Saturday, March 22, 2014

March 22: Happy Birthday, Chico Marx

March 22: Happy Birthday, Chico Marx

It's pronounced "Chick-o." Legend has it that in an early press release, the typesetter forgot the "k," and in a spirit of whimsy, the Marx Brothers left it that way. It therefore began to be pronounced the way it was spelled, and the name essentially began going by either pronunciation.

In the fall of '32, the mispronounced Marx brother began appearing with just Groucho on a radio program called Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel, the Monday installment of Standard Oil's Five Star Theatre. Chico played Emmanuel Ravelli, the assistant to Groucho's lawyer character.

In Spring of '34, the two had a quick stint on a show called Marx of Time which lampooned current events.

Chico appeared in a handful of episodes of Pabst Blue Ribbon Town, which Groucho Marx hosted.

He also lent his talents to Command Performance, Radio Hall of Fame, and Hollywood Hotel. The piano-playing funny man died in October of 1961. His real name was Leonard.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

March 20: Happy Birthday, Ozzie Nelson

Bandleader, radio star, TV star, holder of a law degree, paradigm for generations of fathers, Ozzie Nelson did just about everything.  We know he'd become grandfather to the awful early-90's rock duo Nelson (Gunnar and Matthew of the long white hair), but we can't hold that against one of the godfathers of classic radio.

Today's birthday boy was an Eagle Scout and high school football player in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey.  During this time he developed his music chops and became a teen bandleader.  He formed the Ozzie Nelson Band, which beat out Paul Whiteman's orchestra in a 1930 New York Daily Mirror poll.

The man who married Harriet Hilliard in 1935 was already a successful recording artist, not necessarily figuring to become essentially a metaphor for domesticity.  But the two of them put on a family-oriented radio show, and then the TV show with its cardigans that would characterize him as safe and paternal.

A hallmark of a good father, in a lot of people's minds, is successful offspring, and Ricky Nelson did just fine as a chart-topping pop-rocker.

Happy birthday to Oswald Nelson, oldtime radio legend.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

March 16: Happy Birthday, Henny Youngman

Not quite St. Patty's Day and not the Ides of March, today is still special by way of marking the birth of comic groundbreaker Henny Youngman. There are many examples of people who adore Youngman's work. Take my wife...please. Youngman wrote that seminal one-liner, along with, "I miss my wife's often as possible," and "I was so ugly, when I was born, the doctor slapped my mother."

Youngman was born Henry Yungman in Liverpool, England, in 1906. He learned the violin, began playing it in a jazz combo in American nightclubs, and then got into comedy. He ground out the brutal nightclub circuit for the rest of his life, though for much of it was an established star.

His fame as a comedian took him to old-time radio, with appearances on Radio Hall of Fame and Command Performance. We salute the King of the One-Liner, Henny Youngman.

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."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March 12, 1933: The First Address of President Franklin D. Roosevelt

March 12, 1933: US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his first presidential address to the nation, eight days after his inaugural. This was the first among what were termed as Roosevelt's famous Fireside Chats. Newsman Robert Trout thought that Roosevelt sounded like he was just sitting with us in our living rooms beside a roaring fire, just telling it like it was; thus Trout came up with the term.

During his campaign, Frederick D. Roosevelt known as a  friendly and intelligent personal. He used his charm smartly to get support.  But his speech after his inauguration seemed different: He delivered a deep religious speech. The speech discussed his hope for the new government and reminding Americans about nation's common difficulties concerning to material things. His famous quote was “The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Thursday, March 6, 2014

March 6: Happy Birthday, Virginia Gregg

March 6: Happy Birthday, Virginia Gregg

She had gun and she traveled, even if Virginia Gregg didn't have one of the lead roles in the radio drama Have Gun--Will Travel. She played Miss Wong, the girlfriend of Hey Boy (Ben Wright), a booksmart, somewhat sophisticated gal.

Have Gun Will Travel was a rare beast that began as a television series and then went to radio. Both versions were wildly successful, and some of the credit for the success of the radio show goes to the quality of the cast. Gregg was already a big name in radio before the show began airing. As was the case with many performers of the day, she made the rounds of many different series such as The Adventures of Adventures of Sam Spade, Lux Radio Theatre, Johnny Dollar, and Dragnet.

Virginia Gregg was born on Mar. 6, 1916 in Harrisburg, Illinois, and died in Encino, CA on Sept. 15, 1986.