A one of a kind sign in Times Square...in a series of changes, the bottle cap pops and a straw appears. It's The Real Thing actually first appeared in 1942, and was revived with a song in October 1969...
Our Miss Brooks #076, 'Walter's Radio' from Jan 22, 1950
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Coca-Cola made their first entry into Radio network programming in 1930, with 'Coca-Cola Top Notchers', a weekly, live (then later for syndication), 30 minute Sports/Variety show, which aired on Wednesday nights over the NBC 'Red' Network from 10:30 to 11:00 pm. Popular New York Herald Tribune sportswriter and commentator Grantland Rice presided over the show for it's run.
Grantland Rice, legendary and outspoken sportswriter who introduced Notre Dame's Four Horsemen to the Nation. Since 1954, the Grantland Rice Trophy has been awared in his name to college football's National Champion.
Rice interviewed the best and brightest in the World of Sports for the era, the two known existing episodes showcase interviews with the likes of Ty Cobb reminiscing about his baseball career and professional golfer Stewart Maiden recalling his famous student, Bobby Jones. The dean of American sportswriters, was born November 1, 1880 and died July 12, 1954. Tim Cohane, sports editor of Look magazine from 1944 to 1965, founded the Grantland Rice Trophy to honor the annual college football national champion as selected by the Football Writers Association of America.
Musical interludes were provided by Leonard Joy and his 'Coca-Cola Top Notchers' 31-piece Orchestra. Graham McNamee was the Announcer.
Known existing examples:
'Baseball and The Coming Season' March 19, 1930; Grantland Rice Interviews Ty Cobb; Leonard Joy and his Coca-Cola Top Notchers Orchestra perform 'I'm A Dreamer, Aren't We All?', 'My Gal Sal', 'Sweeter Than Sweet', 'Rosita, Wild Rose', 'Ah, Sweet Melody of Youth', and 'I'm Following You.'
'The Man Who Gave Bobby Jones His First Golfing Lesson' March 26, 1930 ; Grantland Rice interviews professional golfer Stewart Maiden about his prize student, Bobby Jones. NBC's 7-note chimes are heard at the aircheck. Leonard Joy and His Orchestra play 'So Sympathetic'; Grantland Rice, Stewart Maiden, Ben Grauer (announcer)
Between 1937 and 1942, Singin' Sam -- Richmond, IN singer Harry Frankel, known as "Singin’ Sam, the Barbasol Man" for his long association with the famous shaving cream company -- appeared for Coca-Cola. but not for live, nationwide broadcast.
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Hundreds of small radio stations throughout the Midwest and Canada, unaffiliated with national networks, had to employ transcriptions for their programming. Transcriptions were programs recorded onto 16-inch discs, which were subsequently distributed -- syndicated -- to these smaller, lower power stations and transmitted to their local broadcast area, inserting their own 'bumpers and call signs with local announcers. Because Harry's show, Refreshment Time with Singin’ Sam, was a 15 minute, 5 day a week commitment, the transcription format suited him very perfectly. Every other week Harry flew to New York's World Broadcasting System, then later for Sound Studios of New York, recording ten shows in two days for D'Arcy Advertising (one of Coca-Cola's New York ad agencies). This left Harry 12 more days to enjoy his bucolic life in rural Richmond. Harry had a warm, deep voice and was "everybody’s favorite uncle."
Spot Ad for Singin' Sam, April 28, 1941
World Broadcasting System Transcription Label (Click for larger Image)
Sound Studios of New York Transcription Label (Click for larger Image)
The concept of the show was a great idea: bring together the latest popular crooner with the nation's most popular carbonated beverage and let the magic do the rest. There was just a little hiccup with the first few episodes of the new show -- the star had a month-long commitment, entertaining the troops overseas.
Coca-Cola's "Songs By Morton Downey" ad listing,
Morton Downey "The Irish Thrush " at the mike recording for Columbia c.1944
Morton Downey with his wife and five children, c.1950
The show -- 15-minute episodes, five days a week -- aired for Coca-Cola syndication beginning February 5, 1945 at 3:PM Eastern War Time over the Blue Network (already ABC by this time), initially. Further syndication took it to some NBC and CBS stations and several Canadian stations as well. Felix Knight subbed for Downey for the first few weeks, accompanied by Jimmy Lytell and His Orchestra, with Lea Ray. Raymond Paige's Orchestra followed Jimmy Lytell after April 1945. By 1946 the show aired as 'The Coke Club', with Morton Downey and Jimmy Lytell and his orchestra once again. The transcriptions for World Broadcasting System were again produced by D'Arcy Advertising Company.
