Radio has been around for a long time. It is what many of our parents and grandparents listened to when they were kids and for some of us, it was we listened to too. Radio has gone through a massive evolution since it was created though. The radio personalities we have today would completely shock the radio personalities of the days of yore.
Looking down memory lane, let’s see if we can take a glimpse at a few of the personalities of radio before television took over as our main form of entertainment.
George D. Hay: George D. Hay was one of the very first American radio personalities. He was actually the founder of the Grand Ole Opry radio program, which aired on WSM-AM in Nashville. This is where the stage show got its name originally. He started it by promoting “old-time” music on the station for a couple of hours every Saturday. Listeners loved his music appreciation as well as his dedication to country music. The Grand Ole Opry became a household name and the enterprise that was started is still going strong even now. The famous fiddle player that Hay featured on his show was Uncle Jimmy Thompson, who garnered such a positive response that the creative direction of the radio shoe was forever changed. Thompson died in 1931, leaving very few recordings of his work.
Fred Allen: Fred Allen was a comedian known for his absurdist comedy in his show The Fred Allen Show. He was considered a forward thinking humorist. He is mostly remembered for his feud with fellow comedian Jack Benny. The feud was part of their comedy act. It was noted that Allen was considered the most admired comedian of his time (and was also the most censored). He often ran off script most of the time, leaving his show fresh and fun to listen to. He remained on air until his death at age 61 in 1956.
Jack Benny: As I said above, Fred Allen and Jack Benny had a mock feud that ran for years between the two friends and fellow comedians. Benny is well-known for his impeccable comedic timing and for his catchphrase “well” in exasperation. His weekly radio program was called The Jack Benny Program and it aired from 1932 to 1948 on NBC and from 1949 to 1955 on CBS. It was incredibly highly rated.
Victor Borge: Victor Borge’s story is that of the American Dream. While he was both in Denmark to a Jewish family, he moved to the United States and had a successful career. In Denmark, he was a classical concert pianist and started stand up acts as well. By good fortune, he was playing in Sweden when the Nazis took Denmark, allowing him to escape to the United States. While he did not speak a word of English when he arrived, he learned English by watching movies and quickly changed his stand-up act to work with his American audiences. He began performing on Rudy Vallee’s radio show and then was quickly hired by Bing Crosby. He would start playing music and would “get distracted” and make the audiences laugh as a result.
Fanny Brice:FaniaBorach, or Fanny Brice, did many things in her extensive career. She started on radio in the 1930s acting as a bratty toddler named Snooks. Baby Snooks continued on air until Brice died in 1951. Baby Snooks was so popular, she got her own show called The Baby Snooks Show though it was also known as Baby Snooks and Daddy. Brice also acted on stage as an actress and a singer. The musical Funny Girl is the portrayal of Brice. Barbara Streisand won an Oscar for her portrayal in the film version.