THE "RED" DUNNING STORY – HIS RADIO & TELEVISION DAYS

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  • #13909
    Craig_Adams
    Participant

    Today September 15, 1904 Owen Chase “Red” Dunning was born in Hoquiam, Washington to Fannie Frasier (Lane) and John Wesley Dunning. Red had 8 older brothers: John Morris, George Homer, Lewis L., Edward Harris, Terrence Vance, Cyrus C., William Jennings & Arthur Clifton. And one older sister: Nellie. The Dunning family lived on a cattle ranch where Owen became a pretty good ranch hand. All of the Dunning children and their parents, played musical instruments. Owen grew into an accomplished musician.

    On May 9, 1925 Red Dunning (20 years old) began his musical career playing trumpet with Herman Kenin’s Multnomah Hotel Dance Orchestra. This was the debut night of Kenin’s newly assembled 11-piece orchestra, the largest ever offered to Portland. They played from “The Indian Grill” by remote to KGW at 10:00pm. This was a regular feature on KGW, ending in late June 1925. Red also played violin, viola and bass viol and for some time played lead trumpet with The Portland Symphony Orchestra. Now and then he played with an orchestra that accompanied silent movies at the Columbia Theater.

    In early July 1927 Owen Chase Dunning, 22, married 21 year old Alice Eudora Mower. They were living at 1119 N.E. 18th St. On Labor Day 1929 Red was playing in the Warner Stone Orchestra at Jantzen Beach Ballroom. After the show Dunning was hired on the spot by KOIN Radio after hearing him play. In addition on September 2, 1929 Owen C. “Red” Dunning was named Assistant Orchestra Director to Mischa Pelz (KOIN’s 1st Musical Director).

    In March 1930 one of the first shows Red became a regular on was KOIN’s “Merry-Go-Round of The Air.” On May 23, 1930 Red’s brother Arthur Clifton Dunning died at age 29 following a short illness in Portland. On January 18, 1931 Red & Alice welcomed their first son Robert L. Dunning and the family was living at 653 N.E. 50th St. On September 19, 1931 Red’s mother Fannie Frasier Dunning died at age 68 in Portland.

    On September 5, 1934 Red & Alice welcomed their second son Charles Fredric Dunning. The family was now living at 3015 N.E. 50th Ave., which was the same home with a new address. On June 17, 1941 Red’s father John Wesley Dunning died at age 86 in Seattle, Wash.

    On October 4, 1943 Dunning got his own KOIN radio show “Red’s Gang” which played old and new Western music, as well as Cowboy tunes. Featured in the group were: Julius Walter, accordion; Norman Anderson, guitar; Jeannie Sheppard, violin; Ray Spurgeon, clarinet; Dunning director & bass; Paul Coates & Bill Mears. Vocals by Johnny Carpenter. Red’s Gang was on weekdays at 5:15pm.

    On September 15, 1944 Red was named KOIN Orchestra Director, after the sudden death of KOIN Musical Director, Joseph Sampietro on 8-9-44. On October 23, 1945 Red’s brother George Homer Dunning died at age 65 in a Pasco, Wash. hospital. In June 1946 Red’s Gang became part of the new “Come And Get It” show. Red was occasionally heard on the “KOIN KLOCK” program as well. On October 17, 1946 Red’s brother Edward Harris Dunning died at age 70 in Hermiston.

    On May 14, 1947 Dunning began writing original music for the program “Northwest Neighbors” at 9:30pm on KOIN. Red also conducted The Northwest Neighbors Orchestra (aka KOIN Orchestra). These were later award winning programs. On June 21, 1947 Red’s brother Cyrus C. Dunning died at age 56 in a Walla Walla, Wash. hospital after being ill for a month. On October 18, 1951 Red’s brother John Morris Dunning died at age 74 of natural causes, in Pendleton. John was Circulation Manager for “The East Oregonian” newspaper.

    On October 15, 1953 when KOIN-TV signed on the air, Red Dunning’s “Saddle Pals” children’s show, was the first regular local program seen on channel 6, at 5:00pm for an hour. A popular kid feature on the show, was wildlife guest experts bringing animals and many Zoo guests. In later years his regular film features were called “Wildlife In Action.” Through an informal combination of wildlife features, unusual guests and selected films and music, Dunning built a huge audience. On October 18, 1954 Saddle Pals became known as “The Red Dunning Show” or “Red Dunning.”

