The Golden Years of Radio 1946-1947
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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.
Each synopsis links to the full and detailed article.

1946-1947 Season
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THE 1946-47 SEASON
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Bob Hope. with Jerry Colonna, Barbara Jo Allen, (aka Vera Vague) and Desi Arnaz, rehearse Hope's Tuesday night show - America's most popular program for five consecutive seasons.

Bing Crosby left NBC’s Kraft Music Hall in May, 1946, determined to record his programs.   It didn’t take long for Crosby to find a new sponsor with deep pockets and a new network with a deep need for his star-power. Philadelphia radio and television manufacturer Philco wanted Crosby.  And ABC would take Crosby on any terms - in person or on disc.  Bing Crosby’s Philco Radio Time began its three year transcribed spin on ABC on October 16th Philco Radio Time’s premiere paired the 43 year old crooner with guest Bob Hope, his sidekick in Paramount’s successful Road comedies and star of the season’s Number One radio show. The program’s stars and listener curiosity resulted in a 24.0 rating - the highest figure that ABC had drawn for a variety show since the height of its Blue Network days in the early 1930's. 

Meanwhile, CBS and NBC continued to forbid the recorded production of prime time programs for broadcast, claiming a fear of losing live shows’ superior  technical quality, timeliness and spontaneity.  What the networks really feared was losing their monopoly of big name stars and big buck sponsors to transcribed shows distributed on disc directly to local stations - cutting the networks out of the picture altogether.  

The fear that NBC and CBS harbored of transcribed programs cutting into their control of popular programming was heightened in April when NBC’s owned and operated Chicago outlet, WMAQ, aided the “enemy” and began airing discs of the syndicated Favorite Story starring distinguished actor Ronald Colman. Colman had signed a $150,000, contract with Frederick Ziv’s production and syndication firm.  Ziv offered 23 different series of programs to local stations and advertisers with a roster of stars that included network favorites Wayne King,  Kenny Baker, Easy Aces and Philo Vance. Over 200 stations bought Ziv shows in 1946 returning revenues of $7.5 Million.

NBC’s string of consecutive monthly ratings winners sailed along.  It had begun with Major Bowes’ Original  Amateur Hour in June, 1935. It encompassed Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy’s two season sweeps of the late thirties,  the frequent firsts by Jack Benny and extended through the glory days of Tuesday’s terrific trio - Bob Hope, Fibber McGee & Molly and Red Skelton.  The streak reached a whopping 120 months - equivalent to twelve consecutive ten month seasons - when the inevitable finally happened.

Lux Radio Theater - the only hour-long program in the season’s Top 50 - produced the month’s highest ratings in June, 1947.  That, in turn, began a string of 15 consecutive monthly wins for Lux and CBS - the longest since Edgar Bergen’s 22 month streak on NBC from 1937 to 1939 ... Earlier in the season, Red Skelton set a record of a different kind.  Skelton’s 15.3 in September was the lowest rating yet recorded for a month’s Number One show.  It was an early glimpse of ominous things yet to come for Network Radio. 

Kate Smith was Network Radio’s “grand old lady” at 39.  General Foods brought Smith back to Sunday’s CBS schedule opposite NBC’s Bob Burns at 6:30.  It was the singer’s last attempt to recapture the popularity that had led to ten Top 50 seasons on CBS including four in the Top 20.  It failed.   General Foods cancelled both Smith’s Sunday show and her weekday quarter hour chat programs in June, thus ending their decade-long sponsor/star relationship. She also left CBS Radio forever after 16 consecutive years with the network.  But “The Songbird of The South” was far from finished.  Smith moved on to Mutual, ABC and NBC with a half dozen different talk and music shows until 1958.  She also enjoyed a decade of television popularity with a constant stream of daytime and prime time shows on NBC-TV and CBS-TV throughout the 1950's.  

RudyVallee’s Top Ten ratings of the thirties and Top 20's of the early forties had steadily sunk since he returned from Coast Guard duty in 1944. Nevertheless, Philip Morris cancelled handsome young crooner Johnny Desmond in 1946 and moved Vallee into its vacant Tuesday 8:00 p.m. timeslot on NBC.  Unlike Vallee’s earlier days when his program was known for introducing newcomers to radio, his continuing co-star on this show was 50 year old Ruth Etting, another voice from the past looking for a comeback. Their effort was met with listener apathy, losing the time period to the CBS newspaper drama, Big Town.  Philip Morris pulled the plug in April and replaced “The Vagabond Lover” with comedian Milton Berle.  Vallee left Network Radio  after 13 seasons but returned for six months in 1955 - as a Sunday night disc jockey on CBS. 

The highest rated broadcast of the year aired on ABC on Wednesday, September 18, when Heavyweight Champ Joe Louis defended his title against challenger Tami Mauriello at Yankee Stadium. Gillette sponsored the fight that recorded a 33.0 Hooperating. But the razor blade company didn’t get much of Don Dunphy’s blow-by-blow report for its money - Louis knocked out Mauriello in the first round.

Ralph Edwards had created a monster on Truth Or Consequences with the previous season’s  “Mr. Hush” secret-identity contest.  He topped it with “Mrs. Hush” in early 1947 by allowing listeners to Saturday’s Number One show to participate and by adding a charity angle to the giveaway.  Edwards invited his home audience into the chase for the contest’s mounting jackpot of prizes, telling them to submit letters that completed the sentence, “We should all support the March of Dimes because....”   He coyly added that although it wasn’t really necessary, listener donations to the charity accompanying contest entries would be gratefully accepted.  Each week three letters were chosen and those listeners were given a crack at identifying the mystery woman from clues she had recorded in hushed tones. With every incorrect answer the jackpot grew to include a new Ford convertible, a Cessna airplane, a mink coat and a diamond ring.   By mid-March the jackpot contained 23 huge prizes with a total value over $17,500, when a Chicago housewife correctly revealed “Mrs. Hush” to be Clara Bow, the “It Girl” of silent films.  But the real winners of the contest were Edwards himself and the March of Dimes.  Before Bow was identified Truth Or Consequences ratings had jumped into the 20's and the charity had collected $555,000 from over 700,000 contest entries.

Television was stalled.  Licenses for 44 new stations had been issued, but the industry was on hold, waiting for an FCC landmark decision.  Would the country’s video standard remain the RCA system of electronic television that could only promise color in several years?  Or would it switch to the incompatible CBS part-mechanical system that produced color but would render all past equipment useless.  The decision was finally handed down after 14 weeks of hearings and testimony - RCA won.  Current station and set owners could breath easier ... New station construction got underway at full speed and receivers, priced from $225 to $2,500, began flying out of stores in New York City, Philadelphia, Schenectady, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles - the six cities that had operating television station

NBC won the annual Network Radio ratings race again with 29 of the season's Top 50 Programs.  CBS followed with 18 and ABC had three.  CBS and television would soon end that dominance.