Yodeling Dick Brooks and the Wheeling Jamboree

Let me tell you about the latest inductee into the Wheeling Jamboree for 2015. Dave Heath, the emcee, President, and the main reason we still have a Jamboree in Wheeling, invited Yodeling Dick Brooks to be a member while Dick was introduced on Saturday, March 7, 2015.


Yodeling Dick with some of his friends

It has sure been a long and twisted road for this country boy born and bred in Brooklyn, which is a borough of New York City. During his set, he started with the 1st single he ever recorded which was The Cat Came Back in 1953. He was either the 2nd or 3rd person to record this song, the 1st being Yodeling Slim Clark of the Wheeling Jamboree. Yodeling Slim was a big reason why Dick took up yodeling.

As Dick told the story, Roy Acuff had invited him to Nashville to try out for the Grand Ole Opry back in 1955. But it only cost $7.00 to buy a Greyhound bus ticket to Wheeling, so this is where he stopped. He tried out for the Wheeling Jamboree but wasn’t hired as a regular.

So he returned to Brooklyn to get more seasoning and to work as a key punch operator for Goldman-Sachs. Since he was at work and not home waiting for his phone to ring, he missed the phone call from the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout show. No cell phones in those days.

During the turbulent 60’s he temporarily joined the protest movement and recorded an album under his own name of Richard Bruce Morriale with his lovely wife Janet called Philosophical Songs of Brotherhood and Spirituality. Eventually he came to his senses and got back to country.

Fast forward to 1988 and Dick, Janet and Dick’s mother, Susan, decided to get out of the big city and try another part of the country. They had lived in an apartment all of their lives, but Dick had fondly remembered his first time in Wheeling. So they all moved to Wheeling and bought a 2 story Victorian in the Warwood section of town.

Dick made it back on the stage of the Jamboree at the Capitol Music Hall when Marty Stuart saw him performing in a local pub and invited him on-stage. Then one day Dick was performing at the Ohio County Public Library for their Lunch with Books program and the newspaper headline of Yodeling Dick Singing made it all the way out to the Jay Leno Show in Hollywood.

The Lunch with Books program is where I met Dick about 10 years ago. I went to see Roger Hoard and his finger-picking style of guitar playing when I noticed this strange older man video-taping the show. After the show was over I went over and introduced myself to the one and only Yodeling Dick Brooks. He still tapes every show that the library has using an old VHS camera plugged into a wall outlet. Then he takes the tapes home to his attic and transfers them to DVD’s. He gives the finished product back to the library for their archives.

I’m helping him slowly to get into the digital age. He finally has some computers, but no internet yet. He has a WEB site www.YodelingDick.com thanks to Dave Heath and can be found on YouTube under the name Yodeling Dick Brooks. I have had correspondence with Scotland and other far-flung places about Dick. I found both of his records selling on ebay for good money at one time. He’s been discovered by some of the on-line independent radio stations.

I had friended the Wheeling Jamboree on Facebook to keep up with what was happening and, about 2 years ago, Dave Heath posted that he needed someone to run the video camera to record the live Jamboree shows. I passed the contact information on to Dick, he called Dave, and he started running the camera the following Saturday. This is not one of those sit-down and relax jobs. He has to stand up on a wooden box and straddle the legs of the tripod and make sure the picture is coming out perfect. At least he doesn’t have to use VHS tapes anymore, at least for this. He still uses them at the library.

Dick started feeding Dave some of his own DVD’s and Dave liked that he was the genuine article, so about six months later, Dick got back on the stage of the Jamboree.

He celebrated his 80th birthday about 3 months ago by being the opening act on the Jamboree for Ronnie McDowell.

So after 60 years, his dream is finally fulfilled.

The induction show for new members of the Wheeling Jamboree will be held sometime in October.

Dick with Banjo star burst cropped Dick Performing 8 x 10


Two years ago, when my last cheap Timex watch gave up the
ghost (it just needed a new battery, but the cost of a new battery and
installing said battery exceeded the cost of a new watch), I went looking at my
favorite jewelry stand in Wal-Mart.  I came to a stand of watches and, lo and behold, most of the watches had a new feature.  The time was set by that magical, invisible satellite in the sky. I thought to myself, “I’ve gotta check this out.  It sounds pretty high-tech and fool-proof.”

I found one that I liked and bought it for $30.00.  I didn’t even try to haggle for a better
price.  After the deal was completed, I looked around and found another display of radio watches for $20.00.   But I stuck with my original purchase.  I got it home, compared the time on the watch to my cell-phone.  They were exactly the same time, but my watch was better.  It even gave me the seconds where the cell-phone only told the hour and minutes.

