Story on famed 101 Ranch Boys spawns York County memories

Leonard Zinn holds a photo of the group from 1949 during a recent Zinn family reunion near Hanover. Band members, from left are, George Long, Smokey Roberts, Cliff Brown, Leonard Zinn and Andy Reynolds. Also of interest: 101 Ranch Boys play on in York County memories.

Randy Shaffer of Manchester learned something from a recent York Daily Record story on the nationally known country and western group, the 101 Ranch Boys.
“I never knew that there were local members in the group. Especially people such as Smokey Roberts, mostly known for his underwater filming. I use to work next door to Smokey’s film business and would have loved to pick his brain about the group.”
Randy went on to explain how his grandfather, a meter reader for Edison Light and Power, would become distracted when doing readings at WSBA radio. The radio station then was located along the Susquehanna Trail, just north of York. WSBA’s towers and transmitters are still located in the field beside the old station.
Randy’s grandfather always seemed to be there on live performance days.
“One day when the 101 Ranch Boys were
performing, I guess he was watching a little longer than normal. He was really embarrassed when the announcer said, ‘If the Edison Power Company is missing a Meter Reader, you can find him here in the studio watching the performance.’ The announcer was most likely Wayne Trout.”
Randy also had a question that readers might be able to answer:

Wayne Trout, left, a former announcer for WSBA radio in York, stands beside the Rev. W.C. ‘Rocky’ Riedel, Leonard Zinn and Smokey Roberts, the three surviving members of the 101 Ranch Boys. Also of interest: Country music’s Shorty Fincher: ‘Valley View is the best of the lot’

“WNOW-TV (CH 49) had a country western style backdrop in their studios. I didn’t see the studios
until the mid-70’s. There wasn’t anyone at the station that knew anything at that point about the
programming. I was wondering if maybe the 101 Ranch Boys performed on the air there. The station
went dark in the late 50’s with the demise of the Dumont Network.
The story on the 101 Randy Boys, written by Erin James of The Evening Sun in Hanover, follows:

Under a picnic pavilion in Hanover on Sunday, three octogenarians proved that youth has nothing to do with creating good music.
For only the second time in more than 50 years, the three musicians performed together as former members of a 1940s-50s country-western music group known as the 101 Ranch Boys.
One of them, 82-year-old Leonard T. Zinn, is a Hanover native, a Hall-of-Fame steel guitarist, and the reason why he and some of his former band mates came together once again at the Zinn family reunion.
Zinn, who now lives in Michigan, said he decided to invite former band mates Smokey Roberts and the Rev. W. C. “Rocky” Riedel to perform at his family reunion last year, and the idea carried through to this year.
Reminded on Sunday that 50 years passed before the first reunion, Zinn gave Roberts a look of disbelief. “It’s not that long, is it?” Zinn said.
The 101 Ranch Boys was a Kansas City-based band with a revolving membership that eventually recorded more than a dozen records. The group once played for President Harry S Truman, Zinn said.
Other members of the band have passed away, but Roberts, 82, and Riedel, 80, both live near Lancaster.
Zinn continues to perform across the country. Last week, he was in St. Louis. In April, he performed in Hawaii.
The three men spent some time Sunday reminiscing about the days spent as traveling musicians.
Unknown to some listeners, the band borrowed its name from a famous ranch in Oklahoma that stretched 110,000 acres, Zinn said.
When they performed, Roberts said the men would carry real guns on stage as part of their costumes, though the ammunition inside was only blanks.
“We used to have shootouts in the back of the (stage),” he said.
Looking at an old photograph of the band, Riedel was taken aback by the props juxtapositioned with country-western instruments.
“You and I got our guns out,” Riedel said to Roberts. “Holy mackerel!”
The band mates were also reunited Sunday with former radio announcer Wayne Trout, who said he often introduced the 101 Ranch Boys during his 18-year stint at WSBA in York.
Gordie Sauble, a former steel guitar student of Zinn’s, performed with the former band mates Sunday and recalled taking lessons from Zinn in Hanover in 1954 when he was 8.
“I’ve played all my life,” he said.
Zinn recalled the names of some of the musicians the 101 Ranch Boys performed alongside at music festivals across the country. One of them was Bill Haley, the lead singer of Bill Haley and His Comets, which produced the hit song “Rock Around the Clock.”
Though the 101 Ranch Boys aren’t as well-known as some of their contemporaries, Roberts said he remembers the experience fondly.
“We didn’t make much money, but we had a lot of fun,” he said.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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10 Responses to Story on famed 101 Ranch Boys spawns York County memories

