The Happiness Boys were Thomas Ernest “Ernie” Hare (1883-1939) and Billy Jones (1889-1940). Hare was the more seasoned professional of the two. At age 16, he went on Broadway in the show Havana (1909), and then went on to perform in 8 additional shows through 1917, including Vera Violetta (1911-12), The Whirl of Society (1912), and two editions of The Passing Show (1912 and 1915). After The Show of Wonders (1916-17), he started working as a recording artist with Al Bernard and others. From 1919 through 1920 he understudied by Al Jolson in Sinbad.
In 1919, Hare teamed up with Billy Jones, who had previously sung with the Crescent Trio, the Harmonizers Quartet, the Premier Quartet, and the Cleartone Four. As was the custom of the day, both men had sung under several aliases, depending on the label and the context. In 1920 the pair began recording as a duo on Brunswick, Edison and other labels. In 1921 they got a local radio show on WJZ, Newark. In 1923 they moved to WEAF in New York, sponsored by Happiness Candy Stores and they became The Happiness Boys. “How Do You Do?” was their theme song. They sang the popular hits of the day, and filled the remaining time jokes and funny repartee. The show went national on NBC in 1926. By 1928 they were the highest paid performers in radio.
In 1930 they made a Vitaphone short, Rambling ‘Round Radio Row. That was also the year of their last record; some thought constant radio exposure hurt their record sales. The pair were off national radio by 1932. In the 1933-34 season they had a local show, sponsored by Taystee Bread Company. They were billed as the Taystee Loafers. Then in 1936 they returned to national radio with a show called the Community Sing Program on CBS on which they were billed as the Gillette Gentlemen (sponsored by the razor company). They were with this show until Hare died in 1939. After this, Jones sang briefly with Hare’s 16 year old daughter Marilyn before passing away himself a few months later.
For more on show business history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.
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