Harold Stokes.

by Albert Haim

Jean Goldkette disbanded his prestigious Victor Recording Orchestra in the Fall if 1927. I did not take him long, just a few months to reconstitute another first-class orchestra. Accordionist, pianist, arranger, vocalist, composer Harold Stokes was the band leader.
Harold Barclay Stokes was born in Nokomis, IL on Jan 10, 1905 and died in Alamo Heights, TX on Jan 9, 1954.
"When he was a child, his family moved to St. Louis. He attended the University of Missouri.
Harold had considerable musical talents which he directed toward jazz and popular music. He played a robust piano (with hints of Jelly Roll Morton) and occasionally accordion. He was an accomplished dance-band orchestrator.
In 1928, Stokes became the musical director of the Chicago-based Jean Goldkette Band (which the legendary Bix Beiderbecke had left not long before). The group appeared daily on WGN radio and regularly recorded for Victor.
When NBC established a Chicago presence in 1929, Stokes became one of the networks staff conductors---leading groups of various sizes on various programs. He is said to have conducted the first coast-to-coast broadcast originating in Chicago. Stokes became known for his scorings of novelty numbers and his generally off-beat arrangements. The NBC-Chicago regulars he appeared with included Marian and Jim Jordan (in their pre-"Fibber McGee and Molly" days) and Don McNeill (in his pre-"Breakfast Club" days. On account of his looks he was called, behind his back, "Horse Face."
When WGN moved into its opulent new quarters adjacent to the Tribune Tower in 1934, Stokes was hired to lead its newly-formed "WGN Dance Orchestra." He held this position until the summer of 1941 when he was fired. (His replacement was Bob Trendler whom many will remember as the band leader on WGN-TV's "Bozo's Circus" show.) His first marriage disintegrated shortly thereafter.
Stokes retired to a chicken farm near Hillsboro that he had purchased during his palmier days at NBC. In the spring of 1944, the city fathers of Hillsboro asked him to put together an amateur variety show to raise funds for a proposed youth center. Stokes, with plenty of time on his hands, wrote an original score and assembled a cast of townsfolk. He also persuaded Jack Owens of the Blue Network's "Breakfast Club" and Lawrence Salerno (a WGN vocalist) to come to Hillsboro to appear in the show which was called "Hillsboro Hilarities."
Mary Hartline appeared in this show as a dancer. Stokes took a liking to her.
A year later, ABC hired Stokes as a radio producer. Almost simultaneously, Mary graduated from Hillsboro High. With Stokes encouragement, she decided to go to Chicago to become a model. Within a year, Stokes was assigned the new "Teen Town" show. He immediately made Mary a member of the cast. Stokes (age 42) and Mary (age 21) were married in June of 1947.
When ABC began construction of its Chicago television facilities in 1948, Stokes was assigned to program development, both for the network and its local outlet, WENR-TV.
"Super Circus" was one of Stoke's first ideas. Not surprisingly, Mary became a member of the cast to, in essence, bring her "Junior Junction" persona to the television screen." {Source: Rogers West Park Ridge Historical Society.]
One Stokes/Goldkette recording with Stokes on vocal in the next posting.
More info about Stokes and a photo in



Posted on Sep 3, 2017, 7:11 AM

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