  1. Steve Goba says:

    Just went on line and punched in the name “Rocky Reidel.” In so doing, I was surprised to see something come up re Rocky. I knew Rock back in the old pre-minister days. This acquaintance was through Roy Albright and Max (Dick) Keller.
    I, also, was a member of the 101 Ranch Boys during 1956/1957. The members of the group at that time were Harold Dunn (on Bass), Willy Landis (guitar), Bob Weston (Drums), George Rowe (steel guitar), Steve Goba (accordion), and Andy Reynolds (guitar). George Rowe and I are still alive (I just spoke with George a few weeks ago). I know that Willy died about four years ago. I was told many years ago that Andy was gone. George told me that Harold Dunn passed away quite a few years ago, and neither of us knows the whereabouts of Bob Weston.
    George Rowe and I were with the Ranch Boys during the time of the WNOW-TV stint. It was during the winter of 1956/1957, every Tuesday night at around 9:00 P.M. The sponsor was Purina Feed. The announcer on the show was Jimmy West (he eventually went on to WGN-TV in Chicago as one of the announcers for the Chicago sporting events (CUBS, BLACKHAWKS)). I have a photograph of the group. It was taken in the WNOW-TV studio. The western-motiff background that you mention is the backdrop in this photo. I would be pleased to E-Mail it to a destination of your choice.

  2. gary brown says:

    cliff brown died in 1989 in kan city kan he was my dad gary brown

  3. Kathy Brown says:

    Cliff Brown was also my father. I never knew him well but we did have a wonderful time together in 1987 getting to know one another. He was an okay dad. My prayers are with all my family in Kansas and wherever. Love ya all.

  4. Bernie Eveler says:

    In 1950 or ’51 I used to hitchhike from St. Mary’s grade school on Queens St. to Emigville each day. Many days as was walking up the hill on N. Queen I was picked up by Smokey Roberts as he was on the way to broadcast or record their program at the WSBA studio outside of North York. He’d drop me off just before taking the left fork to the radio station. One day he surprised me by giving me a “Red Ryder” BB gun. I was in seventh heaven, unlike my folks who were not, exactly, elated.
    If Smokey is still with us I hope he sees this and accepts my sincere thanks again.

  5. Scott Rowe says:

    I met Smokey, Leonard T. Zinn and Rocky Reidel yesterday at Gordie Sauble’s steel guitar jamboree in Jefferson, Pennsylvania. All three of the surviving 101 Ranch Boys appear to be in good health and I truly enjoyed their performance together. I wish their style of music was still popular today!

  6. Lori Ricard says:

    My grandfather Emil “Nemo” Lippert was a member of the 101 Ranch Boys and used to play with them in the early 1940s. I have some materials from that time including his “Songs of the Range and Home sung by your favorite Cowboy Little Brother Nemo” This was when they played live on WSBA Radio. If anyone has additional information, please contact me at

  7. priscilla burchett dunklebarger says:

    gee how time flys i was 15 in 1954 ,my fmily moved from marion va to lancaster,i used to listen to 101 boys on wlan on sat mornings one sat morning i told my mother i’m going to walk down to wlan radio station on south queen st, and see if they will let me sing a song with them and guess what they did andy rynolds and i sand i was looking back to see jim ed browns song. i made a couple personal appearances with them and harold’s wife would also go along.i went to a barn dance in n.j. once with then that was fun.then i would leave that show on sat’s and go next door to wgal radio and harold green and is boys where playing there they would let me sing with them i had won a few contest in va. but as fate would have it i got interesting in the boys when i was sixteen and felt foolish singing on the radio sat mornings and quit but i have all those memories and they where a buntch of real nice gentelman in both bands. i can’t belive that many years ago i was 15 today i am 71. it was atime in my life i will always remember. i see rocky is still alive i think he preaches at a church in marietta ,i should go see him one day .
    thank you lv
    priscilla burchett dunklebarger

  8. Adam Brown says:

    I am the grandson of Cliff Brown. Although, I have never met my grandfather I am very proud of his accomplishments as a musician. May he rest in peace, god bless you all.

    • G. Karmokar says:

      George Long was my dad. Still can hear
      his voice echoing with the songs he used
      to sing. He died a number of years ago from
      lung cancer. He told me one time i guess
      that there were actual bullets and during
      rye whiskey he was shot in the leg. He didn’t
      feel it while performing. He always wore cowboy
      boots till the day he died. Am now playing a bit
      of music and it’s interesting digging out some of
      the old songs and singing them now.

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