Sunday, December 27, 2009

Louis Armstrong, 1950

Coming upon a fragment…

My relationship to early television (the period I have focused upon is, largely, 1949-1952; I was born later, 1956) has often been defined by/informed by fragments—segments of kinescopes, partial audio recordings of TV programs, pictures, newspaper & magazine stories, conversations.

Years ago, for example, before beginning to write about the era, I spent much time listening to audio recordings from Your Hit Parade. They had been given to my mother (probably by the program’s advertising agency, BBD&O, though perhaps by NBC; I am unsure) during the period she was a cast member. They were not of entire telecasts, but were extracts: recordings of some of her performances on the program.

Just recently (to my delight), I came upon another fragment from the era—via the blog of Ricky Riccardi, who is the Project Archivist for the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens. (His blog address: )

In addition to his work at the Louis Armstrong museum, Riccardi has taught jazz history at Rutgers, has delivered lectures about Armstrong (at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, for example), and is the author of the forthcoming book What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years. The book will be published in May, by Pantheon.

In a November blog posting, Riccardi included a wonderful audio recording of an Armstrong performance of the song “When You’re Smiling.” The performance is from a fall of 1950 appearance Armstrong made on Kay Kyser’s television show on NBC. (In a previous blog entry I referred to Armstrong's appearance on the program.)

The recording is an incomplete one—forty-three seconds long.

I asked Riccardi about the audio tape, by e-mail—wondered if it had come from a still-existing segment of a kinescope.

The recording, he told me, was given to him a couple of years ago by a collector, in Europe, of Armstrong’s music; the collector passed away in 2009.

Riccardi did not know of the provenance of the audio segment, but suggested the performance could have been taped off of a television set, in 1950; he noted that dedicated jazz fans, during the era, were known for making such recordings of favorite artists.

In that the tape is of the latter part of the song, perhaps the tape recorder (if this was indeed how the recording was made) had simply not been turned on in time.

The recording from the Kay Kyser program is the initial one in Riccardi’s November posting; the posting also includes two other Armstrong performances of “When You’re Smiling”:

Here, too, is the amazon link to Ricky Riccardi’s forthcoming book:

And lastly, please note the following link to the Louis Armstrong House Museum, in Queens:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Michael Buble, Luisana Lopilato, and Your Hit Parade

Here’s an enjoyable song (and video), from the very talented singer Michael Buble. The song, “Haven’t Met You Yet” (co-written by Buble), is from his latest CD, “Crazy Love.”

The song and video are enjoyable on their own terms—and there are also a few nice echoes of other performers.

In one of the video’s scenes, Buble passes between musicians dressed in marching band-style outfits. The scene’s trumpet music calls to mind The Beatles’ “Penny Lane.” (And one of the trumpet phrases, too, recalls the Chicago song “Beginnings.”) I also like the video’s dancers—including the moment when (at 2:43, standing in place, arms extended forward), they echo, briefly, Michael Jackson.

Buble’s love interest in the video is Luisana Lopilato, an Argentine singer, actress, and model. (In real life, evidently, the two are a couple.)

If I might, let me draw a particular parallel between this video, and Your Hit Parade (a show which some believe anticipated the era of music video—in that songs, on the TV program, were conjoined with acting, and storytelling). Routinely, during the TV show’s musical productions, a featured singer sang to another performer; the latter performer would act (and react) silently. While watching kinescopes of the program, I have frequently been impressed by the engaging performances of those who acted silently. Similarly, Luisana Lopilato’s role in the Michael Buble video is for the most part one of reacting to Buble. Her performance, like Buble’s, is likeable, and appealing.

(photos: Michael Buble and Luisana Lopilato, from video of “Haven’t Met You Yet”; Snooky Lanson, at center, sings to dancer Virginia Conwell, Your Hit Parade, NBC-TV, image from video of kinescope, January, 1952; Dorothy Collins sings to unidentified actor, rehearsal of Your Hit Parade telecast from the S.S. United States ocean liner, NBC-TV, June, 1952. Your Hit Parade images copyright Lost Gold Entertainment, Inc.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Carl Ballantine

Comedian and actor Carl Ballantine passed away on Tuesday, at age 92.

Ballantine is perhaps best-known for playing the character Lester Gruber, on the 1960s TV series McHale's Navy.

