CORA YOUNGBLOOD CORSON

and her

WORLD FAMOUS ALL-GIRL INSTRUMENTALISTS

THE GIRLS FROM THE GOLDEN WEST

 

 

 

   

Cora, daughter of Jerry M. & Sarah Jane (Blades) Youngblood, was born in Republic, MO and moved with her parents to Anadarko, Indian Territory, when she was ten years old. Anadarko, at that time, was a "tent city" and the population was predominately Indian, with only a handful of white women among the residents. In 1901, her father, Jerry Youngblood started a small business selling sewing machines, but in a short time, musical instruments became his main stock in trade. Still later, the music store became a flourishing mercantile, supplying the area with all manner of household goods, clothing and, of course, musical instruments. Jerry Youngblood, in partnership with his son-in-law, R.D. Rector, built the first Ford dealership in that part of the country. (According to family tradition, he got the money to do this by running a "taxi" service for the local Indian dignitaries). This was a prosperous and successful business until his death in 1925, at which time Rector bought the business from the estate.

 

J. M. Youngblood's mercantile.

Note the sign on the center post advertising "Jack Rabbit Pants".

Youngblood-Rector Ford Agency.

The new cars were not fully assembled when they arrived, so many parts had to be added.

 

Cora learned to play the cornet at a very early age and began playing with the local Indian band. In 1903, she and some of her girl friends decided to organize a band to represent the State of Oklahoma at the World's Fair to be held in St. Louis the following year. The businessmen of Anadarko furnished the instruments for the group of twenty-two young ladies and they became a feature at the Oklahoma State building at the fair. It was during this affair that Cora met and married a man named Corson, said to have been an Indian Chief, but whose first name ~ as well as any other particulars about him, remain unknown, and the marriage was evidently very short lived.

 

   

In 1905, Cora and three of her Anadarko companions joined Helen May Butler's band, which was the only girl's professional band in the country, and within three weeks, Cora became the feature soloist. She had been with the band two years, when J. Leslie Spahn, (who would later become her manager), proposed to place her in vaudeville. While successful as a single, Cora was not satisfied with her work alone, and contacting her three friends from home, plus two others, the Cora Youngblood Corson Sextette was formed. The next several years of following the vaudeville tour circuit all across the United States and Canada brought many allocades and awards.

 

In 1915, while the group was performing at the Arkansas-Oklahoma State building at the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, the governor of Oklahoma declared June 3rd to be Cora Youngblood Corson Day. The photo on the right (below) is an enlarged section of the first, showing Cora on the left, Eula center, and band member, Lois Land?. Behind Eula is William F. Cody, Indian Scout, aka "Buffalo Bill", who died in 1917.

 

   

In 1917, the Sextette crossed the Atlantic and entertained the soldiers in the last days of World War I. They performed for camps and hospitals in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. After the Armistice was signed, they toured the battlefields of France, Germany and Belgium, entertaining the troops under the auspices of the Knights of Columbus. General John J. Pershing once said that Cora Youngblood Corson and the members of her Sextette entertained more U.S. soldiers overseas in the World War than any other entertainers, with the exception of Elsie Janis.

 

Cora performed as a musician at the funeral of President William McKinley and at his request, she and her band entertained for President Wilson while he was in Europe following the first World War. She was soloist at the inaugurations of Presidents Harding Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1928, Cora joined the United States Indian Band, appearing as its feature soloist, until she retired in 1930 to become the wife of Frank Barsanti.

In her early years in the theatre, Cora was a leader in the movement for a fair contract for actors and was national president of the women's auxiliary of the White Rats Actors union, out of which stemmed the powerful Actors Equity association and its affiliated organizations. She was later made an honorary life member in the Actors Equity.

