This Day in Radio History: January 12, 1926
Freeman Gosden & Charles Correll
Chicago's WGN radio station welcomed a two-man comedy team to its airways when the blackface characters Sam 'n' Henry made their debut on January 12, 1926 fascinating listeners throughout the Midwest. Of course, that is not the names by which they are best known. Two years later, after changing the names to "Amos 'n' Andy," the show became one of the most popular radio programs in American history. Its theme delegated a setting in Manhattan's historic black community of Harlem.
During the late 1920's and early 30's, the most popular radio program in the United States was "Amos 'n' Andy"; many historians contend that it was the most popular show ever broadcast. This comic serial -- in which the white actors Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll portrayed two black men -- not only dominated this country's listening habits for 15 minutes, five days a week, but also significantly influenced its daily routines. Al Smith, for example, scheduled radio spots for his 1928 Presidential campaign so that they did not compete with the program, and George Bernard Shaw reflected its impact when he commented, "There are three things which I shall never forget about America -- the Rocky Mountains, Niagara Falls, and 'Amos 'n' Andy.' " Read MORE...
|Freeman Gosden ('Amos') and |
Charles Correll ('Andy') in 1929.
The show continued to grow in popularity running as a nightly radio serial until 1943. From there, it became a weekly situation comedy (sitcom) airing until 1955. At that time, it was changed to an early evening half-hour program, a nightly disc-jockey program, and was heard over the air from 1954 until 1960. Its final radio broadcast aired on November 25, 1960.
|Amos 'n' Andy 1930|
Of course, it did not end with radio. As the show progressed to television, black actors took on the overwhelming majority of roles with white characters appearing intermittently. CBS-TV ran a television adaptation from 1951 until 1953 continuing in syndicated reruns from 1954 until 1966. Apart from the dialect, the scripts were remarkably un-suggestive of the characters' color. The Gosden and Correll, Amos 'n' Andy, immense success story did not go unblemished without any opposition or controversy in film and television. In film, "audiences were curious to see what their radio favorites looked like and were expecting to see African-Americans instead of white men in blackface." [Source: en.wikipedia.org] The year 1966 saw an end to the television series not to viewed again by a nationwide audience until 2012.
Amos and Andy was one of the funniest and most beloved television and radio shows of all time. Alvin Childress (Amos), Tim Moore (Kingfish) and Spencer Williams Jr. (Andy) were three of the finest comics of all time. Who can forget hearing "Holy Mackerel Andy!," and " I'se regusted, Andy!" The raw talent and humor that they exuded touched us all, and they will always be fondly remembered. Perhaps someday the networks will end their blacklisting of this popular radio and TV show. The truth is, Amos 'N Andy was no more demeaning to African Americans than The Beverly Hillbillies was demeaning to southern whites. Source: http://www.amosandy.com/
Peak of Success...
At the peak of Amos 'n' Andy's success, 40 million listeners - a third of America at the time - tuned in six nights a week making it the longest-running and most popular radio program in broadcast history. During the later years of the radio program and into the television series, blacks were depicted in a variety of roles, including successful business owners and managers, professionals and public officials. This placed the core of the shows ahead of its time. Many later comedies realized success as a result of the earlier shows featuring working class characters (both Black and White), such as All in the Family, The Honeymooners and Sanford and Son.
"We believed that once you established your characters, if they're likable, the public will become fond of them. All you have to do to them is put them into recognizable situations. You don't have to have a laugh in every line to be funny." --Freeman Gosden