Al Jolson

Al Jolson

Show Count: 75
Series Count: 3
Role: Old Time Radio Star
Born: May 26, 1886
Old Time Radio, Seredžius, Kovno Governorate, Russian Empire
Died: October 23, 1950, San Francisco, California, U.S.
One of the most talented men in early show business, Al Jolson was also the first Jewish person who openly admitted his race and become a sensational star in America. Jolson was the first famous entertainer to don the “blackface,” which originated in minstrel shows at the beginning of the 20th century.

Born Asa Joelson on May 26, 1886 in Seredzius, Lithuania, in the Russian Empire to a rabbi and wife, Naomi, Jolson moved with his family to the United States three years after his father became a cantor and rabbi at the Talmud Torah Synagogue of Washington, D.C. When his mother died in 1894, Jolson went into a state of shock – but in 1897 Al and his brother, Hirsch (Harry), were introduced to show business by Al Reeves. Afterward, the two brothers worked as an entertainment team to get enough money to go to the movies.

After a career in Burlesque and Vaudeville, Jolson began his radio career and was a popular guest on many programs. His own show, the long-running and popular, Al Jolson Show, was produced by NBC. The show was musical variety and even though it sported many titles, people thought of it as Jolson’s Show because his dominant personality took over at every appearance. Jolson appeared on Paul Whiteman’s Kraft-Phenix Program, which became Kraft Music Hall. After Jolson’s departure from the show, Bing Crosby became the starring name.

Jolson’s radio program went through a variety of names (including Lifebuoy Program and Shell Chateau), producers and performers. Producer, Carroll Carroll, wrote a memoir during the 1970s about how Jolson’s 1930’s series, Shell Chateau, was produced and commented that it was “typical depression fare” featuring “five acts and Jolson.”

During the heyday of the Kraft Music Hall (from 1947 to 1949), Jolson worked with piano-player, Oscar Levant and singers such as Perry Como, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby and was voted Most Popular Male Vocalist by Variety, a show business newspaper in 1948.

Al Jolson was the most famous and highly paid entertainer in America during the 1930s. He’s most remembered for the first full length talking movie made –The Jazz Singer – in 1927, which can be heard for radio on Lux Radio Theater. He was the first major star to entertain the troops in World War II and The Korean War. Other Lux Radio Theater episodes starring Al Jolson are The Jolson Story, Jolson Sings Again, Burlesque and Swannee River.

Al Jolson also made many guest appearances on shows such as Texaco Star Theater, The Bob Hope Show, The Jimmy Durante Show, The Eddie Cantor Show, The Jack Benny Program and Let Yourself Go.

Al Jolson was married four times. His third marriage on September 21, 1928 was to dancer and actress Ruby Keeler with whom he starred with in Lux Radio Theater's Burlesque. In 1935, Al and Ruby adopted a son, whom they named "Al Jolson Jr." The marriage ended in 1939.

In 1944, Jolson met Erle Galbraith, an X-ray technician at a military hospital and married her in 1945. They adopted two children – Asa, Jr. and Alicia. The couple were married until his death on October 23, 1950 at the age of 64. Jolson’s funeral was one of the largest ever seen in show business history – over 20,000 people, including celebrities, Bob Hope, Larry Parks and George Jessel.

After Jolson’s death, Scripps-Howard newspapers featured a drawing with a pair of white gloves on a totally black background with the caption, “The Song Is Ended.”

Let Yourself GoLet Yourself Go
Show Count: 1
Broadcast History: 1944 to 1945
Cast: Al Jolson, Milton Berle, Joe Besser
Host: Milton Berle
Broadcast: 20th February 1947
Added: Jul 06 2013
Broadcast: May 2, 1948
Added: May 03 2016
Broadcast: 08 April 1947
Starring: Bob Hope, Al Jolson
Added: Jun 13 2001
Broadcast: 3rd November 1949
Added: May 22 2010
Broadcast: 28th December 1949
Starring: Bing Crosby, Al Jolson
Added: Dec 28 2010
Broadcast: Not known
Starring: Al Jolson
Added: Oct 06 2005
Broadcast: Not Known
Starring: Al Jolson
Added: Jul 14 2005
Broadcast: Not Known
Starring: Al Jolson
Added: Jan 05 2006
Broadcast: 15th June 1936
Added: May 18 2010
Broadcast: 21st January 1948
Starring: Al Jolson
Added: Feb 12 2006
Broadcast: 4th January 1950
Starring: Bing Crosby, Al Jolson
Added: Nov 08 2009
Broadcast: 3rd January 1937
Added: Nov 06 2004
Broadcast: 4th June 1941
Added: Jun 13 2001
Broadcast: 3rd May 1950
Added: Jun 29 2010
Broadcast: 2nd April 1950
Starring: Jack Benny, Al Jolson
Added: Aug 24 2008
Broadcast: December 28, 1949
Added: Dec 31 2023
Broadcast: 10th August 1936
Starring: Al Jolson, Gail Patrick
Added: Apr 22 2012
Broadcast: 22nd May 1950
Added: May 23 2010
Broadcast: 16th February 1948
Added: May 21 2010
Broadcast: 29th December 1939
Added: Dec 06 2010
Broadcast: 2nd April 1945
Added: May 22 2010
Broadcast: January 3, 1937
Added: Jan 28 2020
Broadcast: 3rd January 1937
Starring: Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson
Added: Jan 02 2007