Thursday, August 16, 2012
The Breakfast Club radio show in Chicago, on 1540 WLS-AM and its announcer Don McNeill. the program aired from 1933 to 1968. McNeill hosted the program for it's entire run, over 35 years. It ran for an hour on the NBC Blue Network weekdays at 8:00 AM. With the exception of his support for public prayer, he was a strictly apolitical character... something that's missing in our modern discourse. He debuted it in 1944 ostensibly to support the troops; a sentiment that was much more congruous in WWII. But even the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor he avoided the war topic and just let the new bulletins do the talking. If you get curious for more details, John Doolittle's book about the program, Don McNeill and His Breakfast Club is not to be skipped..
His radio career didn't' start in Chicago, not even in Illinois. It began 90 miles to the north in Milwaukee back in 1928. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, class valedictorian and started as an announcer at WISN-AM. and later for WTMJ-AM owned by The Milwaukee Journal. In 1930 he moved to Louisville and began announcing on WHAS-AM. He tried to shop a vaudeville skit to radio stations on the west coast but that tanked. More here.
So in 1933, he auditions for an unsponsored morning program called The Pepper Pot. McNeill took over the show in June and renamed it The Breakfast Club. Pepper Pot is a terrible name for a radio shoe. It sounds like a restaurant. His re-formatted program was meant to be humorous and and topical but mostly just very wholesome and family oriented. It'd be pretty boring by modern standards. They had musical guests and both comedians and celebrities.After a few months letters started coming in with cornball jokes and bad amateur poetry. he incorporated it and the show became virtually an ad lib hour. It was called "radios most unrehearsed show" When the show was cancelled in 68' Don McNeill stepped out of the limelight forever. He wouldn't give interviews, he was just done. He died on May 7, 1996.