Showing posts with label NBC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NBC. Show all posts

Saturday, June 24, 2017

June 24: Happy Birthday, Phil Harris


The persona Phil Harris created on the radio was one who was easy to like. He was a happy-go-lucky hep cat who never met a bottle or a pretty girl that he didn't like. By reputation, he made acquaintances with plenty of both. Most of all, the radio Phil Harris was easy to like because he was a fundamentally happy fellow, as willing to laugh at himself as he was to laugh at those around him.

When your boss is Jack Benny, of course, there is plenty around you to laugh at. Phil is best remembered as one of Benny's many “second bananas”, although he had a relatively successful career beyond the Jack Benny Program. He was never quite a superstar, but that seems to have been just alright with him.
On June 24, 1904, Wonga Philip Harris was born to circus performers Harry and Dollie Harris in Linton, Indiana. Harry, a circus band leader, taught the lad to play several instruments and gave his son his first gig, playing drums under the big top. The boy played in movie houses in his hometown, but got into music in a big way when the family settled in Nashville. He dropped the Wonga and played around the South with his band, the Dixie Syncopators. Eventually, Phil found his way to the West coast, leading the house band at San Francisco's St. Francis Hotel, and later headlining at L.A.'s Cocoanut Grove nightclub at the Ambassador Hotel in 1932.

In 1936, Harris was hired as the musical director for The Jello Program Starring Jack Benny. It became apparent off the air that Phil could handle a snappy comeback, so Jack encouraged his writers to give him more lines. The character developed for Phil was above remembering names and had nicknames for most of the principals on the show. He always greeted the boss with “Hiya Jackson” and Mary Livingstone became “Livvy”. On Phil's first appearance, Jack describes him as a good looking fellow, the kind of guy you can trust with your best girl, if you can trust your best girl!

The real success in Phil Harris's life was his marriage to actress Alice Faye. Alice was one of Darryl F. Zanuck's protégées, one of 20th Century Fox's most dependable money makers. Faye and Harris first met on the Rudy Vallee's Fleischmann Hour in in 1932. Although they were both married to other people at the time, Harris got in a fist fight at the Trocadero nightclub in 1938, defending Faye's honor. After they both divorced the couple was married in 1941. Phil and the whole band joined the Merchant Marine during the War while Alice continued her movie career.

The movie career soured during Faye's last picture with Fox. Zanuck was grooming another protege, and ordered many of Faye's scenes cut to cast a better light on the new girl. Alice was so upset that after the screening, she got into her car, drove off the lot and left the key to her dressing room with the guard at the gate. Her movie fans begged her to come back, but Alice found plenty to do, learning to run a household and raising the Harris kids (Phil Jr, adopted during Phil's first marriage, and daughters Alice and Phyllis) and running a household. She was still able to work with Phil in radio on The Fitch Bandwagon. The program was a showcase for big bands, including Harris's, but with the addition of Alice it became a delightful family situation comedy.

The Fitch Bandwagon morphed into the Phil Harris/Alice Faye Show when a new sponsor, Rexall Drugs, came on board. The Harris' essentially played themselves, and the shows featured a song from each of them each week. The show was often in the top 10, and may have actually increased Alice's popularity after she left the movie business.

Phil remained part of the Jack Benny Program. There was a scheduling conflict when Jack left NBC for CBS. Phil would only appear during the first half of Jack's show, then left the studio to walk over to NBC for his own show. In 1952, Bob Crosby took over as Jack's music director. There was some talk of bringing the Phil Harris/Alice Faye Show to TV, but the Harris' were not particularly interested.

Phil had a small part in the 1954 John Wayne film, The High and The Mighty. He also took his talents to the Disney Studios, appearing as Baloo the Bear in The Jungle Book and Abraham de Lacey Giuseppe Casey Thomas O'Malley the alley cat in The Aristocats.

