Beginning Of End
Of Radio’s Golden Age
yes, Tums for the tummy.”
-- Don Wilson
Lincoln, Me. (DG)—
The subject of this article is based
from an E Mail I received concerning another article I wrote.
He stated the product I wrote about didn’t sponsor the program at the
particular date of the broadcast I mentioned in the article.
To make a long story short, he was right--- to a point!
The product in question didn’t sponsor the program at the date of the
broadcast--- it was actually 1 of 3 completely different products from different
companies that sponsored the program. This
commercial package was listed in radio books and magazines under the “Multi Sponsors”
When the 1950’s began, the idea of
Multi Sponsors wasn’t a new concept. There
were some radio programs during the 1940’s that successfully used more than
one sponsor. For example, the
30-minute BREAKFAST IN HOLLYWOOD had 2 different
sponsors in 2 15-minute segments. Procter
& Gamble (for Ivory Flakes) sponsored the first 15
minutes of the program, and Kellogg’s Pep and other Kellogg’s
cereals sponsored the second segment.
When ARTHUR GODFREY TIME
was attracting numerous sponsors, the program was also sectioned off into
15-minute segments for each sponsor. Once
again, this setup worked well, although every now and then, Arthur Godfrey would
only mention the product he was selling instead of doing one of his famous
Overall, this practice proved
successful and eventually be used for many daytime half hour television
programs well into the 1960’s.
Getting back to radio, there was good
news and bad news concerning the use of Multi Sponsors.
We’ll begin with the bad news. It
was used frequently when network radio as the listeners knew it was dying a
slow, painful death during the 1950’s. During
this time, many major radio stars and major sponsors were leaving radio for
television. To make matters worse, the listening audience was also
dwindling at an alarming rate.
As bleak an outlook as what I have
described, there was some good news about Multi Sponsors.
For the diehard radio listeners, the Multi Sponsors were on hand to
sponsor most of the remaining programs on network radio for the remainder of the
Now that you are familiar with Multi
Sponsors, what were the products and how were the commercials presented on the
air? Some products were established
radio sponsors in their heyday, while others were brand new products.
As for how the commercials were
presented, some radio commercials of the 1950’s were done live, while many
others were transcribed. The
commercials were informative and uneventful.
Music and musical jingles were used a lot--- and it didn’t hurt to have
famous celebrities of that era giving their endorsement of the product to the
radio listeners. Here’s an
example of the celebrity endorsement style of advertising.
you already know, Tums was (and still is) specially made “For
The Tummy.” When you really
think of it, the commercials for Tums during the 1950’s was
really a stroke of genius by the advertising agency for Lewis-Howe (the
makers of Tums). For
their celebrity, Don Wilson was hired as the Tums commercial
spokesman. Needless to say, Wilson
was one of the best and most popular radio announcers in the business, but he
would also be the perfect spokesman to sell the antacid.
If you’re a fan of THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM, you already
know that Jack Benny kidded Wilson mercilessly for having a large stomach.
With that thought in mind, it made sense for Wilson to sell Tums
For The Tummy on the air.
In addition to Don Wilson, the
listeners heard famous stars like Gisele MacKenzie, Edgar Bergen & Charlie
McCarthy, Mary Margaret McBride, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Frankie Laine, Mona
Freeman, Mel Tormé,
Dennis James, Fibber McGee & Molly, and others doing their part in
selling products on the air.
The comedy team of Bob & Ray were
also very successful in selling products during the final years of radio’s
golden age. Although the duo
presented some commercials seriously, Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding were best
known for using their brand of offbeat humor and an array of zany characters in
their commercial presentations. It
proved so successful, Bob & Ray continued to present radio commercials
well into the modern radio era.
Now that you know who did the
selling, what were the new and established products that were sold under the
Multi Sponsors label? In addition
to Tums, there is an impressive list of established radio
sponsors. There were familiar names
like Wheaties, Kix, Anacin, Chesterfield, Ford, Sweetheart Soap, Quaker
Oats, Ipana, Lava, Fitch Shampoo, Wildroot Cream-Oil, Camel, Bromo Quinine,
Kellogg’s All-Bran, BiSoDoL Powder, Barbasol Brushless, Kool, Campana
Products, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Bayer Aspirin, Shinola, Philip Morris, and
There is also an impressive list of
new products that participated as Multi Sponsors on the radio.
Some of the rookie products either had long runs on the market, or are
now longtime favorite brands. This
list consists of Prom Home Permanent, White Rain Shampoo, Brylcreem,
Kent, Clorets, “Ennds” Chlorophyll Tablets, Winston,
Dristan Decongestant Tablets, Brisk Fluoride Tooth Paste, Glamorene Liquid
Upholstery Cleaner, Sta-Puf, Imperial Margarine, Dial Shampoo, Newport, Paper
Mate Pens, Marlboro, Alpine, Barbasol Presto Lather, Philip Morris Commander,
Mentholatum Deep Heat(ing) Rub, 4 Way Cold Tablets, Salem, Candettes Throat
Lozenges, Fritos Corn Chips, and many others.
One of the more notable, but not
necessarily successful rookie products to take part was the legendary Edsel.
The beleaguered car wasn’t too popular then, but it has achieved
considerable popularity today--- although it hasn’t been made for decades.
There are Edsel Clubs around the United States; several Edsel
Internet web sites; and for anyone lucky enough to own one, the
price of a mint
condition Edsel can run into a lot of money.
I stated before, Multi Sponsors helped to prolong radio’s golden age---
although it was hanging on by a thread. The
only casualty was the end of the close association of sponsor and program. For longtime radio listeners, it was strange to hear Kellogg’s
All Bran and Sta-Puf sponsoring MA PERKINS
instead of Oxydol; Camel and Bromo Quinine
sponsoring GANGBUSTERS instead of Waterman Pens; and
Tums and Dial Shampoo
sponsoring FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY instead of Johnson’s
Wax. By losing their
longtime sponsors, the listed programs and others like them also lost a part of
their identities. However, the
bottom line would be these products and other Multi Sponsors kept the programs
on the air for as long as they could. For
the diehard radio listeners, that was all that mattered.