• Added info on Jimmy Ford, thanks to Volker Houghton. • Extended and corrected the post on Happy Harold Thaxton (long overdue), thanks to everyone who sent in memories and information! • Added information to the Jim Murray post, provided by Mike Doyle, Dennis Rogers, and Marty Scarbrough. • Expanded the information on Charlie Dial found in the Little Shoe post.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Little Shoe

Little Shoe (center) and her Cowboy Sweethearts, ca. 1946
at KLRA (Little Rock, Arkansas)
Source: Red Neckerson

Little Shoe - A Pioneering Female Country Music Singer in Arkansas

The female country music singer and band leader known as "Little Shoe" was a pioneering figure in Arkansas country music and radio history, as she organized one of the earliest country music live stage shows in the state. Her "Arkansas Jamboree Barn Dance" ran from 1946 until the ending of the decade or even until the beginning of the next one - no assured information on its further history are documented, unfortunately.

She was born Alma Crosby on January 26, 1910, and it is mentioned by author Ivan M. Tribe that she was a niece to Cousin Emmy, another pioneering female country music artist. Little Shoe, like her aunt, learned to play banjo to accompany her singing.

In the 1930s, she was part of Frankie More's Log Cabin Boys and Girls that were cast members of the famed WWVA Jamboree out of Wheeling, West Virginia - her aunt Cousin Emmy was also briefly a member of this group. It is likely that she got her name "Little Shoe" around that time. More came to WWVA in 1936 and stayed there until 1941 and Tribe mentions in his book "Mountaineer Jamboree" that Little Shoe stayed full five years in the group (probably the longest serving member of all), which means she was with the group in the same time frame. From there, Little Shoe went to different radio stations across the country, including KMOX in St. Louis, Missouri, and then KMBC in Kansas City. During these years, she developed the idea of establishing her own live stage show but none of the radio stations she auditioned for believed in her concept.

Along the way, she founded a group that became known as the "Cowboy Sweethearts". The group included her future husband Charles Edward "Charlie" Dial (born March 3, 1917), who was a singer in his own right. At some point during these years, the group also featured a young Wayne Raney. Around the mid-1940s, Little Shoe and the Cowboy Sweethearts were heard over WJBC in Bloomington, Indiana, but soon, they moved south to Little Rock, where radio station KLRA liked her idea of a live stage show.

Billboard January 26, 1946

The Arkansas Jamboree Barn Dance premiered in January 1946. In addition to the Saturday night live version, Little Shoe and her band also did three studio versions each day over KLRA. Crosby and Dial married in Lonoke, County near Little Rock around that time. They also hosted a children show on the station around the same time.

Little Shoe left KLRA in the late 1940s and it is likely that with her leaving, the Arkansas Jamboree Barn Dance also came to an end. She also divorced from Charlie Dial at some point. Dial would go on to be a popular radio performer in the Memphis and West Memphis regions. He worked as a towboat pilot during the 1980s and worked for the Patton-Tully Transportation Company from Memphis. He could be found on the Mississippi River comanding the "Helen Tully" with three other crew members. Dial was killed on July 19, 1984, while on the Mississippi near Cape Girardeau, Mississippi, as another boat hit the Helen Tully. His body was not found until about a week later. He had married several times since his divorce from Little Shoe, being married to Juanita Dial at the time of his passing.

It escapes my knowledge what Little Shoe did after she left KRLA. Alma "Little Shoe" Crosby died on August 12, 1988. If anyone has more information on her or Charlie Dial, please feel free to pass it along.

See also
Arkansas Jamboree Barn Dance

Hillbilly-Music.com entry
• various Billboard news items
Charlie Dial Find a Grave entry
• Ivan M. Tribe: "Mountaineer Jamboree - Country Music in West Virginia" (The University Press of Kentucky), 1996, pages 49-50
• "Body of towboat crewman found after mishap on Mississippi River" (July 22, 1984), The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky)


Jonathan F. King said...

The news clipping cites the call letters as KLRA. I was surprised see you cite KRLA because of how long those have been the call letters of an AM station in Los Angeles. Some radio scholar could straighten this out, but I can't!

Mellow said...

Thanks for the heads up. It was definitely KLRA as the call letters stood for "Little Rock, Arkansas". I'm going to change that!

Barz said...

Thanks for the sincerity and passion evident in your writing.

Anonymous said...

I’m related to Charlie Dial! I know very little about him in his musical career but he died in the 80s as a riverboat pilot when his boat the Helen-Tully was hit by another boat. I think it was on the Ohio River! They found his body a week later, I believe!

Anonymous said...

It was the Mississippi River.

Mellow said...

Hello, thank you very much for your comment. I'll add the info you provided to the post. I sure would like to know more about Charlie's career!

Anonymous said...

Little Shoe and others are stitched on this folk art. Does anyone know who they are?
Peter Booth