But when it came for the next minute to roll around, they both changed at the exact same moment.  I then noticed that the time on my COMCAST box was late changing over by about 20 seconds.  Even the times showing on the TV programs were off according to my new $30.00 radio-controlled watch.  How can this be?  You would think that everyone would be connected to the same radio waves and that the time would be universal.

Now when it came time to change all your clocks to Daylight Savings Time, my COMCAST box changed okay, as did my two PC’s.  But my watch stayed on the old time.  When Monday rolled around the watch finally got the message.  So, apparently there’s a human being working 9-5, Monday through Friday that actually has to tell a faceless computer to upload the correct time to the faceless satellite.  You would think a freshman programming student should be able to add 3 lines of code to fix this problem.  Maybe this problem doesn’t happen on the $50.00 watches.

All of this leads up to the problem I’m having today.  It’s Saturday, the 1st day of the
Memorial Day week-end.  I decided to go out and have breakfast at a full service restaurant since I’m a veteran and this is one of the holidays that we are celebrated.  I was watching a lot of WW II movies on TMC before I left and I’ve never been able to set the time at all on this old TV set.  All I have is a series of dashes.  I’m away from home so I don’t
have COMCAST with the time staring at me.

Wheeling has a half-marathon race on this day every year.  But according to my watch, we
should miss most of the participants since the race started at 8:00 am and my
watch told me it was 10:00.

I never glanced at the clock in my car, but as we were driving to the restaurant, I noticed a lot of runners still 4 miles from the FINISH line.  I thought this was strange.

Then I look at the clock on the wall in the restaurant.  I almost asked the waitress why their clock was an hour off.   My watch read 10:30 when the clock on the wall read 9:30.  I
checked my ever-present cell phone and it had 9:30.  Every other watch I saw was an hour off from my watch.

So how did this happen? I can set the time zone, but it’s set for NYC time.  Is there another time zone that would get me back on track?  Or do I keep subtracting an hour from my watch’s reading until Tuesday rolls around and the mysterious person fixes the time on the satellite feed?

Oh, one other thing. This TV set I mentioned earlier that wouldn’t show any time.  Well, tonight it shows May 28 which is the right date.  But it shows 7:52 am while
my watch has 11:23 pm and the real time is 10:23 pm.  And my TV menu still won’t let me adjust the time.


Freedom Isn’t Free

Freedom Isn’t Free


How to Build a Prize-Winning Float

When You Didn’t Even Know There Was a Contest


Bill Orkoskey

Let me take you back to the Summer of 1967.  LBJ was President but would soon announce he would not run for a second term; race riots were starting to break out (even in Cincinnati, OH); hippies and flower children were beginning to make the scene; “The Graduate” was one of the top movies playing in the theaters; and the Viet Nam war was starting to heat up.

In the middle of all of this, I was in my second year of playing guitar and helping to run a singing group called Sing Out Wheeling which was part of the world-wide Up With People show.  There were three National casts and about 200 local casts from coast-to-coast.  We were self contained and on our own, but the music and choreography that we used was the same as the National casts.  I was probably the oldest member at 22 with most of the cast being in High School or College.  We did have a lot of parental support, however.

The main song that was in our show was our theme song “Up With People”, but our second song we performed was always “Freedom Isn’t Free”, especially with the war in the news every day.  This was before most of the country turned against this war and started protesting it.

We found out sometime in June that the City of Weirton was going to have as the theme for their 4th of July parade Freedom Is Not Free.  This sounded like too big of a coincidence for us not to take advantage of with our song.  We were basically dedicated to go anywhere that would have us so we could perform and relay our message to the masses.  The Weirton city leaders welcomed us with open arms, but said nothing about a prize for the best float.

Now, our expertise in building floats was at zero.  We did have two fathers who had the experience and the necessary licenses to drive a tractor-trailer.  Since we had about 25 members in our group at this time, we needed a good flat-bed trailer.  Weir-Cove Trucking was receptive to our needs for a flat-bed tractor trailer and they even gave us a place in their yard on Freedom Way in Weirton to assemble whatever we had to add onto the trailer to make it resemble some kind of float.  Sam Steele, the drummer’s dad, took care of all the driving we needed until the parade was done.

My mother, Margaret, came up with the design for the sides of the trailer.  We constructed a wooden frame and fastened chicken wire to it.  We took colored paper and spelled out FREEDOM ISN’T FREE on both sides of the trailer.   We added some bunting and a big badge that we used when we put on shows.  We worked late into Monday night to finish up our project, using temporary lighting powered by a gasoline generator that we had borrowed to use as power for our guitar amps and our sound system when we rode on the float.

