Tuesday, August 22, 2006


So Marian Driscoll got second billing as Molly, she was still wildly popular.

The radio serial Fibber McGee and Molly premiered in 1935. The program struggled in the ratings for 5 long years. When suddenly in 1940 it started picking up steam, in three more years it was the top-rated program in America. (free mp3s of the program here)

Marian Driscoll was a genuine coal miner’s daughter, was born in Peoria, Illinois on November 15, 1898. She toiled and touring in obscurity for years on the small-time show biz circuit with Fibber eventually arriving in Chicago in 1924. It was there in the sindy city that broke into radio. They eventually performed on thousands of shows and developed 145 different voices and characters.

Broadcast to the nation from WMAQ-AM Chicago, the show entertained America for 19 years. Running on WMAQ-AM until March 1956, and then moving to NBC’s Monitor until 1959. Somewhere in the mid fifties the program was cut from 30 mintes to fifteen.

The program was sponsored by Johnson's Wax for most of its long run. Don Quinn, a former cartoonist was the writer of the series. He wrote the sponsors into the script where possible creating some of the earliest product placements in brodcast media history. Marion's poor health prevented her from working much in her later years, and as a result Fibber McGee and Molly ended while other radio serials were making the leap to TV. It was briefly on television with different actors playing the lead roles, but no one could capture the chemistry of Jim and Marion. It tanked.

NBC kept transcription discs from most of the programs that S.C.Johnson's Wax sponsored. Many of these have become available for sale. More than 700 complete shows are currently in the hands of collectors. Marion died in 1965. the notion that people have these old radio serials on their goddamn ipods is very peculiar to me. but it's true.