Jeff Kallman's excellent The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio
is a wonderful place to spend hours on end, rediscovering the Golden Age of Radio
as it's meant to be discovered and celebrated. Article after article
is filled with a wonderful new vignette about Golden Age Radio History.
---The Digital Deli Online.

[I]n his matchless on-this-day approach to chronicling “yesteryear,”
he easily aces out a less organized mind like mine,
which promptly lapsed into a more idiosyncratic mode of relating the past.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

"Anything You Can Do To Help Me Earn an Honest Living . . ."

Those among us whose classic radio libraries include The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show must have been surprised and charmed to discover additional treats with about half the episodes available from the show's final season: the tapes were rolling, apparently, from the moment announcer Bill Forman introduced Phil Harris to warm up the show's studio audience for about ten minutes prior to the actual transcription performance.

Written in part, presumably, by longtime show writers Ray Singer and Dick Chevillat (the team left the show during 1953-54, succeeded by a group headed by Ed James), the Harris warmup varied only in tiny places throughout the season. Given that, it's reasonable to wonder (I have yet to see formal documentation) whether there was a rule (either the show's or NBC's) that you could get tickets to only one show performance a season.

The warmup---Forman's standard introduction suggests Harris only became the audience warmup during that final season---wasn't exactly aimed at transcending comedy. But it was a pleasant routine in which you could hear Harris (ordinarily a soft-spoken, comparatively modest man, according to radio historian Gerald S. Nachman) rounding himself into his on-air persona.

Based on the surviving show recordings, and following the cast (Harris, Faye, Jeanine Roos, Anne Whitfield, Walter Tetley, and Elliott Lewis) introducing announcer Forman, here is the Phil Harris audience warmup, beginning with Forman's introduction.

BILL FORMAN: First of all, I'd like to welcome you good people here on behalf of our sponsor. We are one of the few remaining radio shows that's lucky enough to have a sponsor. So, if you enjoy yourselves during the next half hour, you can do us all a big favour, if you would, and that is, sometime this week, stop by your neighbourhood RCA Victor dealer and pick up a 27-inch television set, or a record changer---something! Because we'd like to be working up here next year at this time.

I don't know whether you know it or not, but this year, in every place but Los Angeles, we are now heard following Bob Hope on Friday nights. And, of course, as you know, this year Phil is on his own, so what do you say we all get together and give a real warm welcome to the man who discovered the South---Phil Harris! Let's hear it---

MUSIC: (over applause; extract from "Rose Room," the secondary theme of The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show)

PHIL HARRIS: Good afternoon, everybody. I can't tell ya how much it means to me to have me come out here, after all these years, all by myself, and you're all applauding and got those smiles on your faces, you're glad to see me, and I just want to tell you I love you for it because I need it.

I was with Jack Benny for sixteen years, and there ain't no money connected with that job. All he does on Saturday is take you into a dark room, give you one fast chorus of "Love in Bloom," and you've had it, dad. So anything you can do to help me earn an honest living, I'm ready.

I got off to a bad start because they told me when I married Alice that she had money, but I'll be damned if I can find it. I've looked everywhere. They told me her brother might have it, I lived with him for two weeks---nothin', ain't got nothin'.

I'm awfully happy that you're here this afternoon, but I do wantcha to laugh, if you will---for God's sake, laugh, because I've seen myself in television and, uhhh . . . uhhh . . .

And I'm happy to see all you fellas here in uniform. And I want you to know that anytime we got guys from the service here, we're very happy, because we're partial to 'em. They're a great audience, and they have a lot of fun, especially you guys in the sailor suits, because I've got to go with you. Because I was in the Navy during the last war myself. And I'm with you, Mac. I fought the Battle of Catalina . . . you're laughin', but we lost eight lobster traps over there.