Running from June 1941 through 1949 (in syndication), Claudia and David began as a skit on The Kate Smith Hour based on the Redbook Magazine stories by Rose Franken and William Brown Meloney. It was spun off as a successful General Foods' Grape Nuts sponsored summer replacement during the summer of 1941 and became one of some 30 - 50 moderately successful situation drama serials of it's time, though somewhat short-lived. Of the at least 400 original episodes, 179 examples of the syndicated episodes of the show are known to survive in private collections. Scripted to appeal to returning Veterans and their young families, the premise was the young Naughton Family, David and Claudia. Richard Kollmar, then Paul Crabtree as David, and Patricia Ryan, then Kathryn Bard, as Claudia, David's young 18-year old bride, Claudia, struggling to break free from her overbearing mother, Mrs. Brown (Jane Seymour), while becoming a helpful, loving, successful wife and homemaker to her war veteran husband, David, an architect in his civilian life. More then sufficient fodder here, for a long running potboiler -- or so the D'Arcy Advertising executives would have hoped when they attempted to revive the series in syndication, anyway. Dramatic punctuation was provided by the Peter Van Steeden Orchestra, with Charles Stark, then Joe King as Announcer. The attempt at syndication fizzled after two years (1948 and 1949), and the show passed quietly into the night.
It was a match made in heaven for all parties. Edgar Bergen had long hoped to regain the popular 8:00 to 8:30 pm, EST time slot. Bergen and McCarthy were reaching the height of their popularity, and Coca-Cola's summer replacements for the following two years provided a showcase for a 'Pause That Refreshes' revival for Percy Faith and His Orchestra, with the Musical Variety format that had been so successful for Coca-Cola in the past. The summer replacement for 1951 was no less than Mario Lanza for yet another 'Coke Time' reprise, supplemented by Gisele McKenzie and The Ray Sinatra Orchestra.
Coca-Cola's continuing efforts to move their flagship beverage -- and image -- into the hipper, more modern 1950's were underscored beginning in 1946 with 'Songs of Morton Downey''s transition to 'The Coke Club'. But apparently -- as it often has throughout it's history -- Coca-Cola Company underestimated their public's loyalty to the Coca-Cola branding and name.
'Coke Time with Eddie Fisher', hammered home the 'Coke' name, branding, and theme at every opportunity, aligning itself with one of the most popular crooners in modern Radio at the time. Eddie Fisher was every bit the newest heartthrob throughout America during the 50's. Frank Sinatra had begun to diversify his career, and Eddie Fisher and his young -- and equally popular -- bride, Debbie Reynolds, held great appeal to a modern audience already beginning to move en masse to Television for their entertainment.
Here's a Winter season clip from Coke Time with Eddie Fisher from 1955:
'Coke Time' and 'The Coke Club' had often been intermixed throughout Coca-Cola's on-air broadcasting history between 1943 and 1957. Their syndicated shows tended to adhere to a specific theme, naming convention, and format.
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D'Arcy had been a highly regarded print advertising agency, but struggled to incorporate new media into Coca-Cola's Television projects. This, coupled with the deaths of William D'Arcy and Archie Lee by 1950, led The Coca-Cola Company to search for a replacement for the firm which had served them so well for over 50 years. In 1956 the company's advertising account was transferred to McCann-Erickson. D'Arcy closed and commemorated its fifty years of work with Coca-Cola in a print ad that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on April 2, 1956.
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This marked both the end of the D'Arcy Advertising on the labels of syndicated transcriptions, as well as the virtual end of Coca-Cola's sponsorship of whole radio shows from this point forward. Television was the new thing, and McCann-Erickson attacked Television with a vengeance for Coca-Cola, turning their back on all further radio projects requiring full sponsorship.
1930 -- CocaCola Program
1930 -- Coca-Cola Top Notchers
1930 -- The Coca-Cola Hour
1934 -- The Pause That Refreshes On The Air
1937 -- Refreshment Time With Singin' Sam
193x -- The Musical Comedy Hour
1937 -- The Song Shop
1940 -- The Pause That Refreshes On The Air
1941 -- Coca-Cola Spotlight Bands
1943 -- Songs From Morton Downey [The Coke Club ]
1945 -- The Coca-Cola Spotlight Revue
1945 -- Coke Time
1947 -- Claudia and David
1948 -- Predict A Hit
1948 -- Summer Spotlight Revue
1948 -- The CocaCola Summer Show
1949 -- The Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show
1952 -- Coke Time With Mario Lanza
1953 -- Coke Time With Eddie Fisher
One or more of these shows were often also referred to, variously, as 'The Coke Club', "Coke Time', 'The Spike Jones Show', 'The Coca-Cola Program', or simply 'Coke Club' in the case of several 15 - 30 minute spot shows sponsored between 1934 and 1948.
The company's 'Coca-Cola Waltz', a.k.a. 'The Coca-Cola Company Theme' tended to tie most of their offerings together, thematically. The original composition can be traced to Leonard Joy's pen, circa 1930. Indeed, the copyright for 'The Coca-Cola Waltz' indicates Leonard Joy as claimant to the composition as of August 1, 1930, though the arrangement for 'The Coca-Cola Waltz' bears a credit to Nathan Van Cleave & Andre Kostelantez, under the copyright filed by The Coca-Cola Company of Wilmington, Delaware, filed Jul. 10, 1941. So it was, that throughout most of The Golden Age of Radio, 'The Coca-Cola Waltz' remained Coca-Cola's signature theme.