Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ringling-Barnum TIGER MOON-MSG (1944)

From: Chris Berry

During World War II Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey hosted the children of servicemen each spring for a special performance. At least one of those performances (April 18, 1943) was featured on the "Fitch Bandwagon" radio program on the NBC "Red" Network. The live broadcast was sponsored by Fitch shampoo ("Don't despair use your head, save your hair - use Fitch Shampoo") took place prior to the actual performance that evening and featured Fred Bradna, Bev Kelly, Merle Evans and others. The program was hosted by Tobe Reed and featured well-known NBC staff announcer Ben Grauer. Transcription discs of the 30-minute broadcast were then sent to military bases around the world to remind soldiers that the American circus was one of the things that they were fighting for.


Chris Berry said...

A footnote to Merle Evans and his "radio days" 1942 a five-year contract between Ringling-Barnum and the American Federation of Musicians expired and the circus band was ordered to strike on the last day of the Philadelphia stand (June 13, 1942). The musicians were out of work and recordings of circus music (including Stravinsky's "Elephant Ballet") were played for the rest of that season, and Merle and the boys were out of work! For a period of time between the start of the strike and the opening at Madison Square Garden in 1943 (when he returned to the bandstand under the direction of Robert Ringling) Merle took a job as the band leader for the NBC-Red "Fitch Bandwagon". The radio show - and the band that Merle led each week -originated from Rockefeller Center in New York. (A little radio history here - the "Fitch Bandwagon" also had the great fortune to be heard at 7:30 on Sunday night - sandwiched between Jack Benny and Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy. It was a comedy/music-variety show that evolved into the Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show in 1946 and finally ended its run on NBC in 1954)

John Goodall said...

Chris, I enjoyed the circus poster exhibit that was curated by Greg Parkinson at the Big "E" fair in West Springfield, MA. Those of us attending the Circus Historical Society convention enjoyed it. Noted that you loanded a considerable number of posters. Many thanks.