We’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic lately so we took a look #WayBackWednesday and found the story of a barn dance. Did you know that, in 1942, the popular radio show WSB Barn Dance came to Covington? Yeah, we didn’t either. So, we did a little more digging and found out more about this once-popular radio phenomena and how it wound up here.
The WSB Barn Dance first aired in 1940, during the peak of hillbilly music's popularity in Georgia. Hillbilly music had become a powerhouse revenue draw for radio stations and WSB Radio in Atlanta sought to capitalize on this trend. They brought in a consultant, John Lair, who created a completely new lineup hillbilly music shows. Lair’s greatest success was a Saturday night live music show he dubbed “The WSB Barn Dance.” It was, literally, an overnight success. The WSB Barn Dance achieved such popularity that the show became the highest rated of any show on the air in the Atlanta area, network or otherwise.
The first broadcast of the WSB Barn Dance occurred in the Biltmore Hotel, in Atlanta. But, audience demand was such that they quickly out grew the studios and on January 4, 1941, the show moved to the Atlanta Women's Club in Atlanta. Still, that wasn't big enough to handle all the crowds that wanted to see the show. The WSB Barn Dance went to doing two shows a night on Saturday nights. The show's cast included some of familiar names in hillbilly music history like Bobby Atcheson, Harpo Kidwell, Hank Penny and the Radio Cowboys, Cotton Carrier, The Prairie Songbirds, The Swanee River Boys, Sunshine Boys.
Due to its success, the WSB Barn Dance began taking their live show on the road and touring! Many different venues were chosen for these live broadcasts and, in 1942, the Barn Dance came to Covington. While we can’t find exactly where the Barn Dance was held, we do know that a live broadcast was done. Covington natives packed into the auditorium and heard their favorite hillbilly music icons.
Unfortunately, by the end of the 1940s decade, the world was changing. Radio station owners were finding it cheaper to have a disc jockey to play records rather than have live shows. Television was creeping into the world and eating into the ability of the artists to make money from personal appearances as folks stayed home. The WSB Barn Dance aired its last show on February 18, 1950. While they only came to Covington, Georgia once, the WSB Barn Dance made a lasting impression on our town and our music.