This is an online encyclopedia of personalities of Old Time Radio. It is designed for educational and entertainment purposes.

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Friday, October 01, 2010

Dudley Manlove (1914-96)

Dudley Devere Manlove (yes, it was his real name!) was born June 11, 1914, in Oakland, California, into a family that worked part of the year in vaudeville. Not a very wealthy family, but hard working, he was able to get singing, dancing, and piano lessons from colleagues of his parents. He worked on the vaudeville circuit himself through his mid 20s, when he got a position of staff announcer at radio station KPO in San Francisco.

Most OTR aficionados remember Dudley Manlove as the announcer on the NBC West Coast detective series, Candy Matson.

After Candy Matson went off the air, Manlove moved to Los Angeles to try his hand at motion pictures. Through his association with Monty Masters of the Candy Matson show, he befriended Jack Webb, who used Manlove for several of his radio shows and for the Dragnet TV show, as well as other work in television. He was also famous for his Lux soap commercials.

He also met Edward D. Wood, Jr., said to be the worst Hollywood film director/producer/writer of all time. Manlove did four of Wood's projects, including Plan IX from Outer Space (where the picture attached to this entry came from), in which he played the alien Eros.

Manlove was a staff announcer at the old NBC Radio City at Sunset and Vine in Hollywood. He retired before that building was razed in the mid 1960s. He died on April 17, 1996, at the age of 81, in San Bernardino, ironically, the city that was attacked in Plan IX from Outer Space.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Duncan Hines (1880-1959)

Duncan Hines was born March 26, 1880, in Bowling Green, Kentucky. As a young man he traveled around the country as a traveling salesman. Not being able to cook meant that he had to eat in restaurants (I know the feeling). In 1935, with his wife, Clara, he wrote a book called Adventures in Good Eating. He then wrote sever
al other books about traveling. He was the guest on many radio shows, however, none of these exist anymore.

During the 1930s and 1940s, Hines went around the country rating the food in restaurants.

In 1949, his wife died and he started a food company with Roy Park, Hines-Park Foods. Its most popular line was ice cream. Park took it over completely in 1953. It was sold to Procter and Gamble in 1957. P&G sold it to Aurora Foods in 1998. Aurora sold it to Pinnacle Foods in 2004. The brand lives on. When P&G took the company, it concentrated on cake mixes, frosting mixes, and other home baked goods.

Duncan Hines died a few days before his 79th birthday on March 15, 1959. Sadly, since all of his radio appearances have been lost, the only recorded broadcast of Mr. Hines is an episode of the TV game show, To Tell the Truth, in 1957. Duncan Hines is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Bowling Green. A three mile stretch of US 31-W north of the city is named for him.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

George Fenneman (1919-97)

George Watt Fenneman was born November 10, 1919, in Beijing, China. (It was known as Peking in those days.) His father was an international banker. Before he could start school, his family moved to San Francisco, California, where he grew up. He graduated from San Francisco State College (now University) and went to work for the Blue Network as a war correspondent during World War II.

He married British character actress Peggy Ann Clifford on May 29, 1943. They would have three children. She died in 1984.

Returning to California and moving to Hollywood, George's first radio show was a comedy show starring Bob Sweeney and Hal March. The Sweeney and March Show would only be heard for one season.

Next, they said it was an experiment, but it ended up being the program which most people think of when they think of George Fenneman, You Bet Your Life, "the comedy quiz show from Hollywood." Groucho Marx was the moderator who basically just talked to guests as if they were visiting him at his house. George would have announced a "secret word" and if anyone said that word, they won a heap of money. Although the show was scripted, Groucho never let that bother him. A thirty minute show could take two hours to record. The tough part was getting the best thirty minutes to go on the air. George was the perfect straight man. You Bet Your Life aired on ABC first, then moved to CBS, for a couple of years, then to NBC, where it was also seen on television. The show lasted on radio until 1954. Many of the TV episodes would be broadcast on radio. The last TV episode aired in 1961.

Other shows George announced were Abbott and Costello, Pat Novak for Hire, I Fly Anything, and Gunsmoke.

Two more big jobs he had were Dragnet and the Martin and Lewis Show, both for Chesterfield cigarettes.

