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.

Friday, May 18, 2007

"Well, Sir, Miss Bankhead . . . ": The Way It Was, 18 May

1902---He will grow up to become the Music Man, thanks to the musical hit of the same name . . . but first, he will become known for several old-time radio contributions---including Burns & Allen's Maxwell House Coffee Time (on which he also pries romantic hints from his hosts); his own summer replacement for Fibber McGee & Molly in the early 1940s; and, as musical director for The Big Show, where he will become as familiar for his replies to Dame Tallulah ("Well, sir, Miss Bankhead . . . ") as for his exuberant orchestra and chorus.

Even before those achievements, however, he needs to be born in the first place---as Meredith Willson is, today, in Mason City, Iowa.


1943: THE ABC MURDERS---And they're not exactly as simple as A-B-C (or N-B-C, or C-B-S), either, kiddies, not when it comes to a mild-mannered traveler (Charles Laughton) with those very initials who may be suspected of at least some involvement in a round of particularly savage---and alphabetically arranged---killings . . . neither in the Agatha Christie original, nor tonight's adaptation for Suspense. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Elsa Lanchester, Branwell Fletcher. Adapted for radio by Robert Talman and William Spear.

1945: ARCHIE'S RAISE---That would be the raise he does get, as opposed to the raise he'd like to get, on tonight's edition of Duffy's Tavern. (CBS.)

Archie: Ed Gardner. Eddie: Eddie Green. Finnegan: Charles Cantor. Miss Duffy: Possibly Florence Halop. Writers: Ed Gardner, Abe Burrows, possibly Larry Gelbart.


1892---Ezio Pinza (operatic tenor: The Telephone Hour; Ezio Pinza's Children's Show; Stagestruck; The Big Show), Rome.
1897---Frank Capra (director: Gulf Screen Theater; NBC Theater; Lux Radio Theater), Bisacquino, Sicily.
1900---Raymond Paige (conductor: Hollywood Hotel; Musical Americana; Stage Door Canteen), Wausau, Wisconsin.
1904---Fred Shields (actor: Tarzan), Kansas City.
1907---Sir Clifford Curzon (pianist: March of Dimes), London.
1908---Ted Malone (commentator: Between the Bookends; Pilgrimage of Poetry), Colorado Springs.
1912---Perry Como (as Pierino Ronald Como; singer: The Chesterfield Supper Club; The Perry Como Program), Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.
1922---Bill Macy (as Wolf Marvin Gabler; actor: Earplay), Revere, Massachussetts; Kai Winding (jazz trombonist: One Night Stand; Jubilee), Aarhus, Denmark.
1924---Jack Whitaker (disc jockey/sportscaster: Jack the Bachelor; Sports Shorts), Philadelphia.
1931---Robert Morse (actor: The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), Newton, Iowa.
1936---Joel Kupperman (panelist: The Quiz Kids), Chicago.


Blogger The Great Gildersleeve said...

Meredith Willson, I'll make assumptions here that, it's a name not really known over here(I'll admit)to knowing him more because of his appearances on US Radio as a conductor/arranger but the fact that he would often take part in the programmes and do some banter with the artists named on the credits as the stars.

Its probably for those reasons I realise how important he was to the musical culture of the USA. The Big Show probably just about the last attempt by radio to give a star studded entertainment programme on radio. Interesting that Bankhead was chosen as the host/ess. Not sure what is the correct term these days now that even female actresses like to be called actors.

I'll digress(briefly)I'm catching up on things as my computer has been out of action for a week and then after whatever I did to get it working failed, the repairman turns up with a powerpack and he presses the button on the pc case and it powers up as though nothing was wrong(and makes me look stupid)

Technology eh? I tried that myself...honest. Well, it may just push me into getting a new pc or at least going onto broadband...

4:55 PM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

Good to see you back, Gildy. But, actually, if we classic radio lovers weren't keeping his name and work alive, Meredith Willson would probably be remembered best for The Music Man---from which stage/subsequent film musical sprang the ballad introducing which, on the 1963 Royal Variety Performance, Paul McCartney noted the song's author and show of origin and that it had been covered by "our favourite American group, Sophie Tucker"---who was also on the bill with the Beatles that memorable night, if I'm not mistaken.--- Jeff

5:02 PM  
Blogger The Great Gildersleeve said...

Of course I think, the Beatles recorded one of his songs that may've been from that musical "Till There was You" McCartney on lead vocal...

Of course Meredith I seem to remember mentioned that he started off playing in or with John Phillip Sousa who is responsible for those wonderful marches.

6:35 AM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

Willson began his career as a flutist/piccolo player in the Sousa band for about three years before he joined the New York Philharmonic when Toscanini conducted the orchestra. He stayed there for four years, moved to San Francisco to become KFRC radio's concert director, then joined the full NBC network as musical director. And, in due course, his work for Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator was nominated for an Oscar.

His stage success didn't stop with The Music Man; in 1960 came his second musical, The Unsinkable Molly Brown . . .

8:39 AM  

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