Phil Harris died of a heart attack at his home in Rancho Mirage, in 1995. Alice had Phil's remains cremated, and kept them near her for the rest of her life. After her passing, she was also cremated, and they now share a space in the mausoleum at Forest Lawn. Two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame honor Phil Harris, at 6508 Hollywood Blvd for his work in recording and at 6651 Hollywood Blvd for his contributions to radio.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

April 24: X Minus One Debuts



The 1990s industrial rock band Rage Against the Machine might not have meant their name to be an homage to the classic radio gem X Minus One, but the phrase does do a good job of summing up the show's common story lines. On this revival of Dimension X, men fight computers and robots and are attacked by alien star fleets.


Today, 1955, marks the first time radio listeners got to hear the famous lines, "Countdown for blast off...three, two, X Minus One!" NBC launched (get the pun?) the series, with Don Pardo announcing as only he can.


Wendell Holmes, Ken Williams, and Luis Van Wooten starred in "No Contact" in which a space ship made a voyage toward a planet called Volta in a future time known as 1987.


Sources

radiogoldindex.com

otrcat.com

Thursday, June 18, 2015

June 18: Happy Birthday Kay Kyser (Kollege of Musical Knowledge)

James Kern Kyser was born June 18, 1905 and became one of the most notable bandleaders of the 30’s and 40’s. He...oh wait, you may know him by his other name, Kay Kyser...went onto become of the most respected and admired radio personalities of his day. Because of his energy and enthusiasm while in college, Kyser was asked to head up a band whose leader was moving on to other pursuits. As the new bandleader, Kay Kyser discovered his talent lay more in the announcing end of leading then trying to perform an instrument. Kyser would record a couple of hit pieces for Victor before becoming nationally acclaimed. As the band toured the country, Kay’s benchmark of turning playing music into quiz time for the audience, earned the band the name of the Kollege of Musical Knowledge. And as the “The Ol’ Perfessor”, Kyser would use his position to query and encourage the audience into dancing with phrases like, “C’mon chilluns, let’s dance”. By the late 30’s and in through the 40’s, the Kollege of Musical Knowledge was performing on radio for Mutual and NBC. The “Ol’ Professor” was calling out the quiz questions on the air just before hitting the band music for listeners everywhere. Jack Benny and Burns and Allen radio programs were some of the venues that had visits by The Kollege of Musical Knowledge. Hit instrumentalists like Sully Mason and Jack Martin were part of the band, which identified the unique calibre and personality of this travelling ensemble. Kay Kyser would take his band and fame into the movie industry and television. But his legacy as the travelling center of musical academia was his showpiece. Kay Kyser passed away in June of 1985. The “The Ol’ Perfessor” had ended his tenure.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

June 9, 2013: Happy Birthday Les Paul


If you are a guitarist and know what a “lick” or a “trill” is, than you undoubtedly know Les Paul. Les Paul, born in 1915, is the world’s most renown guitarist to date and influenced the work of many of the big names of today. In fact, Les Paul had an influence on guitars as the inventor of the full-body electric guitar. His playing style formula surpassed the guitarists of the day and drove towards innovations, such as the overlay of sound upon sound. In 1934, Paul got involved in radio with an interest in piano, but that changed and he became fascinated with the arena of the guitar. His jazz style drove him to form a band and he got a gig on Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians radio program.

During the 1940’s Paul had opportunity to perform with some of the big names like Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole  People were becoming more familiar with the music man and his variations on the traditional way of play. What was not lost was that Les Paul stepped out from the norm and created instruments that transitioned into the rock and roll realm of instrumental resonance. In the course of his life Les Paul was married twice and had four children, plus one adopted. His second wife, Mary Ford, became a part of his on-air presence when he hosted the Les Paul Show for NBC. Later, he moved the program from radio to television and renamed it the Les Paul and Mary Ford Show. Les Paul died in 2009 from complications with pneumonia.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

June 7: Happy Birthday, Jessica Tandy


The Oscar Award winning actress (Best Actress, "Driving Miss Daisy") Jessica Tandy was born on this day in 1909.  She reached adulthood and began her acting career in a world that was becoming familiar with broadcast radio, and she thrived in this new medium.

Those of you with the sharpest memories might recall her work on the NBC sustaining program "The Marriage," on which she played the wife of the character played by Hume Cronyn, her real-life second husband.

