History of Radio 1933 to 1935

About the history of radio in 1933 and 1935, Roosevelt's inauguration is broadcast world wide, the Great Depression spurs radio's popularity, Fibber McGee and Molly debuts.



* Al Jolson picked up $200,000 for 40 weeks' work on the Kraft Music Hall, which debuted this season. Ironically, his guaranteed show-stopper number was that depression favorite "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"

Mar. 4 The inauguration of Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt was broadcast worldwide; the sound of sleet striking the microphone could be heard as he proclaimed, "Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." On Mar. 12, he adopted a quieter approach in the first of his "Fireside Chats."

July 24 The Romance of Helen Trent first went on the air in Chicago. It was the forerunner of many daily, 15-minute soap operas. The program lasted until June 24, 1960. During its 27-year run, three actresses played Helen--Virginia Clark and Betty Ruth Smith in Chicago, and later Julie Stevens in New York. Helen was melodramatic even by soap opera standards. So intense was its following that at the height of its popularity Helen (not the actresses who played her) received 1,000 letters a week offering advice on her many problems.

* As unemployment climbed to 24.9%, people relied more and more upon radio's "free" entertainment. Debuts this year included The Lone Ranger, Ma Perkins, The Breakfast Club, Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy, and The Jack Pearl Show, an overnight sensation.

Like Amos 'n' Andy's "I'se regusted," Jack Pearl's "Vas you dere, Sharlie?" became a national catch-phrase. Over the years, radio would popularize similar slogans: "Wanna buy a duck?" (Joe Penner); "Tain't funny, McGee!" (Molly McGee); "That's right, you're wrong!" (Kay Kyser); and "I dood it" (Red Skelton).1935

Fibber McGee and Molly made its NBC debut. Unlikely candidates for stardom, the two small-time vaudevillians from Peoria who played Fibber and Molly (Jim and Marian Jordan) had knocked around the B-circuit for years, often returning to their hometown in between gigs to take on a variety of odd jobs. Eventually, they drifted into Chicago radio, where in 1931 they met Don Quinn, who created the characters which made them famous.

A couple of more serious efforts also debuted this year-the prestigious Cavalcade of America and the spooky Lights Out.

G-man Melvin Purvis raised eyebrows when, during the course of a radio interview, he let out a loud belch. The program's sponsor, Fleischmann's Yeast, was not amused.

No other program on the air ran as long with so many complete changes of format, character, and personnel as Your Hit Parade. It began in April, 1935, and ended in April, 1959. America's Saturday night mania during its heyday, the early 1940s, was to discover which song was Number One on the Hit Parade, and wagers were often made on the outcome.

The furious chanting of former tobacco auctioneers L. A. "Speed" Riggs and F. E. Boone opened the program, while maestro Lennie Hayton, the Hit Paraders, and the Lucky Strike Orchestra played the week's top 15 tunes. During its time on the air, the show went through more than a dozen top orchestra leaders and many singers. The leaders included Al Goodman, Peter Van Steeden, Ray Sinatra, Carl Hoff, Abe Lyman, Freddie Rich, Harry Salter, Harry Sosnick, Richard Himber, Leo Reisman, Scott Quintet, Mark Warnow, and Alex Stordahl. The singers included Frank Sinatra, Lawrence Tibbett, Dick Todd, Johnny Mercer, Dinah Shore, Ginny Simms, Martha Tilton, Doris Day, Dick Haymes, Andy Russell, and Eileen Wilson. Your Hit Parade later made a successful transition to TV.


Radio was used extensively in the presidential campaign. The Republicans even retained an advertising agency to fashion their pitches. Still, old pro FDR, who held off, delivering only "nonpolitical" speeches until nearly the end, swamped Alf Landon.

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