On Dragnet, he was first heard in the beginning of 1951. Two announcers were used: George was one and the other was Hal Gibney. George would do the same on television... in the 1950s with Hal and in the 1960s with John Stephenson (1923- ), best known as the voice of Mr. Slate on the Flintstones cartoon series.

On Martin and Lewis, he introduced Dean Martin and read lots of commercials. Occasionally, he did introduce Jerry Lewis.

George appeared in one movie in 1951, The Thing from Another World, in which he played the part of Dr. Redding, a scientist. The part was offered to him as its director, Christopher Nyby, was his next door neighbor. He also appeared in a serial on the Mickey Mouse Club, but aside from that he was only seen as himself, the genial announcer.

He hosted two game shows, Anybody Can Play (1958, CBS) and Your Surprise Package (1961, syndicated). Incidentally, the latter featured Carol Merrill, the lovely model who would later gain notoriety on Let's Make a Deal, hosted by Monty Hall.

After the death of veteran radio announcer, Harry Von Zell (1906-81), George took his place as the commercial spokesman for Home Savings and Loan. (The picture at the left is the old Sunset and Vine branch of that bank in Hollywood. It was the former site of NBC's Hollywood studio which was razed in the mid 1960s.)

George Fenneman died on May 29, 1997, after a long bout with emphysema at his home in Los Angeles. He was 77 years old.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Herbert Morrison (1905-89)

"It's crashing. It's crashing terrible. Oh, my...get out of the way, please. It's bursting into flames! And it's falling on the mooring mast. All the folks agree this is terrible, one of the worst catastrophes on the world. Oh, the flames, four or five hundred feet in the sky! It's a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen. The smoke and the flames now and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring mast. Oh, the humanity and all the passengers..."

Herbert Morrison was born May 14, 1905, in Scottdale, Pennsylvania, 49 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. He was a career broadcaster.

At WLS in Chicago, Herb was a music announcer, a job that was later called a disc jockey. He was also the man who announced yacht races on Lake Michigan (once or twice), dished out the celebrity gossip (unwillingly), and did all the mundane duties that no one else wanted to do. And they were going to resume airship traffic between Germany and the United States the first week in May. Guess who was chosen to cover it?

This job in New Jersey given to Herb was a dream assignment. All he would have to do is describe what he saw. The German Consulate-General of Chicago gave him a brochure that had explained everything. And he carefully memorized the parts of the airship. He learned the difference between a blimp and a dirigible. A blimp does not have a frame. A dirigible has one. This was Herb's first air flight--he flew from Chicago (Midway) directly to Lakehurst on American Airlines special flights for Hindenburg passengers), then stayed at a hotel in Toms River, New Jersey.

His companion for the trip was sound engineer Charles Nehlson. Their luggage was one simple overnight bag for each of the men, who didn't share a room, and a complicated transcription disc recorder. This rather complicated contraption made almost instantaneous 16-2/3 RPM records. These could be played over the air immediately. The plan was to record the landing and give the record to a man from the NBC network in New York, who would be waiting after the pomp and ceremony were all over.

Although Herb was away from his beloved wife Mary Jane, he was happy to have an easy job for a change. He didn't like the takeoff from Midway Field and had told Nehlson he was thinking about taking the train back to Chicago. After all, it was Thursday and they didn't have to be back work until Saturday (it was a two day trip, and the train would get in Friday afternoon). Nehlson, whom Herb always called Charley, was a friendly professional who understood what Herb felt. Neither one of them really wanted to go up in the sky again after they saw what happened to the Hindenburg.

At the time of the explosion, the word about it did not go out immediately. It was actually a phone call from the man that Herb and Charley met from NBC who called station WEAF that let the folks know in New York that something was wrong. News crews from New York did their best to get to the Lakehurst Naval Air Station (an interesting fact is that both the German and U.S. terminals of the route of the Hindenburg were naval bases). The word went out to WOR, WJZ (which, even though located in the same building, had a different news crew), WABC, WINS, WNEW, WHN, and WMCA (maybe others). They used their own personal vehicles to get to the base. Troopers from the New Jersey State Police had a 10 mile perimeter around Lakehurst sealed off limits from the public. Sabotage was suspected.

