March 31, 1940.

WSAL had a number of live entertainers on their station, some paid, some were not.  Kid Smith was a regular in the 1938 to 1940 time period.  Dressed as a hobo clown he, with his two daughters, were billed as "Kid Smith and the Smith Sisters."  The below advertisement is of them

Yes it was the type of act that makes today’s young adults cringe with the fear that their great grandfathers thought this type of act was funny.

Kid Smith was Walter Barney Smith (1897-1977).  The “Kid” part of his name came from when he use to box as a career as a lightweight but gave it up in 1924. He was married in 1917 to Bertie Elmira Harris (1896-1976) and they had three daughters; Thelma Vada Smith (1918-1992), Dorothy Gay Smith (1920-1974), and Ola Lorene Smith (1927-2014).

  above Walter Smith

He and his family were in several different musical groups that went by various names.  They played opening acts at movie theaters before the talking picture show came on.

above March 1939 ad 

They played a benefits and shows.  They worked medicine shows, tent shows, car lot openings etc.  They lived in Virginia and mostly they played in the Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina area.

above 1939 article from Star Democrat - Easton Md. 

According to Walter Smith in 1939 he had a seven-year old Patsy Cline in the act.

In the 1940s his daughters started marrying and doing the act less often.  In 1947 he remarried.  He married Tona Lee who was brought up in tents shows and who had a contortionist act. 

In 1977 Kid Smith died and is buried in Georgia.

There is a good article on Walter Smith in the JEMF Quarterly Spring 1973 publication.  It came be found on internet archives.  The John Edward Memorial Foundation (JEMF) promoted the study of twentieth-century American Folk music.  

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