THE RADIO PRIEST
FATHER CHARLES E. COUGHLIN of Royal Oak, Michigan, began his Golden Hour of The Little Flower 92 years ago this month on WJR/Detroit. And so began the 16 year radio journey of the young pastor of a small congregation in a Detroit suburb that resulted in nationwide recognition and millions of dollars in donations at his peak, then condemnation as a Hitler-loving anti-Semite a short time later. As our post Father Couglin reports, even The National Association of Broadcasters urged stations to cancel his weekly broadcasts in 1939.
Father Coughlin isn't a story that fan magazines of the era gushed over. Instead it traces the power of the spoken word disguised as "gospel" amplified by the new medium of radio in a clash with the political realities of a nation in economic depression and on the verge of war. The post contains several addresses from the self-described "radio priest" which may leave the listener wondering, "Did he really say that?" He did.
THIS WEEK IN THE GOLDEN AGE covers a multitude of topics with a bunch of familiar names from Network Radio's Golden Age, all taken from over 900 events in our monthly calendar of events, October In The Golden Age. Do you know in what years these seven events happened? Take your guesses then check your answers with October In The Golden Age.
October 14, ----: Jimmy Durante & Garry Moore continue substituting on NBC’s Thursday night Abbott & Costello Show while doing their own new CBS show on Friday nights. Their two show a week schedule for Camel cigarettes continues until mid November. (See Goodnight, Mr. Durante…)
October 15, ----: RCA introduces its famous Model 77 Uni-Directional (Silver Bullet) microphone.
October 16, ----: Rebuffed by the networks, Detroit priest Charles E. Coughlin begins a 27 week series of addresses on an independent hookup of 26 major market stations. (See Father Coughlin.)
October 17, ----: Hal Peary, 31, debuts as Fibber McGee & Molly’s next door neighbor, Throckmorton P Gildersleeve. (See The Great Gildersleeve(s).)
October 18, ----: The New York Post announces a $1.5 Million libel suit against ABC commentator Walter Winchell which it settles three years later for $30,000. (See Walter Winchell.)
October 19, ----: CBS star Arthur Godfrey fires his programs’ popular singer. Julius LaRosa, on the air. (See Arthur Godfrey.)
October 20, ----: First Nighter broadcasts its last live performance on CBS after an 18 year multi-network run - all sponsored by Campana Balm hand lotion. (See Friday’s All Time Top Ten,).
THE KRAFT MUSIC HALL BECAME NETWORK RADIO'S top rated music show thanks in part to a "hillbilly" comedian who was virtually unknown until he was 45 years old. Then Bob Burns became Bing Crosby's Kraft co-star, his summer replacement on NBC and a movie favorite who logged ten Paramount features between 1936 and 1939. By the 1940's, The Arkansas Traveler was on his own with a highly rated NBC show. We track his rags to riches history at GOld Time Radio's post, Bob Burns.
Burns delighted telling whimsical tales of his Arkansas home and families appreciated his outrageous, yet always clean humor that opened the successful NBC Thursday night night schedule from 1942 to 1946. Then, at the end of the 1946-47 season, he walked away from show business. It seems that in his dozen years of stardom, the "dumb hillbilly" had been wisely investing in real estate and... His whole story, his ups and downs and samples of his broadcasts are found at Bob Burns. It's a feel-good story with twists.
THE THOUSANDS OF MONTHLY VISITORS to GOld Time Radio all share some degree of interest in Network Radio's Golden Age. They also share some degree of knowledge of how that 21 year era in broadcasting history came about. Here's our contribution, taken in part from our book, Network Radio Ratings, 1932-1953. It's called Alchemists of The Air.
This is an unusually long post and you'll find it differs from most historical accounts because it traces the inception and development of commercial Network Radio from the perspectives of all the contributing industries that shaped it. The reader may find a few surprises in that regard as we track the 90 year path of those who transformed thin air into gold, the Alchemists of The Air.
THE CONTINUING VERBAL BATTLE BETWEEN Jack Benny and Fred Allen was all in fun and everyone knew it. Yet, listeners flocked to NBC for Allen's Town Hall Tonight on Wednesdays and Benny's Sunday night Jello Program to hear the latest insults that the two threw at each other. Their "fight" continued into 1937 and 1938, as reported in the GOld Time Radio post, The Feud - Round 2. This time the scrap involved the threat of real fisticuffs and allegations of false identities. It sounds strange and it was as the two comedians traded barbs while they plugged each other's programs and movies in episodes of The Feud - Round 2.
