Monday, November 8, 2010

NBC Celebrates Its First Fabulous Fifty





I’ve been out of town for most of the last week, so apologies for this late first-entry for November.  But today I’ve something very special.


Thirty-four years ago, the NBC network celebrated it’s 50th anniversary of radio broadcasting.  From humble beginnings in 1926, the fledgling broadcast network would ultimately become the most successful of all of the networks during the golden age of radio.


In 1976 NBC radio aired 5 1-hour (well, 40 minutes after news breaks and commercials are excised) remembrances of that network’s first 50 years of radio.


Chock full of audio clips, nostalgia and history, each deals with roughly one decade of NBC’s five decades, and each is presented by a different host.

Plus, as a bonus, we’ve a special hour-long remembrance of early show business by George Jessel as well.

But first, NBC’s First Fabulous Fifty.


The first hour is narrated by legendary NBC announcer Ben Grauer, who perhaps most famously was selected by  Arturo Toscanini to become the voice of the NBC Symphony Orchestra.


Grauer became that show’s announcer in 1940 and remained until the show ended in 1954.


There were numerous other jobs, both on NBC radio and Television over the years, including live political convention coverage, the first live broadcast from NBC TV (1939 Worlds Fair Opening), and an assortment of game and quiz shows and news broadcasts.

Grauer would die within a year of this broadcast, at the age of 68, from a heart attack.

Host - Ben Grauer - Part 1  46.8 MB


The second hour is hosted by Bob “NBC” Hope, and takes us from 1936 through the war years to 1946.   During the recording session, Hope went off script, with some personal remembrances of the day the war broke out.


His ad libbed narration was so good, they kept kept it in.


Host - Bob Hope - Part 2 46.7 MB

As sure as spring follows winter, so naturally does Crosby follow Hope.    And Bing handles the post-war years up to 1956 including the radio extravaganza launched in 1950 to try to beat back the inroads of television; The Big Show.

For more on The Big Show see  A Really Big Show

Sadly, as with Ben Gauer, Crosby would pass away roughly a year later.


Host - Bing Crosby - Part 3 46.6 MB

Arlene Francis covers the decline of what we think of as Old-Time-Radio, and focuses on the rise of the last big innovation in NBC radio’s history; The weekend radio show Monitor.

Other topics include radio’s coverage of the JFK assassination and its move into a more news and informational format. 

Francis had a career that spanned Broadway, film, radio and Television and was a long time contributor to the Monitor Show.


Host - Arlene Francis - Part 4 46.8 MB

The final segment is hosted by NBC newsman/anchor John Chancellor,  and deals with radio’s coverage of America’s turbulent years, that included Vietnam and Watergate.  

But this segment also features a softer interview with Ed McMahon and Johnny Carson.


Host - John Chancellor - Part 5 46.6 MB



Lastly, as promised, a bonus.  Included with the above on the Internet Archive.


In 1951, Abel Green – who was the long time editor of Variety – along with Joe Laurie Jr., published a history of 20th century Show business called  SHOWBIZ: From Vaude To Video.


Shortly thereafter, George Jessel put together a companion LP to the book, with audio clips from some of the best remembered performers of the first half of the 20th century.


In this you’ll hear early sound clips from such notables as Eddie Cantor, Maurice Chevalier , George M Cohan, Will Rogers, Kate Smith, Sophie Tucker, and Rudy Vallee .


Showbiz - George Jessel  50.6 MB



Although a vaudeville performer, songwriter, movie producer, comic, and appearing in a few movies and and guesting on TV shows in the 1950s and 1960s, George Jessel was more famous as a personality and a raconteur than as a performer.


He was frequently to be found as the master of ceremonies at many high profile occasions, and gained the nickname `Toastmaster General of the United States’.

Jessel died in 1981, at the age of 83.

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