Monday, October 22, 2012

The Night Club of the Air

You know Morey Amsterdam as the actor that played Buddy Sorrell on The Dick Van Dyke Show back in the 1960s.  But that wasn't his first spin in broadcasting. In the 1930s he was a regular guest on  The Al Pearce Show , and was a substitute host on the CBS radio show Broadway and Vine. But he did relatively little notable radio. He'd also done guest spots on the Komedy Kingdom, The Laugh 'N' Swing Club, Gloom Dodgers, The Chesterfield Supper Club, Hollywood's Open House, and a number of bit parts.  Then on TV, he had an eponymous program back in 1948 and 1949 airing on both RV and radio with the same cast but different scripts.

Somebody must have liked him because despite the 10 year string of bit comedy appearances singing "Yucca puck" he ended up hosting an obscure series called "The Night Club of the Air" on the NBC Blue Network. It's a truly obscure show, with just a single paragraph listing in the Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. That gig preceded all the appearances listed above. How did that ever happen? Born in 1908, Amsterdam  would have been 29 years old and hosting his own radio show. It was said he briefly worked in a speakeasy operated by Al Capone... maybe he did know somebody.

Well first of all it might not be true. I found a program of that name listed on a 1949 WINS schedule running at 7:15 PM on a weeknight. But it appears that the show name was recycled several times. In 1930 "Bobby Mac's Radio Night Club of The Air" debuted on KXL, airing midnight to 3:00 AM. It was scaled back a couple times but continued to run until at least 1931.  The "WPEN Night Club of the Air" ran in Philadelphia hosted by Don Frank, Frank Kent, and Fred Darwin, in that order between 1943 and 1944. In Canada there was  Crosse and Blackwell's “Morning Night Club of the Air” on CFRBThere was also the NBC Night Club (1938),  the Bob Wills Night Club of the Air," Radio night Club on WEBQ,  "the Night Club Parade" on WFBL, the Night Club Extravaganza on KMBC, the "Silvertown Nite Club" on WBRC, The Friday Night Club of the Air on WBBM,  The WHB Night Club of the Air, the "KTUL Night Club of the Air", the "Night Club of the Air" on WROK, and others. 

Out of all of these, there are two programs that may be the one connected to Amsterdam. There was a "Night Club of the Air" listed jointly on WHB, WCAE, WSGN and WPEN, possibly the same one DJ'd by Don Frank and maybe even the one on WHB.  Then there was also the NBC Night Club of The Air. Both of these are listed separately in 1937 directories. I thought they might be the same program, but those stations were not all NBC affiliates in that era. I suspect it's the NBC program, not for any documented connection to Amsterdam, but for the documented history of DJs attached to the program on WPEN.
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