'J. Walter Beethoven' returns for HOA Top 40 show

Type of post: Chorus news item
Sub-type: No sub-type
Posted By: John Braden
Status: Current
Date Posted: Sun, Mar 31 2024
By John Braden
            There'll be Top 40 radio superstar hits performed in Barbershop style by Kansas City's Heart of America Barbershop Chorus, April 6, 2024, at City House in Independence. The featured announcer will be locally famous former WHB Top 40 disk jockey J. Walter Beethoven
J. Walter Beethoven, in real life chorus member Wally Thornton, has come out of retirement to emcee the show, in "live radio" format celebrating songs of radio superstars from the 1940s to the 1980s.

The 2 p.m. show at City House, U.S. 40 and Noland, is headlined by Central States District Barbershop quartet champion Fleet Street and a new quartet of Kansas City past champs, Home.

Instead of spinning records, J. Walter Beethoven will announce a show that harkens back to the days of live radio, complete with a studio audience and studio singers, the Heart of America Chorus and its quartets, on "radio station WHOA."

"The weirdest thing about this for me is this is scripted," Thornton said. "We were primarily all ad lib… People don't realize the difference between live radio and 'personality' radio. We had more flexibility."

Thornton knows radio superstars, spending 15 years as radio personality J. Walter Beethoven in the 1950s and 1960s, including a stint as morning DJ at Kansas City's WHB -- "the World's Happiest Broadcasters" -- the first AM station in Kansas City to adopt the Top 40 format, in 1954. Thornton spent another 42 years in radio, TV and advertising.

The Heart of America Chorus -- as a totally acapella singing group -- faced a challenge with Top 40 music, tackling Beatles rock "I Want to Hold Your Hand," Buddy Holly rockabilly "That'll Be the Day," the Rays doo-wop "Silhouettes," Barry Manilow "Weekend in New England," Neil Diamond "Sweet Caroline" and more.

The singers' job is to capture the spirit and joy of the original artists while adding an extra dimension of four-part harmony.

"Our guys are having so much fun adapting the songs they grew up with to the Barbershop style we love," said HOA Director Carter Combs, a.k.a. "Maestro Leonard Beerstein."

Tickets for the studio audience of "WHOA's All Stars Super Hit Survey" are available for $25 at the chorus website, hoachorus.com, or by calling (816) 945-9671.