Friday, May 9, 2014


Fred Waring NBC publicity photo
After a series of successful Victor Records, Fred Waring and the Waring’s Pennsylvanians branched into radio with daily and weekly musical radio broadcasts that ultimately made them very popular to a mainstream market that was purchasing radios for home entertainment. A long story made short, the clash of radio and recorded music caused copyright problems in the smaller market radio stations and Waring lobbied hard for broadcasting reforms so the authors of recorded music would receive fair compensation for their work. Smaller stations, unable to afford live performances, had begun to broadcast recorded music. No system of royalty payments existed at the time, and the Artists Protective Society, a group representing musicians and bandleaders, claimed this practice was cutting into performers' incomes. In 1929, the APS demanded that artists be compensated for use of their recordings. Waring was passionate about the issue and decided to take a stronger stance. Beginning in 1930, he refused to make any further recordings unless a system for royalty payments was instituted. Waring maintained this position for more than ten years before he again entered the studio in late 1941, signing with Decca. During most of the 1930s Waring's music was only available at live performances or through his radio show, sponsored by the P. Lorillard Tobacco Company, hocking Old Gold Cigarettes.

Waring's orchestra supposedly has the distinction of being the first to record a George Gershwin tune, the first to record a rumba, and the first dance band to record with a vocal chorus. Aside from Victor the group also released material on the Columbia label. Vocalists included Stuart Churchill and Waring's own brother, Tom.

Fred Waring continued his radio program with various sponsors including Ford Motos, E.W. Grove (Bromo-Quinine cold tablets), Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company (Chesterfield Cigarettes), American Meat, the Florida Citrus Growers, General Electric and Johnson Wax (as a summer replacement for the Fibber McGee and Molly program). More than 70 radio broadcasts exist in recorded form before 1947, including one with Kay Thompson and a few from 1935 with Priscilla Lane. Priscilla Lane attended the Eagin School of Dramatic Arts in New York before she began touring with her sisters in the Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians Dance Band. She was a popular singer with her sisters and, after 5 years, she signed a Hollywood contract with Warner Brothers in 1937. Her first film was Varsity Show (1937) where she portrayed a singer with the Fred Waring Band! (Her Hollywood career was short-lived but she had the opportunity to work with Cary Grant, Jack Benny, James Cagney and Alfred Hitchcock.)

In 1947, courtesy of the Leo Burnett Advertising Agency, the Minnesota Valley Canning Company was convinced in sponsoring Fred Waring’s radio program – but for only four broadcasts. Products promoted were canned vegetables: Niblets brand whole kernel corn with the Green Giant on the label and Green Giant brand peas. Afterwards, the series was broadcast over NBC as a sustainer until months later when the sponsor agreed to pick up the series for a lengthier time period. For almost three years (1947-1950), Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians entertained radio listeners on Friday and Saturday mornings.

Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians

For anyone who has never heard a recording, The Fred Waring Show was a program of popular music with some especially-featured arrangements of other types of music, such as Negro Spirituals and often a hymn. For many of the broadcasts, a central theme such as “love” was chosen and the program selections were built around that idea. During the program, anniversary salutes to well-known men and women and anniversary tributes to the memory of great men and women no longer living were featured. Dramatic spots or narration were often used in such salutes or in the development of a central theme. The music included the Waring Orchestra’s performance plus the Waring Orchestra (a chorus of voices, mixed chorus, with orchestral background); the Waring Glee Club, composing the entire choral group and featuring soloists; the feature vocal group known as “Honey and the Bees” with Daisy Bernier as “Honey” and three male vocalists as “the Bees”; solo instrumental performances by Joe Sodja on his electric guitar, Lumpy Brannum on the “bull fiddle” and others from time to time; the piano team composed of Virginia Morley and Livingston Gearhart; and others, such as the vocal combinations known as “the Twin Trios,” “the Gordonnaires” and “the Swingarettes.” Occasionally, Hugh (Lumpy) Brannum featured musical stories for children, using story-continuity and musical sound effects produced on his big bass fiddle.

Fred Waring was the emcee. Don Craig was the narrator for dramatic spots, with Jack Dolph, one of the writers for the show, also doing narrations. Bill Bivens was the announcer. Music performed by the Fred Waring Orchestra and the Glee Club.