Yet he was also well-known, for decades, as “The Amazing Ballantine” (or, “Mr. Ballantine”, or “The Great Ballantine”). He performed magic tricks that did not work.

In the fall of 1950, in this capacity, he made several guest appearances on Kay Kyser’s College of Musical Knowledge, on NBC-TV.

Steve Martin has spoken of his admiration for Carl Ballantine’s work as “The Amazing Ballantine.”

"Carl Ballantine influenced not only myself but a generation of magicians and comedians," he said, in a statement to The Los Angeles Times, after Ballantine’s death.

In January of 2009, Martin was interviewed by Terry Gross, on NPR’s Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS: So, did you feel like you had kindred spirits in the performance world when you were getting started who had a more, like, conceptual or avant-garde approach to what they were doing like you?

STEVE MARTIN: Well, I'm trying to think. I just respected comedians whether they were or they weren't, you know, from, you know, new or old. Bob Newhart I loved, and George Carlin was hilarious at the time, and Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor. And there was a comedy magician who's still alive, Carl Ballantine, who did an act of all magic tricks that didn't work. And it was, still is, one of the funniest things I've ever seen…

(Photo, above: Carl Ballantine, on McHale's Navy.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Friends of Old-Time Radio Convention"

The annual "Friends of Old-Time Radio Convention" is taking place, beginning on Thursday, in Newark, New Jersey.

For more information, please click on this link:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Frank Truatt, and Russell Arms

I enjoyed appearing on “The Frank Truatt Morning Show” on Monday, on WTBQ Radio in Warwick, New York. I was interviewed by Truatt--and also by Rob McLean (who is also the show’s news and sports anchor), and Walt Popailo, who co-hosts the program on Mondays.

A very enjoyable bit of information emerged during the interview. Frank Truatt mentioned that his middle name is “Russell,” and he explained why he was given the name. When he was born, in the 1950s, his mother was a fan of singer Russell Arms, one of the stars of Your Hit Parade.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"The Frank Truatt Morning Show," WTBQ Radio

On Monday morning (10/12), beginning at 7:05, I’ll be a guest on “The Frank Truatt Morning Show,” on radio station WTBQ, in Warwick, New York. I’ll be talking about early television, and The Lucky Strike Papers, for about ten minutes. Frank Truatt’s program airs weekdays from 6-9 a.m.

To learn more about the program, please see:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Your Hit Parade," October 7, 1950

On this date, in 1950, Your Hit Parade (which had aired on radio since 1935), began its weekly telecasts on NBC. There had been four experimental telecasts of the show in the summer of 1950. The show then began its regular TV broadcasts on October 7th.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Gisele MacKenzie

A posting a few days ago on “Master of My Public Domain” (, Michael Coston’s very enjoyable nostalgia-oriented blog (referred to previously in this space), concerns the singer Gisele MacKenzie.

Gisele MacKenzie starred on the TV version of Your Hit Parade (along with singers Dorothy Collins, Snooky Lanson, and Russell Arms) from 1953 until 1957.

While interviews with Collins, Lanson, and Arms appear in my book, Ms. MacKenzie is only referred to briefly; the book’s focus on early network television largely concludes in 1952, before MacKenzie joined the show. Yet MacKenzie remains one of the Hit Parade’s best-remembered stars.

Here’s the link to Michael’s posting about her:

Sunday, October 4, 2009

"As I Saw It," by Mike Dann

Recently read, and enjoyed, the book As I Saw It--subtitled, The Inside Story of the Golden Years of Television.

The book, by the well-known television executive Mike Dann (as told to writer Paul Berger), is published by Levine Mesa Press. (see, and

It concerns the period Dann worked at NBC-TV, in the late 1940s and 1950s--as well as his more prominent tenure (from 1958 until 1970) at CBS-TV, where he ultimately became senior vice president in charge of programming.

I learned of the book because of Dann's recent appearance on the Internet radio show "TV Confidential," hosted by Ed Robertson and Frankie Montiforte. (see:, and

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The S.S. United States, in The Wall St. Journal

Learned of this story, which appears in today's Wall Street Journal, via the e-mail newsletter of the S.S. United States Conservancy.

