Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour

The Fleischmann Yeast Hour, stared Rudy Vallée. You think of him now as a crooner but he was also an accomplished musician. He played the drums, the clarinet, and saxophone. He played in a few bands and formed his own in 1925 and only took on vocals as an afterthought. His weak tenor was a poor fit for jazz. In these times before electric amplification his soft voice actually required a megaphone at live performances. But by 1928 he had a recording contract with Columbia and crooning on the radio.

In 1929 the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency first launched the Standard Brands sponsored program "Fleischmann’s Yeast Hour"over The NBC Red Nwtwork . Rudy Vallée was on the show from the beginning but primarily as a band leader. The announcer was Graham McNamee. McNamee is today better known for his sports work but is a legend in his own right. Gradually Rudy took over. First he began announcing guests then by 1932 even directing. Before the show was over it was often referred to as The Rudy Vallée Show.

Guests included Milton Berle, Robert Taylor, Edgar Bergen, Joe Penner, Frances Langford, Victor Borge, Beatrice Lillie, Fats Waller, and on a few occasions it was guest hosted by Louis Armstrong. Dr. R. E. Lee head of the Fleischmann Health Research Department made regular appearances. He always reminded listeners that eating 3 yeast cakes a day was good for you. In that era yeast was marketed also as a vitamin or a health tonic. That practice waned in the 1930s. Standard brands, ever observant noticed the trend and in 1936 renamed the show The Royal Gelatin Hour That ran into 1939 when other sponsors took over.

Rudy volunteered to serve in WWI forcing the program to move on to other hosts. After the war, he returned to radio but not to Standard Brands. He briefly hosted The Sealtest radio show and other variety programs for other sponsors including Drene Shampoo, Kraft Foods, and Philip Morris. But Rudy was moving into Hollywood film. Rudy's crooning paved the way for Dean Martin, Sinatra, and many others. late in Life he found a second career on Broadway. He died in 1986.