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Radio Hall of Fame, Volume 1 - 6 hours [Download] #RA178D
Radio Hall of Fame, Volume 1

6 hours - Digital Download

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Radio Hall of Fame
Volume 1

Paul Whiteman as Musical Director of "The Radio Hall of Fame", 1945From the earliest days of broadcasting, radio audiences always loved a "really big show". Having been weaned on the touring vaudeville performers and Broadway revues of the more prosperous 1920s, listeners of the 1930s enjoyed the chance to hear well-known performers taking their turns on the many variety shows that hit the airwaves in the 1930s. It helped, of course, that many of the same performers who had made their names on the stage a few years earlier turned to radio as a source of income during the tight dollar years of the Great Depression - and one of the earliest to come before the microphone was "The King of Jazz", bandleader and showman Paul Whiteman.

Throughout the 1920s, the name of Paul Whiteman become synonymous with popular music. His records for Victor sold by the thousands - his recording of "Whispering", backed with "The Japanese Sandman", made in 1920, was the first to hit the mark of two million sold - and his nationwide success led him to experiment with all different types of music. Before Whiteman, most bandleaders contented themselves with playing "stock" arrangements - that is, fairly simple arrangements written by the publishing houses of Tin Pan Alley - but "Pops" Whiteman wasn't content with the repetitive nature of such banalities. If he was going to hire and feature the best vocalists and instrumental soloists, as well as maintain an orchestra that often numbered well over 25 people, they would need to have distinctive arrangements to match their talents. This led him to both employ and nurture such arrangers as Ferde Grofe' and Fletcher Henderson, who would quickly turn Whiteman's dance band into a powerful musical ensemble capable of playing everything from fox trots to waltzes to tone poems to jazz, as well encourage such young and talented composers as George Gershwin and Hoagy Carmichael.

Beyond his insistence on quality, Whiteman had a shrewd eye for spotting talent; he could reasonably claim to have "discovered" dozens of performers who either rose to fame with his orchestra or, after serving a successful apprenticeship, found fame in their own right. Most people know, of course, that Whiteman gave the first big break to Bing Crosby when he, along with Harry Barris and Al Rinker, was one-third of The Rhythm Boys, but over the course of a nearly fifty year career, "Pops" also introduced audiences to everyone from sidemen Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols, Tommy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Jack Teagarden, and Bunny Berigan to singers like Mildred Bailey, Johnny Mercer, Ramona, and The Modernaires and gave a considerable career boosts to Paul Robeson and Billie Holiday.

Paul Whiteman made his radio debut in the mid-1920s and quickly recognized the value of the medium as a means of promoting his music, increasing record sales, and generating large crowds for his personal appearance tours and stage shows. As the 1930s progressed, "Pops" spent much of the decade starring in a series of top-rated network musical variety shows for Kraft Foods, Old Gold and Chesterfield Cigarettes, all of which spotlighted his flair for showmanship. But by the dawn of the next decade, as big band swing quickly took the nation by storm, Whiteman found his brand of music slowly waning in popularity. Whereas he had previously been known as "The King of Jazz" - a name which even he agreed was never entirely accurate - he now found popular music dominated by more authentic jazz, much of it popularized by the very musicians he had first brought to the spotlight. By this time Whiteman, who had grown wealthy thanks to twenty years of success and wise investments, had tired of the grind of the band business and was more than content to pursue other interests - and one of these interests was very quickly pursued indeed, thanks to a timely offer from the broadcast industry.

In early 1943, after lengthy governmental antitrust hearings, the National Broadcasting Company successfully sold one of its two national networks to the American Broadcasting System, Inc. Anticipating the future, in 1939, NBC had begun separating its two national networks - the Red and the Blue - into two separate entities, dividing staff among the two and effectively turning the Blue Network into an asset designed to be sold for a sizable figure - eight million dollars, as it turned out. One of the consequences of dividing its broadcasting into two separate parts was the need to duplicate personnel in all positions - everything from secretarial jobs to top executives - and this, as it turned out, created an open position that would be perfect for a musical celebrity currently in transition. Coming aboard as the Blue Network's musical director meant that Paul Whiteman, bandleader and impresario, would now helm the music department for one of the nation's four national radio networks - a perfect opportunity for someone with drive, experience, connections, and a knack for spotting new talent. The position, as it turned out, fit Whiteman like a glove and it wasn't long before the former "King of Jazz" was being announced as "The Dean of Modern American Music" as he either oversaw or conducted the orchestras on many of the Blue Network's musical programs.