As soon as Morrison and Nehlson had what they needed for the report, they tried to look for the man from WEAF to give him the record. They called a taxi to take them back to Philadelphia, put their bags into the trunk, then realized they were being followed by two SS agents. This thwarted their plans of taking the train back to Chicago. They took the first airplane out and arrived home that evening.

They had made two recordings, one for NBC and a second which would air on Saturday afternoon. The SS agents were after whatever they had. They would take great pleasure in destroying their transcription disc recorder!

Anyway, they arrived home safe and sound. Even after they took the disc to the station the next day, the paranoia didn't leave them for weeks.

Herbert Morrison left WLS in 1939 to take a news position with the Mutual network at radio station WOR in New York. During World War II he served in the Army Air Forces. He was the first news director at WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh after having a similar position at radio station KQV in the same city.

Charley Nehlson retired from WLS in the early 1960s. Both he and Herb received gold watches for their work they did with the Hindenburg report shortly after it aired.

Retiring near Morgantown, West Virginia, Herb often gave lectures and speeches to school and news organizations. Herbert Morrison died at a convalescent home in Morgantown at the age of 83. He was survived by his wife Mary Jane. Herb is buried in the Scottdale Cemetery.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Axel Stordahl (1913-63)

Odd Axel Stordahl was born August 8, 1913, in Staten Island, New York, to immigrants from Norway. He learned to play the trumpet in public school and became an ace arranger. Most people in school and professional life called him by his middle name, Axel. However, as an arranger, Odd became more than a name; it became his trademark.

He played trumpet for many name bands in New York in the 1920s and '30s. Tommy Dorsey hired him away from his main job in the 1930s of arranging music for Bert Block. At the same time Dorsey hired another trumpeter, Joe Bauer, and vocalist Jack Leonard. The trio became the Three Esquires. While with Dorsey, he worked with Paul Weston as co-arrangers. They hired singer Jo Stafford who later became Mrs. Paul Weston.

Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra had a short working relationship which was passed on to Axel Stordahl in the early 1940s. Stordahl was the bandleader on the radio series Your Hit Parade, which also often featured Sinatra. Because this show was sponsored by a tobacco program, it's interesting to point out that Stordahl was often photographed leading his groups while smoking a pipe. In the 1945 movie musical Anchors Aweigh (which starred Sinatra and Gene Kelly), Stordahl wrote the orchestrations. He worked with Sinatra (at Columbia Records) from 1942 to 1951, when Sinatra signed up with Capitol Records.

Stordahl married June Hutton, who was a singer with the Pied Pipers in 1951. During the 1950s, he worked with many of the popular singers of the time (Dean Martin, Peggy Lee, Dinah Shore, Doris Day, Eddie Fisher, and Bing Crosby). He did some work on television on the show, Startime.

In the early 1960s, he worked on Sinatra's two last albums for Capitol Records. Diagnosed with cancer, he stayed at home for his remaining months of life and composed the theme music for the situation comedy, McHale's Navy. He died on August 30, 1963, at age 50, in his home in the Encino district of Los Angeles, California. He was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. His wife died in 1973 at the age of 52. She is buried next to him.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stoopnagle and Budd

The biggest stars of Old Time Radio sometimes had very short careers. Take one team, Stoopnagle and Budd. They were a household word in the mid 1930s, yet, when the decade was out, it was all over... for the team.

F. Chase Taylor (1897-1950)

Frederick Chase Taylor was born October 4, 1897, in Buffalo, New York. His father, Luther Chase, ran a lumber business. He attended the University of Rochester, his father's alma mater, but quit to enlist in the U.S. Navy during World War I. It was in the Navy that Chase became interested in radio.

Upon completion of naval service, he returned to Buffalo and worked as a salesman for the family firm. He married Lois DeRidder. They soon had a son, F. Chase Taylor Jr. (1921-2007), their only child. In 1927, his mother, Sara Chase Taylor died. Chase left the wood company and went to work as a stock broker. Two years later the great Stock Market Crash took place and he began writing for radio programs at radio station WGR. He also worked at WMAK.

