Standby For Saws!

Standby magazine was published by WLS radio in Chicago during the 1930’s. The magazine included interviews with radio stars, and a schedule of the radio shows including the very popular radio show National Barn Dance. Farmers and relocated farmers made up much of the audience during a time when many people were moving from rural areas to more urban areas.  National Barn Dance aired from 1924 until 1960. Barn Dance was sponsored by Alka-Seltzer and starred performers such as Gene Autry, Smiley Burnett, the Hoosier Hot Shots, Pat Buttram, and Patsy Montana. The station played primarily country music, much like the Grand Ole Opry does today. In addition to the regulars on the show, National Barn Dance offered a place for vaudeville acts to perform to new audiences and saw player Ford Hanford was an occasional guest.

In this edition of  Standby magazine from October 1937, you can see Ford Hanford, one of the first recorded saw players,  listed as one of the performers on their Halloween show. One wonders if he was relegated to making spooky sounds on his saw or if he actually played a tune or two. He’s listed on page four of the magazine. “A special guest will be the famous musical saw player, Ford Hanford, of the old “Hanford and Meyer” team, famous in the theatrical world.” Hanford’s act is referred to as “old” in 1937, 16 years after his popular recording of “My Old Kentucky Home. ” Mr. Hanford was part of a popular act in 1921 and was able to parlay his vaudeville fame into work for years after.

Ford Hanford played on this Halloween radio show with Pat Buttram (the future Mr. Haney on Green Acres) and the Hoosier Hot Shots. The Hoosier Hot Shots are an interesting group. They seem like they should have had a saw, but as far as I know, they never did. They did have a guitar, saxophone, string bass, and a washboard covered with whistles. Novelty musical acts have always had a certain appeal, and luckily for all of us, some of the great acts of the past are still available for us to hear. You can hear a bit of the Hotshots in the video below and imagine them sharing the stage with Ford Hanford. You can also listen to an episode of National Barn Dance with the great singer Billy Murray at the bottom of the page and get an idea of the type of show it was. Ford Hanford isn’t in the episode, but you can see how he would be a perfect fit.




Posted in ,


Rowena Southard, your blog hostess, is a musical saw enthusiast who lives in California. She loves all kinds of music and has a special fondness for unusual instruments.