Today is the birthday of William Edward Maguiness, better known as Ted Mack (1904-1976). His name is of course inseparable from the radio and television he hosted from 1948 through 1970, Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour. The show was originally hosted by Major Bowes from 1934 through 1946. It was essentially a broadcast version of an old vaudeville staple, the amateur night, when anyone can take the stage and have a shot at crossing over into actual show business — or at least winning a prize. American Idol and America’s Got Talent and similar shows completely owe their existence to this tradition.
Mack was a clarinet player in dance bands, and later a talent scout for Bowes; he was the natural person to take the show over when Bowes passed away. Performers who got some of their first recognition during Mack’s tenure included Ann-Margaret, Pat Boone, Teresa Brewer, Gladys Knight and Irene Cara.
And here she is! Eight year old Irene Cara on Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour!
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc