- Special Sections
- Public Notices
The establishment of Fort Knox unintentionally helped create at least one singing cowboy — possibly two.
Back in 1918, when Bob Atcher was just 4, the government bought tens of thousands of acres for the new Camp Knox. These purchases included the Atchers’ family farm.
So they moved to North Dakota, where young Bob learned cowboy songs from ranch hands and how to play the guitar, according to Internet Movie Database. Now he could accompany his father, a skilled fiddle player.
The Atchers eventually moved back to the small river town of West Point. Resident Jeff Wright said his father lived near their home, where all the members of the large family would gather after church to play music.
“It was like going to the Grand Ole Opry.”
The Atcher house now stands at the corner of 11th and Elm streets. It hasn’t always been there, though. During the flood of ’37, it floated two miles downstream, Wright said. Not deterred, father George Atcher found it, disassembled it and hauled it back to town.
A few years after the flood, Columbia Records released Bob Atcher recordings which included his version of “You Are My Sunshine” and “Pins and Needles in My Heart,” according to IMDb. Also in the 1940s, he appeared in two films, “Panhandle Trail” and “Hail to the Rangers.” He also was a regular on the WLS Radio National Barn Dance program.
“Bob Atcher was one of the most popular country music entertainers of the post-World War II era,” according to allmusic.
In the late ’50s, the Hardin County native was elected mayor of Schaumburg, Ill., which is near Chicago. During his two-decade tenure, the nation’s largest shopping mall (at the time) was built in Schaumburg.
Atcher also helped found the Prairie Center for the Arts there.
“My grandpa used to tell me, ‘You may have all the money in the world, but if you do not have an appreciation of the finer things in life, it doesn’t mean a thing,’” he said in a Chicago Tribune article.
He died in 1993.
His late brother, Randy, perhaps is better known locally. He performed at West Point River Days, and his photos hang in that town’s fire station because of his work with WHAS Crusade for Children.
“He never forgot from whence he came,” Wright said.
The salutatorian of his West Point High School class, Randy Atcher sang and played the mandolin for WHAS radio and performed on Chicago stations, according to Hillbilly-Music.com.
In the 1950s, Randy Atcher starred in the “T-Bar-V Ranch” show on WHAS-TV along with Foster Brooks’ brother, Tom.
Dick Hall, who put on barn dances in Vine Grove, said a photo of himself and Randy Atcher performing under the bright lights of a West Point stage used to hang in the former dance hall.
“He was a good fellow,” Hall said.
John Friedlein can be reached at (270) 505-1746, or
at jfriedlein@the newsenterprise.com. His Stories from the Heartland column appears Mondays in The News-Enterprise.