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.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

"Folks, Listen For the Boom of the Ol' Bass Drum": The Way It Was, 28 January

1940---With Garry Moore as the host, Ted Weems (with whose band Perry Como---part of the show, too---first becomes a singing star), Marvel Maxwell also doing the singing, General Mills (promoting their new corn cereal, Kix) as the original sponsor, and Ford Bond as the original announcer, Beat the Band premieres out of Chicago on NBC.

Listeners receive ten dollars if their question is used on the air, and the answer is always the title of a song. If they can beat the band they land twenty dollars and a case of Kix, with the musicians who miss the answer having to “feed the kitty”---tossing half dollars onto the bass drum, with the musician scoring the most points answering the listeners’ questions getting to take the money home.

Folks, listen for the boom of the ol’ bass drum---that means the question beat the band.---Country Washburn, bassist with the Weems orchestra.

There is, of course, more, as explained by Moore on the 7 April 1940 broadcast, after explaining the twenty dollars and case of Kix.

But, now, that sum may be much more, because we have a hundred dollar bonus which is divided equally among those who beat the band. For example, if four persons beat the band, they receive twenty-five dollars, plus ten for the question. However, if only one person beats the band, that person receives the full one hundred dollars, ten for the question, and the case of Kix.

Beat the Band will expire in 1941, but it will be revived in 1943, out of New York, with "The Incomparable Hildegarde" (Walter Winchell hung that tag upon the famed cabaret/supper club singer) as hostess, Harry Sosnik joining Ted Weems in handling the music, Marilyn Thorne joining Marvel Maxwell in the singing, and a slight change in the rules, tied to the new sponsor, Raleigh cigarettes.

Listeners sent in musical questions and it was up to the band to identify songs from a few clues. Prizes of twenty-five dollars and a carton of the sponsor’s cigarettes . . . went to contestants whose questions did not beat the band. If the question did beat the band, the contestant received fifty dollars and two cartons of cigarettes, and the boys in the band had to throw a pack of cigarettes "on the old bass drum for the men in service overseas."

---Frank Buxton and Tim Owen, The Big Broadcast 1920-1950. (New York: Avon, 1971.)

A typical musical question might be something such as, "What song title tells you what Cinderella might have said if she awoke one morning and found that her foot had grown too large for the glass slipper?" (The correct answer, by the way, is, "Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?")

A classic question, all things considered, will be this from a listener in Hopkins, Minnesota, also on the 7 April 1940 show: “If Joe DiMaggio hits sixty-one home runs this summer, what would Babe Ruth’s present mark represent?” The correct musical answer: “Broken Record,” then a novelty hit.

The second Beat the Band expires in 1944. But in one sense it will have a kind of afterlife, by way of Hildegarde's catch-phrase, "Give me a little traveling music, Harry." Jackie Gleason will appropriate the phrase for his popular Saturday night television show: breaking off his opening monologue and calling to his bandleader, Sammy Spear, "A little travelin' music, Sam!"---before dancing crazily enough from center stage to the left rear wing, where he claps once and thrusts a hand away from his girth, hollering, "And a-waaay we go!"


1948: THE RADIO SHOW---Looking for a second income because his regular job isn't paying him quite enough, Dennis (Day) mulls a chance to write and perform in a radio show, on tonight's edition of A Day in the Life of Dennis Day. (NBC.) Also starring: Barbara Eiler, Bea Benaderet, Dick Trout, John Brown.

1948: THREE GOOD WITNESSES---Alone and unarmed crossing Turkey on the Taurus Express train, a State Department oil investigator (Morgan Foley) eager to return to return home to California has more than he can handle eluding a nonchalant killer, on tonight's edition of Escape. (CBS.) Adapted by John Dunkel from a story by Harold Lamb. Additional cast: Jack Webb (as Tom Hetfield), Jeanette Nolan (as Mary), Harry Bartel (as Kiborkian).

1953: A STUDY IN OILS---The FBI can't back Matt Cvetic (Dana Andrews)'s latest Party assignment---softening a wealthy, anti-Communist oilman out of some of the yield from government-land oil leases---until he learns more about why the Party really needs the oil. Adding to his dilemna: Comrade Horstin sending him to meet the oilman with an odd oil painting as a kind of introduction, on tonight's episode of I Was a Communist For the FBI. (Syndicated.)

1954: TRASH CAN LIDS---They've been crushed once too often by careless neighbourhood garbagemen for Jim's (Robert Young) taste. That's why being interrupted by Bud's (Ted Donaldson) sudden interest in telepathy isn't have as frustrating as the sanitation representative blaming the Andersons for the problem, on tonight's episode of Father Knows Best. (NBC.) Also starring: Jean Vander Pyl (the future Wilma Flintstone), Rhoda Williams, Norma Jean Nilsson.


1882---Richard Barrows (actor: Death Valley Days, Ellery Queen, Second Husband), Buffalo, New York.
1910---Arnold Moss (actor: Against the Storm, Big Sister)
1911---Donald Briggs (actor: The Adventures of Frank Merriwell), Chicago.
1912---Monty Masters (actor-producer: The Mad Masters; actor: Candy Matson), New Haven, Connecticut.
1914---Nelson Olmstead (actor: Bachelor's Children), Minnesota.
1935---Nicholas Pryor (actor: CBS Radio Mystery Theater), Baltimore.


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