20121216

Hayloft Gang Memories Revived in Film

Image634912772622169284Long before music came to us on mobile applications and world-wide reception on satellite or internet was possible, radio was king and for millions of Americans before World War II The WLS Barn Dance from Chicago was a “must listen” every Saturday night.

Image634912747471080724The world would stop on it's axis while radio dials from hither and yon were tuned in and the family with any and all neighbors who didn't own their own radio would gather and listen - listen like they'd paid the highest ticket price for a Carnegie Hall recital.

It was long before “Bluegrass,” Image634912748965746214before “Country” or even before “Folk” were names used to describe the music and the type of music featured on the Barn Dance didn't really even have a name. “Old Familiar” it was described. But for the millions of listeners that didn't matter. The folks on the other end of the microphone were their friends...just as much as the guy sitting right next to them.

Many of the rural listeners to the program didn't have electricity so it was the battery from the old farm truck that supplied the power for the radio and it was many a time the family would ride to church the following morning on the hay wagon pulled by the tractor or the mule because the truck battery was run down too low while listening the night before.

The Hayloft Gang was the troupe of singers and performers who assembled every week to croon and entertain the masses who tuned in to the National Barn Dance. Folks, who at the time, were not well known; Gene Autry, Patsy Montana, The Hoosier Hot Shots, Smiley Burnett, Red Foley and George Gobel were just a few of the many who went on to world-wide fame and notoriety thanks to the popularity of the National Barn Dance.

The show began broadcasting in the 1920s but from 1930 on the WLS transmitter broadcast on a 50 thousand watt clear-channel signal that reached more than three quarters of the US or almost everything Image634912760053150377east of the Rocky Mountains. And later when a portion of the show was broadcast on the NBC network a coast-to-coast and border-to-border audience was waiting for it.

The Hayloft Gang and the Barn Dance were the predecessors of  other popular radio shows that today may be even more well remembered, shows like the Louisiana Hayride and Nashville's Grand Ole Opry.  The Barn Dance and it’s cast were so popular that mail came into the WLS offices by truckloads and over a million dollars of Alka Seltzer was sold in one year after the company became a sponsor.  But today, as the films’ narrator Garrison Keillor points out, “the program is, today, barely a memory.”

The Hayloft Gang: The Story of the National Barn Dance is a film that tells the story of the National Barn Dance, the story of a changing America through the lens of the nation's most popular country music radio show of it's day, The National Barn Dance. The one-hour documentary that aired on PBS last year is now struggling to raise enough funds to acquire licensing for DVD and other non-broadcast uses so that the story can be told to literally millions more in schools and libraries and associations.

The Hayloft Gang producers have launched a new campaign with USA Projects to raise the funds needed for clearance and licensing of the DVD and digital media rights for the film. USA Projects is a nonprofit grant making and advocacy organization dedicated to accomplished artists working in the United States. Using USA Projects unique, online funding platform, the campaign will run through December 31, 2012.

All donations made through USA Projects are tax deductible and eligible for matching funds. Proceeds to the project will be used to pay for music clearance and licensing for The Hayloft Gang. Supporters can choose from some great rewards including; a unique set of Hayloft Gang postcards, a CD of songs from the film’s soundtrack,

The Hayloft Gang DVD signed by the crew, an autographed copy of the companion book to the film, or “A Day with the Producer” spent viewing and listening to the rare and extensive project archives… plus other cool rewards!

The film's producer Stephen Parry says, “....it has always been our goal to bring The Hayloft Gang to the widest, most diverse audience possible; it needs to be used in schools and libraries and available to the general public. Unfortunately our production funding only covers the costs for licensing the music for public television broadcast. We have to pay the music publishers and record companies for the additional rights for DVD and digital media distribution.

 

To learn more about the project and to make a donation go to:

http://www.usaprojects.org/project/the_hayloft_gang

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