The Golden Years of Radio 1942-1943
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The Seasons
GOld Time Radio chronicles each of the 21 broadcast seasons, (September through June), from Network Radio’s Golden Age, 1932 to 1953.  The lengthy and informative profiles of each season are concluded with an exclusive review of their Top 50 Prime Time Programs, as determined by Crossly, Hooper or Nielsen rating services.
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1942-1943 Season
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THE 1942-43 SEASON
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Red Skelton shared top honors with Bob Hope as America's most popular comedian in the 1942-43 season when America turned to comedy relief in the wake of World War II. The Top Six shows in the season's Top 50 were all comedy and all from NBC.

The radio industry and networks both saw their revenue growth stall at single digits - its slowest pace in three years.  The cutback in advertising was understandable, as 1942 was the chaotic first  year of focusing on mobilization for World War II - not consumer goods  for the pantry, bathroom and garage. Then, midway in the 1942-43 season - just as spending began to recover - radio’s biggest competitor for the advertising dollar was dealt a body blow.  
Paper was needed for the war effort.   As a result, newsprint was rationed. The Federal Printing & Publishing General Limitation Order of 1942 restricted newspapers to use only as much paper as they ordered for their net circulation in 1941.  The rationing would last through the war years. Some newspapers reduced their size while others ceased publishing on one or two days a week - anything to save paper. Newspaper content - including newspaper advertising  - was severely limited.  As a result, local radio advertising salesmen suddenly found doors open to them that had once been slammed shut ... Magazines were also hit with paper rationing.  National publications had to pare their content and pages, which provided a golden opportunity for the networks.

Acting on their own initiative, a group of GI’s stationed in Kodiak, Alaska, had rigged up a low-power, “carrier current” radio station transmitter that radiated from powers lines on the base to entertain their  buddies with chatter and popular records sent to them by relatives. The small station’s popularity was reported by the wire services and  inspired the War Department to create the Armed Forces Radio Service in early 1943.   AFRS established  military operated radio stations wherever American servicemen were sent, supplying them with transcriptions of Command Performance, GI Jive and what eventually became over a hundred programs a week produced specifically for them. 

AFRS quickly grew to over 29 short-wave stations; 138 AM stations and  37 U.S. expeditionary force, (mobile), stations.  By the end of 1943, the total number reached 300 separate AFRS outlets …  AFRS also distributed discs of popular network shows to its stations with all commercials deleted.    A familiar closing line heard at home following popular Network Radio shows during World War II was, “This program is heard by our men and women serving overseas through the facilities of the Armed Forces Radio Service.”  

Over the spring and summer of 1942, Network Radio stars began their wartime tradition of entertaining the troops stationed outside the United States. Bob Hope, Edgar Bergen, Jack Benny and Al Jolson were among the first to make extended  tours of bases in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. All returned with inspiring material for their programs and  personal messages for loved ones of servicemen whom they met in their travels. Theirs were experiences that would be repeated countless times as America’s war fronts expanded around the globe and more entertainers joined the brigade of morale boosters in across the globe.

Sunday’s five top programs were headlined by former vaudeville performers - Edgar Bergen, Jack Benny and Walter Winchell had all built successful Sunday radio franchises.  Fred Allen returned to CBS’s Sunday schedule where his network career began in 1932. Phil Baker, once Ben Bernie’s vaudeville partner, had previous CBS Sunday success with Gulf Headliners. He was headed for even greater fame with Take It Or Leave It.   The accordion playing comedian’s first full season as host of the comedy quiz resulted in a 20% ratings jump and the first of five consecutive Top 20 seasons.  

Gene Autry’s Sunday evening Melody Ranch on CBS became The Sergeant Gene Autry Show for the season. The singing cowboy star had enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on his broadcast of July 26, 1942.  Autry’s show ran the entire 1942-43 season with a respectable 7.6 rating - selling sell war bonds  as well as Wrigley’s gum -  while he trained to be a pilot.  Autry left the air at the end of the season - but only in one sense of the word.  He flew cargo planes in the China-Burma-India war zone for the  next three years. 

Bob Hope and Red Skelton had become full fledged movie stars.  MGM released four Skelton comedies in the summer and fall of 1942. Paramount hit paydirt in November with the third Bob Hope/Bing Crosby pairing, The Road To Morocco.  Both Hope and Skelton had  reached new heights of popularity and their ratings reflected it when comedy scored its highest Hooperatings of the decade on the winter night of January 19, 1943, during NBC’s powerful Tuesday night lineup.   Hope turned in a record Hooperating of 40.9 at 10:00 p.m., immediately followed by Skelton’s 40.7 at 10:30.  Total sets-in-use approached a remarkable 50% during both shows and each captured a share of audience that amounted to over 85% of all homes listening to the radio.  No commercial series would ever come close to those numbers again.    

At 38, Kay Kyser was on the outer age limits for the military draft.  Yet, he had refused to request a deferment and reported to his hometown draft board at Rocky Mount, N.C., in April, 1943.  But the Office of War Information  intervened.  The OWI made public for the first time that Kyser and his show band had logged over a thousand performances at 300 military camps since 1941.  If that phenomenal record wasn’t enough, Kyser’s appearances at civilian events had been credited with over 95 million dollars in war bond sales,  The agency contended that he was more valuable to the war effort outside the military than within it. Kyser’s draft board had another reason to reject him.  “The Old Professor”  was blind as a bat without his glasses. 

Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll said goodbye to listeners of  their 15 minute serial on February 19,1943. The once invincible Amos & Andy had limped along on CBS in the ratings behind Fred Waring’s show band on NBC since the beginning of the season.  After 13½ seasons at 7:00 every weeknight, they went to work plotting a major comeback. 

It had never happened before during Network Radio‘s Golden Age - CBS had no programs in a nightly Top Ten.  Ironically, NBC’s Thursday night dominance in 1942-43 was in large part thanks to new properties developed as segments of CBS’s Kate Smith Hour - The Aldrich Family and The Abbott & Costello Show.  Both were discovered by the singer’s manager, producer and talent scout, Ted Collins.

NBC dominated the 1942-43 Top 50, (51) Programs with 32, including eight of the season's Top Ten.  CBS lagged behind with 17 and Blue was down to two.