Miss Martha Turner

In 2009 Joe Bankhead retired — at the age of 92 — from a 60 year career in and around radio. One of the first things he did was bang out a 20 page history of his time at KBOA in Kennett, Missouri. It’s a long read. A twenty-page core dump of Joe’s recollections. He apologizes a couple of times for his rambling, haphazard style but Joe wrote exactly the way he talked. (Lots of exclamation marks!)

I don’t think Joe really expected anyone to read 20 pages of memories (nor do I) but there’s some good stuff, especially for anyone interested in the early days of radio. So I’m going to share some of those stories here from time to time.

“I’ve got to tell you about Miss Martha Turner. Martha was a clean cut black lady from Hayti who purchased a 15-minute segment to be aired each Saturday morning. On her program she would sing an a cappella song and read all the cards and letters she would receive during the week. She’d arrive at the station three or four hours before her airtime and type out her dialogue (word for word) that she’d recite while on the air I kept a copy of Martha’s script on hand for years and I’m sorry I can’t provide it for you now. That it was unique and entertaining is a huge understatement. Miss Martha Turner deserves her spot in the history of KBOA. I don’t recall her ever trying to sell anything, or ask for donations from listeners. It appears she just wanted to be on the air and accommodate her fans by reading their letters.”

Joe died in 2011 and took with him a lifetime of great memories. I’m still amazed at his ability to recall so much detail at the age of 92. Joe’s son, Jim Bankhead, was kind enough to let me include Joe’s history on KBOA383.com (as a PDF). I transcribed the original and added a few links. It’s also searchable.

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