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leftTop Crouse Twins

Kit and Kay.  Click for enlarged view.  (Image courtesy of Orlene "Kit" Johnson and Irene "Kay" Dierks.) In 1938, just shy of their 18th birthdays and about 100 miles south of their Cainsville, Missouri, farm, twins Irene and Orlene Crouse found themselves in Kansas City, with five-year contracts and radio stardom.

Kit and Kay.  Click for enlarged view.  (Image courtesy of Orlene "Kit" Johnson and Irene "Kay" Dierks.) Just a few years earlier, Irene and Orlene, then 14-year-old identical twins, along with their two older sisters, had been hired by station KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa, to perform on its early morning "Country School" show. After the older sisters left to start families, the younger girls continued as the Crouse Twins, eventually moving to KFNF, also in Shenandoah, and then to KFEQ, in St. Joseph, Missouri.

The Crouse sisters quartet first gained fame playing the barn dances and county fairs around their hometown. As a duet, with Orlene on guitar and Irene on mandolin, and both providing sweet cowgirl harmonies, the twins were an instant radio hit, attracting fans throughout the Midwest. One admirer was KMBC founder Arthur B. Church, Kit and Kay.  Click for enlarged view.  (Image courtesy of Orlene "Kit" Johnson and Irene "Kay" Dierks.) Kit and Kay and the cast of The Brush Creek Follies.  Click for enlarged view.  (Image courtesy of Orlene "Kit" Johnson and Irene "Kay" Dierks.)who tried to lure them from St. Joseph to Kansas City with ever more lucrative contracts. However, leery of the big city, the twins turned down repeated offers from KMBC, and the station (mistaking the twins' hesitance for a salary dispute) kept upping its offers. With the offers finally too good to refuse, the sisters signed with KMBC In 1938, just in time to play the inaugural "Brush Creek Follies" that September.

Believing its new singing stars needed a more colorful title, the station sponsored a contest to rename the Crouse twins. A young fan in the rural outer reaches of the KMBC listening area won with her suggestion: "Kit and Kay." An instant hit, Kit and Kay also starred on the "Early Bird Jamboree" each morning and Kit and Kay with the Oklahoma Wranglers.  Click for enlarged view.  (Image courtesy of Orlene "Kit" Johnson and Irene "Kay" Dierks.)the "Dinner Bell Roundup" at noon, which aired nationally over CBS, with Kit and Kay with Colorado Pete.  Click for enlarged view.  (Image courtesy of Orlene "Kit" Johnson and Irene "Kay" Dierks.)the Oklahoma Wranglers and Colorado Pete. The twins' popularity took them throughout the Midwest, touring with Colorado Pete, the Oklahoma Wranglers, and others, playing fairs, festivals, between features at local theaters, promoting their sponsor, International Harvester, and even leading the American Royal parade (shown below) through downtown Kansas City on twin ponies. Over the next several years, Kit and Kay became the region's radio sweethearts and fan favorites until leaving in the mid '40s to start their own families.

Kit and Kay leading the American Royal parade.  Click for enlarged view.  (Image courtesy of Orlene "Kit" Johnson and Irene "Kay" Dierks.)
Sources

The Brush Creek Follies
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