In 1930, Chase began working on the air with a man named Wilbur Budd Hulick, who hailed from New Jersey. They had 15 minutes each week they could do anything. Chase started calling himself Colonel Lemuel Q. Stoopnagle and was a master of spoonerisms. (A spoonerism is a phrase in which certain elements are twisted around.) The program, now on station WKBR, soon became known as the Ask for Mail Show.

Five months later, it was known as the Gloom Chasers and was intensely popular. It aired Monday through Thursday from 8:45 to 9:00 P.M., originating from WABC in New York City and heard over the Columbia Broadcasting System.

They were in movies: International House (1933), Stoopnocracy (1933), and The Inventors (1934). Chase was divorced from his wife in 1936 and things started falling apart for Stoopnagle and Budd.

In 1937, the two men broke up. No explanation was ever given, though Budd probably got tired of just agreeing with the Colonel. Chase would continue as Colonel Stoopnagle for the rest of his life.

He died May 29, 1950, of heart disease, at the age of 52, in Boston, Massachusetts. His friend, the news commentator, Lowell Thomas, gave his eulogy.

Wilbur Budd Hulick (1905-61)

Wilbur Budd Hulick (it was his real name) was born November 14, 1905, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He worked as a musician until fate brought him together with F. Chase Taylor in 1930. They worked as Stoopnagle and Budd for six years. After their breakup in 1936, Budd became a general announcer in New York City. For the last decade of his life, he was a disc jockey in Florida. He was married three times (to Helen Welch, Ruth Wanda Hart, and Elizabeth V. Sahner).

Budd died March 22, 1961, in Riviera Beach, Florida, at the age of 55.

Gene Autry (1907-98)

Orvon Gene Autry was born September 29, 1907, in Tioga, Texas. As a child, he moved to Ravia, Oklahoma. After finishing high school in Ravia, Gene worked as a telegraph operator for the St. Louis-San Francisco Railroad (Frisco).

In 1928, Gene entered an amateur music contest on a local radio station. He got the opportunity to meet Will Rogers. Later that year, he was given the nickname, "Oklahoma's Singing Cowboy." The following year, 1929, he got a recording contract with Columbia Records and moved to Chicago where he performed on a number of shows over station WLS. These included the National Barn Dance.

In 1932, he began recording some records which would be forever remembered: "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine" (with fellow former Frisco railroadman Jimmy Long), "Back in the Saddle Again" (it was first a hit record for Ray Whiteley), and many others.

He began making motion picures in 1934. Toward the end of the decade, he did more work on radio, mostly for the Columbia Broadcasting System.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942, staying in until 1946. Gene was a flight instructor for the U.S. Army Air Force.

Upon his honorable discharge, Gene made a few movies and returned to radio. Gene retired from entertainment and concentrated on investing his money in real estate, broadcasting (Golden West Broadcasters, which included KTLA, channel 5, and KMPC, AM radio 710, both located on the former site of the Warner Brothers Hollywood studios), and the California Angels.

Married twice, to Ina Mae Spivy (niece of Jimmy Long) in 1930 (who died in 1980) and to banker Jacqueline Ellam in 1981, he had no children from either marriage. Gene died October 2, 1998, in the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles from lymphoma.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tony Hancock (1924-68)

Anthony John Hancock was born May 12, 1924, in Birmingham, England. He grew up in Bournemouth, where his father, John Hancock, ran the Railway Hotel and provided entertainment to guests as a comedian. After John died in 1934 Tony's mother and step-father took their sons to move to Durlston, Swanage, where they also lived in a hotel. Tony attended Durlston Park Preparatory School, a boarding school. He attended high school at Bradfield College in Reading, Berkshire, but quit at the age of 15.

During World War II, Tony served with the RAF Regiment as a member of the ground crew on the homefront. He tried out for the Entertainments National Service Association but failed at the audition. He ended up as resident comedian at the Windmill Theatre in London and performed on such radio series as Workers' Playtime and Variety Bandbox.

In 1954, he was given his own program, Hancock's Half-Hour. That was on until 1960 and was later a television series. Tony appeared in movies.

