Development of musical programs at KSD really began to pick up momentum in 1936 when a young St. Louisan who had been conducting the Ambassador Theatre orchestra joined the station. His name was Russ David.
His first job at KSD was on a children’s amateur program. He was the mysterious “Aunt Elizabeth,” a non-speaking pianist whom listeners tried to stump with difficult song requests.
Today as an accomplished concert pianist, jazz pianist, organist, composer, dance band leader and master of ceremonies of one of KSD’s most successful programs, “Playhouse Party,” Russ David is virtually synonymous with St. Louis music.
In between “Aunt Elizabeth” and “Playhouse Party,” there has been a wealth of outstanding KSD musical programs, all bearing the Russ David stamp. He provided the musical backgrounds, for example, on the “Highway Patrol” and “Land We Live In” dramatic programs. In strictly musical offerings, Russ has probably forgotten more of them than he can remember. But these are some of the notable ones: “Ebony In Ivory,” a piano duet program with another well-known pianist, Lee Sanguinette; “Music For Your Mood”; “Allen Clark And The Office Girls,” with Russ, singer Clark and ‘office girls’ Esther Witt, Jean Lane and Jean Chassels (now Mrs. David); “Tic Toc Time” with Kay Thompson and Don McNeill, who came to St. Louis each week for this program; “Telletunes” with announcer Clair Callihan; “St. Louis Serenade,” a network program of the World War II years which brought Russ an immense amount of congratulatory mail from servicemen; the “National Federation Of Music Clubs” show; the “Griesedieck Brothers Show” and “It’s Alpen Brau Time!” “Alpen Brau Time” was originally titled “Papa Yodel’s Alpine Inn.” “That title lasted only a week,” Russ comments.
Among the memorable singers who joined with Russ on these programs were, in addition to Allen Clark, Julie O’Neil, Cheri McKay (who later had her own program – “Cheri McKay and Company”), Dottye Bennett, Joe Karnes and, in the early days, Helen O’Connell and Bob Hannon. The last two went on to national stardom, Miss O’Connell with Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestra and Hannon with the “American Album of Familiar Music” program.
They were not the only ones to use KSD as a springboard to national acclaim. Harry Babbitt, the handsome balladeer with the old Kay Kyser orchestra, was once a KSD staff vocalist. Helen Traubel , who went on to star at the Metropolitan Opera, sang on KSD several times early in her career and Ron Rawsen, who has been a successful network announcer for many years, was once on the announcing staff of KSD.
(Excerpted from a KSD promotional brochure, 1960. Authored by Don Burnes.)