They had a very unique way of selecting their enlisted men when I went into the Navy---according to what they'd done in private life. I thought it was very cute. For instance, I went in with a couple of buddies of mine. One of them was a street cleaner and they put him on a minesweeper. Another guy was a construction guy, he tore down buildings and everything, he took 'em off, and they put him on a destroyer. How I ever wound up on a ferry boat . . .(laughter drowns out the finish) . . . Now, that's the way you're supposed to laugh! Now we're rollin'.

Hey, did you hear the story about the guy who walked up to the barber shop, a guy walked up to the barber shop and said, 'How many ahead of me?' The barber says, 'two.' The guy went out and never came back. So the guy came in the next day, said, 'How many ahead of me?' Barber says, 'three,' the guy walked out.

So now the barber's goin' nuts. You know, them guys stand around on their feet all day, them scissors clinkin' . . . so the guy's gettin' a little irritated. He goes over to the bootblack and says, 'Every day a guy comes in, wants to know how many ahead, I tell him, he goes out, he don't come back.' He says, 'If he does it tomorrow, follow him, I wanta know.'

The guy came in the next day, walked up to the barber, he says, 'How many ahead of me?' The barber says, 'three.' The guy went out, the bootblack followed him, and the bootblack came back in about twenty minutes. And the barber says, 'Where'd he go? Where'd he go?' And the bootblack says, 'To your house.' (Laughter.)

You can take the cage away---I made good.

Here's a story about a drunk that fell out of this twelfth-story window. This guy's blind drunk, he falls outta this twelfth-story window---boom! He's on the ground, a big crowd comes around, he got up, brushed himself off, some fella walked up and says, 'What happened?' And he says, 'Damned if I know, I just got here!' (Laughter, applause.) Now, we're goin', now we're rollin'.

Two drunks walkin' down the railroad tracks---blind. Oh, they're whiffin' it down . . . two wine jobs . . . and they're goin' down like this . . . (Harris apparently imitated a staggering drunk step) . . . and one of them looked at the other one and said, 'Man, this is the longest staircase I ever came down in my life!' (Laughter.) The other one said, 'I don't mind that, it's these low bannisters!'(Laughter.)

You know somethin', ladies and gentlemen, you're a nice audience. Just stay that way, will ya? Don't put me in television!

From which point Harris would slide toward acknowledging key members of cast and crew, including certain musical personalities who might have been working in the Harris band (led on the show by Walter Sharp; at one point, steel guitarist and former big bandleader Alvino Rey and Dixieland cornet virtuoso Red Nichols sat in with the band), and invariably introducing diminutive Walter Tetley as "the little fella who steals our show every week."

Needless to say, he had a special introduction for Alice Faye. Without her, it wouldn't be possible. I'm not going into a big eulogy. I'm just going to tell ya I've been married to her for twelve years, we have two wonderful children, she's not only the most beautiful gal in the world but this kid's got talent, too.

You can take the cage away. He made it good.


Blogger The Great Gildersleeve said...

Thanks for the dialogue of Harris' warm up, the versions I have heard were so off mike it really was a struggle to hear it...

There is as I am sure you know station in the New York area also avaialble on line for something like 5 hours every evening. Unfortunately quality is not too good online and the time difference means here you are listening between 1am - 6am(I think)which does not please the ISP and its a difficult time.

That must be fun having access to that, they have one hell of a library of stuff too.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

Gildy---What is the station? I live in California but I could listen to them online for a tick. Let me know.---Jeff

12:26 PM  
Blogger The Great Gildersleeve said...

I used to get e-mails from some of the engineers who were intrigued that someone in the UK was tuning in nightly and the programme controller once referred to my listening. I really should get back to listening again, maybe sometime I will...its been a few years...


I think you'll enjoy it...when I first listened all transmissions were as heard on the radio...then they would drop in an announcement on the stream appealing for donations. Which I can understand...

4:37 PM  
Blogger The Great Gildersleeve said...

Further investigation suggests that WRVO has cut back on some of their output.

I have also found this station doing a lot of otr but have not checked yet whether its streaming its output online.


5:08 PM  

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