If you’ve every wondered if Television was as much fun in its infancy as it is in it’s adultery . . . . we’ve an example of some very early television for your viewing pleasure.
In this case, a rare surviving episode of Joe Howard’s Gay Nineties Review – which was broadcast on the ABC network between 1948 and 1949.
You may not know who Joe Howard was, but you undoubtedly know some of the songs he wrote.
His two biggest hits were `I wonder who’s kissing her now?’ and “Hello, Ma Baby”, immortalized forever in the the classic cartoon “One Froggy Evening”.
Michigan J. Frog
But Joe wrote more than 100 songs, many of which ended up in Broadway musicals around the turn of the century (not the last one, the one before last!).
In 1948, at the age of 81 (he was born in February of 1867), Howard was tapped by ABC-TV to do a weekly Gay 90’s Review type show. For 81, he was pretty spry – and was still a long way from retirement.
The show, like many early TV shows, was produced with almost no budget to speak of. It was basically a venue for a series of Vaudeville style acts. A barbershop Quartet,a dance routine (by Honey Murray), and 3 `bird-brained’ violinists you have to see to believe.
Sharing the hosting duties was Lulu Bates.
Ok, so she isn’t a household name. You probably won’t recall the Townsmen Quartet either. Their lack of fame shouldn’t detract from your enjoyment, however.
Lulu Bates takes the role of the `Red Hot Mama’ Jazz Singer. She’s no Sophie Tucker, but this was early TV after all.
By 1948, Joe Howard had done it all in show business.
He’d run away from home as a kid, entered show business, and over the next 8 decades would perform as a singer in concert saloons, acted in touring companies, was a headliner in Vaudeville, was a host of a network radio show during the 1930’s, and of course composed music and even wrote plays.
Howard would live another 13 years, after the Gay Nineties Review left the air, and literally died on stage at the age of 95, while taking a bow at Chicago's Opera House in 1961.
He’d just led the audience in singing "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and during a curtain call, died of a heart attack.
Hollywood couldn’t have written a more fitting ending to his career.
Click on any of the pictures to view the video.