For more information about the Conservancy:

As noted previously in this space, the S.S. United States was the site of the last telecast, for the 1951-1952 season, of the TV show "Your Hit Parade"; the telecast took place five days prior to the ship's maiden voyage. The ship, and the telecast, are written about in The Lucky Strike Papers.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Milton DeLugg, Wednesday on Shokus Internet Radio

Stu Shostak is the owner and program director of Shokus Internet Radio; he’s also the host of various Shokus talk shows. (I recently appeared on the Shokus program “TV Confidential,” hosted by Ed Robertson and Frankie Montiforte.)

This Wednesday (9/16), between 7 and 9 p.m. (EST), Stu Shostak’s weeknight program (“Stu’s Show”) will feature an interview with the well-known musician, bandleader, and songwriter Milton DeLugg.

DeLugg has had a fascinating career. (An interview with DeLugg—who starred on many programs during the era of early television—is featured in my book.) He was the co-writer (with Willie Stein) of the song “Orange Colored Sky,” a hit record in 1950 for Nat King Cole. With Frank Loesser, he wrote 1950’s “Hoop-Dee-Doo,” recorded by Perry Como. He was the orchestra leader on early television's first late-night hit show, Broadway Open House, in the 1960s was the musical director, for a time, on The Tonight Show, and later was the bandleader on The Gong Show. He has, through the years, been a prominent music producer and arranger, and he continues to serve as musical director of New York’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

My mother and DeLugg worked together in the fall of 1952, on Breakfast with Music, a local, five-morning-a-week New York TV show, which starred Morey Amsterdam. DeLugg was the show’s musical director.

To listen to Wednesday night’s interview with Milton DeLugg, please go to:

(Above photo: Milton DeLugg, on Broadway Open House)

Friday, September 4, 2009

"TV Confidential" interview, and William Schallert

On Monday night, I’ll be making a return visit to the Internet talk show “TV Confidential,” now originating at Shokus Internet Radio ( The show’s hosts are Ed Robertson and Frankie Montiforte.

The program will air Monday night, from 10:00 p.m. (EST) until midnight. It will also be rebroadcast the next night (11 p.m., EST), on Share-A-Vision Radio ( The show formerly originated at KSAV.

I’ll be on for about forty-five minutes during the first hour; one of the subjects we’ll be discussing is the career of bandleader Kay Kyser.

The show’s second hour will feature an interview with William Schallert. Schallert is one of the most recognizable actors in TV history; he has appeared on countless television shows, through the years. Many 1960s television fans will remember his role as Martin Lane, the father of Patty Duke’s character, on The Patty Duke Show.

For additional information about the career of William Schallert, please go to:
For more information about “TV Confidential,” please see:
(Above photo: William Schallert)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A discount

The cover price of The Lucky Strike Papers is $24.95. For a limited period of time, the book (which is softbound) is being offered, via my web site, for $18.95. Media Mail shipping, with Delivery Confirmation, is included.

To order the book, please go to:

Friday, August 28, 2009

August, 1949

While my book concerns the early years of television—largely covering the period 1949 until 1952—it also concerns family history: my late mother’s relationship to the era.

Though her first appearance on TV took place near the end of 1948—she sang, as a guest, on a show on CBS-TV (at the time, she had a singing role in a Broadway revue)—her career in television really began in 1949.

1949 was also the year my parents met one another. When they married, later that year—sixty years ago today—my mother was twenty-one, and my father was twenty-eight. My father is now 88; my mother passed away in 2001, at age 73.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Radiogram review

A very kind and generous review of The Lucky Strike Papers, written by Gary Coville, appears in the August issue of Radiogram.

Radiogram is the magazine of the well-known California-based OTR organization SPERDVAC (the Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety and Comedy). The magazine is edited by Dr. Patrick Lucanio. (image of the beginning of the review appears above)

Dave White, and Early TV

During a recent on-air conversation I had with Dave White, host of the Internet radio show “Dave White Presents” (, he spoke of early television as being a “work-in-progress.”

It was, I thought, a very apt way of describing the era.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention

On August 27th, from 4-5 p.m., I'll be appearing on a panel of authors at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention.

The convention will be taking place from August 27th to August 29th, at the Clarion Hotel in Aberdeen, Maryland.


Martin Grams, Jr., who is one of the organizers of the convention, and who has written many books about old TV and radio shows, will be on the panel. His books include: "The Twilight Zone: Unlocking The Door to a Television Classic" (2008); "Car 54, Where Are You?" (2009); books about the radio shows "Inner Sanctum Mystery," "Suspense" and "Information, Please" (2003, 1998 and 2003, respectively); and a number of others.