Excerpt from "Largest Tuba in the World at the Strand"; Taunton Dailey Gazette; Friday, October 15, 1926. -

"...Miss Corson appears with what looks like a section of the ventilator of an ocean liner, a great glistening gold bell that surmounts coil on coil of gold which encircles her, and makes one wonder how mere womankind can carry such a monster instrument, let alone furnish the breath to sound it. But she accomplishes both tasks and evokes real music, albeit it is of the thundersome order. This tuba is the largest ever made, is of gold and cost in excess of $1600. It isn't the size or the glitter that amazes in the final analysis, it's the astounding fact that she can play it and does play it, and plays it marvelously well. The audience gasped, then listened amazed, then applauded, while the walls rocked with the final rumble of "Rocked in the Cradle". ..." 

 

 

Cora was the only woman ever to play triple tongue solos on the tuba. She also mastered the cornet, French horn, saxaphone, harp, trombone, cello, harp, bagpipes and accordian. The "tuba" mentioned in the article, above, was her 36" bell, 62 pound Sousaphone. (There was a patched place on the bell of the horn, made by a piece of shrapnel during an air raid in England in World War I). 'Tis said by family members that the bell was encrusted with precious stones and later lost, during a robbery of the home.

The story would not be complete without a few words about Cora's sister, Eula, who became a member of Cora's band when she was thirteen, playing during the summer months and returning to her home in Anadarko during the winter to finish her schooling. It was while she was in school in 1907, that she picked a red-headed, freckled boy named Glenn ("Red") Condon to be her sweetheart. When she left to join the band in April, the boy bid her farewell with promises of letters to follow, but the letters became fewer and fewer as both pursued their careers, and soon, they were forgotten. Six years later on New Years Eve, the band played at the Hotel Tulsa and as the clock and lights were turned back on to usher in the new year, the eyes of the cornet soloist met those of the, now editor of the Tulsa World newspaper, and their romance was rekindled. They were married six months later.

During World War I, while Eula was in Europe entertaining the troops, Glenn was there serving in the Marine Corps. They returned to Tulsa in 1918, and he became manager of the Majestic Theatre, but a few months later, he was called to New York City to manage a weekly show business newspaper. The first issue of the Vaudeville News came off the press in 1920. It was during the latter part of this year that he hired an actor ~ an "aspiring columnist" to be his office boy. The man's name was Walter Winchell. Glenn and Eula returned to Tulsa in 1926 and Walter Winchell moved to the Hearst newspaper chain. He wrote of Condon:

"He taught me everything I know about the 'game';

Whatever 'hits' I made, 'twas he who took the aim;

And so I chuck this word bouquet before we part;

To him alone I'm grateful -- and that's from the heart."

 

 

 

Back in Tulsa, Glenn's career turned to radio and after helping build and manage several stations, (KOME, KTUL and KAKC), he went with the newest, KRMG, as newscaster. That was on Christmas Eve, 1949, and when his last newscast aired on his 70th birthday, he became public relations director for the station. He was active in civic, fraternal and veterans affairs; past president and life charter member of the Tulsa Press Club; a life member of the Adkar Shrine, and the only person ever serving as president of both the Associated Press Broadcasters Association and United Press International Broadcasters of Oklahoma. He was also past president of the Downtown Rotary Club, former public relations committee chairman for the Chamber of Commerce; past commander of New York City American Legion Post and former executive committee chairman of the Carson-Wilson Legion Post in Tulsa. For over 30 years, he was "roadmaster" of the annual Tulsa Press Club gridiron shows. He and Eula were honored by the Chamber of Commerce with a special public affairs forum dinner in 1964.

Eula was also active in civic affairs and was an avid and accomplished horsewoman, winning many blue ribbons in horse shows throughout the state. She often rode champion horses at the head of parades, dressed in elaborate costumes and with the sound of her bugle announcing the parade. It was in these younger years that a tragic deed of acid being thrown in her face left scars she would carry throughout her life, marring her beauty, but not her spirit.

Cora never had any children, but doted on the daughters of her brother Frank, who had married Mae McBride, a member of the band. These nieces have graciously shared their memories, pictures and clippings of their enormously talented and widely acclaimed aunt. Our thanks to them for their generosity!

Dorothy Quaife

 

Click here for additional pictures of Cora Youngblood Corson and her band.

To comment on this story, visit the discussion board. It can be reached from the homepage.

Back to "Legends and Stories"

All roads lead to home...