History of Radio 1944 to 1955

About the history of radio from 1944 to 1955 including a meeting of Bob Hope and Groucho Marx, Jack Benny leads the switch from NBC to CBS, Dragnet and Gunsmoke debut.



Apr. Coverage of the Allied invasion of Europe bumped all scheduled programs off the air.


When Groucho Marx and Bob Hope teamed up for a radio special this year, it promised loads of laughs. But as the two comics bantered back and forth in scripted dialogue, the audience sat mum. Flop sweat soon inundated both performers, and Hope nervously dropped his script under the table. Groucho quickly stomped on the strewn pages, forcing Hope to join him in ad-libbing the rest of the program. What followed was a hilarious blend of Hope-Marx wit, which saved the show. Especially tickled that night was a young producer in the audience named John Guedel, who stopped laughing long enough to ask Groucho backstage if he might be interested in hosting a new game show then in the works-called You Bet Your Life. Guedel finally persuaded Groucho to give it a try, and the show aired on Oct. 27, 1947. The popular quiz program later moved to television.


Oct. 28 Through the letters column of the Chicago Tribune, Lee De Forest upbraided the members of the National Association of Broadcasters: "What have you gentlemen done with my child?"-and then went on to bemoan the proliferation of commercials.


May Counterattack: The Newsletter of Facts on Communism began publication. From this eventually came Red Channels, a handy guide designed to keep radio sponsors posted on the latest "Commies" infiltrating the industry. Many performers, writers, and directors thus suspected of left-wing leanings were blacklisted for years; others so branded were drummed out of the business for good.


Jack Benny started an exodus of NBC stars to CBS on "capital gains deals," by which performers drew tax breaks by becoming corporations. Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Amos 'n' Andy, Red Skelton, and Burns and Allen all made the switch. With the great star raid, CBS for the first time replaced NBC as the dominant network.

Fall Stop the Music, a quiz show, came on the air doling out an unprecedented $165,000 a week in prizes. Suddenly ousted from his number-one spot in the ratings by the great giveaway, Fred Allen offered his listeners an insurance policy-compensation to anyone called by the game show while listening to Allen.


July 7 Dragnet premiered. Soon its DUM-DE-DUM-DUM theme and its clipped dialogue ("Just the facts, ma'am") entered the American vernacular.


Nov. 5. The Big Show went on NBC. Emceed by Tallulah Bankhead and featuring top stars, it has been called "the last gasp of bigtime radio."


Apr. 26 Gunsmoke joined the CBS lineup. Starring William Conrad as Marshal Matt Dillon, it would never enjoy the popularity of its TV counterpart, but it managed to survive on radio until mid-1961.

* "Radio is dead," said Robert Sarnoff, son of David and now president of NBC.


Fall Monitor premiered on NBC. A weekend melange of news, features, interviews, and even recordings of old radio shows, it ran through 1974.

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