Linda Alexander, the author of a book about the actor Robert Taylor ("Reluctant Witness: Robert Taylor, Hollywood, and Communism," 2008), will also be on the panel--as will James Rosin, whose latest book is "Adventures in Paradise: The Television Series" (2009). He has also written books about the "Wagon Train" and "Route 66" television programs.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Charles Bean, Joe McPherson, Freddy Guerra

This is an addendum to the 8/2/09 posting, below, which noted the recent passing of Charles Bean, of Duxbury, Mass., who performed on my mother’s 1950s Boston TV program, The Sue Bennett Show.

I sent the link for the posting to one of Charles Bean’s sons, Christopher. I learned, as a result, that Charles Bean, who played the trumpet, had in fact not performed in the show’s musical ensemble, as I had assumed, but had been one of the singers in the TV show’s vocal group, “The Freddy Guerra Trio.”

Visiting Boston several days ago, to see my father, I found a picture of Charles Bean, in a drawer containing a number of old photographs (see photo, above; photo by WBZ-TV). In the photograph, which is probably from 1954, Mr. Bean is standing behind my mother. To the left of the picture is singer Joe McPherson. Joe McPherson passed away in 1994, at age 61; he had remained a singer until the end of his life. To the right of the picture is Freddy Guerra.

In addition to being a singer, Freddy Guerra was a clarinetist and a saxophonist (and, through the years, a popular bandleader in New England). Guerra is known to fans of Glenn Miller as having been a musician in Miller’s Army Air Force band, during World War Two. He passed away in 2003, at age 79.

Friday, August 7, 2009

"Early TV Memories" stamp series

On Tuesday (August 11th), the United States Postal Service will release a set of stamps about historic television shows, many from the late 1940s and early 1950s.

The stamps make up the "Early TV Memories" series.

The 20 stamps in the series are of the following shows: The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet; Alfred Hitchcock Presents; The Dinah Shore Show; Dragnet; The Ed Sullivan Show; The George Burns & Gracie Allen Show; Hopalong Cassidy; The Honeymooners; Howdy Doody; I Love Lucy; Kukla, Fran and Ollie; Lassie; The Lone Ranger; Perry Mason; The Phil Silvers Show; The Red Skelton Show; Texaco Star Theater; The Tonight Show; The Twilight Zone; and You Bet Your Life.


In some ways, we live in an age of repetition.

VCRs/DVDs/TiVo: they have allowed us to watch TV shows and movies at our leisure, on our own schedule—and watch them as often as we want.

YouTube, of course, is popular for its relatively brief videos—videos which many people, certainly, watch again and again.

I don’t know how many times I have seen the video of Susan Boyle’s first performance on “Britain’s Got Talent”—probably twenty or thirty times. The performance has repeatedly brought me to tears. I watched it again a few days ago, and was, once again, very moved. I didn’t well up this time, though. Perhaps I have seen it too many times.

(I think of an instance of repetition, from childhood--1964, 8 yrs. old: listening to the 45 of “I Want To Hold Your Hand,”and “I Saw Her Standing There,” its flip side, over and over, on the record player. I listened to the songs for hours. The pleasure was not just in the listening, but in the repetition: being able to hear the songs again and again.)

CNN has of course changed the ways the news is watched; one can now see the news at most any time, via certain cable stations. Yet it is not simply availability which is different: I think there has also, to an extent, been an effect on how the news is perceived.

A dramatic news story will appear on a cable channel. Hour after hour, the story is retold: you hear many of the same details, repeatedly see certain pieces of video.

And I have noticed—it is a sad thing to feel this—that there have been some news stories, serious stories, sometimes very sad or tragic ones, which, after just a few hours of repetition, start to overwhelm; they become (at least a little bit) tiring. Stories of consequence, stories of tragedy, or mortality, should not be tiring—yet relentless repetition, hour after hour, can affect the ability to feel, deeply. It is one of the peculiar and unfortunate dividends of our era.

(There is also the unusual nature of “Seinfeld,” in which repetition does not seem to matter very much. Like millions of others, I have no doubt watched each episode scores of times, know the punch-lines and the dialogue of most of the episodes—and yet, look forward to seeing the show every day. I suppose “Seinfeld” is not unlike a song you enjoy. You know all the lyrics, know every musical phrase and nuance, and just like to listen repeatedly. )

Which brings me, briefly, to early television, when most programs were shown live (there were some filmed programs in early TV, but they were the exception).

