Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The History of KFRC, San Francisco, and the Don Lee Networks, Pt. 8

Originally published in the January, 2009, Old Radio Times.(http://www.otrr.org/pg07_times.htm)

The History of KFRC, San Francisco, and the Don Lee Networks
John F. Schneider

His guitar and songs had been strictly a hobby until the mid 1920's, when his real estate business suddenly failed. A KFRC executive saw he and his brother Cal performing a vaudeville sketch at a real estate convention, and they were immediately hired. Their program on KFRC, The Happy Go Lucky Hour, first debuted in 1929.

Alice Blue, KFRC staff organist, wrote of her recollections of Al Pearce's beginnings:

"The Gang was developed from a small program of three KFRC staffers, who had no idea what they had spawned -- Norman Neilsen, Monroe Upton and I. Norman sang ballads, Monroe emceed and I played the piano -- preceding Edna Fischer. We had a daily program -- no name -- in 1929 when we were all pretty much on our own without the regulations that came later. The small program grew and grew. Fan mail poured in and still we didn't really realize what we had. One day, Al Pearce walked in and said 'This is it.' He had an eye and an ear for show business. Soon our threesome had a cast that later included the original trio out. One time many years later I sat next to Al at a dinner and he drank a toast to the lost trio who started the ball rolling. It rolled far under Al's clever management."

The Happy Go Lucky Hour was a vaudeville-style variety show, featuring music and comedy skits with a cast of regular entertainers. There was singer Tommy Harris, Upton, who played the character "Lord Bilgewater", Harry "Mac" McClintock, Hazel Warner, Edna O'Keefe, Marjorie Lane Truesdale, Tony Romano, Abe Bloom, Cecil Wright and a host of others.

Al's most popular character was the bashful door-to-door salesman Elmer Blurt, whose knock on the door was always followed by the familiar line, "There's nobody to home today, I hope, I hope, I hope". Another was Miss Tizzie Lish, known for her bad recipes and good gags.

The popular program graduated from a West Coast offering to nationwide on CBS. It moved to NBC in 1933 and became Al Pearce and His Gang, a network staple until 1947. (Brother Cal never made the move to the networks, and returned to his previous career of real estate.)


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