During the war years, many radio shows - including the majority of "Radio Hall of Fame" broadcasts - were recorded on glass based disks.Though it retained some programs from the days of NBC Blue, the newly divested Blue Network needed to distinguish itself in the company of the long-standing NBC, CBS, and Mutual schedules. So, in December of 1943, it debuted a musical variety series that would quickly become one of the most distinguished - and expensive - radio shows on the air. Titled the "Radio Hall of Fame", this hour-long Sunday evening offering presented itself as a weekly tribute to the best entertainment then available on stage, in radio, on recordings, and in motion pictures. To determine which performers and productions were worthy of recognition, the producers formed an alliance with Variety, the weekly "bible" of show business, which closely followed events on all of the entertainment fronts. In its role as a critical but affectionate observer, Variety's editors would decide who and what deserved to be singled out in a given week - basically, which singers, actors, performers, stage productions, and films were garnering the most critical praise - and recommend the line-up to "Hall of Fame's" production staff. To direct the series, the producers hired Devere Joseph "Dee" Engelbach, a 33-year-old wunderkind who had already gained a reputation for successfully contending with the strong personalities (and stronger egos) of the various performers who would appear on the programs.

From the beginning, Engelbach - who would later go on to direct radio's last attempt at high-priced variety on NBC's "The Big Show" - had his hands full. Budgets were not much of a problem; the Philco Corporation, makers of refrigerators and the largest radio manufacturer in the country, was enjoying extraordinary growth and income thanks to a series of wartime government contracts and could well afford to pay the costs of such a star-studded production. But coordinating this much talent on a weekly basis was an undeniable headache. What's more, in an effort to demonstrate its coast-to-coast coverage, Blue Network executives insisted upon most programs featuring cut-ins from other parts of the country; it became commonplace, for example, to have that week's host live in New York interviewing one of that week's guest stars live from Hollywood. (This bicoastal habit led, on occasion, to certain portions of the "Hall of Fame" programs being pre-recorded - something previously unheard of in network radio.) Nevertheless, despite the massive coordination efforts required, the "Radio Hall of Fame" was a success, garnering respectable ratings and bringing top-notch entertainment into American homes for the next two years.

Heard today, the "Radio Hall of Fame" remains outstanding entertainment, reflecting the tastes of the general public during the latter years of World War II. There's never any shortage of talent on hand - everyone from Bob Hope and Jimmy Durante to Dick Powell and Kenny Baker - and Whiteman, conducting a 31-piece orchestra, is clearly in his element. Predictably, some of the wartime jokes make little sense today, but its fascinating to hear announcer Jimmy Wallington praising Philco and predicting the products it will be bringing to consumers once the war is over. Musically, Whiteman has the happy habit of performing some numbers in two distinctive arrangements: first in 1920s style, followed by a modern up-to-date 1940s version. And today, in a time when the once-common variety show has completely disappeared from the airwaves, it's fun to return to an era when listeners could literally expect to hear anyone or anything presented in a sixty-minute line-up.

The six broadcasts in this collection, taken from the program's second season, were transferred directly from Paul Whiteman's personal recording library and have been fully restored for impressive audio fidelity.

Host Tom Breneman
From the Earl Carroll Theatre Restaurant in Hollywood, with Jimmy Durante, Arthur Treacher, Gene Austin, Carmen Miranda, Kay Thompson and her Rhythm Singers, Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, and announcer Jimmy Wallington
Sunday, January 21, 1945 - 60:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by the Philco Corporation

Host Dick Powell

From the Earl Carroll Theatre Restaurant in Hollywood, with Ginny Simms, Gil Lamb, Benjamin Carter, Mantan Moreland, Billy Gilbert, Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, and announcer Jimmy Wallington
Sunday, January 28, 1945 - 60:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by the Philco Corporation

Host Al Pearce

From the Earl Carroll Theatre Restaurant in Hollywood, with Hedy Lamarr, John Loder, Andy Russell, Eileen Barton, Marlin Hurt as "Beulah", Matty Malneck, Robert Maxwell, Marjorie Main, Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, and announcer Jimmy Wallington
Sunday, February 4, 1945 - 60:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by the Philco Corporation

Host George Jessel

From the Earl Carroll Theatre Restaurant in Hollywood, with Kenny Baker, Anita Colby, Barbara Jo Allen as "Vera Vague", Ella Logan, Ethel Smith, Matty Malneck, Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, and announcer Jimmy Wallington
Sunday, February 11, 1945 - 60:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by the Philco Corporation

Host Bob Hope
From the Earl Carroll Theatre Restaurant in Hollywood, with Janet Blair, Judy Canova, Eddie Green as "Eddie the Waiter", Charlie Cantor as "Clifton Finnegan", Fred Lowery, Bob Graham, Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, and announcer Jimmy Wallington
Sunday, February 18, 1945 - 60:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by the Philco Corporation

Host Ted Husing
With the Andrews Sisters, Ed Wynn, Keenan Wynn, Alexander Knox, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Alfred Newman conducting the Twentieth Century-Fox Studio Orchestra, Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, and announcer Glenn Riggs
Sunday, October 1, 1944 - 60:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by the Philco Corporation

Average Customer Review: Average Customer Review: 5 of 5 5 of 5 Total Reviews: 1 Write a review

  3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
5 of 5 Superb May 25, 2022
Reviewer: Paul Gray from United Kingdom  
The Radio Hall of Fame CDs sound superb, as per usual.

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