In early TV, live shows were not repeated. Repeats, as an entity, did not exist.

From 1949 to 1950, for example, when my mother sang on Kay Kyser’s show on NBC, the program's live telecast reached about halfway across the country; the coaxial cable linking the entire country had not yet been put into place. The rest of the country saw the show a week or so later, via kinescope—a primitive film of a program, made by positioning a 16mm camera in front of a TV monitor, while the show was telecast live.

After the live telecast, and then the airing of the telecast’s kinescope in the regions of the country which had not been able to see the program live, the show was not seen again.

I am sure this absence of repetition added to the attraction of early TV—a show appeared, and it was gone. You knew you had only one chance to see it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A passing, noted

I recently came upon the following story, on the Internet:

It is an obituary, from March, about Charles A. Bean, from Duxbury, Mass; he had passed away at age 83. I had unfortunately not been familiar with Mr. Bean’s name. He had been a musician (he played the trumpet), and a teacher, in the Boston area; in the late 1950s he had also begun a music store/company, which, the obituary noted, had subsequently expanded into five locations—in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Florida.

The obituary also noted this: “During the 1950s he entertained weekly on the Sue Bennett Show in the early days of Boston television.” The show aired on WBZ-TV in 1954 and 1955; as noted previously in this space, the program featured my mother’s singing, a vocal group which often accompanied her (The Freddy Guerra Trio), and a small musical ensemble, which, obviously, Mr. Bean had been a part of.

From reading the obituary, it sounded as if Mr. Bean was a fine man, who led a very interesting and very productive life. I wish I had been able to meet him.

Please note a follow-up post, which appeared on August 15, 2009, and which includes a correction to the above post:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Dave White Presents," #2

Re: the radio show “Dave White Presents,” the subject of the previous post.

Although I was of course very pleased to be a guest on the 7/22/09 Dave White broadcast, I was also eager to listen to the show’s other guest.

Following my interview segment with Dave White, the program featured the second part of an interview with drummer Andy White, conducted by regular “Dave White Presents” contributor Wesley Britton. It was enjoyable listening to their conversation.

Beatles fans may know of White as the drummer who played on “P.S. I Love You,” and on the best-known version of “Love Me Do.”

In 1962, Ringo Starr, who had recently joined the Beatles, played on a recording of “Love Me Do,” yet producer George Martin was evidently displeased with his performance. A week later studio/session drummer Andy White was brought in, to play on another recording of the song. That day, White's drumming was also featured on “P.S. I Love You.”

While the Ringo Starr version of “Love Me Do” became the first version of the song released as a single, it was the Andy White version which appeared on the Beatles’ first UK album, “Please, Please Me.” The Andy White version was also later released as a single, and is, certainly, the version of the song most familiar to listeners. Years later, the Ringo Starr version was included on the Beatles’ “Rarities” CD, and on the Beatles’ “Past Masters, Volume One.”

One final detail about “Love Me Do”: another version of the song—featuring drummer Pete Best—was recorded a few months before the Starr and White versions were made, and can be heard on “Beatles Anthology #1.”

Here’s additional information about Andy White:

For information about interviewer (and author) Wesley Britton, please click on this link:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Dave White Presents,"

I taped an enjoyable interview recently, with Dave White, host of the Internet radio variety show “Dave White Presents.” The show, ninety minutes long, airs every other week on “Share-A-Vision” radio (, at 10:30 p.m Eastern Time. The interview aired this past Tuesday.

Dave White, in introducing me, mentioned some of the places I’d written for, and then noted that I’d also worked as a radio talk show host. Of the latter detail, he then said: "But we decided to let him on in spite of that." I thought that was quite funny.

The interview can be accessed via the "Dave White Presents" page, at; the segment begins about 24 minutes into the show, and lasts about 35 minutes.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Currently Reading

Am currently reading, and enjoying, “The ‘Lost’ Sam Spade Scripts," edited by Martin Grams, Jr. Martin, as previously noted in this space, has written a great many books about old radio and television shows. Some of those books (and this latest one) were published by BearManor Media.

“The ‘Lost’ Sam Spade Scripts” features an introduction, and then thirteen scripts from the 1940s/1950s “Adventures of Sam Spade” radio series. The radio program (as shown in the accompanying image) starred Howard Duff.

