Monday, December 21, 2020

Karl Zomar - Philosopher, Magician, Radio Host, and Denver Record Label Pioneer

Karl Zomar (1936)

Chances are you have read about Karl Zomar in previous blog posts, as the founder of Denver's Columbine Records, which later morphed into Band Box (after it was sold to Band Box founder Vicky Morosan). However, not much as been written about Mr. Zomar, his pre-Denver days, and his contribution to early Denver music history.

Born in Hopkinsville, KY., in 1903, he studied philosophy in college, but was drawn to show business. In the late 1920s, he started his career in entertainment, as a stage actor and magician, with the RKO and Fox companies.

In 1932, he began a career in radio in Galveston, TX., then later moved to WBRC, in Birmingham, AL. Soon his radio show took off, and so did he - to a bigger station, in Charlotte, NC. By 1934, he was mentioned in Variety, as a "radio psychologist" on WSOC radio, in Charlotte.

Variety - April, 1934

Somewhere between 1934 annd 1936, Karl joined the staff at KOIL-KFAB in Omaha / Lincoln, NE. In 1936, Karl moved to Springfield, MO., where he took his popular radio show to KTWO. During that time, he began publishing several volumes of his own poetry and essays, in a booklets entitled Karl Zomar's Scrap Book.

The first edition of Karl Zomar's Scrap Book (1936)
Known as the "Friendly Philosopher," on KTWO, Karl was a popular local announcer, known for his "Man on the Street" interviews and involvement in local non-profit groups. He was also writing radio jokes and on-air gags, in his spare time.
Radio Daily - August 10, 1937
His Scrap Book books were so popular, that he decided to create a radio show, based on its contents (at first called "The Old Family Almanac"). The Scrap Book radio show was syndicated across several stations - I found listings of the show in more than 60 cities, through the national Mutual Broadcasting Service. 
Karl Zomar
In 1942, I found him mentioned in the Cincinnati Enquirer, working at WKRC. The story mentioned he came to the Buckeye State, after working at WMC in Memphis.

It's not known when Karl arrived in Denver. The first story I found, related to his time in Colorado, was located in a 1944 issue of the Central Union Reaper (the publication of Seventh-day Adventists) "Carl Zomar and the Olinger Male Quartet gave a performance, February 18" (note misspelling of first name).

Interestingly, I found a mention of him, in a December 11, 1944 issue of the Greeley Daily Tribune - not as a radio personality, but as a performing magician, at a Ladies Night for the local Lions Club.

Listen to this rare recording of a 1947 Karl Zomar radio show 

(courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame) 

I found an ad, in the 1947 Radio Annual, for The Karl Zomar Library, in a home, located at 546 Emerson Street. The ad noted that "Services offered: Scripts and transcriptions. Specializing in one-man shows, quiz shows, and a recording studio for special productions." His secretary was listed as Vera Burdette. His son, Karl Jr., was also listed as a staffer.

It was in this south Denver house, where the origins of the Columbine record label begin. 

One of the first pre-Columbine records was a 78rpm square dancing box set, with Joe Lang and the Haylofters, released in 1949 (Thank you to Tom Merry for adding this great find to my library)

(Note the address listed, 2950 W. Mississippi, is the home of the 

Hayloft Square Dance Club / Knights of Columbus)

The Hayloft Square Dance Club - 2950 W. Mississippi, Denver

In March 1950 he applied for a patent, complete with artwork, for a renaming of his record label. According to the filing, Zomar started using the name Columbine, about a month previous to the paperwork submission.

Karl would go on to record other Colorado singers and groups, mainly in the country music and orchestra genre.

Partial discography below (all records shown are from the author's library):


Columbine 50

Marvin Meiers with Johnny Neil and his Orchestra - Dark Shadows / I Remember The Day

 Columbine 51

Marvin Meiers with Johnny Neil and his Orchestra - Will You Remember / My Lovely Lady

Columbine 101

F. White  - Caravan / 12th Street Rag

Columbine 102 

F. White and B. Butterfield  - Linger Awhile / South

Columbine 104 (note the flower has been replaced with a microphone on this release)

Will Graves And His Rhythm Rangers  -  Guess I’m Better Off Without You / When The World Has Turned You Down

Columbine 105 

R. Eberhardt  -  I Can Dream, Can’t I / All of Me 

Billboard  - March 25, 1950

Columbine 106 (note the flower has been replaced with a microphone on this release)

Will Graves and His Rhythm Rangers - Have I Told You Lately That I Love You / I'm Paying with a Broken Heart


Columbine 108 

Will Graves and His Rhythm Rangers  - Iron Horse / You Two-Timed Me One Time Too Often 


Billboard - June 24, 1950 (joint ad for Ozie Waters "Iron Horse" [on the Coral label] and the Will Graves Columbine label version)

Columbine 109

Will Graves and The Rhythm Rangers  - There’s a Star in the Sky / You’re Gonna Be Sorry

Columbine 110 

H. Hartley and the Columbine Trio  -  September in the Rain / Somebody Mentioned Your Name 

Columbine 111

Dick Mango's Band - When It's Cherry Blossom Time in Loveland / ?

Windsor Beacon - March 2, 1950
(b. Richard J. Mango, July 15, 1912, Pennsylvania; d. June 8, 1975, Olmsted County, MN) was an American bandleader and saxophonist, originally from Detroit.

Columbine 113

Red Allen  - Lonesome Me / Red’s Talking Blues 

Billboard  - November 25, 1950  

Columbine 116

Winnie Linsenmaier - It's Prom Time / I See it Now 

Columbine 117

Carl Thorn and his Saddle Pals - Tennessee Waltz / Two Eyes, Two Lips, But No Heart

Columbine 118

Roy Eberhart with the Musette Trio - Out Where the West Begins /  Little Grey Home in the West

Columbine 121

Johnnie Dwyer with Billy Lee and the Rocky Mountain Playboys - Love Grown Cold / Automobile Gal

Columbine 122

Floyd Buell with the Rhythm Kings - My Girl / Lonesome Me

Columbine 225

Dana LeBarron with Sonny LeBarron and his Rhythm Rodeo Wranglers - Merry Christmas and Goodnight / Garden of Forget-Me-Nots

Apparently he kept a home in Springfield, as I found a story, in a 1951 Missouri newspaper, that he and his wife often "travel from the West, to his home in Springfield."

The last public notice I found for the label, was in a Billboard magazine, dated March 15, 1952 (the address of the company was listed as 3120 Federal Blvd, Denver).

On December 30, 1952, Karl Zomar died, at the age of 49. He is buried at Fairmount Cemetery, Denver.

On October 12, 1953, about a year after his passing, I noticed a patent filing for a Columbine Records, based in Colorado Springs (the address listed was 38 Marland Rd.). In the 1954 Musicians Guide, I also saw a listing for Columbine Records, with the same street address.

It's believed that the label was sold to Vicky Morosan, in 1954, which means the Zomar family held on to it, for almost two years after his passing.

Connecting the dots, the widow of Karl Zomar moved to Colorado Springs, shortly after his death. I found a later 1970 story, in the Arizona Republic, about a young magician named Roy De La Garza. In the story it mentions that the widow of Karl Zomar gave the young man all of her late husband's magic act items "from Colorado Springs."

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