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, March 20, 2007

Home of the Hits: The Way It Was, 20 March

1935---Making its own survey of best-selling records, best-selling sheet music, and most-often-played jukebox selections, then performing them weekly with a small host of singers and musicians, Your Hit Parade premieres on NBC, launching an old-time radio life whose height will end when first television and then rock and roll make it seem quaint and corny at least, and irrelevant at worst.

For fifteen years, its rotating cast of regular singers and musicians, led memorably (beginning in 1943) by Frank Sinatra at the height of his and its popularity, Your Hit Parade presents itself as an accurate call on American popular musical taste in spite of its reluctance to disclose details as to just how it makes the determinations once they get the results from their weekly tabulations.

The Chairman of the Board will be only the most famed and successful of the performers who put in time on the show, or whose careers were boosted if not made by it. Other Your Hit Parade vocalists will include pop, stage, film, and jazz stars such as Bonnie Baker, Buddy Clark, Doris Day, Georgia Gibbs, Dick Haymes, Giselle MacKenzie, Johnny Mercer (also a songwriting titan), Lanny Ross, Andy Russell, Dinah Shore, Martha Tilton (who became a singing star through her work with Benny Goodman's jazz orchestra), and Bea Wain.

Bandleaders who led the show's Lucky Strike Dance Orchestra (named, as if you hadn't figured it out for yourselves, for the show's sponsor) will include several classic radio mainstays, such as Al Goodman (in due course Fred Allen's music director), Freddie Rich (in due course Abbott & Costello's radio band), and Peter van Steeden (who will do music for Fred Allen and Duffy's Tavern in due course).

Another Your Hit Parade bandleader will be Axel Stordahl. What a surprise: Stordahl and Sinatra meet while Sinatra is Tommy Dorsey's featured singer and Stordahl one of Dorsey's house arrangers; when The Voice bolts the Dorsey organisation for a shot at a solo career, signing with Columbia Records, Stordahl---whose signature (but not exclusive*) style is rich, fluffy strings and slow, slower, slowest tempo---becomes his chief arranger.

Lucky Strike chieftain George Washington Hill will exercise long-term and strict control over the show's music, from personal approval of songs to be played on the show (perhaps regardless of their survey position beyond the top three) to how they will be played, including their tempo and their sound, which leads a few to accuse the show of homogeneity.

Hill's control could be and will be interrupted only by a performer of unquestioned popularity, such as Bea Wain (the show's breakout singing star from 1939-44; she insists that ballads be played at their accurate tempo) or Frank Sinatra. (When he returns in 1946, following a brief hiatus and teaming at times with Doris Day, he takes control over any material he's assigned---until 1949, when he leaves after producers try forcing him to sing novelty songs that nauseate him, an argument similar to the one that helps end his relationship with Columbia Records in due course.)

The Sinatra period will also provoke another change: ticket scalping to his hysterical bobbysoxer fans will become rampant enough---and their studio screaming will annoy listeners just enough---that Hill imposes a policy of restricting tickets to those 21 and older.

Known rarely if at all for between-song patter, Your Hit Parade will break the pattern a time or three during its peak radio years, particularly in 1938, when the show features brief comic sketches teaming W.C. Fields with radio stalwarts Hanley Stafford (Baby Snooks), Elvia Allman (numerous roles, numerous shows), and Walter Tetley (Town Hall Tonight, The Great Gildersleeve, The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show).

Wain (whose husband was the show's announcer, Andre Baruch) will also cop to one of Your Hit Parade's legends: the show is secretive about how it tabulates the actual standing of the songs featured each week, but especially does it keep the top three songs of the week from the singers and musicians until practically showtime.

Not even we on the show ever knew what numbers one, two, and three would be. They were legit surveys. We weren't told until the dress rehearsal that day.---Bea Wain, to historian Gerald Nachman.

Your Hit Parade will manage to stay on radio until 1959, nine years after the show moves to television.


1935: LUM GIVES UP THE TRAPEZE ACT---Rounding up a working circus after partner Abner (Norris Goff) blundered his way into a stableful of animals enough to produce one is one thing, but Lum (Chester Lauck) doesn't exactly float through the air with the greatest of ease, after he lets shifty Squire Skimp (also Goff) talk him into giving it a try as the none-too-daring, none-too-young man on the flying trapeze, on today's edition of Lum & Abner. (NBC.) Writers: Chester Lauck and Norris Goff.

1949: 113.5---Holliday (Alan Ladd) seems to be going in circles over a nervous woman (Lurene Tuttle) who wants her brother found before someone can kill him, and a dubious private investigator whose licence was revoked and also wants him found fast, on tonight's edition of Box 13. (Mutual.) Additional cast: Sylvia Packer, Edmund McDowell, Alan Reed. Writer: Arthur Bolling.

1949: THE SMELL OF HIGH WINES---They're not necessarily sweet for a one-time distillery worker (Ernest Chappell, who also narrates) haunted by the night the high wines' fragrances overpowered him---when he found a desk worker dead, on tonight's edition of Quiet, Please. (ABC.) Writer: Wyllis Cooper.


1890---Lauritz Melchior (vocal tenor: Magic Key, Metropolitan Opera Broadcast, Voice of Firestone, Texaco Star Theater with Fred Allen, Duffy's Tavern, The Big Show), Copenhagen.
1903---Edgar Buchanan (actor: Lux Radio Theater, Suspense), Humansville, Missouri.
1906---Ozzie Nelson (as Oswald George Nelson; bandleader: The Red Skelton Show; actor, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Fred Allen Show, The Big Show), Jersey City.
1908---Stuart Metz (announcer: Pepper Young's Family, Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons), Buffalo, New York; Kermit Murdock (actor: Whisper Men), Pittsburgh.
1912---Sarah Burton (actress: Mrs. Miniver, Against the Storm), London.
1913---Judith Evelyn (actress: Mrs. Miniver, Helpmate), Seneca, South Dakota; Kenny Gardner (singer: The Guy Lombardo Show, Your Hit Parade), Lakeview, Iowa.
1914---Wendell Corey (actor: McGarry and His Mouse), Dracut, Montana.
1918---Marian McPhartland (jazz pianist: Marian McPhartland's Piano Jazz), Stough, U.K.
1918---Jack Barry (actor: It's the Barrys; announcer: Uncle Don; M.C.: The Joe DiMaggio Show, Juvenile Jury, Life Begins at 80), Lindehurst, Long Island (New York).
1922---Carl Reiner (comedian: The Curse, Sounds of Freedom), Bronx, New York.
1922---Ray Goulding (comedian: Matinee with Bob & Ray, Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network, The Bob & Ray Show), Lowell, Massachussetts; Jack Kruschen (actor: Broadway is My Beat), Winnipeg, Manitoba.
1924---Philip Abbott (actor: Family Theater), Lincoln, Nebraska.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home