Here’s the link for the book:

Further information about Martin Grams, Jr., and his books, can be found here:

At the end of August, I'll be part of a panel discussion, with Martin (and other authors), at the "Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention," in Aberdeen, Maryland. Martin is one of the convention's organizers.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chico and Harpo Marx

There was a very enjoyable recent posting on Michael Coston’s nostalgia-oriented blog, “Master of My Public Domain.” (

Michael’s 6/22/09 post concerned the music of Chico and Harpo Marx, and included several YouTube videos featuring scenes from Marx Brothers films.

He wrote, of Harpo: “Make no mistake, Harpo was a killer harpist, able to play sweet or hot, as the situation demanded. His `jazz’ renditions of classic tunes are unforgettable.”

And of Chico’s wonderful piano playing, he wrote: “His routines were choreographed comedic masterpieces…”

Here's the link to the 6/22 post:

In November, 2008, as previously noted, the blog featured a kind review of “The Lucky Strike Papers.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Radiogram" magazine, June issue

I am quite delighted about an article which appears in the June issue of “Radiogram,” the magazine of the prominent OTR (Old Time Radio) organization SPERDVAC (the Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety and Comedy).

The article says: "Two recently published books are required reading this summer and deserve places on any OTR and early television bookshelf." One of the books referred to is “The Lucky Strike Papers.”

The book, the magazine says, is “a fascinating look at the early years of live television…” The story says: "Those truly interested in the transition, as it were, from radio to television in the late 1940s and early 1950s will find the work most interesting." The article notes (to my added delight) that a “comprehensive review of the book” will appear in a future issue of the magazine.

To learn more about the Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety and Comedy, which is based in California, please go to:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wayne Magazine, May issue

A very nice piece about The Lucky Strike Papers appears in the May issue of Wayne Magazine. The piece was written by Rita Gernant.

Wayne Magazine is part of the North Jersey Media Group, which also publishes the newspaper The Record. Wayne, New Jersey is next door to Pompton Lakes, the town where I live.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Morgan White, Jr., and "Talking Trivia"

As I have previously noted, in 2008 I was interviewed twice, on Boston’s WBZ Radio, by guest talk show host Morgan White, Jr.; Morgan has for years been a regular guest host on the station.

His latest book, “Talking Trivia,” was recently published by BearManor Media.

You can read more about the book here (and purchase it here, via an link):

To see Morgan's web site, please click on this address:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

"24," Part 2

An observation:

Keifer Sutherland’s character, on “24,” Jack Bauer, has a distinctive yelling style. It’s a kind of bellow--when he screams at someone, for example, to “Stand Down!” He does the same kind of yell all the time. It gets a bit tiring.

During an interrogation of one character, for example (this from a “24" trailer), Bauer asks, “What is your primary objective?” Click here.

Or here, when he asks, “What is the target?” Click here.

I enjoyed “24” for a period of time. Yet the show, for a while, has seemed to me to be rather over the top--not unlike Jack Bauer's signature yell. The yell, again.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

TV 2009, cont'd:

Brief review:

An enjoyable TV show—clever, quirky, funny: ABC's “Better Off Ted.”

The program stars Jay Harrington (Ted), Portia de Rossi, Andrea Anders, Malcolm Barrett, and Jonathan Slavin.

Included on the show: fake commercials for Veridian Dynamics, the corporation which serves as the show’s setting.

The season finale airs tonight, 8:30 p.m. (EST).


Boy, a lot happens during a season--one day--of the TV series "24."

Do the characters ever get to nap?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

More about Louis Armstrong. And, NBC Radio's "The Big Show."

Louis Armstrong made a guest appearance on Kay Kyser’s NBC-TV show in November of 1950, during the program’s second season.

Guest stars were featured prominently during the show’s second season, which began at the start of October, 1950, and lasted until the end of December, of 1950, when the show left television. Ella Fitzgerald, Carl Ballantine, Faye Emerson, Mindy Carson, Gordon Jenkins, Bob Hope, and Hoagy Carmichael were some of the guest stars who appeared.

According to one Louis Armstrong discography, Armstrong appeared on two other TV shows in 1950: CBS’s Ken Murray Show, in May of 1950, and the Dumont Network’s Cavalcade of Bands, in October of 1950.

