Thursday, January 10, 2019

Mary Kay Stearns, and "Mary Kay and Johnny"

In late 1947 (which can be regarded as being not simply part of the period of early television, but very early television; this was the year before Milton Berle came to TV), Mary Kay Stearns, and her husband, Johnny Stearns, became TV stars--through their Mary Kay and Johnny program on the DuMont Network.  The show was a live, weekly situation comedy--"one of the earliest network situation comedies," television historians Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh have noted.

The New York Times wrote, this week: "The show, which at various points in its run was 15 minutes or a half-hour long, told gently humorous tales of the fictional Johnny, a banker, and Mary Kay, a homemaker. Mr. Stearns, who wrote the episodes, often drew from the couple’s lives for inspiration."

The program left the DuMont Network in 1948. It soon became an NBC show,  and then, for a time, aired on CBS. For part of 1949, when it returned to NBC, it was seen five nights a week.  The show remained on the air until 1950.

Johnny Stearns died in California in December of 2001, at age 85.  The New York Times reported this week that Mary Kay Stearns died in November, in California.  She was 93. 

In The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present (Ballantine Books, several editions), historians Brooks and Marsh wrote about the popularity of the Mary Kay and Johnny show:

"That sponsors were quite uncertain of the effectiveness of TV at this early illustrated by the following.  A few weeks after the program premiered, the sponsor, who had no way of knowing whether anyone was watching (there were no audience ratings), decided to conduct a test by offering a free mirror to the first 200 viewers who wrote in their comments on the program. Just to be safe, the company ordered an extra 200 mirrors so as not to disappoint anyone..." Brooks and Marsh wrote that 8,960 letters were received from TV viewers.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas...

Christmas songs, below, from two remarkable singers:

The first recording is of a 1944 radio performance by Judy Garland, singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."  The song is from the 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis, which starred Ms. Garland (and in which she, famously, sang the song).

The second recording is of Nat King Cole, singing  "The Christmas Song" (often referred to as--and often subtitled--"Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire"). Mr. Cole released multiple recordings of the song, over time.  The version below was made in 1953; the orchestra, for this recording, was conducted by Nelson Riddle.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Dylan Thomas

There are a lot of books in the apartment that I haven't read. One I've been meaning to read for years is Dylan Thomas's Quite Early One Morning.  As the back cover notes, the book contains short stories, autobiographical sketches and essays. Some poems also appear, within some of the prose pieces. Thomas died in 1953; the book was published by New Directions in 1954.

I picked up the book tonight, from a stack of books in the bedroom.  The first piece is titled "Reminiscences of Childhood," and is dated 1943 and 1953.  I was taken by the first sentence:

"I like very much people telling me about their childhood, but they'll have to be quick or else I'll be telling them about mine."

Friday, December 7, 2018

Pearl Harbor anniversary, and George H. W. Bush

Today, of course, is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  In addition to remembering, and commemorating, what took place at Pearl Harbor in 1941, the anniversary can also, one thinks, provide an additional reminder of the World War Two military service, and heroism, of President Bush, whose funeral services took place this week. Mr. Bush was seventeen years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked; he enlisted in the Navy six months later, on his eighteenth birthday.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Photograph of Chicago TV show, 1949

This is a photograph from the cover of a May of 1949 issue of Chicago's TV Forecast, which was a TV Guide-type of magazine.  The picture was of a local Chicago TV show (I don't know what show it was)--either as it was being telecast, or during a rehearsal.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Kay Kyser recording, 1950

From the website  a January, 1950 recording, on the Columbia label, of the song "Tootsie, Darlin' Angel, Honey. Baby," by Kay Kyser and his Orchestra; my mother is the vocalist.  The recording was made during the time she was a featured singer on Kay Kyser's NBC-TV program, the College of Musical Knowledge.

For your reference:  when going to the page, at the link below, several links to the song appear; you can simply click on the first one, highlighted in blue, to hear the recording.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick

Making note--belatedly--of the death, in early October, of Geoff Emerick, the prominent recording engineer.