Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts

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Today is the birthday of Arthur Godfrey (1903-1983). Godfrey began as an announcer in radio around 1930 first in Baltimore, then in Washington, anchoring local shows, playing records, occasionally singing and playing the ukulele, even reading sentimental poems. He came to national attention in 1945 when his live coverage of President Roosevelt’s funeral was Broadcast coat to coast.

His first national radio show was Arthur Godfrey Time in 1945. The following year he launched the show he remains best known for Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, the CBS answer to Major Bowes’ Amateur Hour. The radio version of Talent Scouts ran from 1946 through 1956; the television ran from 1948 through 1958. After a brief interlude in which he battled lung cancer (one of his lung was removed), he fought his way back, returning to the radio version of his show, which stayed on the air until 1972.

Returning to television was not so easy however. Beloved for his warm, down-home, folksy personality,  it gradually came out that he was a backstage tyrant who had fired large numbers of his staff over the years. (Most famously he fired singer Julius La Rose ON THE AIR). This eventually damaged his once universal popularity. In his final decades he did the occasional movie role and tv special, but was never able to make a hoped-for come-back. He died in 1983.

To learn more about the history of the variety arts, including radio and tv variety like Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scoutsconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous

One comment

  1. In the 70s Arthur Godfrey famously bit the hand that fed him by publicly protesting against the product he’d been shilling. The laundry soap “Fab” (I believe was the name) included “phosphates” which drew the ire of environmentalists. Godfrey jumped on the Green wagon and criticized the very company that had paid for his previous endorsement. (I remember their commercials included their logo of a horse-mounted knight galloping through meadows of green!)
    Now while the public seemed to embrace Godfrey as a champion, I wondered also if advertisers became leery of him. And even in that earlier Lipton Soup plug he jokingly chided them for being skimpy on the chicken


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