Armstrong, the discography notes, also appeared in December of 1950 on NBC Radio’s variety extravaganza, The Big Show. The ninety-minute program, which aired Sunday evenings and starred Tallulah Bankhead, as host, had made its debut the month before—at a time when radio was fading in popularity, and television was in ascendance. Guests on the first broadcast included Fred Allen (who would appear on the program regularly), Jimmy Durante, Ethel Merman, Mindy Carson, and Danny Thomas. Meredith Willson led the show’s orchestra.

Writes John Dunning, in his book On The Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Oxford University Press, 1998):

The Big Show was mounted on a scale unprecedented in radio. NBC literally threw money into its Sunday night colossus: $300 a minute by one estimate, which, if anything, was low. Some shows cost $100,000—‘real television money,’ as Newsweek termed it—a vast budget spent on a dying medium in a timeslot that NBC had owned for years.”

Yet, Dunning writes, The Big Show “made almost no dent in the ratings of [CBS’s] The Jack Benny Program and The Charlie McCarthy Show.” Both shows had for years aired on NBC Radio, on Sundays, but were now heard on CBS.

The Big Show was broadcast until April of 1952. The program, notes a Wikipedia piece about the show, “is remembered as one of the great final stands, at its best, of classic American old-time radio…”

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Louis Armstrong

Here is a video of the great Louis Armstrong, singing “What A Wonderful World.” The video is evidently from a 1968 taping, in London, for BBC-TV. His vocal performance is moving, and beautiful.

Armstrong died in July, 1971, a month before his 70th birthday.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Krupa, and Bernstein

Since posting the Gene Krupa video, below, I have watched it again, several times.

The video, which I love, has put me in mind of Leonard Bernstein.

Both Bernstein, in his conducting, and Krupa, at the drums, threw themselves, bodily, into their work; the physicality was striking, electric, beautifully expressive.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gene Krupa

Here’s an enjoyable bit of film of Gene Krupa—the sensational and brilliant drummer, and bandleader (1909-1973).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

"Big Band Jump"

“Big Band Jump” is an excellent syndicated radio show—originating in Atlanta, and heard on a great many stations in the United States and Canada. The show airs weekly, for two hours, and, as the title suggests, features music from the big band era; the program also provides interesting information about the featured songs and performers. The host of the program is broadcast veteran Don Kennedy.

The show’s “Big Band Jump Newsletter” is published six times a year; the cost of a yearly subscription is $24.95. The March-April, 2009 issue—the first issue in the newsletter’s 21st year of publication—includes a brief piece about The Lucky Strike Papers. The book, the newsletter observes, “takes us inside early TV to let us in on the confusion, uncertainty and thrill of performing ‘live’ in a black and white world before videotape…”

To find a station in your area which carries “Big Band Jump” (or to find out how to listen on-line), please go to: The web site also includes information about subscribing to the “Big Band Jump Newsletter.”

(Above right: "Big Band Jump" host Don Kennedy)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Frank Ford

On Tuesday, Philadelphia lost one of its best-known—and finest—broadcasters. Frank Ford, who worked for decades as a Philadelphia radio talk show host, passed away at age 92.

His wife, Lynne Abraham, is Philadelphia’s District Attorney.

In the 1980s, Frank was the co-owner of Philadelphia all-talk station WDVT-AM, which was also known as “Talk 900.” He was also the host of an afternoon talk show on the station.

The station went on the air in 1985, and went out of business in 1988. It was a relatively small station, one which was heard only during the daylight hours, and which had less-than-stellar ratings.

It was also a terribly exciting place to work. I am guessing that most of the people who were part of the station—a mixture of radio veterans and radio newcomers (I was in the latter group)—would say the same thing.

I admired Frank, and always took great pleasure in watching him work, and in listening to him work. Philadelphia was very fortunate to have been the beneficiary of his considerable talent.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Morgan White, Jr., on WBZ Radio

In 2008, as previously mentioned, I appeared a few times on Boston’s WBZ Radio, to talk about The Lucky Strike Papers. Two of those times I was interviewed by regular guest host (and trivia expert) Morgan White, Jr. Tonight, beginning at midnight, Morgan will be appearing on WBZ as the guest of host Steve LeVeille; he’ll appear for two or three hours. You can hear the show online at