On Tuesday, July 4th, there was a little bit of a rain storm in the morning.  The parade started 35 minutes late and 40 of the 70 units that had signed up for the parade had to cancel.  Our float was still intact because we were still under cover at Weir-Cove’s lot.

Eventually Sam drove the float over to Main St. where we could take our place in line.  We hurried and hooked up the sound system and our amps to the generator and did some fast sound checks and guitar tuning.  Everything was working like it should and we sounded and looked very professional.  We had 22 total performers on the float.  It was cozy, but not too cramped. 

Sam Steele knew how to handle the clutch and we never felt any jerking while we were standing on the float.  As soon as we got started, we started singing “Freedom isn’t free! Freedom isn’t free! You got to pay a price, you got to sacrifice, for your li—ber—ty.” ©

We had to go South on Main Street for about 4 blocks after we started to get to the reviewing stand at Main St. & Ferguson Ave.  The spectators were very supportive all along the parade route.  We slowed down a little bit when we reached the reviewing stand so the 5 judges could get a good look at us and hear our message loud and clear.  Of course we thought we were just singing to the 11,000 estimated patriots in attendance.  The Grand Marshals for the parade were three Viet War Veterans, so we fit right in with the whole character of the parade.

We went past the reviewing stand and got ready to make the right turn onto Lee Avenue when our generator gave out.  In using it the previous night to finish building the float, nobody thought of the need to fill up the gasoline tank.  Our voices were young and very robust, so the singers could still be heard.  I grabbed an acoustic guitar and hardly missed a beat or a chord.

We then had to get ready to make another right turn to go North on Orchard Street which would take us to the disbanding area.  WE NEVER MADE IT!!!  The heavens opened up and down came the biggest and wettest cloud-burst you could imagine.    We were soaked in seconds.

We grabbed the microphones and took the sound system apart in record time.  We unloaded everything right there and found what cover we could find in near-by buildings.  Sam took what was left of the float back to the Weir-Cove lot and the rest of us found our cars so we could go home and jump in the showers and into clean and dry clothes.  Nobody told us that the award ceremony was going to take place right after the parade at the reviewing stand.

We didn’t have anything going on that night and most of us were going to see the Wheeling 4th of July fireworks down at the Wharf Garage.  After I was ready to go out, I turned on the news on Channel 9.  I figured they would probably have more information on Weirton’s parade since they were right across the river in Steubenville.  They sure did.  They even mentioned that the best float in the parade was FREEDOM ISN’T FREE and that the singing group Sing Out Wheeling won the $500.00 grand prize.  Actually it was the only cash prize given out that year.   We burned up the phone lines that night before we went out.  We had to call everybody before we went out because we didn’t have the luxury of a phone in every pocket like we have today.

The next day, we made arrangements with the parade organizers to come up and receive our prize.  Then, on the following Sunday, we performed our whole show at the Weir High Stadium to an enthusiastic audience.

 © 1965 by Moral Re-Armament, Inc. New York     Words by Paul Colwell ASCAP     Music by Paul & Ralph Colwell ASCAP


52 Holes & Nobody Got Hit

A World War II Story


Frank Zelenitz

As told to

Bill Orkoskey


I was a Staff Sargeant flying with a crew of 8.  The lead plane had a crew of 9 which included a Bombadier.  At this stage of the war, all the other planes had to watch the lead plane drop his load of bombs and then we followed suit over the same coordinates that the lead plane had used.

We just got one of our men back into our crew that we went through training with.  His twin brother was killed in a training accident and he was able to go home for the funeral.  We were worried that we would have to go with a new member of our crew on our flights.  It was better to know your other crew-mates intimately because  you counted on each other for survival.  If you trained with them in the States, there was more of a closeness.

This particular mission had us flying on another bombing run over some munitions plant in Germany. When we got close to our target, the flack was so heavy that we couldn’t complete the mission.  We were flying at 31,000 feet and the AA batteries on the ground looked like they had us zeroed in.  We were getting pounded and getting hit from all sides.

Suddenly we found us in a very steep dive with one engine hit and on fire. As a waist gunner, we had no seat belts to keep us in one place and were just standing there with our guns. I found myself hugging the roof of the plane as we dove. At 10,000 feet we were able to level out and regain control somewhat. We headed for home and some safe place to drop our bombs.

