Avalon Time was a comedy and variety program – a true, old-time radio show that premiered in 1938 and was broadcast until 1940. When Red Skelton was introduced to the show it changed from being primarily a western music program to one that was a stage for the red-haired master of comedy. Avalon Time was Skelton’s first on-going comedy show.
Before Avalon Time, Avalon Cigarettes sponsored its first program, Show Boat, featuring the singing trio of Tom, Dick and Harry. Show Boat endured a short absence and when it came back for NBC’s Red Network, it was named Avalon Time. Show Boat was a huge hit during the early days of radio, climbing in the rating charts to surpass Rudy Vallee’s Fleischmann Hour. Later, Eddie Cantor would top the high rating that Show Boat had earned.
Show Boat eventually sunk in popularity to low ratings. In an attempt to save the show, it was moved to California, bringing the popular Charles Winninger onboard to lead the show. While Show Boat was very popular, it never rose in ratings and was eventually canceled in 1937. Avalon Cigarettes adopted the formula of Show Boat and called it Avalon Time, which became very successful with Red Skelton as the lead.
Skelton revived characters and scenarios from his old vaudeville routine that he had created in the early 1930s. His genius for comedy and for performing skits that didn’t have to be seen to be understood made Avalon Time a hit with young and old alike.
In 1938, Avalon Time featured a cast consisting of Del King, Red Foley, Kitty O’Neil and The Neighborhood Boys. In 1939, Skelton came on the scene along with Curt Massey, who replaced Red Foley, singers, Dick Todd and Janette Davis, comic, Marlin Hurt and comedy team, Tommy Mack and Bud Vandover. In 1940, comedy star, Cliff Arquette, replaced Red Skelton, who left the show in 1939.
Avalon Time lasted until May, 1940, when Arquette left the show – but the entire cast, orchestra and sponsor were immediately featured on a refurbished version of Show Boat, which ran until April of 1941.