Thursday, February 19, 2009

TV magazine, 1951

Bandleader Freddy Martin (seen to the right, on the cover of a July, 1951 Buffalo/Rochester TV Guide-type magazine), was the star, at the time, of his own show on NBC-TV. The Freddy Martin Show, sponsored by Hazel Bishop lipstick, aired from July to November of 1951, and also starred singer Merv Griffin and pianist Murray Arnold. It is one of the programs profiled in The Lucky Strike Papers.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

TV magazine, 1950

Seen here: the November 25-December 1, 1950 issue of TV Times, a TV Guide-type magazine from Minnesota. On the cover: bandleader Kay Kyser, with daughters Kimberly and Carroll. At the end of December, in 1950, Kay Kyser's TV show ended, and he retired from show business.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A discount

The cover price of The Lucky Strike Papers is $24.95. Until February 12th, the book can be purchased (via my web site) for the discounted price of $21.00, which includes Media Mail shipping, and Delivery Confirmation.

The link is:

Monday, January 26, 2009

"TV Confidential," "The Rockford Files," "The Colgate Comedy Hour"

In December, as previously mentioned, I appeared on a California-based Internet-only radio show, “TV Confidential,” which airs every other week ( The show’s hosts, Ed Robertson and Frankie Montiforte, are interesting & enjoyable conversationalists, and they know a great deal about television—about TV shows, television history, and the workings of the TV industry.

Robertson is a journalist, commentator, and TV historian; Montiforte is a writer for television, and has also worked in various production capacities in both film and TV.

I’m now reading (and enjoying), incidentally, a book by Ed Robertson—“ ‘This Is Jim Rockford…’ The Rockford Files.”

The book is a history of James Garner’s private-eye TV series (1974-1980), and it includes cast and production credits (and other information) about all of the show’s episodes. While the book, published in 1995 by Pomegranate Press, is now out of print, in 2005 Robertson brought out an updated and much-expanded version of the book, “Thirty Years of the Rockford Files: An Inside Look at America's Greatest Detective Series.” The updated edition is published by ASJA Press, and is available on

It’s also available at Robertson’s own web site:

Please note: one of the topics on this Tuesday’s broadcast of “TV Confidential” (10 p.m.-12 a.m. EST) will be the early television series “The Colgate Comedy Hour.”

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Research, and ebay

I originally wrote my book between 1977 and 1984 (while living in Providence, Rhode Island), but that version of the book did not reach publication. When I rewrote the book, between 2005 and 2007, the Internet age had obviously emerged, and this proved extremely useful regarding additional research.

While rewriting the book (and for a number of years prior), I bought various pictures, videos, magazines, and other artifacts from the era of early TV, via the Internet—primarily through the auction site ebay.

A few years before I began rewriting the book, I purchased, on ebay, a segment of a kinescope: it was a five-minute excerpt of a telecast of Kay Kyser’s 1949-1950 NBC show. I have no idea why only that brief kinescope segment had survived, out of an hour-long program—but I was very happy to come upon it. It was the first time I had ever seen kinescope footage from Kay Kyser's program.

I continue to occasionally buy items, on ebay. This past November I bought a kinescope of one of the programs written about in my book: John Conte’s Little Show, a twice-weekly musical program starring singer and actor Conte, which aired on NBC in 1950 and 1951. My mother was a regular guest on the show in 1951; the kinescope I bought featured one of the appearances she made on the program.

(Above right: a listing from a Midwest television magazine, 1951, for John Conte’s NBC show.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Joan Beloff, and the book "Through the Seasons"

At the end of October, I spoke about early TV at Chilton Memorial Hospital, in Pompton Plains, New Jersey. The talk was part of the hospital's "New Vitality" program (a "Health and Wellness Program For People 50 and Older"). Joan Beloff is the program's Director. She's also director of Community Outreach at the hospital.

I learned this week, via the latest "New Vitality" newsletter, that Joan co-authored a book that was brought out in mid-2008 by Johns Hopkins University Press. The book, Through the Seasons, was written with Cynthia Green, and is a workbook about Alzheimer's disease (and other illnesses affecting memory). Its subtitle is: "An Activity Book for Memory-Challenged Adults and Caregivers."

From the book's description, on "Mental stimulation has been found to offer demonstrable benefits for people with Alzheimer disease, dementia, or other memory impairment. Through the Seasons helps family members and caregivers engage memory-challenged adults in simple, enjoyable activities that provide stimulation and enhance communication."

Here's the book's link: