Monday, December 24, 2012

Herb Shriner Time

Herbert Shriner  would never have made it big today. Being affable, knowing some funny stories and playing the harmonica wouldn't be enough to put him over the top these days. He was sort of the Will Rogers of Indiana, if Indiana ever needed their own. But comedy was a different animal back then. He was born in Toledo in 1918, and grew up in Ft. Wayne. How he ended up as a radio celeb seems almost by accident.

He began as a humorist, what we now call a stand-up comedian. He played harmonica on radio programs like a Hoosier version of Johnny Puelo. No source gives a specific date as to his first appearance but it's generally dated to about 1940. He was being booked by the William Morris agency. His first regular spot was Camel Caravan, a comedy-variety program. He started there in 1942. That fits well in the time line since by 1952 Billboard was calling him a "TV comedian." What happened in between was WWII. Herb performed for the USO live and on air including The Philip Morris Follies.

In 1946 he was the star of the "Hoosier Radio Round Up," a radio event that was networked 300+ programs across 19 radio stations broadcasting from the Indiana State fair.  The program showcased talent in the Hoosier state. There were appearances by Singing Sam, Herb Shriner, Hoagy Carmichael, Chick Johnson, Ole Olsen and many others. Networked stations includes WISH, WIBC, WFBM, WIRE, WHOT, WHBU, WLBC, WKMO, WASK, WKMO, WKBV,  WKBF, WMLL, WBOW and WOWO. He did it again in1947. After it was all over Governor Ralph gates gave him a medal.

In 1948 he got his own radio show on CBS, Herb Shriner Time. The show also had the Raymond Scott Quintet, singer Dorothy Collins, and announcer Durward Kirby. The Herb Shriner TV Show began in 1949 which ran for 2 years. ABC picked him up for a year in 1951 and that petered out in the Fall of 1952.  CBS picked him up for a third spin in the Fall of  1952. He did a stint hosting a TV game show after that which ran until 1955. In the 1950s he did some comedy LPs, and an all harmonica orchestra which was an abomination. He went back to the night clubs. He retired to Florida, and was killed in a car wreck in 1970.