Bob Atcher

Bob Atcher was one of the most popular country music entertainers of the post-World War II era, enjoying a 21-year career at OKeh and Columbia Records, as well as major radio stardom on WLS' National Barn Dance out of Chicago. His range of material ran from traditional country and comic novelty songs to folk. James Robert Owen Atcher was born and raised in Hardin County, KY, on property that was later appropriated for Fort Knox. The family, led by his father, a champion fiddle player, was musical, and he learned both the violin and the guitar. By the early '30s, he'd made his debut on radio on WHAS out of Louisville, and over the next few years appeared on several small stations across the South and Midwest. In 1939, Atcher got his first big break when he got a regular spot on WGBM in Chicago, a daily program that was picked up nationally by the CBS radio network. He quickly built a major national following with his mix of country and novelty songs. He joined the American Record Company that same year, just in time for the label to be purchased by CBS (which rechristened it Columbia Records), and passed through the label's OKeh imprint before going on to Columbia. During the years 1939-1942, many of Atcher's singles were credited to duets with Bonnie Blue Eyes (aka Loeta Applegate) -- their records together included the comical "Answer to You Are My Sunshine" and "Pins and Needles (In My Heart)." Atcher was also joined in the studio on occasion by his younger brother, Randy Atcher -- their singles together included "Papa's Going Crazy, Mama's Going Mad." Atcher served in the army during the later part of World War II and resumed his career in 1946. He charted around that time with "Why Don't You Haul Off and Love Me" and "I Must Have Been Wrong." Atcher made his biggest career move in 1948, when he joined the National Barn Dance on Chicago's WLS. At that time, the National Barn Dance was still one of the two biggest showcases for country music, and he became one of the show's most popular stars over the next ten years. He also scored big on the charts again with "I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes," which became a classic piece of country comedy. His recording career proceeded apace, with some notable achievements. In 1948, Atcher cut two of the earliest LPs ever released by Columbia, a pair of 10" discs devoted to cowboy songs and folk music (Early American Folk Songs, which contained one of the earliest extant commercial recordings of "Devilish Mary," a 19th century folk song that would become part of the repertoire of the members of the Grateful Dead). Atcher left Columbia in 1950 for Capitol Records, and later recorded for Kapp Records. He remained a star on the National Barn Dance into the 1960s, and later rejoined Columbia Records. In the interim, the label had reissued the two early LPs of folk music and cowboy songs on its budget-priced Harmony line, and during his second stint at Columbia, Atcher re-recorded his classic songs in stereo. Like Gene Autry before him, Bob Atcher invested his earnings far outside the recording industry, and by the 1960s he owned various businesses and had a hand in the banking industry as well, as a board member of the Schaumburg State Bank in Schaumburg, IL. He also served 20 years as the mayor of Schaumburg, from 1959 until 1979. ~ Bruce Eder

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