Doc Williams, 1914-2011
Chickie Williams, 1919-2007
Doc Williams and his wife, Chickie, were a fixture of the WWVA Jamboree since 1937. A singer, guitarist and bandleader, Doc was an institution in Wheeling and a symbol of pure, basic country country music. Thanks to the strength of the WWVA signal, Doc and Chickie were also popular in Canada and New England. The couple, along with their band the Border Riders, recorded, performed live and appeared on the radio for more than five decades. Doc was born Andrew John Smik, Jr. in Cleveland, OH, and was raised in Kittaning, PA, and got his professional start playing with the Kansas Clodhoppers during the early ’30s. The Clodhoppers eventually became the Border Riders, and moved to WWVA in Wheeling in 1937. Soon, with the addition of comedian Froggie Cortez and cowboy crooner Big Slim the Lone Cowboy, they became one of the station’s most popular attractions.
In 1939, Williams married Jessie Wanda Crupe, who Doc had nicknamed “Chickie.” The following year, they moved to Memphis where he appeared on WREC radio while touring the South. He was asked by founder Harry Stone to join the Grand Ole Opry, but declined as Chickie was returning to Wheeling to have her first child. After a short stint in the Navy during World War II, he returned to WWVA and continued touring. He also started a cottage industry selling guitar courses on the air, eventually selling 200,000 of them – which paid for his children’s schooling. Williams also founded Wheeling Records in the late ’40s and through it released all of his and his wife’s albums. Occasionally, they sang together, and sometimes with their three daughters. Among his best-known songs were “Willie Roy the Crippled Boy,” “My Old Brown Coat and Me” and “Polka Dot and Polka Dreams.”
He and his wife, Chickie, have been made honorary citizens in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. In 1983, Doc was one of the entertainers enshrined in WWVA’s Walkway of the Stars. The oldest member of Jamboree USA, he was by gubernatorial proclamation hailed as “West Virginia’s Official Country Music Ambassador of Good Will.” Doc was inducted into the Wheeling Hall of Fame in 1984.