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

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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.

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