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.

Monday, July 28, 2008

"Heigh-Ho, Everybody!": The Way It Was, 28 July

1901---Future "cheerleading, flapper-chasing, raccoon coat-wearing Yalie" Rudy Vallee is born in Island Pond, Vermont, destined to reach fame as a megaphone-whispering crooner and, arguably, the first genuine old-time radio variety megastar, after he establishes himself as a host-impresario first with The Eveready Hour (born in 1923) and, especially, with The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour, which will premiere two days after the stock market crash of 1929.

Vallee was the first Ed Sullivan, whose power and influence in the 1930s equaled that of the real Sullivan on TV and Florenz Ziegfeld on Broadway. He was a Sol Hurok of the air responsible for launching as many major radio careers as anybody in show business. By the early 1930s, his show had replaced the Palace Theater as the prestige booking of vaudeville. It was the first show to revolve around a single host. With his curiously appealing pinched voice, Valle parlayed a mediocre house band at the Heigh Ho Club (hence his famous opening) into a dominant position as a star and pop hitmaker . . .

Because NBC, Vallee's network, was then the only coast-to-coast hookup, virtually any new song he performed on his show became an instant hit . . . When Vallee introduced a new singer, like Alice Faye, people listened seriously. He first brought Johnny Mercer's name to the airwaves with a rendition of "Lazybones" sung with black inflections . . .

A notorious ladies' man, Vallee would pluck girls out of a chorus line and give them a chance. He spotted Alice Faye in the chorus of George White's Scandals . . . Needing a girl singer, Vallee had an affair with Alice Faye that ended his marriage and then hired her, although he'd only heard her perform solo at a cast party, where he was smitten by her imitation of Maurice Chevalier singing "Mimi" . . .

Rudy Vallee was merely the most resourceful of the big bandleaders who took to radio in the 1930s. Most were content simply to set up shop and play.

---Gerald Nachman, in "For Your Listening and Dancing Pleasure," in Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon, 1998.)

To name a few, Vallee will give the first old-time radio exposure to these lights among others, either making them stars or giving them the early cred upon which to build what leads to their own eventual stardom: Larry Adler, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Milton Berle, Victor Borge, Fanny Brice (whose Baby Snooks first turned up on the Vallee show), Burns and Allen, Eddie Cantor, Noel Coward, Ed Gardner, Dolores Grey, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Mel Torme, and Orson Welles.


2004: FAREWELL, JACKSON---Veteran old-time radio and cartoon voice actor Jackson Beck---he who first hollered, "It's a bird! It's a plane!" as part of the introduction to the original radio serial, The Adventures of Superman, dies at age 92.

Cartoon fans remember him as the voice of Bluto during the Paramount/Famous Studios editions of Popeye, the Sailor, but Jackson Beck's old-time radio cred included Brownstone Theater; Casey, Crime Photographer; The Cisco Kid (the title role); Dimension X; The FBI in Peace and War; Hop Harrigan; Joe and Ethel Turp; The Man Behind the Gun; March of Time; Mark Trail; The Milton Berle Show; Myrt & Marge; The Mysterious Traveler; Philo Vance (also the title role); and, The Timid Soul . . . to name a few.

Beck was also known to do voices for children's recordings of the late 1950s and early 1960s, including such stories as "The Little Red Caboose" (narrating), "Little Toot" (portraying the plucky little tugboat's father), and "The Little Engine That Could" (portraying a diesel engine) on an album (for Diplomat Records) named after the third of those stories.


1892---Joe E. Brown (comedian/host: Ceiling Unlimited; The Joe E. Brown Show; Stop or Go), Holgate, Ohio.
1910---Frank Loesser (composer: Cavalcade for Victory; The Abe Burrows Show; Heartbeat of Broadway), New York City.
1911---Ann Doran (actress: Lux Radio Theater), Amarillo, Texas.
1912---George Cisar (actor: Tina and Tim), Illinois.
1914---Carmen Dragon (conductor: Maxwell House Coffee Time; The Baby Snooks Show; The Railroad Hour), Antioch, California.
1915---Frankie Yankovic (bandleader: Frankie Yankovic and His Yanks; Guest Star Time), unknown.
1916---Laird Cregar (actor: Hello, Americans; Suspense), Philadelphia.
1931---Darryl Hickman (actor: Family Theater), Hollywood.
1937---Peter Duchin (pianist/conductor: Stars for Defense), New York City.


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