Edited by Gerald Boerner
We look back on a series of events that meant much to our country from the 1920s to the 1950s. A major event was the introduction of the radio into homes of America. Prior to the mid-1920s, entertainment meant either going to the local movie theater, go to a live theater (generally in the larger towns), or bringing out the record player and the recording cylinders; flat, 78 rpm records and their players were just starting to appear at this time. Radio broke onto the scene with its music and comedy which changed the “face” The American home.
I remember fondly the console radios at both of my grandmothers’ houses. These were not fancy stereo radios, or even hi-fidelity; they were basic units in the beginning just like the initial TVs of the late 1940s had small screens and were relatively primitive by today’s standards. In the mid-1920s, the radio units were simple and the content available was relatively meager as well. Most of this content was recorded music, live bands (on weekends), and some early comedy shows. And, of course, there was radio news. If you lived in or near a major city you were in luck since you would be able to receive a strong radio signal from your local station. If you lived farther away, you may be able to receive a signal in appropriate weather, but often times you were just plane out of luck.
Thus, some radio stations were given permission to boost their signal strength and became one of the few “clear channel” stations. One such station in Chicago was WMAQ(AM). Why was this important? Because the farmers of the extended area needed to hear the weather broadcast to know when they needed to protect their fields and/or livestock. These stations became the center of a network of stations associated with one of the national networks, such as the National Broadcasting Corporation. These stations and networks also became the home of some of the emerging radio situation comedies, like Amos ‘n’ Andy, Fibber McGee and Molly, Burns and Allen, and others.
In this environment, two broadcasters from North Carolina, Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden. These two had developed a comedy show for WGN (Chicago) called “Sam and Henry”. When a difference of opinion developed between WGN management and the two broadcasters, the latter left WGN for WMAQ to develop a new program: “Amos ‘n’ Andy”. This sitcom featured the interaction of two black men from the south and a small group of their friends, mainly males. Correll and Gosden assumed the roles of all characters and adopted stereotyped characters who spoke with a stereotyped speech pattern. On radio, it wasn’t apparent that two white men were providing the voices of two black men living in Chicago.
However, when the series was adapted for television, a whole new scenario arose. White actors in black face would not pass muster. The stereotyping and hypocrisy became apparent and demanded change. In fact, the NAACP arose to demand that black actors be employed. The also demanded a change in the demeaning portrayal of blacks. Check out these two videos available online for more information on this confrontation…
Racial Stereotyping (Part 1 of 2), Television: Inside & Out… (7:55)
Racial Stereotyping (Part 2 of 2), Television: Inside & Out… (6:56)
But now let’s get started on our exploration of Amos ‘n’ Andy and some of the history of the development of this pioneering comedy series on the radio in the mid-1920s… GLB
These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2012 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved
[ 4680 Words ]
Quotations Related to Radio:
“Gossip is the Devil’s radio.”
— George Harrison
“If it weren’t for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, we’d still be eating frozen radio dinners.”
— Johnny Carson
“Radio is a bag of mediocrity where little men with carbon minds wallow in sluice of their own making.”
— Fred Allen