The Tony Hancock on Hancock's Half-Hour was a totally different person than the real Tony Hancock. Tony made that character likable. The radio character's name was Anthony Aloysius St. John Hancock. He didn't drink very much. He was cocky. He was very proud. The real Tony Hancock was lonely and shy. He used alcohol to "lubricate" both work and personal relationships. And he could get outright mean and nasty.

He had a tremendous ego and was very difficult to work with, said colleagues Spike Mulligan and others. He was often drunk and abusive. When things got really bad in the U.K., he headed south to Australia where he had started a television series, Hancock Down Under. Only six episodes were filmed before he committed suicide of a sleeping pill overdose (with a vodka chaser) on June 25, 1968, in Sydney, New South Wales. He was 44. His body was cremated and his ashes were returned to the U.K. by the multi-talented Willie Rushton (1937-96). He flew first class for the first time in his life. His ashes are interred with his mother's grave, who died a year later, at St. Dunstan Church in Cranford near London.

He was married twice. His first wife was the model Cicely J.E. Romanis (d. 1969). They divorced in 1965. He married his pubicist Freddie Ross (1930- ), but they divorced, too. Upon his divorce from Freddie, Tony struck up a relationship with Joan Le Mesurier, who was the wife of John Le Mesurier (1912-83) of the radio series Dad's Army. Tony and Joan's affair began after the first six months of her marriage to John. One year after Tony's suicide, his first wife died from a fall.

Jimmy Clitheroe (1921-73)

James Robinson Clitheroe was born December 24, 1921, in Clitheroe, Lancashire, England. His parents were James Robert Clitheroe and the former Emma Pye. He was named after his mother's brother, James Robinson Pye.

Jimmy never grew past 4'9" (130 cm) tall. He could easily pass as an 11 year old boy. As a young adult, with a dry wit, he was a star in Variety, as a boy in an all-girl stage troupe. He later worked with such comics as George Formby Jnr (1904-61), Jimmy Jewel (1909-95), Ben Warriss (1909-93), and Frank Randle (1901-57) in several movies in the 1940s.

Also an excellent pantomimist (like the late Marcel Marceau), he worked in this field from 1938 through 1971.

Although he worked in movies and television, his biggest appeal came in radio. His first performance on radio (BBC Home Service) was on Jimmy James' (real name James Casey, 1892-1965) program, The Mayor's Parlour. Soon after this he had his own show (variety), Call Boy.

His best known series was The Clitheroe Kid, which ran from 1957 through 1973. It aired on the BBC Light Programme and BBC Radio 2. With over 300 episodes, it was the longest running radio series in British radio.

There were TV shows in the 1960s (That's My Boy and Just Jimmy) as well as his best remembered movie, Rocket to the Moon (1967), an American film. Jimmy played the part of General Tom Thumb, P.T. Barnum's featured attraction (Barnum was played by Burl Ives).

When Jimmy's mother died in 1973, he was inconsolable. His doctor had prescribed a sleeping medication. He accidentally took an overdose and died during his mother's funeral on June 6, 1973, at the age of 51. He was cremated at the Carleton Crematorium located partly in Blackpool. Jimmy's ashes are under Memorial Tree Number 3, which also bears a memorial plaque (and a hastily painted numeral 3).

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mike Wallace (1918- )

Myron Leon Wallace was born May 9, 1918, in Brookline, Massachusetts. His father, Friedan Wallick, was born with the last name, Wallechinsky. As a traveling salesman, he changed his name legally to Frank Wallace. Myron graduated from Brookline High School in 1935. He attended the University of Michigan and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1939. At Michigan he was a reporter for the daily school newspaper (Michigan Daily) and active in the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity.

Myron's first broadcast performance was as a panelist (player) on the Information Please on February 7, 1939, three months before his graduation from the university. After graduation, he was an announcer at radio station WOOD in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Two years later he was at WXYZ in Detroit, home of the Lone Ranger, the Challenge of the Yukon, and the Green Hornet. Some people say they remember hearing him on the Lone Ranger, but he says he was never on that show. He does claim to working on Ned Jordan, Sky King, and the Green Hornet.

Two years later, he went to Chicago as a freelance announcer. This was quite successful. He joined the United States Navy in 1943 and was stationed in Alaska, Australia, and the Philippines (Subic Bay), but saw no action. Discharged in 1946, he returned to Chicago. His "bread and butter" was announcing wrestling matches in Chicago (for Tavern Pale Beer.)

