The WTMJ big band known as the Grenadiers played live concerts on WTMJ radio from 1932 to 1964. Through the years, the lineup changed but these talented musicians were equally comfortable playing classical music, polkas, as well as popular songs of the day. The Grenadiers also had a couple of famous announcers in their midst. Stanley Morner, better known as Hollywood leading man Dennis Morgan, and Johnny Olson who may best be remembered as the studio announcer who coined the phrase “Come on down” on “The Price Is Right” during the Bob Barker years.
From the mid-1930’s through the mid-1940’s, the Grenadiers were the most popular orchestra on Milwaukee radio. Their success reached beyond Milwaukee as well, where live performances in cities throughout Wisconsin and neighboring states would see audiences in the 15,000 to 20,000 range. Their appearances at various church benefits helped pay off mortgages for many congregations. They even played at fireman’s picnics to help smaller towns buy their first fire truck. In December of 1941, when Germany declared war on America, German songs were gradually replaced by additional polkas, marches and music hall airs.
Acquired by the Milwaukee Public Library in April of 1966, the WTMJ Sheet Music Collection features more than 12,000 pieces of band music from a bygone age. Comprised mostly of World War I and World War II era popular songs, the collection includes parts for piano, band and orchestral instruments.
If you are interested in viewing materials from the WTMJ Sheet Music Collection which are available for reference use only, please stop by or call the Art, Music & Recreation Reference Room at the Central Library at 414-286-3071.