Monday, November 18, 2013

Everett Mitchell

I only realized recently that I'd written about Everett Mitchell four separate times and never covered his career. I recognized the name when I bumped into a copy of the book Radio's Beautiful Day: Everett Mitchell's Memoirs of the First Fifty Years of Broadcasting in America by Richard Crabb. He's one of those historical characters who stood too close to bigger and more flamboyant people who overshadowed him. Maybe he didn't have a good publicist.

Everett Mitchell is most famous for his tenure on the National Farm and Home Hour, a NBC program that was on air from 1928 to 1958. Mitchell joined the program in 1932. His trademark line was "It's a beautiful day in Chicago!" He had joined the program after a short whirlwind tenure as a radio singer. He sang on WQJ-AM, WEBH-AM, and WHT-AM all in the Chicago area. WQJ was a short-lived dayshare with WMAQ which was bought out by the latter in bought them out in 1927. WEBH was a short-lived dayshare with WDAP that operated from 1923 to 1928. WHT only was on air from 1926 to 1927. By all appearances that doesn't add up to much experience, but he was also on WENR-AM. More here.

He'd made a small name for himself as a gospel singer, in radio he'd become a lot more. In Mitchells' few biographies it is said that he was first on air in 1923. Most of them fail to note the call letters though it was certainly KYW-AM. The station he would later manage, WENR-AM... signed on a year later. He became it's manager in 1925, he was only 27 years old.

At WENR he had a number of uncorroborated radio firsts: prayer services, holiday programming, children's programming, and what might actually be first first educational program The Air Scouts. Three years later Samuel Insull paid a million dollar for the station. But Insull was in serious money trouble by 1930 and NBC bought the station off him. the great depression had hit him hard, and cleaned out Mitchell as well. the sale was a boon to both. NBC considered Mitchell to be just as valuable as WENR, and put Mitchell in the host chair of National Farm and Home Hour. He stayed with the program for 3 decades.

The Farm Hour was cut to just a small local program called the Farm Forum then incorporated as part of another program Town and Farm. In 1967 the USDA's Great Service to America Award. his replacement Jerry Mitchell (no relation) continued to host Town and Farm for a couple more years. Everett retired that year with his wife to Wheaton, Illinois where he died in 1990.