“program Coming In Fine. Please Play ‘japanese Sandman.’ ”


NBC and the other networks that followed it were formed to provide a national advertising medium that would soon shake Madison Avenue to its foundations, and then endow it with a new cast of millionaires. Network service would bring national figures to local radio stations, at once amplifying the voices of Presidents and creating a whole new family album of popular entertainers and “theme songs.”

Billy Jones and Krnic Hare, two stand-up vaudevillians, came on the “national hookup” with this song, which I quote from memory:

Socks! Socks! Here we are upon the air! Socks! Socks! We’re the Interwoven Pair, we’re Billy Jones and Ernie Hare— Socks! Socks! We call each other Heel and Toe! We’re happy-go-lucky wherever we go! Now it’s time to entertain you [etc.]

Julia Sanderson, I believe, was the Quaker Girl. She and her husband, Frank Crumit, were great Broadway stars before radio began ( The Girl from Utah, Tangerine , etc.). but her national triumph was over the radio when she came on singing (as I recall the lyrics):

Listen now as we Suggest there ought to be An Armstrong Quaker rug in every home; For Always there is some room (and often more than one room) Where Quaker rugs will brigthen up, lighten up the housework; …and furthermore Beautiful patterns in every room and all across the floor; So gather now as we Repeat there ought to be An Armstrong Quaker rug in every home, sweet home! I’m the Quaker Girl from Quaker Town!

Network radio, born in the Twenties, is largely responsible for the Great Homogenization of the United States. The country lost something but probably gained more in the process, for dependence on local entertainment was, by and large, quite limiting: and exposure to Will Rogers, Paul Whitcman, Raymond Knight (who created the sophisticated “Cuckoo Hour”), and Walter Damrosch gave a new lift to programming. Radio, along with movies, replaced vaude ville and “the road”: and it reduced prices at the box office.

It is worth reminding ourselves that this transformation took place in almost no time, for NBC was born only six years alter the first KDKA broadcast. In those seventy-two short months I’rom November a, 1920, to November 15, 1926—the night NBC^ went on the air—radio had become a high-strung, high-priced, highly organized, national medium that had already challenged the economies of advertising and the stability of the printing press itself. Broadcasting’s bone structure was thus formed in the nineteen twenties, and has never since been fundamentally altered or improved upon. Ahead was the parade of shows that stretch from 1930 to the present, from Joe Pciincr and Jack Benny to Barbra Strcisand and Jack Benny (seen as well as heard), by which time both broadcasting and I had long since outgrown our knickers, our cat whisker, and the Twenties.

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