MOST NEW SEASONS during Network Radio's Golden Age found one or more of listeners' favorite programs and personalities coming to them from new networks. It was a common practice as GOld Time Radio's post, Network Jumpers, illustrates. We found 40 examples of programs or personalities who moved between NBC, CBS, Blue/ABC and Mutual, often at the height of their popularity.
To make it more interesting for you, our list is presented in the form of a quiz which asks you to identify the shows involved. (The answers are also provided.) Network Jumpers is another of GOld Time Radio's quizzes that have proved popular in the past - like Three Letter Calls, A Network Radio Quiz, Starting Points or any of our eight nightly, (Sunday through Saturday plus Multiple Run), All Time Top Ten posts. Enjoy - but be aware that you may learn something. We certainly did!
SUMMERS IN NETWORK RADIO'S GOLDEN AGE were usually when the top stars took time off to make the big money that was theirs for appearances in vaudeville, fairs and movies. But that was before World War II. When 1942 arrived it was hard to find a network star who wasn't giving time and talent to entertain the men and women in U.S, and Canadian military posts. And by 1943, the USO was dispatching entertainment units overseas. Leading the pack was Bob Hope, whose World War II travels are profiled in GOld Time Radio's post, Hope From Home.
Hope wasn't the first to broadcast his shows from service camps - Kay Kyser holds that distinction - nor was he the first to entertain troops outside the States - Joe E. Brown and Al Jolson beat him to that. Yet Bob Hope, with his gift of being able catch bits of sleep anytime, anywhere, logged more miles and performed for more servicemen and women at home and abroad than any other star. Time magazine called him, "a legend," in 1943. See if you agree after reading his story and hearing his shows at Hope From Home.
DON'T DELAY! SEND FOR YOURS TODAY! That was the familiar command of Network Radio announcers introducing, "... the newest, the latest and the best ever," premium offered to young listeners of their late afternoon adventure serials. Little did the kids who rushed to send in their box tops and dimes know that the gadgets they ordered, (which often played a life-saving function in their serial's plot), didn't exist yet! Premium offers were often introduced on Fridays so sponsors could gauge their popularity from the first weekend's mail when ordering production runs which often ran into the six or seven digits.
GOld Time Radio's post, Serials, Cereals & Premiums tells the story of why mail order premiums were first employed by radio advertisers and how they were used by sponsors of weekday juvenile serials to sell product - most notably breakfast cereals. The post also contains 21 episodes of nine popular kids' shows from Network Radio's Golden Age that contain commercials for premium offers - sometimes up to four minutes long! It's historic, hilarious and posted at Serials, Cereals & Premiums.
THE THREE MEN MOST INFLUENTIAL in determining the fate of programs during the Golden Age didn't head a network, own radio stations or run a sponsoring company. The listening public never heard their voices and few knew of their existence, let alone their importance in the broadcasting industry. Yet, the semi-monthly audience measurements of Archibald M. Crossley, Claude E. Hooper and Arthur C. Nielsen became the standards by which almost all programs were judged. Our post, Radio's Rulers: Crossley, Hooper & Nielsen, tells the story of why audience polling began, how the results became known as ratings and how the three services eventually became one which still exists today.
Each of GOld Time Radio's 21 annual almanacs, (The 1932-33 Season, etc.), concludes with Network Radio's Top 50 Programs for that season compiled from one of these rating services. It's easy to follow the fate of individual programs, personalities and Network Radio itself when guided by these numbers. Not so easily tracked is the history of these three competitors in the ratings industry with their different methodologies - and that's the real story behind Radio's Rulers - Crossley, Hooper & Nielsen.
"FEUDS" BETWEEN NETWORK STARS were common devices to build audiences - most often for shows on the same network or those that shared sponsors. But absolutely none of them captured the attention, imagination or ratings of the 20 year battle of wits between NBC's two front line comedians, Fred Allen and Jack Benny. It has become so famous in the annals of broadcasting history that GOld Time Radio's post describing its early stages and presenting its programs is simply called, The Feud - Round 1.
It all began innocently enough on Allen's variety show Town Hall Tonight in late December, 1936. After a ten-year old prodigy performed a short but extremely difficult violin solo, Fred compared his talent as a violinist with Benny's. His comment was funny, biting and the opening shot of The Feud - Round 1. Insults between the two ran fast and furiously even beyond the show when Jack successfully duplicated the complicated violin solo with his own clever twist. You'll enjoy it.
WHEN THE ANNUAL ANNIVERSARY OF THE END of World War II comes around every summer, GOld Time Radio adds a post dealing with Network Radio's involvement. This year we found an often forgotten gem, Words At War, NBC's two year series of adaptations taken from books published during the war in cooperation with the U.S. Office of War Information and the Council of Wartime Books. Simply put, Words At War was propaganda - but what propaganda!
