Amos’n Andy and the KKK

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Correll and Gosden—later to become famous as Amos ’n Andy—were originally song pluggers in Chicago. They originated the first of the strip programs that gained wide recognition, a black-faced act which was broadcast from the Edgewater Beach station, WEBH, a station partly owned by the Chicago Herald-Examiner.

The success of the act—called Sam and Henry at the time—prompted the station manager, Mr. Homer Hogan, to ask for a raise for the team from Mr. Rank, publisher of the Chicago Herald-Examiner . He wrote across the bottom of the memorandum which asked for a raise from $35 to $50 a week each, “I do not believe they’re worth it,” and signed his name. That memorandum has been framed and remains in the office of subsequent publishers of the Hearst papers in Chicago.

Sam and Henry left the Hearst papers, and after a brief assignment with the Chicago Tribune on a five-day-a-week strip, they joined the Chicago Daily News station, WMAQ, and went from there to NBC. In the course of these events the name of the act was changed from Sam and Henry to Amos ’n Andy .

Because of the popularity of radio and the ability to reach mass audiences, pressure groups appeared pretty early in the game. Most radio stations—and I know it was particularly true in the case of ours—resisted those overtures which we figured not to be of general interest to the public as a whole.

One typical example was a program offered to us on Americanism which, according to the script, seemed to be a perfectly straightforward program in the interest of our nation. When the performer arrived for the program it proved to be the head of the Ku Klux Klan, a Dr. Evans, flanked by his bodyguards. He made no pretense of following the script previously submitted but started in on an outright harangue for the Ku Klux Klan. When our studio attendants attempted to shut off the program each of his bodyguards quickly reached for their hip pockets, enough to dissuade our studio attendants from cutting off the program.

At that time feelings throughout the country were mixed about the Ku Klux Klan. We did nothing about it, but they never appeared on our station again.

I have always felt that the responsible people in radio recognized from the very outset that it was a different type of medium from any previously used. They recognized that you could go to a show or stay away, or prohibit an undesirable publication from your house, but that the radio came directly into the family circle in the living room and consequently had to be much more closely safeguarded than other media of entertainment or information.

A great deal of thought was spent during the early years on the good taste and propriety of the material which went into the home. It was safeguarded far beyond standards which were relaxed in later years. For example, at one point it reached almost the ridiculous when the use of saxophones was barred over certain stations because they were thought to have an immoral influence.