She also turned in sterling performances on The Lux Radio Theatre (as an intermission guest on "Presenting Lily Mars"), The Columbia Workshop (on "The Trojan Women"), and Great Plays (on "The Tempest").

A happy birthday to someone who thrilled audiences half a century before becoming Miss Daisy!

Friday, July 18, 2014

July 18: Happy Birthday, Richard Bernard "Red" Skelton


Richard Bernard “Red” Skelton came to be on July 18, 1913. This comedy genius made performing a part of his early years. If anything could be said suggest what began Skelton’s interest in performing it would have been his newspaper hawking days as a young boy. Red liked to patter off his “papers for sale” repeatedly until someone came by to buy his tabloid.  He was a classic buffoon inspired by his teens spent as a circus clown. By way of vaudeville and the stage, Skelton continued his artistry for undermining the ticket bone of Americans due his sixth sense for timing and ad-lib. As he grew, many of character creations (like Freddy the Freeloader) would make-up much of Skelton’s anthology of comic performance. Red Skelton made his appearance nationwide in films in 1932 when he came to Hollywood. After a couple of films, he made his entrance into radio 1937. he was such a hit from his first appearance on the Rudy Vallee Show, that he was asked to come back twice more to perform. Later he would host Avalon Time for NBC. By 1941 he was hosting a regular program on-air, The Raleigh Cigarettes Program; which had Ozzie Nelson and his band as the music accompaniment. Characters, such as Clem Kadiddlehopper and Junior, The Mean Widdle Kid, made their debut on this program. after a tour of duty during WWII, Skelton came back and did radio for a couple more years. He later performed on television and as a guest on a number of variety program. Red Skelton passed away in 1997 at the age of 84. With that passing went many of the memorable characters and laughs that only Red Skelton could convey.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 17, 1905:Happy Birthday, William Gargan


William (Bill) Gargan was born July 17, 1905. He would become one of America's most prolific choices for playing the tough private detective. Whether it was on the screen or radio, Gargan made an impression of the tough Irishman. Gargan’s on stage and screen work, in a way, resembled his activities in true life. After he finished school, Gargan dealt with bootleg whiskey during the Prohibition years.

 Later he got a job with a detective agency which may have added color to his years as a performer of law and crime. Truth of that fact played into one of his most popular portrayals, as Martin Kane, Private Eye. This ran from 1949-1951 on both radio and television. NBC radio brought gargan over to a similar radio detective from 1951-1955. This character was Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator.  In the Craig persona he narrated much of the radio series, adding extra color to the program.

The names may have changed but his performances of the tough determined detectives definitely carried similar impact. Many people will remember his as the affable Joe Gallagher on the Bells of St. Mary’s with Bing Crosby. His irish background added considerable effect to his many characters. He continued to perform over the years until 1960 when he was diagnosed with throat cancer and his larynx was removed. He passed away on 1973 while on a flight across country.

Monday, July 7, 2014

July, 7: Happy Birthday, Bill Stern

Early American baseball never had quite the voice it did in announcer Bill Stern.

Born on July 1, 1907, Bill Stern would lead a life of sportscasting and baseball announcing that very few in his genre ever eclipsed.

By 1988, 17 years after his passing in 1971, Bill Stern would be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.

Stern started doing on-air broadcasting in 1925 for a Rochester, New York radio station. in 1937, Stern went to work for NBC doing boxing commentating on the Colgate Sports Newsreel. As one of the big names in radio sportscasting, Stern developed a theme of making on-air stories that were never authenticated in any form. He would give the acknowledgement that whether the stories were true or not; “might be actual, may be mythical, but definitely interesting.”

A car accident in 1935 caused Bill Stern to have one leg amputated; but, it never stopped him from his on-air work. He had opportunity to be the on-air sports commentator for NBC Newsreels. Stern had opportunity to portray himself in two Hollywood movie productions including Pride of the Yankees.

The verbose, but much loved sportscaster was also a major fan of baseball and loved to share stories; including the one about who created the curve ball  Stern never missed a chance to talk the sports he loved.

After retiring from the big leagues, Bill Stern continued doing local sports casting for the Mutual Broadcasting System during the 50’s and 60’s. He passed away in November of 1971.