He joined CBS as a staff announcer in the late 1940s. In that he moved to Los Angeles. He worked on Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life quiz show as the voice over for Gruen watches. When the show moved to NBC, Myron, who soon became known as Mike, would have his own game shows on CBS. And, on CBS television, he was the voice of Golden Fluffo shortening (as well as other Procter and Gamble products.) He also announce Spike Jones' radio show in 1949.

Game shows he did at CBS included The Big Surprise, Who's the Boss?, Who Pays?, and a pilot called Nothing But the Truth. That show would change names to To Tell the Truth and forever linked with Bud Collyer.

In the mid 1950s he began doing news and documentary features for the Dumont and ABC television networks. The Mike Wallace Interview was very popular.

His older son was killed falling from a mountain in Greece in 1961 he decided to concentrate on news and public affairs programs for CBS. 60 Minutes was his main program and he remained on that show until his retirement in 2007. He is now the Correspondent Emeritus.

Family: Mike has been married four times and had four children (and a step-son). His first wife was Norma Kaphan. They had two sons, Peter, who was killed in Greece, and Chris, who became a reporter in his own right. (Mike and Norma were married in 1940, divorced in 1948.) Second wife was actress Patrizia "Buff" Cobb. The two had a radio talk show in Chicago and a TV talk show in New York (Mike and Buff.) The show on CBS could not be viewed on black and white TV. It had to use a special set that the network was experimenting with. They divorced in 1954. The following year, Mike married Lorraine Perigord, which lasted until 1986. His present wife is Mary Yates, whom he married shortly after his divorce from his third wife.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cliffie Stone (1917-98)

Clifford Gilpin Snyder was born March 1, 1917, in Stockton, California (according to his widow), and grew up in Burbank (most sources state that he was born in Burbank). At the age of 16, he became the bass player for Stuart Hamblen (1908-89), a country musician who wrote a number of songs usually sung in Evangelical church services today.

Cliffie grew up in a musical family. His father, Clifford Herman Snyder (1884-1964), went by the stage name of Herman the Hermit, renowned banjo playing comedian. Cliffie originally called himself Cliffie Stonehead, which was later shortened to Stone. This was so he could become a musician on his own merit and not riding on his dad's coattails.

After playing with Stuart Hamblen, Cliffie played with some of the first big bands (swing style) in the early 1930s, namely Anson Weeks (1896-1969), and Freddie Slack (1910-65). Cliffie was a disc jockey on a couple of Los Angeles area stations. He began working in radio hosting a show called Dinner Bell Roundup and heard on KPAS in Pasadena in 1945. That radio station became KXLA a couple of years later. In the late 1950s it became KRLA.

In 1946, in addition to working on the radio, he became the A&R (artists and repertoire) man at Capitol Records in Hollywood. Some of the people he signed up included Tennessee Ernie Ford, Merle Travis, Molly Bee, Hank Thompson, Les Paul, and Stan Freberg. He would later become Tennessee Ernie's manager.

Dinner Bell Roundup was heard between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. for many years before it moved to Saturday night and became Hometown Jamboree. That moved to KLAC-TV (today KCOP) on TV. Later it moved to KTLA.

Cliffie was also a songwriter. He wrote books about songwriting. The man, whom some people who watched him and wondered how come he didn't do anything except announce, was one of the most truly talented men in entertainment.

He married his first wife, Dorothy Darling, in 1939. They were married for 50 years until her death in 1989. They had four children: Stephen, Linda, Curtis and Jonathan. Shortly after this, Cliffie married Joan Carol, an accomplished songwriter in her own right.

Cliffie Stone died January 16, 1998, at his home in Santa Clarita, California, of a heart attack. He is buried at the Eternal Valley Memorial Park in the Newhall section of Santa Clarita. According to his tombstone, he was always Cliffie Snyder, not Cliffie Stone. He never legally changed his name.

In 1999 he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. He also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In the picture below, Cliffie is the next to the last person in Stuart Hamblen's band. He is listed as Cliffie Stonehead.

