Friday, September 16, 2011

The Shinola Merrymakers

Shinola was a brand of shoe polish that was sold in the 1930s. It was a product of the Shinola-Bixby Corporation. While no longer made, it is immortalized in the idiom "Don't know shit from Shinola."Like other popular brands of the era, they advertised on the radio and briefly, they sponsored a program. This is a wholly  unknown and unrecorded radio orchestra snatched from the jaws of utter obscurity. I first found a note here, and there and slowly began to piece it together. The act was on air for almost exactly one year; March of 1926 through March of 1927.

One paper has them on KSD-AM St. Louis in 1926. The Buffalo express has them on WJAR-AM in Providence at 8:00 PM on Wednesday May 26th 1926.  The Chatham Courier lists them on WSAI-AM, Cincinnati and WTAG-AM Worcester both at 8:00 PM on a Wednesday of 1926. Even a layperson would know that clearly their program was syndicated after finding these scant references.

The total list of stations included all of the above stations and also WEEI-AM, Boston, MA; WCAE-AM Pittsburgh; WWJ-AM, Detroit, MI; WCCO-AM, Minneapolis, MN; WOC-AM, and Davenport, IA. The NBC radio network launched formally on November 15th, 1926. That's hwo they ended up on all these stations. They had a show on WEAF, and in early network radio, anything on the originating station could get syndicated. One paper made a crucial link noting their Bixby Polish Co. sponsorship. Also that they are accompanied by George hamilton Green they performed on WEAF-AM  Wednesday evenings. That whole quote is as follows:
"These concerts are presented by the Shinola Bixby Polish Co., with the Shinola Merry Makers. Mr. Green plays the Leedy xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, harpaphone, chimes and bells and the Leedy Mfg. Co. is featuring the Shinola concerts in its advertising."

That's what led me to a dissertation by one Ryan Lewis Green. It runs over 600 pages and is so detailed I dare not give it a fleeting quote. I just recommend you read it in it's entirely [link here] and I'll quote at legnth here the relevant passage:
"By 1926, Joe Green’s Marimba Band was already quite well-known “to the air folks” on the Eveready Battery Vaudeville Hour that broadcast weekly from 9:00-10:00 p.m.; however, it was the Shinola Merry-Makers radio show that truly marked the Green Brothers successful switch to radio. The Shinola Merry-Makers were the house orchestra for radio broadcasts sponsored by the Shinola Bixby Polish Corporation, a group that was essentially the Green Brothers Novelty Band. By the end of March 1926, “George Hamilton Green and his orchestra” could be heard every Wednesday evening from 8:00-8:30 p.m. on a long list of stations on the east coast and into the Midwest..."

Joe Green was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1892. So he was  34 years old by the time the Shinola Merrymakers Joe played the xylophone, drums and timpani. Long before Shinola, he was playing Sousa on Victor Recordings. I own a few later diss recorded as Green Brothers Novelty Marimba with his brother George. More here.