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Meredith Willson

Meredith Willson

Show Count: 66
Series Count: 4
Role: Old Time Radio Star
Born: May 18, 1902
Old Time Radio, Mason City, Iowa
Died: June 15, 1984, Santa Monica, California, USA

Born in Mason City, Iowa on May 18, 1902, as Robert Meredith Willson who later shortened his name to Meredith Willson was best known for writing the Broadway hit, The Music Man. He was a conductor, playwright, songwriter and composer who won many awards during his lifetime, including a Tony Award in 1958 for The Music Man (Best Musical). Later, he won a Grammy for the movie, The Music Man.

Willson began his career in radio as a music director in the 1930s after serving as a member in the band of John Philip Sousa and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

As early as 1927, Willson worked on the variety show, Blue Monday Jamboree, broadcast from San Francisco, California and that also featured Hazel Warner, Bill Wright and Juliette Dunne. Willson also spent time working on Carefree Carnival, a variety show in the style of vaudeville, from 1934 until 1936. Carefree Carnival also featured Ray Tollinger and Gene Arnold and the Commodores.

During World War II he worked for the Armed Forces Radio Services and can be heard on Command Performace. From 1937 until 1944, Willson wrote the music for The Baby Snooks Show, a comedy created by Fanny Brice.

Meredith Willson continued in radio, working with orchestras and choruses on programs such as The Big Show, featuring an all-star cast with Tallulah Bankhead as “mistress of ceremonies,” Jimmy Durante, Ethel Merman, Danny Thomas, Judy Garland and a host of other big-name stars.

Willson was in charge of the music for Burns and Allen from 1945 until 1948, where he played a regular character – a shy man who always wanted advice about women.

Encore, another variety show was a showcase for Willson’s talents. Encore starred Kenneth Banghart as the announcer and Marguerite Piazza and Robert Merrill who performed encores of operas and musicals. Encore was broadcast in 1952 and went off the air in 1953.

Other radio shows that featured Meredith Willson were The Ford Sunday Evening Hour, The Good News of 1938, a musical starring James Stewart, Robert Taylor and Robert Young – among many others. He also worked on the Jack Benny Program.

During all these years, Willson had his own musical variety show where he specialized in a sound called “chiffon swing.” He had a great relationship with sponsor, General Foods, and created “the talking people” for Jell-O featuring actors, Betty Allen, Maxwell Smith, John Rarig and Bob Hanlon.

Willson passed away on June 15, 1984 and in 1987 President Ronald Reagan posthumously presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Baby Snooks ShowBaby Snooks Show
Show Count: 151
Broadcast History: 29 February 1936 to 6 June 1936, 23 December 1937 to 25 July 1940, 5 September 1940 to 15 June 1944, 17 September 1944 to 28 May 1948, and 8 November 1949 to 22 May 1951
Cast: Lois Corbett, Fanny Brice, Hanley Stafford, Lalive Brownell, Arlene Harris, Leone Ledoux, Alan Reed, Danny Thomas, Charlie Cantor, Ken Christy, Irene Tedrow, Frank Nelson, Ben Alexander, Lillian Randolph, Elvia Allman, Earl Lee, Sara Berner
Director: Mann Holiner, Al Kaye, Ted Bliss, Walter Bunker, Arthur Stander
Producer: Mann Holiner, Al Kaye, Ted Bliss, Walter Bunker, Arthur Stander
Burns & AllenBurns & Allen
Show Count: 160
Broadcast History: 15 February 1932 to 13 June 1934, 19 September 1934 to 24 March 1937, 12 April 1937 to 1 August 1938, 30 September 1938 to 23 June 1939, 4 October to 1939 to 26 June 1940, 1 July 1940 to 24 March 1941, 7 October 1941 to 30 June 1942, 6 October 1942 to 25 June 1945, 20 September 1945 to 23 June 1949 and 21 September 1949 to 17 May 1950
Sponsor: Robert Burns Panatella, White Owl Cigars, Campbell Soups, Grape Nuts, Chesterfield Cigarettes, Hinds Cream, Hormel Meats, Lever Brothers, Swan Soap, Maxwell House Coffee Time, Block Drugs
Cast: Gracie Allen, George Burns, Elvia Allman, Mel Blanc, Margaret Brayton, Sara Berner, Clarence Nash, Elliott Lewis, Mary Lee Robb, Richard Crenna, Joseph Kearns, Eric Snowden, Bea Benaderet, Hal March, Gerald Mohr, Marvin Miller, Wally Maher, Doris Singleton, Dawn Bender, Tommy Bernard, Gale Gordon, Hans Conried
Director: Ed Gardner, Ralph Levy, Al Kaye
Producer: Ed Gardner, Ralph Levy, Al Kaye
Broadcast: 24th February 1943
Added: May 28 2009
Broadcast: May 25, 1947
Added: Apr 24 2016
Broadcast: 23rd July 1940
Starring: Meredith Willson
Added: Oct 28 2012