Friday, March 14, 2014

March 14: Happy Birthday, Les Brown

March 14: Happy Birthday, Les Brown

Les Brown and his Band Renown were the centerpieces of The Les Brown Show. This NBC series treated listeners to performances of such favorites as "Just a Gigolo," "Shine On Harvest Moon," and "Moonlight in Vermont."

The show was one of several sponsored by the Navy Recruitment Office as a PR and morale-boosting endeavor. Along these lines, the inimitable Brown himself embarked on many USO tours. He also recorded (with band member Doris Day on lead vocals) "Sentimental Journey," which would become an anthem for soldiers coming home.

If you're like me you'll spend this day commemorating Brown's verse by thinking up rhymes like "Les Brown and his Band Go to Town," and "Les Brown's Band Wears the Crown."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

July 25: Happy Birthday, Al Pearce


Born July 25, 1898, Al Pearce would early on become a name to remember...both musically and comically. The man who eventually penned the catchphrase, “Nobody home, I hope, I hope, I hope,” as a nervous door to door salesman, came to be one of the early on favorites to reach America at home. Pearce began his work history as a real estate salesman; but also did sang on-air for a glee club in San Francisco in 1928. He would later change over to comedy for KFRC in the Bay area, doing a sketch as a nervous door-to-door salesman...Elmer Blurt. 1928 was a busy year as Al Pearce began the Happy Go Lucky Hour for KFRC as Pearce and his gang grew in popularity as a musical-comedy hour. In 1932, the program moved over to a new network, Blue Network, airing Saturday evenings and twice weekday evenings. By the mid-30’s, his program brought on-board talents such as Arlene Harris and Morey Amsterdam. Pepsodent came along as a new sponsor and the show continued strong on NBC. His program bounced around between CBS and NBC for almost 10 years (1944). He would do guest spots for Armed Forces Radio during the waning days of WWII. Pearce was one of the few radio stars to gain a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 1961, Al Pearce passed away. He would not be knocking on any more doors or heartstrings.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July 9: Happy Birthday, Hans von Kaltenborn

July 9, 1878 was the entrance of Hans von Kaltenborn, or better known as HV Kaltenborn. This American radio commentator had the intellectual mind and the voice for diction. He was destined to be a top choice for radio news reporting. Growing up in Wisconsin, Kaltenborn planned on a career in news reporting starting out as a newspaper reporter.

His ability to retain information and keen understanding for world affairs would profit him greatly in the years to come. CBS radio was keen to bring kaltenborn aboard as a radio reporter covering Europe and the Far East. Besides reporting the news, he would offer commentary and analysis to the situations; making him one of the first in his field. One radio historian said this of Kaltenborn, “Kaltenborn was known as a commentator who never read from a script. His "talks" were extemporaneous created from notes he had previously written.”

In 1940, he moved over to NBC and in 1948 had one of his first gaffes in reporting. Kaltenborn predicted Dewey the winner in the Presidential elections;although Harry S Truman would eventually receive the victory. He handle his mistake with class and decorum. He left broadcasting in 1953; still adding color commentary at times for upcoming elections. HV Kaltenborn would portray himself in two motion pictures; including James Stewart’s lead in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In June of 1965, Kaltenborn passed away. He was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2011.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

May 5: Happy Birthday, Alice Faye


Alice Faye was born on this day in 1915, and took a somewhat circuitous path to eminence in the universe of old time radio. She started in vaudeville and went on to a brief but very successful film career.

Her leap to radio came from very personal circumstances. After ending her first marriage in 1940, Faye began a romantic relationship with radio icon Phil Harris. We know Harris has the hipster bandleader of The Jack Benny Show. After Faye married Harris, she joined him in his radio career. It began with their collaboration on the music show The Fitch Bandwagon, which aired on NBC. That show evolved into a sitcom and was re-named The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. Their real-life marriage and family was re-created--to perhaps some small degree of realism--on the show, with actors playing equivalents or their two young daughters.

The couple remained married until Harris's 1995 death. Faye died three years later. We salute this talented actress and songstress.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

March 13: Happy Birthday, Sammy Kaye

March 13: Happy Birthday, Sammy Kaye

Let's swing and sway with Sammy Kaye. The winsome sax player, clarinetist and bandleader was born on this day, 1910.

