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.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Three Not-So-Little Letters: The Way It Was, 29 March

1924---Having assumed operating control of Chicago radio station WJAZ the day before, and shifting the frequency from 670 AM to 810 AM, the Chicago Tribune changes the call letters to WGN and begins broadcasting as such today.

According to a well-composed timeline of WGN history, The first day's schedule under its new call letters includes Chicago Mayor William E. Dever, opera star Edith Mason, and jazz by Ted Fio Roto conducting the Oriole Orchestra, not to mention a five-hour experiment---pre-arranged to be heard in Australia and New Zealand.

Before the 1920s finish, however, WGN will have launched one of the most successful old-time radio programs in history---though its stubbornness will prevent it from reaping the major share of that success.

Fool enough to lose it rival WMAQ (owned by newspaper rival the Chicago Daily News---and an NBC affiliate in the bargain), when it denies the show's creators their request to syndicate it over a series of stations around the Midwest, and to refuse the creators the rights to the show's actual name, WGN misses the big bonanza when a slightly revamped Sam 'n' Henry relaunches on WMAQ---as Amos 'n' Andy.

But WGN will launch other successes, including America's first known soap opera, Painted Dreams, created by WGN staff actress Irna Phillips, in 1930.* WGN and other Chicago stations, in fact, will help make Chicago the major home of radio soaps---and, at least as profoundly, the national launch site for no few classic comedies, as witness Easy Aces, Vic & Sade and Fibber McGee & Molly, to name merely two---until World War II concludes.

And, in 1934, a decade after signing on as WGN, the future radio and television independent and superstation will become a co-founding station of the Mutual Broadcasting System.

*--- WGN would prove with Irna Phillips what it didn't learn from Sam 'n' Henry. Phillips, too, hopes to syndicate her soap to several Midwestern stations, and WGN likewise will tell her no. Phillips, however, will claim herself the owner of the show and take the station to court, winning her argument by 1938.

But in the interim, she leaves WGN and creates a none-too-subtly-disguised new version of her first creation, a soap called Today's Children. The home of her new creation? None other than NBC affiliate WMAQ.


1940: NO TRIP TO CHICAGO---Speaking of classic radio shows launched nationally from Chicago, it looks as though fidgety, giggling Vic (Art Van Harvey) isn't even close to going to Chicago, if Sade (Bernadine Flynn) can help it, not even on business---she thinks his day's jaunt is an angle to get out of going to the Stembottoms' little house party, on today's edition of Vic & Sade. (NBC.) Additional cast: Bill Idelson. Writer: Paul Rhymer.

1948: THE LADY KILLER---Caroline Giles's (uncredited but possibly Mercedes McCambridge) first night in her new husband's proves a rather unsettling one---especially when rocks are thrown through windows, and the mayor and police chief tell her things about which she isn't especially happy to learn---especially the killings for which her husband (Everett Sloane) was acquitted two years earlier, on tonight's edition of The Inner Sanctum Mysteries. (CBS; Armed Forces Radio Service rebroadcast.)


1888---Earle Ross (actor: The Great Gildersleeve), Illinois.
1890---Joe Cook (comedian: Shell Chateau, House Party), Evansville, Indiana.
1891---Warner Baxter (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Columbus, Ohio.
1899---Clifford Goldsmith (writer/creator, The Aldrich Family), Aurora, New York.
1902---Onslow Stevens (actor: Great Plays), Los Angeles.
1905---Philip Ahn (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Los Angeles.
1906---E. Power Biggs (classical organist: The Organ Program), Westcliff, U.K.
1914---Phil Foster (comedian/actor: What's With Hubert, The Big Show), New York City.
1918---Pearl Bailey (singer/actress: Kraft Music Hall), Newport News, Virginia.
1919---Eileen Heckart (actress: Cloak and Dagger, The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), Columbus, Ohio.
1924---Ginger and Jean Dinning (singers: The Dinning Sisters, The Eddy Arnold Show), Braman, Kentucky.


CAROL RICHARDS---84; singer, who appeared regularly on the latter-day editions of Don McNeil's long-running, popular Chicago morning program, The Breakfast Club, but is remembered best for her duets with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby on the Christmas classic, "Silver Bells." Heart disease, Vero Beach, Florida, 16 March.

Richards debuted "Silver Bells" with Hope in his 1951 film, The Lemon Drop Kid, but she joined Crosby to make it a popular and enduring hit with their subsequent recording.

Hope gave Richards her first break in 1946, when she won a singing contest he promoted and began working television with Hope and Crosby, before becoming a regular on the 1950s television show hosted by Crosby's younger brother, Bob. She was also known for dubbing the singing of several actresses, including Cyd Charisse (in Brigadoon and Silk Stockings), and her television work also included appearances with Danny Kaye and Jerry Lewis.

Richards gave up her Breakfast Club appearances when she married her fifth husband, Edward Sweidler, in 1966; he survives her along with her five childen, six stepchildren, and numerous grand- and great-grandchildren.


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