She was in tune with the stars

But stays down to earth for locals

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Ruth Williams, who has shared the stage with music legends Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Eddie Arnold, now sings a song or two at the monthly Community Dance Night at Iola’s North Community Building. Williams, shown here with Bill Duling, will assist with two songs Friday evening.
Ruth Williams, right, then known as Ruth Miccolis, and her older sister, Mary, are shown here with Roy Rogers when the country music and film star sang with them while they were in St. Louis.

She confesses only to being “old as the hills,” and has shared the stage with music legends Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Eddie Arnold.
Nowadays, Ruth Williams spends her spare time working as a volunteer at St. Pat’s, a Chanute thrift store, and an area hospice.
And the third Friday of each month is dedicated to music.
Williams handles much of the behind-the-scenes efforts with the monthly community dances provided by the Iola Recreation Department. She greets visitors at the door and takes admission in Iola’s North Community Building.
And, as entertainers are wont to do, she regales the audience with a number or two on stage with Bill Duling, the main performer for the community dances.
Williams, of Chanute, will return to Iola Friday evening for the September dance when she sings immediately after intermission.
“It’s fun, and the people seem to like it,” she said. “I’ll usually sing a fast one for them and a slow one for me.”
Williams — then Ruth Miccolis — got her start at the tender age of 6. One of 11 Miccolis children, she and older sister Ruth began to sing together at talent shows, county fairs or other neighborhood gatherings in their native Chicago — any place they could.
Their love of music was evident.
“We’d sit up at night and listen to WLS Radio and sing along,” Williams recalled. “We’d try to copy them. We loved yodeling.”
Known as the Miccolis Sisters, Ruth and Mary developed a rapport with the audience with their close harmony and yodeling tunes. Mary even won a yodeling contest or two through the years.
By the time Ruth was 14, she and Mary were summoned to an audition at KMOX Radio in St. Louis. A talent scout offered them a contract on the spot.
They accepted, and for the next two years sang on various radio shows and appeared at musical events across the midwest before being hired — with a nifty pay raise — at neighboring KXOK Radio in St. Louis.
It was there, while part of Ambrose Haley’s Ozark Ramblers, that the Miccolis Sisters met up with Rogers, “King of the Cowboys.”
Rogers was in search of local musicians for what was to be a week-long engagement at St. Louis’ Fox Theater.
Williams recalled that even with Rogers’ obvious stardom, he was friendly and smiled easily. “Easy to talk to,” she said.
So impressed was Rogers with his backup singers that he invited the Miccolises to accompany him for smaller shows at local hospitals and military installations in the St. Louis area.
Because of the demand, Rogers’ stay in St. Louis was extended a second week.
They met once again with Rogers, a few months later when he and Dale Evans took the sisters for a spaghetti dinner at a local restaurant.

IN 1947, the Miccolis Sisters took their talents west, singing for WIBW Radio in Topeka, continuing to sing with Ambrose and the Ramblers while also performing in the Kansas Roundup Show and the “Rainbow Trail” show several evenings each week.
There came their second brush with country music superstardom when Gene Autry asked the Miccolises to sing. Then, they were invited to perform for a pair of songs with Eddie Arnold and his Purina Mills show in Nashville.
As fate would have it, the sisters also performed at Forbes Air Force Base NCO Club in Topeka — and not too long afterward both were married — to Forbes staff sergeants.
Marriage ended their singing careers.
“We were ready to start families, and husbands don’t like you to be away,” she said.
Ruth married John B. Williams and soon thereafter the couple moved to Chanute, where she had two daughters and a son. John Williams is deceased. Mary, who married Royce Fulmer and had two sons, died in March 2008.

SINGING at the monthly dances in Iola is a way to cut loose and have fun, Williams admits. And of course, she enjoys bantering with Duling back and forth for the audience.
She even yodels occasionally for old time’s sake.
Williams appreciates the support from the crowd as well.
“I’m going to keep on singing; I love it,” she said. “When you sing, you’re automatically happy. What can beat that?”