The story behind the legendary local radio show Brush Creek Follies

Photo courtesy of Irene Dierks

“I grew up on a farm in Iowa and all the farmers always went downtown on Saturday evenings to sell their eggs and buy their groceries for the week. Once while we were down there, the telephone operator called out that there was a telephone call for us. We went to the telephone office, and it was Earl May from Shenandoah, Iowa, asking us if we could come and be radio singers. We were only fourteen at the time. My twin sister said, ‘Well, I have to ask our dad.’ That was during the Depression and nobody had any jobs, so he thought we were awfully fortunate to get offered a singing job. Our first radio station was KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa.

[In 1938] we were working at KFEQ in St. Joseph, Missouri. KMBC was getting ready to start the ‘Brush Creek Follies’ and they needed a girl duo. Colorado Pete, one of the other singers, had been a fan of ours. We were just little country girls, so we were afraid to come to Kansas City. We kept saying no. They raised the salary a little bit. One of the other girls at the station was a little older than us and she said, ‘You don’t need to be afraid, just get on the bus and take the bus down there. When you get to Kansas City, just hail a cab and tell them to take you to the Pickwick Hotel.’ KMBC was on the top floor of the Pickwick Hotel at that time. They offered us a five-year contract and we had to go up to the farm, to dad, and get him to sign. They wanted to own our name, so they had a contest to name us.

A little girl from Grandview won the contest with Kit and Kay. They went out and got twin horses and had us leading the American Royal parade. We had the morning show and then at noon we had the Dinner Bell roundup. We stayed for three-and-a-half years. We were kind of celebrities in town. One time, the Yankees came to town—I think it was the last year Lou Gehrig played—they asked KMBC if Kit and Kay could sing to them. After we sang, they were kind of putting the moves on.

My sister liked one; she thought he was really cute—[right fielder Tommy] Henrich. Joe DiMaggio came over to her and he said, ‘What are you messing around with him for? I thought the girls liked them tall, dark and handsome?’ She looked at him and she said, ‘Well, you may be tall but you’re not handsome.’ He married Marilyn Monroe—she used to say, ‘Marilyn Monroe married my cast-off.’ We did some crazy things. When my husband asked me to marry him, the first thing he wanted me to do the next morning was go down and break that contract. So I went down and broke the contract, and my twin went with me. That was the end of my radio career.”

Irene Dierks, half of Kansas City duo Kit and Kay, the youngest stars of KMBC 950 AM’s Brush Creek Follies

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