Sammy Kaye won over audiences with such feature and "so you want to lead a band," which let audience members hop on stage and do just that. He was one of the most famous bandleaders of the golden era of radio.

Kaye hosted NBC's Sunday Serenade and Sammy Kaye's Chrysler Showroom. The latter was a fifteen-minute program that ran in the latter half of 1949. This show was all about Sammy and the boys playing popular songs of the day, including requests. Examples are "Snuggled On Your Shoulder," "Five Foot Two," "Kiss Me Sweet," and "Candy Kisses."

A happy birthday to Sammy Kaye!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

February 6: Happy Birthday, Ronald Reagan

February 6: Happy Birthday, Ronald Reagan

Inventing the cotton gin was one of the only things Ronald Reagan didn't do. The actor, governor, and president actually began his career as a radio announcer.

It all began for Dutch Reagan in 1932 when WOC from Davenport, Iowa needed someone to call
the Iowa-Minnesota homecoming football game. He moved on to WHO , a Des Moines NBC affiliate.

Known for sprinkling some humor into his presidential communiques, Reagan honed his comic style, in addition to his television appearances, on the radio. As he became a relatively big name on the tube, he began, as many TV stars did, appearing on some of the big radio shows. His appearance on Lux Radio Theatre teamed him future wife Jane Wyman for an adaptation of Nobody Lives Forever. The Gipper also guested on The Bing Crosby Show, The Burns and Allen Show, Suspense, and Colgate Sports Newsreel.

Later, The Great Communicator would broadcast many presidential speeches.  Reagan was born Feb. 6, 1911 and died June 5, 2004.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 26: Happy Birthday, Steve Allen

December 26: Happy Birthday, Steve Allen

Born December 26th, 1921, Steve Allen was an American television personality, actor, and comedian best known for the Steve Allen Show.

Allen was born in New York City, but grew up on the south side of Chicago with his mother’s Irish Catholic family. His first radio job came in Phoenix, Arizona on station KOY. After his job as an announcer for KFAC in Los Angeles, Allen moved to Mutual Broadcasting System in 1946, where he starred in a five-nights-a-week comedy show, Smile Time, with Wendell Noble. Allen moved again, this time to CBS radio, where he hosted an hour long talk show. His popularity skyrocketed, and audiences were often standing room only. In 1950, Allen’s program replaced Our Miss Brooks, exposing him to a national audience for the first time in his career.

Making the leap to TV, Allen helped to create the Tonight Show with Sylvester “Pat” Weaver. Several years later, NBC offered him his own prime time slot that would compete with The Ed Sullivan Show. Unfortunately, the TV Western Maverick was often able to best both Ed Sullivan and Steve Allen in audience size.

Allen passed away on October 30th, 2000 from a massive heart attack. He now has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame - one for radio, and one for television.

Friday, December 14, 2012

December 14: Happy Birthday, Spike Jones!


Spike Jones was born December of 1911, but that is not all that there is about this talent of early radio. Besides he being an accomplished bandleader, Jones also inspired a satirical approach to his music by incorporating sound effect into the score. Spike Jones and His City Slickers were hugely renowned as the king of music jocularity. By adding cowbells and catcalls, Jones developed a musical blend and comedy routine that shook the rafters of wherever their venue. His group was especially big during the 1940’s and 50’s. Lindley “Spike” Jones gained his famous nickname because he resembled a railroad spike as a lanky and skinny individual. The sound effect addition came as a result of his youth when he was taught the “art” of pots and pans as added noise makers. He performed on Bing Crosby;’s first recording of White Christmas. Spike gained a radio following when he performed , The Chase and Sanborn Program, for NBC. As Edgar Bergen’s summer replacement, Jones grew in notoriety as more Americans had the opportunity to hear his talent. Mel Torme and Burl Ives were just a couple of the many guest stars that came onto his radio program over a 2-year period. Unfortunately, for America Spike’s life was cut short at the age of 53 when he passed away from emphysema. He may have moved on, but not his legacy.