Monday, March 08, 2010


Unshackled! actually began in the 1940s as an inspirational sermon show given by rescue mission superintendent Rev. Harry Saulnier (1902-90), an electrical engineer from New York City who went to Chicago to work for the Consolidated Edison power company in 1923. He became active with the downtown rescue mission, the Pacific Garden Mission, so named by evangelist Dwight L. Moody for a bar called the Pacific Beer Garden. The Pacific Garden Mission used the Pacific Beer Garden's second building at 386 South Clark Street for its original location. Moody's idea was to let the drunks know that they were in the right place.

Pacific Garden Mission's first superintendent was Colonel George Clarke. He married his wife Sarah in 1873 and they started their rescue mission in 1877. It wasn't one of the first rescue missions but it is one of the oldest missions today. The original location was what is now 67 East Van Buren Street and had a capacity of 40 people. The bar became available in 1880 and it was at this time that Pacific Garden Mission was born.

Other superintendents included Harry Monroe, a mission convert, who took over when Col. Clarke died in 1892. Sarah Clarke continued working at the mission until her death. Monroe had come from Detroit after serving a prison term for counterfeiting. Mel Trotter converted to Christianity under Harry Monroe's leadership. Trotter was an infamous hopeless drunk on Michigan Avenue who later became a Presbyterian minister in 1905. He helped to start over 65 rescue missions around the country. When Harry Monroe died in 1912, Mel Trotter took over as superintendent, where he served until 1918.

In 1886, baseball player Billy Sunday (1862-1935) became a Christian at the mission. He was a popular outfielder for the Chicago White Stockings (today the Cubs). After an illustrious baseball career, he volunteered at the mission until his death. He was widely known as an evangelist in revival meetings.

Walter and Ethelwyn Taylor, known as "Ma" and "Pa," came to the mission in 1918. Ma was known as the hymnist who wrote "Calvary Covers It All."

The mission moved to its famous location at 646 South State Street, where it remained until 2007. This was never considered a prime location. The building was a brothel, the White House. After moving in, the stretch of State was known as "Murderers Row." After the Taylors retired in 1936, T. Donald Gately became the superintendent.

Harry Saulnier became the superintendent in 1940. He had a radio program in 1945 called Doorway to Heaven over station WAIT. WMBI (the radio station of the Moody Bible Institute) got interested in airing some kind of radio dramatic series in 1950. John Gillies (of the Institute) wrote a pilot script and WGN, a Chicago 50,000 watt powerhouse agreed to air the show. But a title was missing. A sailor at the mission, who had been in the U.S. Navy for many years, suggested the title Unshackled! It stuck.

The first show was a biography of Billy Sunday and was written by John Gillies. Later scripts were written by Eugenia Price (1916-96), a novelist who also wrote radio scripts in a previous life (as well as books about Christian subjects), wrote the first scripts. She was a new Christian herself (1949).

In time, Unshackled! received its "voice" in the person of Jack Odell (1915-91). A veteran radio actor in Chicago, his lifestyle had ruined his life until he gave his life to Jesus in the early 1950s. Jack and Unshackled! were linked together until his death.

The program became extremely famous over the years. Its phone number in Chicago (until 2007), in Jack's words, "Area 3-1-2, 9-2-2, 1-4-6-2," was politely made fun of by both Christians and nonbelievers alike. The original phone number was WAbash 2-1463. It didn't have quite the rhythmic bounce of the second number [(312) 922-1462], so it was the Mission that called the phone company to change the last digit of the phone number to a 2. They granted the request. The present phone number, (312) 492-4910, also isn't as nice sounding, but this is an era of computers and cell phones. No one cares what a phone number sounds like.

Most of the programs on Unshackled! have been true biographies. For holidays, "special" programs are often written.

Harry Saulnier worked at the mission until his son David (b. 1940) took over as superintendent. Today, David McCarrell is superintendent. And after a few years of being the host of Unshackled!, Russ Reed, an OTR veteran in Chicago, retired and now these responsibilities are shared by guests and mission personnel.

Unshackled! is the longest running radio program in history. The Guiding Light moved to television in the 1950s and it didn't air on the radio consistently. The same could be said about other shows. While it was probably more popular in previous years, the show will not leave the air...

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