Broadcasts were “live” each week. (They began transcribing the series beginning with the broadcast of May 13, 1949.)

The series premiered on March 14, 1947 and ran until July 8, 1950. The initial contract was for four weeks (March 14 to April 4, 1947), whereupon the sponsor later renewed for 26 weeks (July 18, 1947 to January 9, 1948). The sponsor, pleased with the results, renewed the contract for an additional 26 weeks, followed by an additional 52 weeks and another 52 weeks.

March 14 to April 4, 1947, Friday, 11 to 11:30 a.m., EST
July 18, 1947 to September 26, 1947, Friday, 11 to 11:30 a.m., EST
October 3, 1947 to July 8, 1949, Friday, 10 to 10:30 a.m., EST
July 16, 1949 to July 8, 1950, Saturday, 10 to 10:30 a.m., EST

The following is an episode guide for the calendar year of 1948. Before focusing on the broadcasts, it might be helpful to understand Waring’s activities behind the microphone.  In 1943, Waring acquired the Buckwood Inn in Shawnee on Delaware, Pennsylvania, and renamed the resort the Shawnee Inn and Country Club, a golf resort. To promote the Inn, Waring centered his musical activities at the Inn itself. He created, rehearsed and broadcast his radio programs from the stage of Shawnee's Worthington Hall throughout the 1940s and a few of the episodes listed below are referenced to broadcast origination from Shawnee on Delaware. In 1947, Waring organized the Fred Waring Choral Workshop at his Pennsylvania headquarters in Shawnee-on-the Delaware, which was also the home of Shawnee Press, the music publisher which he founded. At these sessions, talented musicians learned to sing with precision, sensitivity and enthusiasm. When these vocalists returned home and shared what they had learned with fellow musicians, Waring’s approach to choral singing spread throughout the nation.

Fred Waring at the NBC mike.
Waring expanded into television with The Fred Waring Show, which ran on CBS-TV from June 20, 1948 to May 30, 1954 and received several awards for Best Musical Program.

The January 16, 1948 radio broadcast was in connection with Waring’s fondness for cartoons. Waring was a cartoon and comic strip collector, and beginning in 1948, two years after the National Cartoonists Society was formed, Waring invited members of that organization to spend a day at the Shawnee Inn. It became an annual event, held each June for the next 25 years, resulting in a huge collection of artwork created for Waring by the cartoonists, including many drawn on Shawnee Inn stationery.

Broadcast of January 2, 1948
Features a birthday salute to former Pennsylvanian Anne Shaw Price who now lives in Peru. Also features an anniversary tribute to the Gadsden Purchase, made 94 years ago when James Gadsden, then minister to Mexico, arranged the purchase of the territory of Mexico, now known as Arizona and New Mexico. One spot on the program was devoted to the Western States. Another spot was devoted to “Mandalay.”

Broadcast of January 9, 1948
Features a birthday salute to the Broadway musical comedy hit, Finian’s Rainbow. The musical celebrated it’s first birthday (a full year on Broadway) on January 10. Waring mentions that Finian’s Rainbow has been voted the 1947 show with the best actors, best dance choreography, and best music – in all has won 47 awards during its first year.

Broadcast of January 16, 1948
Special guest is Mel Graff, creator of the comic strip Secret Agent X-9. Graff was also an artist, a song-writer and a dramatist. His comic strip on January 15 featured a character take-off on Fred Waring and Mel Graff talks about his third “villain.” (For any Mel Graff scholars who wondered why the take-off on Fred Waring in his comic strip, the tie-in has now been explained.)

Broadcast on January 23, 1948
Fred Waring does a serious spot today titled “January 25,” reminding the listeners that just one month ago on another 25th, we were filled with the spirit of the Christmas holiday season. Waring asked that we might make this “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Man” a permanent thing. He proposed having a series of “little Christmases,” stopping at least on the anniversary of Christmas Day each month through the year to recall that there can be such a thing as love and peace and goodwill in the hearts of men. 
Broadcast of January 30, 1948
Featured a program spot titled “Return What You Borrow.” Also featured an original rhyme advocating a “Return What You Borrow” week.

