Remember that one day when you could wake up without an alarm? When you would get your favorite bowl of cereal and sit between the hours of 8 and 12? This is a blog dedicated to the greatest time of our childhood: Saturday mornings. The television programs you watched, the memories attached to them, and maybe introducing you to something you didn't realize existed. Updated every weekend.
(CBS, June 28, 1951-December 1, 1953, January 4-March
Hal Roach Studios
Actors Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll
began working in Chicago radio in the 1920s in the hopes of it leading to stage
work. After selling some of their works to bandleader Paul Ash, they were able to
become full-time broadcasters for Chicago
Tribune’s WGN in 1925, and the Victor
Talking Machine Company (now RCA
Records) offered them a recording contract. WGN wanted the pair to adapt
the popular Tribune comic strip The
Gumpsinto a serialized radio show. Since neither was adept at
imitating the female voices needed for the series and not wanting to taint their
previous work in the event the show failed, they decided to offer an original
series about “a couple of colored characters” that would allow them to use a
dialect to disguise their identities and utilize their familiarity with
minstrel traditions. The resulting show, Sam ‘n’ Henry, began
on January 12, 1926 and became a sensation in the Midwest.
Ad for the radio show.
When WGN refused their proposal to
syndicate the series, Gosden and Correll quit the station and went to WMAQ. They offered more
money and a syndication deal for a show similar to Sam ‘n’ Henry since WGN owned the rights to the original show.
Gosden and Correll went on to create the show Amos ‘n’ Andy, utilizing names they heard two elderly
African-Americans greet each other by in an elevator one day. Naïve but honest
Amos Jones (Gosden) and gullible dreamer Andy Brown (Correll) were Georgia
farmers who moved to Chicago in search of a better life. There, George
“Kingfish” Stevens (Gosden) would often try to lure the pair into
get-rich-quick schemes, or into various kinds of trouble.
Poster for Check and Double Check.
The show became one of the first
radio comedy series and ran as a nightly serial from 1928-43, then as a weekly
situation comedy from 1943-55, before becoming a nightly disc-jockey program
frim 1950-60. In 1930, RKO
Radio Pictures planned to capitalize on the popularity of the show by
making a film, Check and Double Check(a
catchphrase from the show), starring Gosden and Correll in blackface. The film
didn’t go over well with audiences and everyone involved, making it the only
time Gosden and Correll performed the roles on camera. They did lend their
voices, however, to animated
shorts produced by the Van Beuren Studios.
Finally, the radio show was adapted into a television sitcom by Hal Roach
Studios for CBS.
Kingfish hanging over Andy and Amos.
Initially, Gosden and Correll
planned to voice the characters while having black actors portray them on
screen and mouth the lines, but instead they just recorded samples of how the
characters spoke as a guide for the actors. Alvin Childress assumed the
role of Amos, Spencer Williams
as Andy, and Tim Moore as
Kingfish. The program debuted on June 28, 1951 and became one of the first
shows filmed with a multicamera setup. The
NAACP lodged a formal protest against the
series and its sponsor, Blatz
Brewing Company. The pressure led Blatz to end its sponsorship in 1953 and,
despite strong ratings, CBS ended the show as well after 65 episodes. CBS did continue
to air it in reruns, including 13 previously unaired episodes beginning in
1955. Mounting pressure from the NAACP and the growing civil rights movement
led CBS to remove the show from broadcast altogether in 1966.