Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Singin' Sam the Barbasol Man

Singin’ Sam was the stage name of Harry Frankel, who lived in Richmond for much of his life. He began his career as a vaudeville performer and was quite the famous personality in the early days of commercial radio. He was best known for his radio character Singin’ Sam, the Barbasol Man. He was the blue print for semi-celebrity product spokespeople. Not sure what i mean?Ex. that kind of annoying cell phone guy who says "can you hear me now?"

Frankel was born on January 27, 1888, to Sol and Lizzie Frankel, Harry in rural Danville, Kentucky. The family relocated to Richmond, Indiana nine years later. Harry was a musically inclined child eventually singing with local barbershop quartets of singing in local quartets. Eventually he realized his dream and began performing in black face in 1908 with the professional minstrel group; Coburn’s minstrels.

When the great depression started to take a bite out of the vaudeville buisness, he got lucky and got an invite from the Great States Lawn Mower Company to promote their products on air. He accepted and began broadcasting from WLW-AM in Cincinnati. His real name didn’t seem catchy enough for a radio personality, so he adopted the stage name “Singin’ Sam” and billed himself as “The Lawnmower Man.” He was so successful that Great States had trouble filling all the new orders, and his show was voted the most popular on WLW-AM. When an executive of the Barbasol Company heard him, he brought Sam to New York to begin broadcasting for his company. “Singin’ Sam the Barbasol Man” made his debut on WABC-AM in 1931.

From 1937 to 1942, Harry recorded ads for Coca-Cola on 16-inch transcription discs. This was done as a 15 minute program, Refreshment Time with Singin’ Samthat suited him very well. Every other week Harry flew to New York, and in two days he recorded 10 of these shows. The rest of the time he spent in rural life in Richmond.

His career flourished throughout the forties but took a turn in the 50s, perhaps deliberately where he retooled his act for nostalgia stations with a new recorded program reminiscin' with singing Sam. He died of natural causes in 1981.