Broadcast of February 6, 1948
Program has a take-off on the advertising jingle, especially the “One Minute Transcription Jingle.” Waring’s group does several original jingles that would “sell anything including the Brooklyn Bridge.” The last fifteen minutes of the program was devoted to this take-off.

Broadcast February 13, 1948
Program has sketches and salutes to Valentine’s Day, to Friday the Thirteenth and to the World Day of Prayer (a day set aside in 1887 to be observed on the first Friday of Lent each year). In regard to the World Day of Prayer tribute, Fred Waring tells how this day came to be designated by the United Council of Church Women and how, today, this day is observed in 68 different countries where prayers for peace and brotherhood are offered in 1,068 different languages and dialects. The Waring Glee Club sings “Holy, Holy, Holy” in keeping with the World Day of Prayer idea.

Broadcast of February 20, 1948
Program includes a spot in salute to the observance of Brotherhood Week. Waring says the coming week is scheduled to be observed as Brotherhood Week, or “Remember the Other Fellow Week,” or “Be Nice to Your Neighbor Week.” Waring said if we are “nice to our neighbors,” at home and abroad, we shall have true brotherhood. Glee Club sings “It’s so Nice to be Nice to Your Neighbor.” A comedy sketch titled “Helpful Neighbors” is presented to call attention to “Good Neighbor Week.”

Broadcast of February 27, 1948
Studio audience today is composed of members of the Lafayette College Glee Club and Swing Band (also the “Winston Girls” are in the audience). The show offered a variety program today with various kinds of selections. Today was the last time for Fred Waring until after he returns from vacation. His first voluntary vacation in 12 years!

Broadcast of March 5, 1948
Jack Berch, radio “singing and whistling star” is the guest emcee in the absence of the vacationing Fred Waring. Don Craig, a regular on the series, assists on the emcee job. Fred Culley directs the orchestra.

Broadcast of March 12, 1948
Mary Margaret McBride, woman columnist and commentator of the air, is the special guest for this broadcast, emcee in place of Fred Waring, who she refers to as “her favorite man,” who is still on vacation.

Broadcast of March 19, 1948
Tom Waring, one of the original “Pennsylvanians,” is emcee today. Stuart Churchill is featured as soloist, with Tom Waring’s announcing today as “Stuart Churchill Day” on the program. Program includes selections appropriate for Palm Sunday.

Broadcast of March 26, 1948
Nelson Olmsted, narrator and radio actor, is guest emcee and is also featured in the special Easter production titled “Song of Easter.” Nelson Olmsted reads the Scripture in “Song of Easter,” which includes an excerpt from Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. The entire production of “Song of Easter” consists of Easter Scripture and music blended from 14 Negro Spirituals. The production is prepared by Roy Ringwald, arranger for the program. (Playing time from 10:11 to 10:28 a.m.) Soloists included: Gordon Goodman, Leonard Kranendonk, David Glissman and Johnny Petterson. Lara Hoggard conducts the orchestra.

Broadcast of April 2, 1948
Gordon Goodman, regular member of the “Pennsylvanians,” is emcee today. Program includes salute to Zuma Palmer, radio and drama editor, the “Hollywood Citizen News.” Goodman says Zuma Palmer was honored in Hollywood last night with a special banquet in honor of her more than 20 years of service on the “Citizen News,” her syndicated column focusing on Hollywood gossip, news and advance features.

Broadcast of April 9, 1948
Fred Waring returns today after a six-week vacation. The program has a spot about Mexico. Waring was on vacation in Mexico, hence the focus of the subject.

Broadcast on April 16, 1948
This broadcast originates from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (not New York City where all of the episodes documented above originate). This episode featured a dramatic sketch titled “Future for Freedom,” based on a scheduled (but cancelled) Time magazine article titled “International Forum of the Future of Freedom.” The questions planned for use on this forum are used publicly for the first time today when they are used in the dramatic sketch. The forum planned by Time magazine was to be held in New Orleans this week but was called off because the foreign statesmen invited to attend had to remain in their own countries because of recent foreign developments.

Part Two will be featured in a future blog post, the second half of the 1948 broadcast log.