Wednesday, October 7, 2020

70 years ago today

In the summer of 1950, the network radio program Your Hit Parade--also known as the Lucky Strike Hit Parade--came to television; it had aired on radio since 1935.

There were four experimental Hit Parade telecasts, during the summer of 1950. The shows, originating from New York's International Theatre, at Columbus Circle, starred vocalists Eileen Wilson, Snooky Lanson, and Dorothy Collins--as well as the Hit Paraders choral group, the Hit Parade dancers, and the Lucky Strike Orchestra, led by Raymond Scott. 

The summer telecasts were successful, and on October 7, 1950--70 years ago today--the TV program began its weekly broadcasts on NBC (from New York's Center Theatre, at Rockefeller Center). The television show would continue airing for most of the 1950s.

In early 1951, my mother, singer Sue Bennett, joined the Hit Parade's cast.  At first, she performed in live Lucky Strike commercials on the show, with singer Russell Arms, and others.  She later became one of the show's featured singers, performing on the program until the end of the 1951-1952 season.

The next season, Eileen Wilson was replaced by singer June Valli; Russell Arms also became one of the show's starring singers. In the fall of 1953, singer Gisele MacKenzie replaced Valli.  MacKenzie, Dorothy Collins, Snooky Lanson, and Arms--the show's best-remembered performers--remained with the program until 1957.

A new starring cast, made up of younger singers, was brought in for the 1957-1958 season.  The show was then changed again, when it aired for part of the 1958-1959 season; it moved to CBS, and starred Dorothy Collins, and singer Johnny Desmond.