THE LAST OF THE MEDICINE SHOWS
What was Hadacol and what did the long gone patent medicine have to do with the Golden Age of Radio?
It will come as a surprise to many that the 1940’s brainchild of Louisiana State Senator Dudley LeBlanc was a product
introduced and built through radio advertising, saturating stations in 31 states with cure-all, feel-good promises. LeBlanc, himself, wrote its copy:
“An effective treatment and cure for scores of ailments and diseases...and makes you boogie-woogie all the time!”
Although Hadacol’s curative powers were highly questionable, its 12% content of alcohol - as a “preservative” - was sure to leave its users feeling better.
LeBlanc didn’t stop with spot advertising. He crafted the Hadacol Caravans - modern day medicine shows featuring many of the top names in show business in August, 1950 and 1951. Touring ball parks and arenas throughout the Midwest and South with headliners that included Bob Hope, Jimmy Durante, Burns & Allen and Lucille Ball, LeBlanc climaxed the first year’s tour with network shows on Mutual and ABC boasting, “If I ain’t the biggest radio customer in the country, I’m sure gonna be!”
Then he sold the company to New York investors who should have known better and left most of his creditors hanging. What finally happened to LeBlanc, Hadacol and the thousands of checks he left bouncing around the country is detailed in the new post, HADACOL.
THIS WAS A SAD WEEK over the years of Network Radio's Golden Age. The industry lost Al Jolson, Ben Bernie and Your Hit Parade's Mark Warnow during this week of October 19-25. On the brighter side, the events listed below also took place. Do you know in what years they took place?
October 19, ----: Edward G. Robinson debuts as the star in the initial five season run of Big Town on CBS..(See Big Big Town on this site.)
October 20, ----: FCC approves CBS selling its 55% of WTOP/Washington to The Washington Post and acquiring full ownership of KQW/San Francisco.
October 21, ----: Arthur Godfrey explains his firing of singer Julius LaRosa and band leader Archie Bleyer from his CBS radio and television shows - LaRosa for signing with a talent agency and Bleyer for making a record with ABC’s Don McNeill.
October 23, ----: Fred Allen, 38, begins his 17 year multi-network run with The Linit Bath Club Revue on CBS.
October 24, ----: Jack Bailey crowns his 2,000th Queen For A Day on Mutual’s weekday program.
October 25, ----: The Mexican Senate refuses to ratify the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement already approved by the United States and Cuba with Canada yet to act. (See The March of Change on this site.)
These and dozens of other events - complete with their full dates - appear at This Week In The Golden Age - the last post in the left hand column, updated every Sunday morning.
FOR MANY YEARS FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover resisted publicity - particularly the dramatization of the Bureau’s exploits. Even prolific producer Phillips H. Lord gave up after 13 weeks trying to get Hoover’s continued co-operation for his “sanctioned” series, G-Men, in the summer of 1935.
Nine years later CBS approached the Bureau for its endorsement of its new series, The FBI In Peace & War, based on Fredrick L. Collins popular book of the same name. The answer was the same, a polite but firm and official refusal. Nevertheless, CBS proceeded with show in November, 1944,
Then, early in 1945, Hoover’s attitude changed. Former comedy writer turned dramatist Jerry Divine approached him asking to go into the FBI’s files of closed cases for his new ABC series, This is Your FBI. Hoover reportedly welcomed Divine into his office, gave the series his blessing and allowed it to be identified every Friday night as, “…an official broadcast from the files of the FBI…”
The two programs were remarkably alike - both in sound and listener popularity. Both are compared in the text and audio post FBI vs. FBI - as well as a hint of what helped change Hoover’s mind. Because most good stories have a twist, so does this one - again involving Phillips H. Lord.
JACK BENNY'S program of March 28, 1948, was notable for two reasons: It was only eight days after its guest star, Ronald Colman, won the 1948 Academy Award as Best Actor and it introduced what many broadcast historians consider to be the greatest gag of Network Radio’s Golden Age.
For three seasons Benny’s crack quartet of writers had established Ronald & Benita Colman as Benny‘s “next door neighbors” in Beverly Hills. With the Colmans’ four or five guest appearances a year, the culture clash between the genteel Brits and the gauche comedian was hilarious and provided the show with one of its many reliable running gags.
Colman’s Academy Award also inspired a skit that resulted in another running gag for seven weeks during which the original bit was repeated twice and Benny’s variation of it was delivered three times. Each time, the routine drew more laughs than before. It soon became known by its straight line because most all of America knew its punch line.
The story behind this classic routine and the three episodes of the Benny show in which it became famous are found at the new post, Your Money Or Your Life.
A SECTION OF Network Radio Ratings, 1932-1953 is titled Columbia, The Gem of Promotion. It’s a tribute to Bill Paley’s early hiring of advertising executives Paul Kresten and Victor Ratner to support his long-held belief that promotion could elevate CBS in listening popularity and advertising revenues. He was right on both counts.
There were other mistakes, of course, most having to do with sudden decisions common to the industry and just as quickly remedied. Ironically, Kresten and Ratner’s most effective efforts were in the areas of print advertising and printed promotional materials directed to the advertising community. Their work consistently reflected the upscale image that Paley demanded to combat NBC’s head start and prestige.
One of those print ads ran near the end of Network Radio‘s Golden Age in August, 1950. It was directed to time buyers and sold CBS Package Programs - shows created in-house by the network. The ad only ran once in Billboard. But it made such a claim for one or more of its programs that it begs for a followup - even now, 64 years later. It‘s fun to learn how even the pros can be so wrong at the text and audio post, Unwrapping CBS Package Shows.
NOT EVERYTHING IS always what it seems to be. Take Major Bowes’ Original Amateur Hour, for example. His claim to a military title was a stretch, the show wasn’t original, the contestants weren’t all amateurs and the show was only 30 minutes long for its final three seasons.
Most importantly, The Original Amateur Hour was more than a weekly show that burst on the scene in 1934 to become America‘s most popular radio program. It was a small industry that employed hundreds of workers all over the country. While Bowes made as much as two million dollars a year running the enterprise, it was also the cause of heartache and despair for thousands while entertaining millions. All of this is explained in the post, Major Bowes’ Original Money Machine.
THANKS TO YOU this site's popularity continues to grow. The 2014 total passed 36,000 visitors and 42,000 page hits on October 1st - not bad for a historical website focused on an era that ended over 60 years ago. To understand our thinking behind the book and this website, posted below is an audio post of my reading the forward to Network Radio Ratings, 1932-1953.