Somewhere over France, we dropped our un-fused bombs where nobody would get hurt.  We couldn’t land since France was still occupied. If we couldn’t make it back  to England, we undoubtedly would end up as POWs and would sit out the rest of the War which didn’t seem like a very appetizing option. We discussed bailing out, but our good old B24 was built to take some massive abuse.We finally reached the English Channel and spotted the White Cliffs of Dover. We knew there was an air base on top of the cliffs. We were too shot up and were down to just two engines by now so we had to go straight in without allowing for landing against the wind currents. We barely cleared the cliffs.


Our landing went as smooth as it could under the circumstances.  Imagine my surprise when the first person I saw was Ken Forsythe from my old neighborhood who would one day be related by marriage to my brother. He was a mechanic at the base where we landed.

Ken told me later, “Boy, talk about luck. I counted 52 holes in your plane and nobody got hit. I can’t believe that! There was a basketball size hole right where you normally stand.  Lucky that you were hugging the ceiling when that hit.”

Since the 2 engines were shot and we had so much damage to the plane, that B24 never flew again. We flew back to our base on a transport plane and found our barracks almost cleaned out because the Brass didn’t think we made it back. We were one of only four of nine planes to make it back.

They found another plane for us to fly another mission the very next day. In all, I flew 36 missions but only got credit for 16 since a mission was only counted if you dropped your bombs on your assigned target. I was one of the lucky ones who survived. 




Typical waist gunners on a B24 Liberator.



Consolidated B-24 Liberator

The B-24 Liberator was produced in larger numbers than any other American aircraft during World War 2.
By Staff Writer


The Radio



The Radio

A True Story 

By Bill Orkoskey 

     It all started on Friday, January 29, 2010. I had just come home from Morgantown, WV the previous evening after a four-day training session for a new job and was trying to rest and recuperate from my ordeal of the past four days.

     In the afternoon, I was watching a movie on TV and playing around on my PC. In the background I heard a faint sound of a radio playing some oldies music. I was on the PC trying to stay awake, so I wasn’t sure if I was imagining the music, if it was coming from my TV or PC, or if a radio had just come on.

     I checked all my radios on the first floor, and they were all off. I turned down the TV and the music got louder. I then turned to the basement and the music got really loud.

     I went down to the basement and found an old clock radio playing on the window-sill behind one of my dad’s work benches.

     The last time I remembered listening to this radio was November 22, 1963 when I heard the first reports that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, TX. I had graduated in 1963, tried one school that I didn’t like, and was waiting to start West Liberty State College in the 2nd semester of that school year. My dad had a business making front door mats out of worn out car tires and I was helping him make them in the basement factory we had set up. We were in the recycling business before it was fashionable. Of course, the number one station to listen to if you were a teenager in Wheeling, WV in 1963 was AM 1400 WKWK. After hearing of the assassination, we turned off the radio and were glued to the TV (an 11” black and white Zenith with 2 stations viewable through a TV antenna mounted on the roof of the house) for the next three days. (We had to use an antenna rotor to pull in the 2nd station.)

     Well, I picked up the radio and found that the switch had water on it and it would not turn off. The only position where the music did not play was the alarm position. So I left it on that and went back upstairs thinking the problem was solved.

     Now, most people would think that I could just unplug it and be done with it. In a normal, well-organized area, that may be true. But in my case, it’s impossible to discover where it’s plugged in due to the unkempt condition of my basement.

     My dad had died in January, 1973 and my mother did not do anything with the stuff piled up on the work-bench. After my mother died in May of 1992, I bought the house from her estate and have just been adding to the pile ever since.

     So, getting back to the radio, AM 1400 is now WBBD which plays the oldies from the 50’s and 60’s. That’s the main station that I listen to when I want some music. My generation is of the opinion that there has been very little worth-while music written and recorded since the late 60’s. Thus the songs that were playing on January 29, 2010 could have been some of the same songs that I heard on this radio back on November 21, 1963.

     Things were peaceful for a couple of days. Then on Sunday, January 31st, I heard the alarm buzzer going off for 5 seconds every half hour. I had never heard an alarm act quite like this. I trudged downstairs and found another position on a switch on the radio that may be safe. I thought it would change from AM to another band.

     But it seemed to have lasted for only a few days. On Friday, February 5th, I came home at 12:30 pm to finish up the paperwork I had to do with my new job. The house was deathly quiet, but not for long. At exactly 12:35 pm, the radio came back on playing the oldies again.

     Remember, I mentioned that my dad had died in January, 1973. The exact date was January 29th. Due to relatives coming from out-of-state, the funeral wasn’t until February 5th. Interment was approximately 12:35 pm.

     COINCIDENCE? You decide.