Billy Glason: Gagwriter Par Excellence

Most sources erroneously give the birth year for Billy Glason as 1904 or 1898, but take it from me, who actually had to do some research because no one knew the death day, singer-songwriter-comic-and gag man Glason came into this world on September 10, 1893. (He’s hardly the first person in show business to make himself out younger). He started out performing in his native Boston when still as a kid, first as a song plugger, then singing along with slides at a local movie theatre. Gradually, he built up enough material for an act, began to work Poli houses, and finally the Big Time Keith circuit, culminating with numerous appearances at top venues like the Hippodrome and the Palace.

His interview in Bill Smith’s 1976 book The Vaudevillians  is priceless, rich in anecdote and show biz lingo: (“I was sockeroo!” he crows at one point). He talks about the politics of vaudeville (contrary to established practice, Glason claims many headliners wanted to go on before him because he would frequently stop the show). He talks about rampant theft of material (both gags and songs). He talks about the varying reliability of vaudeville pit orchestras. And he talks about getting pissed on by a performing lion. When vaudeville dried up in the thirties, he worked for the rest of his life as a joke writer for America’s top emcees and comedians (Ed Sullivan, Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Steve Allen, et al). He passed away in 1985. Apparently there is a whole chapter on Mr. Glason in the new book A Ph.D. in Happiness from the Great Comedians by Tommy Moore. Look for a review of said book here in the coming weeks!

To learn more about vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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17 Responses to “Billy Glason: Gagwriter Par Excellence”

  1. shirley glason toebe Says:

    nice to see this or anything refering to my dad. thank you

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    • Shirley,
      My name is Ellie Hildebrandt, I live in Boston and your Dad was my Mother’s first cousin. I would love to contact you for more information to add to the family tree.

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    • Hello. I have Paula’s ashes. I would love to see a picture of her. please email me if you are interested in sharing.

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      • Shirley – I don’t have any information or pictures concerning Paula. Your Dad, Billy, was my Mother’s first cousin and she spoke about him often. My Aunt Fran, who presently lives in Palm Beach, is also his first cousin and she is 101.The family website is on ancestry.com and it’s called the Snyder – Brenner Master. Anything you can add would be greatly appreciated.

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  2. Shirley, We never met, but I visited your dad quite often in the 70’s. He was a wonderful man. I do have a chapter about him in my new book, and I’d like to send you a copy. Feel free to contact me at profcomedy@aol.com with your address. Best Wishes, Tommy Moore

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  3. les benton Says:

    I looked up this site as i am a tommy cooper fan and know that it was from billy where he got most of his comic marerial lines from.

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  4. Amanda Olsen Says:

    Shirley, my name is Amanda and I live in California. I am doing research on something that came into my possession that was your stepmother Paula’s. I am trying to figure out how it got here and am interested in finding relatives who might want it. Please email me so that I may be able to confirm that this was hers. I know it’s a longshot but I have to try, right? AmandaOlsen84@gmail.com. Thank you so much.

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    • Amanda Olsen Says:

      I haven’t gotten any kind of response so I am trying one last time. I am not trying to sell anything and I guess at this point I can just say what I have…well, what my friend found. He was at the flea market and came across a can of cremated ashes. They are Paula’s. Has her name and everything on it along with the information of the Crematorium it came from across the bridge from Manhattan where it was done. I am just trying to figure out how it got to a flea market in California. At this point right now she is at a local antique store (not being sold) with information on who she was married to along with other information I found about her (which was very little other than mostly about her husband, Billy). I am guessing they had belonged to a member of the family who had passed away in Santa Rosa a few cities away from where they ended up. Please please please help me figure out this mystery. Thanks again. AmandaOlsen84@gmail.com

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      • I have Paula’s ashes now. in Saskatoon sask. CANADA. weird that she ended up here.

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  5. didnt mention the billy glason gag files, which was offerred in the musicians union classsifieds for years back in the 60’s and early 70’s…it was tons of vaudville gags, black outs, and stuff that was out of date even then. he was also mentioned in the a book, ‘great comedians talk about comedy’ iln the chapter on johnny carson, where carson said that when he started he bought all the standard gag files, like ‘billy gloason’ glason was selling this book by mail and he would erase the extra letter in his name to correct the typo.

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  6. I was going through some old boxes and came across a page from a program from 1937. Billy Glason is listed as the MC on this program. I googled “Billy Glason” and came across this page. My mother was on of “The Five Ames Sisters” and my father was with “The Marcy Brothers and Beatrice”. They met at this time and were married three months later. I think it was from a show performed on a showboat from NYC to Rye, NY. My mother passed in 2002. My dad is still with us at 104 years old. I uploaded the page on to flickr for your viewing and if you wish to download and save to your computer. I thought it would be nice to share with Shirley Glason.
    Program Page - 1939

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  7. mort segal Says:

    Loved reading about Billy. I visited him and Paula frequently when they lived on 54th St. I probably was one of the first to receive his “Gag Files” and believe it or not still have my set. He got me interested in doing some work with the USO, and introduced me as a young man that has been sweeping the country…and then had me walk out pushing a broom. Remember Walter Winchell’s’favorite MC Billy Glason with fond memories.

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    • It’s an honor to have you visit our blog, Mr. Segal! Please hang on to those gag files — that’s a precious thing worth saving

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  8. Shirley Glason Toebe Says:

    so sorry not to have replied to all these notes. Have had a few bad years. Just happened to go back on here and was so surprised. Paula;s ashes ended up in California because her daughter lived in santa rosa. Any body else wants to contact me on here I promise to come back and answer. Shirley Glason

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    • mort segal Says:

      Knew Billy well and Paula too when they lived on 54th St in NYC.
      I was only a teenager at that time (now 86) and Billy considered Walter Winchell’s favorite Master of Ceremonies treated me like a son and helped me in how to do several parts that I had in school plays, got me interested in doing some standup for USO local hospital shows in NY and NJ, and mailed to me every copy of his Joke Files as well as a signed copy of his first book “How to master the Ceremonies” All of which I still have. Can’t believe that he was older than my dad. What is your relation to him? Mort

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