by Lambert Kohr, KMOX program producer (1949)
Skeets Yaney, the vocalist of the famous “Skeets and Frankie” team, has been in radio for 19 years and has the unique distinction of having been sponsored for over 17 of those 19 years by the same client, the famous Jolly Irishman, Uncle Dick Slack. A familiar voice on radio station KMOX and the CBS Network for all those years, Skeeter’s formal billing has always been, “The Golden Voiced Yodeler.” He has also won seven National Championships as a yodeler, while his sidekick Frankie walked away with a like number of accordion championships.
Born Clyde A. Yaney in Mitchell, Indiana, and inheriting the nickname “Skeets” from an older brother Jim, he started in to win acclaim and attention at an early age. Being judged the best entertainer in southern Indiana when he was but six years of age…playing the harmonica and singing. Fifteen years ago Skeeter met Frankie. They teamed up and have remained the top folk song artists of the country ever since.
Although his pen has been idle recently, Skeeter has written and has had published many of the finest songs in his field, and he has made what his fans think are much too few recordings under the Town and Country label. However, they’ll be happy to know Skeets will record a larger series under the Columbia banner in the near future.
Among other distinctions, Skeeter could well earn the title of best dressed folk artist in the country as well because of his wardrobe of western costumes, specially designed and tailored, being one of the largest and finest in the Midwest.
Perhaps this accounts for his popularity and demand for personal appearances. For many years, Skeeter and his group of National Champion Hillbillys have had their pick of the choicest fair dates and various celebrations in this area.
His most recent appearance was a performance for the President of the United States. Along these lines, Skeeter continues to do more than his share of charity appearances for veterans, crippled children’s hospitals, etc. Skeeter now heads his own program – commercial, of course – on KMOX, and with his same 17 year sponsor, “Slack’s Big Old Fashioned Barn Dance,” heard at 10:30 P.M. on Saturday nights, and “Slack’s Ozark Varieties” heard every morning at 7:15.
Skeeter’s “home” station has been, as it should be, KMOX, The Voice of St. Louis, the CBS outlet in this area. Needless to say, he has set some of this station’s record mail returns and today, with a confidence that there is only one like him, ninety percent of his mail is addressed simply – Skeeter, c/o KMOX, St. Louis, and over ninety percent of all fan mail received at KMOX is addressed to this veteran folk artist who still rides the crest of popularity after 19 years of wonderful entertaining. I know. I’ve produced his shows for almost ten years and I’ll go along with his fans who earnestly hope we can listen to him sing for 19 years more.
Skeets Yaney - Country Music Hall of Famer
Just about everyone who heard them has fond memories of the hillbilly music duo of Skeets and Frankie. They performed for many years on KMOX. But Skeets had a broadcast career that included other stations in St. Louis.
Clyde A. “Skeets” Yaney was working a construction job when he began his work on the air at KMOX. He told a Globe-Democrat reporter in a 1950 interview that he simply started showing up at the studios at 5:00 in the morning and performing for free on the station’s early morning hillbilly program. When the show ended at 7:00, he’d walk down 12th Street to his construction job where he made $18 a week. His career gamble paid off when KMOX mega-advertiser, “Uncle Dick Slack,” decided to use Yaney as a commercial spokesman.
As Skeets told it, he took a pay cut, quit the construction gig and went to work on a six-day-a-week, two-hour radio program. He was paid a weekly salary of $15.00. More money came later, along with more airtime. KMOX listeners soon heard him daily from 5 - 7, 8 - 8:30, two hours in the afternoon and another half-hour in the early evening.
On Saturdays, he appeared on all those shows and the evening barn dance. Sundays brought a half hour program of Yaney singing hymns. As he told Globe reporter Beulah Schacht, “Didn’t nobody know me much in the early days, but if you keep pushing yourself down people’s throats for 19 years, they’re bound to remember you.”
His relationship with Uncle Dick Slack was apparently lucrative for both parties. Slack sponsored most of Skeets’ radio shows, and Skeets did lots of personal appearances for the furniture merchant. Known for his elaborate costumes, Yaney had a closet full of rhinestone studded shirts.
It was reported, with the possibility of slight exaggeration, that Yaney once received 50,000 pieces of fan mail at KMOX in one week, flooding the halls of the Mart Building studios with mail bags. He teamed up with accordion player Frankie Taylor in 1936 and the two of them were an inseparable musical team in the eyes of the KMOX listeners, who often referred to “Skeetsandfrankie” as a single artist. Yaney’s daughter Jean Lochirco remembers going to the KMOX studios as a small child on Saturday nights and sitting in the main auditorium to watch her dad perform.
“They’d put stacks of hay on the studio stage and all the chairs in the audience would fill up.”
Lochirco says the duo spread themselves thin during their heyday. “They had two hillbilly bars they were running and these places were so popular that they literally had to lock the doors to keep from violating occupancy limits. The one I remember was called “Skeets’ and Frankie’s Tavern and it was in South St. Louis, down on Gravois.They didn’t take too much time off back then. Making people happy is what kept them going.”
His long and prosperous recording career aside, Skeets Yaney made quite a name for himself on St. Louis’ airwaves. In addition to his musical performances spanning two decades on KMOX, Yaney was also known as a country & western disc jockey. He spent several years working at WEW, although only one of his biographies mentions this.
In 1960, he began a long dj stint on KSTL. As he had done throughout his entire broadcast career, Yaney continued to supplement his income with personal appearances, fronting his National Champion Hillbillies, although he cut back some during these later years. His road shows included the Range Riders, Lucky Penny Trio, Tommy Watson and Ray Perandri.
Skeets Yaney received many honors over his career, including being named “Mr. Deejay U.S.A.” twice and “Most Popular Deejay in the Country,” an honor bestowed by WSM radio in Nashville. He was inducted into the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame posthumously in 1980.