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
The Beach Boys rarely surfed; Creedence Clearwater Revival, for all their Bayou songs, weren't from that region; and Judy Canova , sometimes called The Ozark Nightingale, did not hail from the Ozarks. She wasn't even from Georgia, which means that the act Three Georgia Crackers, which she had with her brother Zeke and sister Annie was another marketing ploy. Judy played the role of the country innocent to the hilt, and found success at a young age. Before long, the hoky act--with Judy yodeling, singing, and picking a gee-tar--had ironically made Broadway . She then became a big radio star. She started on Rudy Vallee 's The Fleischmann Hour and then landed her own show, appropriately called The Judy Canova Show. This included music and skits and stories about pigs. Some advertisements featured a pencil sketch of Judy in a straw hat and pigtails, looking not unlike the mascot for the Little Debbies snacks that would fatten a nation a little later. Today marks t
The consummate entertainer is one that carries a “valise” full of varied talent. Rudy Vallee was one example of such a skilled performer. Born on July 28, 1901, Vallee carried the mantle of bandleader, singer and actor...if only he could have danced. Music was dear to the heart of Mr vallee and it showed with is being part of his high school band. He could play drums, clarinet and saxophone. In the mid-20’s he went to London and played with the Savoyband. Upon returning to the U.S., vallee enrolled in college and and put together his own band, “ Rudy Vallee and The Connecticut Yankees.” He developed as a crooner using a megaphone and his style made him an instant hit with the young ladies of his day. This early century version of a “pop star” began to grow in his musical repertoire as he began to record label after label for the music fans. Hits like “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” and “As Time Goes By” began to appear on the airwaves from stations all over the country. Rudy Val
“Uncle Miltie” was born July 12, 1908. Milton Berle was to become known as America’s first major television star; although his start-up was in radio. In his early years, Milton Berlinger took the name Berle and once he became famous, his mother changed her last name as well to Berle. His beginnings was as a child actor in a number of silent films . By age 12 he would move into stage productions and eventually vaudeville. His radio stint came in 1934 when he guest starred on the Rudy Vallee Program , and on the The Gillette Original Community Sing, Berle became a regular. He did a piece on Three Time Ring, a comedy-variety show. in 1944-45 Berle performed on Let Yourself Go which had active audience participation. In 1948 he began his hosting of Texas Star Theatre which eventually came to be known as the Milton Berle Show in 1953 . This program would lend appearances to big names like Jack Albertson and Ed Begley , and Arnold Stang would later become Berle’s sidekick. Milton B
If Hedda Hopper looks like someone who should host a gossip show on the radio , chalk that up to one instance of order in the universe. From 1939-'47 she did that very thing on a couple of networks with a few different sponsors. The former actress and gossip columnist was nimble-tongued and clever, a good fit for the airwaves. Later, she would turn her show into Hedda Hopper 's Hollywood, a variety show with guests such as Bob Hope , Audey Murphy, and Humphrey Bogart . Hopper's radio gossip began as a series of segments on Rudy Vallee 's show.
With episode titles like "Family Picnic," "College Days," "Cleaning the House," and "Performing MacBeth," The Frances Langford Show sounds like Ozzie and Harriet with just a splash of Orson Welles ' Mercury Theatre on the Air tossed in just to keep things interesting. The gorgeous singer hosted the show only through the crazy Summer of 1947--it was a Summer replacement for The Burns and Allen Show . The half-hour show featured Langford crooning such numbers as "I'm Always Blowing Bubbles," "Almost Like Being In Love," and "When You're Cryin'." Langford grew up in Lakeland, FL, which probably makes it a bit unlikely that she was trained as an opera singer. She changed her style to Big Band after a tonsillectomy, and her radio and stage careers began to develop in parallel. She was a regular on The Rudy Vallee Show . She was born on this day in 1913, and lived until 2005.
February 16: Happy Birthday, Edgar Bergen Where would Charlie McCarthy have been without Edgar Bergen ? Edgar Bergen was one of the biggest legends of radio along with his ventriloquist's dummy, Charlie McCarthy . They weren't the first performers who got their radio start as guests on Rudy Vallee 's show. For them it was Dec. 17, 1936. It quickly landed them their own show. Wait a minute. A ventriloquist on the radio ? You can't see the dummy! The utter improbability of the act makes their accomplishment even more stunning. For the duo became just about the biggest stars on the air and they had big stars on guests as their show. Incidentally, on the night of the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast of Orson Welles , which caused a panic over a supposed Martian invasion, Bergen and McCarthy were also on the air. If they'd had less listeners, the panic may have been much bigger. Happy birthday, Edgar!
January 3: Happy Birthday, Victor Borge Victor Borge was a Danish and American comedian affectionately known as “The Great Dane” and “The Clown Prince of Denmark.” Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Borge was a talented pianist. He spent much of his younger years learning and playing concerts. When the Nazis occupied Denmark during World War II , Borge was playing a concert in Sweden and was able to escape to Finland. He traveled to America on the USS American Legion, the last ship to make it out of Petsamo, Finland. Borge didn’t speak any English when he arrived in America, but he quickly learned by “studying” in movie theaters. Rudy Vallee offered him an opportunity on his radio show, and Borge soon became part of Kraft Music Hall . He also made many guest appearances on Command Performance , Fibber McGee and Molly , Jubilee , and Mail Call . Victor never stopped working. He continued to perform and tour throughout his life. Even at the age of 90, Borge was still making 60 app
December 10: Happy Birthday, Dorothy Lamour Dorothy Lamour was born in Louisiana in 1914, as Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton. Known as “Dottie” to many of her friends, Miss Lamour maintained an illustrious career as a leading lady and was constantly being sought after by the major studios. Her classical beauty came as a benefit to her in 1931, when she was crowned Miss New Orleans. Many of her famous performances carried through as the beauteous jungle girl or third part of the “On the Road” movie triangle with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby . Her voice was an asset as well, having sang alongside notables Rudy Vallee and her husband Herbie Kaye. On the radio, she hosted NBC’s “ Sealtest Variety Theatre ” during the late 40’s. One thing that could be said about Miss Lamour was her ability to spellbind a crowd and that paid in huge dividends for the war effort during the 1940’s raising over 300 million in bonds. Into her later years, Dorothy Lamour still carried herself with dignity and grac