Monday, June 07, 2010

Eveready Wendell Hall

78 rpm records of the 1920s usually had a brief description of the sides contents: waltz, foxtrot, humorous dialogue, march  etc.  This particular 78 (which I own) describes him in three words "Comedian with Ukelele." In 1923, Victor Records released  #18171 "Red Headed Music Maker/It Ain't Gonna rain No Mo."  It scored 20 weeks on the U.S. charts, six of which were spent at number one.  That was the tipping point for the career of Wendell Hall. 

Hall started out as a singing xylophonist. I'm not even making that up. Eventually he segued to the ukulele to much more success.  In 1922 he began playing on KYW then still a Chicago station three nights a week.   Being a vaudevillian he also hammed it up and cracked jokes. In 1923 his single "It Ain't Gonna rain No Mo" took off eventually selling 2 million copies.  He embarked on a U.S. tour with stops at 35 radio stations.That led to a signing with the N.W. Ayer Talent Agency in 1924 who set him up with the National Carbon Company to become the host of the EverReady Hour.  That same year he was married on air at WEAF to Ms. Marion Martin.  It has been claimed to be the first on-air wedding. I find that dubious.
 Wendell Hall became "Eveready Red" and the the EverReady Hour variety program launched on WEAF in New York.  Eveready even painted their batteries with a red top for a better tie-in to Wendell's ginger locks.  In 1928 Wendell moved on over to host the Majestic Theatre Hour which was sponsored by Grundig-Grunow, the makers of Majestic radios. That program ran into 1930.  In 1936 he appeared as a regular on Gillette's Community Sing. It was a Sunday night show on CBS hosted by Milton Berle. That program ran until at least 1937.

After his fame faded and Wendell moved form host to talen, he eventually moved to writer.  In the 1940s Hall wrote commercials for radio.In the 1940s Ludwing made a series of ukuleles bearing Wendells signature and approval. In 1950 he Copyrighted a book of ukulele cords called "Know Your Ukulele Chord and Fingering Chart."  Later that same year he copyrighted the "Know Your Ukulele Simplified System" both through Forester Music Publishing.  Even though his fame had faded, he knew how to make a buck. He died in 1969 at the age of 73.