    On April 29, 1957 the television version of “Red’s Gang” began on KOIN-TV, Monday thru Wednesday’s at 6:15pm with Johnny Carpenter as Emcee and music vocalist of the 15 minute show. Red’s Gang included: Jack Lenard, guitar; Frances Pozzi, harp; Kash Duncan, violin, guitar; Julius Walter, celeste, vibra-harp, marimba, organ & piano; Red Dunning, conductor, trumpet, violin & bass. The program was presented in an easy, relaxed mood.

    By June 1957 it was said, people were affectionately calling Dunning “Uncle Red.” On September 25, 1957 Red’s Gang was canceled. Cast was moved to mornings for a new program. On Monday September 30, 1957 “Hi Neighbor!” debuted on KOIN-TV at 9:00am, starring host Doris Kyber with Red Dunning and all the gang: Kash Duncan, Jack Lenard, Francis Pozzi & Julius Walter.

    On the first “Hi Neighbor!” program were Art Kirkham, Sherm Washburn & Johnny Carpenter, plus chats with the gang and a preview of future happenings. This was a Music-variety format and was 30 minutes. “Hi Neighbor!” ran until 1973. By November 1957 the Dunning family was living at 9942 S.W. 59th Ave. On Friday September 26, 1958 the “Red Dunning” children’s show (4:45pm) had its farewell broadcast. Earlier in the month KOIN-TV had also canceled “Mr. Moon” at 4:30pm (Sept 5th.). This was to make way for the new hour long children’s program “Cartoon Circus” featuring ring master Mr. Duffy on Monday September 29th.

    On Saturday January 31, 1959 Red began his new weekend nature program called “The Red Dunning Show” (The Wonderful World of Nature) at 11:30am for 15 minutes, in cooperation with the Oregon State Game Commission and the Portland Zoological Gardens. On August 6, 1960 Red’s only sister Nellie Dunning Wright died at age 69 in Portland. On November 3, 1965 Red’s brother Terrence Vance Dunning died at age 76 in Salem. On February 16, 1969 Red’s brother William Jennings Dunning died at age 75 in Seattle, Wash.

    On December 31, 1969 during Red’s last day of work at KOIN, Dunning found himself at the center of a surprise party which was broadcast over KOIN Radio’s “Come And Get It” program at 12:20pm. Some of the best-known voices in Portland Radio and Television took over the microphones. Art Kirkham reminisced about Red at one mike and Johnny Carpenter was at another. Doris Kyber walked into the studio to greet Red. So did Trudy Meyers and Harry Buckendahl. Walt McKinney, who was responsible for notifying many of the people, worked unobtrusively in the background.

    Earlier on TV’s “Hi Neighbor” program at 12:10pm, Dez and Irene Young had run an old tape of Red & Walt. Joe Amato came down from Astoria for the party. Julius Walter, Eddie Swartout, Owen Sanders, Mel Hansen, George Baker, Abe Bercovitz, Leo Skipton, Margaret C. Mason, Roman Lechner, Luke Roberts, Kash Duncan, Erle Denham, Johnny Walker, Camille Halton, all greeted Red. Later, most of them were on-camera for a buffet telecast Live on “Koin Kitchen” at 1:00pm.

    After Red’s retirement as KOIN Orchestra Director, he continued to be seen on his weekend nature program, although they had been taped earlier, the last program aired on Sunday January 25, 1970. In retirement Red became a photographer and took many pictures of the Northwest outdoors.

    On October 11, 1982 Red Dunning passed away at age 78 in a local hospital. On October 14, 1982 Masonic services were held at 11:00am at Finley-Sunset Hills Mortuary chapel with private interment in Sunset Hills Memorial Park. The folkey, congenial man who could play everything form Bach to boogie, had two loves in his life besides his family: music and the great outdoors.

    Special Thanks to Joel Miller who helped make this biography more complete.

    References: The Oregonian.

    #14920
    clarkestraus
    Participant

    Hello. Is it possible for you to pass along the source of all of the family history? I’m a great grandson of John Morris Dunning but our family knows little of the Dunning family history and was curious to learn more after finding this article. I can be contacted at clarkestraus@gmail.com. Thanks!

    #14924
    Craig_Adams
    Participant

    Clark: Any information about the family outside of The Oregonian, can be found at: Ancestry.com

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