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.