The material chosen struck every wartime emotion, even humor. It was skillfully scripted, performed by top radio actors accompanied by a full orchestra of members from the NBC Symphony and produced to the highest network standards. All this for a half hour that was often relegated to a sustaining role on late night NBC schedules. Fortunately, many episodes were recorded and we present ten outstanding examples of Words At War to lend a more complete understanding of the war and radio's involvement in it.
NETWORK RADIO'S GOLDEN AGE ended in June, 1953. This conclusion became obvious when examining the decline in audience ratings and network billings that peaked during the World War II years and fell sharply with the growth of television. Our post, The 1952-53 Season tells the story in no uncertain terms.
For example, the average rating of a Top 50 Network Radio show in 1947-48 was 18.7 - in 1952-53 the Top 50 average had plunged to 6.4, a 66% drop. Network Radio revenues in 1948 were $197.89 Million - by 1952 they had fallen to $163.45 Million, down $34.44 Million. But as The 1952-53 Season explains, the networks weren't too concerned - they had a new goose that laid even bigger golden eggs!
The shows and their stars were faced with decisions: Did they join the parade to TV? Did they hang on for another radio season for less dollars? Or did they gracefully retire? Our post The 1952-53 Season names names and provides many answers.
PHIL SPITALNY WAS A RESPECTED CONDUCTOR of concert and popular orchestras ever since his college days. He was doing just fine in his early forties in 1932 when he struck on the idea that many called foolish but made him a millionaire. Attending a concert at the Julliard School of Music in New York City he realized that half the population - the female half - was totally overlooked in the orchestral field. He set out to correct the situation. Teaming with talented violinist Evelyn Klein, they created the first All-Girl Orchestra which entertained millions on CBS and NBC for 14 years as The Hour of Charm. Our post contains dozens of their arrangements which showed the world that women had talents in music that should never be underestimated. For proof, The Hour of Charm is filled with patriotism, spirituality and wonderful music. Enjoy!
EVERY SATURDAY NIGHT FOR EIGHT YEARS with little break, the VanDeventer family of Princeton, New Jersey - Fred, Florence and Bobby - would travel to the WOR studios in Manhattan to play a parlor game they had practiced around the dining room table over family dinners. By 1946, they got so good at Twenty Questions that they put their skills on the Mutual network for the country to hear and for listeners to challenge with subjects they submitted by the thousands every week. It wasn't so much the prizes the listeners were after - magazine subscriptions, then cigarette lighters - it was the idea that they could beat this uncanny family and their friends.
The story and sounds of Twenty Questions tells how a simple idea came along at just the right time to catch a national radio audience and become the first radio program to also be seen simultaneously on two television stations in New York City and the fledgling NBC Television Network! Samples of the program are still entertaining today and so easy that any family can play the game.
EIGHTY-TWO YEARS AGO NBC'S BLUE NETWORK gave Sunday afternoon radio listeners something to talk about all week long. It was new. It was unique. It showed off the mind-boggling capabilities of NBC and its parent, Radio Corporation of America, for all to hear. It was a called The Magic Key of RCA - a variety show to end all variety shows mixing the performances of world famous stars of classical and pop music, comedy, drama and commentary appearing live from locations all over the world. For example, its first show on September 29, 1935, contained cut-in's from Europe, Asia and even from RCA President David Sarnoff,on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!
Why is The Magic Key an almost forgotten four year chapter in broadcasting history? Perhaps the answer can be found in our post with some episodes of the program featuring radio legends Graham McNamee, Floyd Gibbons, Rudy Vallee, Alexander Woollcott, Amos & Andy, Milton Cross, Ben Grauer and Dr. Frank Black with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. By today's standards it's hardly magic but it remains fascinating.
GOld Time Radio NOW PROVIDES DIRECT LINKS to all of the audio samples cited within the posts. Just look for the blue type and click on it. Meanwhile, if you're looking for a certain program, person, station or city on this site, just enter the name in the SEARCH box at the top of this page, press your ENTER key and watch what happens.
GOld Time Radio is now in its sixth year of researching and reporting some of the lesser known facts about the people and programs of Network Radio’s Golden Age. It began with the publication of my book Network Radio Ratings, 1932-1953, which defined the era in a time frame determined by ratings and revenue, and provided the first complete prime time audience ratings for all 21 years. The premise of the book and this site are summarized in my reading of the book's forward.
Thanks to you, GOld Time Radio registered over 75,000 Visitors and 150,000 Page Hits in the first half of 2018. Both are new records. Please tell your friends about our site dedicated to Network Radio's Golden Age and remember, we always welcome your questions or comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2018, Jim Ramsburg, Estero FL Email: email@example.com