8C. BAVARIAN'S SHOWS
& Early Cincinnati Area Radio & TV Talents
SHOWS BAVARIAN'S SPONSORED
Before Prohibition there was no radio or television. Radio broadcasts began in the 1920s and became an advertising vehicle for many companies, including brewers when Prohibition ended in the early 1930s. It wasn't until the late 1940s that television began to appear in Cincinnati. Under the ownership of the Schott Brothers, Bavarian Brewing Co. (Bavarian) began sponsoring radio programs in 1938 and was one of the first sponsors of a prime time television show in Cincinnati around 1949 - Midwestern Hayride. Sponsoring various shows involved promoting numerous radio and television personalities that were supporting Bavarian, and some became spokespersons for the brewer. Please see the newspaper ads in periods 1935 -1945 and 1946-1956, which often promoted such programs. The personalities involved with Bavarian, as well as some of those also involved in early Cincinnati area television, are recognized in the following.
EARLY BAVARIAN'S RADIO SHOWS
One of the first radio broadcasts sponsored by Bavarian involved "Baseball Night Cap" with Walter "Red" Barber in 1938 on WSAI radio. It involved the most interesting moments of the day's games. Barber was the colorful play-by-play announcer for the Cincinnati Reds on WLW radio from 1934 until 1938. A year later, Barber was lured by his friend Branch Rickey to become the announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers (1939-1953). He was also the announcer for the New York Yankees (1954-1966). He became famous for his use of signature catchphrases. One that he originated and that is still often used is "back, back, back..." to describe a potential home run. Dick Bray remained as a co-announcer and later also covered a baseball radio special for Bavarian. After Barber left for New York, he was replaced by Roger Baker to call the Red's games on WLW, and he was also featured on Baseball Nightcap for Bavarian. There were three local radio stations that broadcasted Red's games before 1941 (WLW, WSAI and WCPO), until WKRC became the exclusive broadcaster for the Reds.
EARLY CINCINNATI TELEVISION
When TV broadcasting began in Cincinnati in the late 1940s, Bavarian became interested in advertising in this medium. There were three television stations that were established in Cincinnati, all from companies that had radio stations with the same call letters. They are briefly mentioned below. (For those that might be thinking this, the answer is no; there was no WKRP in Cincinnati, except as a TV series.)
WLW-T was the city's first station (and the second in Ohio) to begin commercial broadcasts on February 9, 1948; it became an NBC affiliate. The station got its start in 1946, conducting experimental broadcasts as W8XCT. In 1947, there were only 100 televisions in all of Cincinnati on a closed circuit. WLW-T first operated on Channel 4 before moving to Channel 5, where it was later referred to as WLW-TV. It was owned by the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation, which later became a subsidiary of the Aviation Corporation, or Avco.
(For a history of WLW and its parent company, see Crosley.)
WKRC-TV signed on the air April 4, 1949, originally as a CBS affiliate on channel 11, but later became channel 12 in 1952. It was owned by the Taft family, who owned the radio station with the same call numbers, and became part of Taft Broadcasting in 1958.
WCPO-TV first signed on the air on July 26, 1949, as an ABC affiliate. It was originally broadcast on Channel 7, but later changed to Channel 9. Secondarily, it was part of the DuMont Television Network until 1956 and became owned by Scripps-Howard Newspapers. The WCPO call letters came from its ownership of the Cincinnati Post newspaper, after they acquired the station WFBE. Notably, WFBE had been owned by the Schott Brothers in the 1920s, who became owners of the Bavarian Brewing Company in 1938.
For the next couple of decades, and before Cable TV, there were only three main television stations. In the beginning, television shows were live and mostly impromptu. There were local hosts and talents that performed on Cincinnati television, with some shows airing for more than three decades straight. The shows depended upon local advertisers for funding. The Bavarian Brewing Co. was one of these early sponsors, supporting such programs as Midwestern Hayride and The Paul Dixon Muscis Shop. Before TV, radio had been the only available medium for live broadcasts from the 1920s through the 1940s. Radio continued to be a popular medium in the mid-century even after TV took the stage. Bavarian sponsored both radio and TV programs through the 1950s, and also syndicated multiple series.* The personalities who hosted these shows would often promote sponsored products on air, including Bavarian's Old Style Beer - as exemplified by the photo further below with Paul Dixon, Wanda Lewis and Dotty Mack, as well as other talents.
Originally called Boone County Jamboree (named for the county adjacent to where the Bavarian Brewery was located), Midwestern Hayride was a country music show that began appearing on radio in the mid-1930s on Saturday evenings. It was carried on WLW radio, on one of the most powerful transmitters in the world, which was able to reach Europe. The program debuted on television in April of 1948 on WLW-T, just a couple of months after the station started airing; it was hosted in the same location that transmitted WLW radio. The program was simulcasted on radio and TV into the 1960s, enjoying a prime-time hour slot that began at 8pm. Bavarian sponsored Midwestern Hayride (MH) as soon as it began and continued to do so for about six years, until December, 1954.
c. 1950. This performer is practically jumping out of his boots. He's performing on the Midwestern Hayride. The man in the plaid shirt is the show's emcee, Bill Thall. Shown in the background is a prop for the show's sponsor, Bavarian's Old Style Beer.
Midwestern Hayride became a big success, extending its reach far beyond Cincinnati. In 1951, the show was picked up for the summer on NBC-TV and, except for 1953, aired on that channel for each summer until 1956; it was then carried by ABC-TV from 1957 until 1959. In its early years, MH was always performed in front of a live audience of 100. In its heyday, it would take more than a year for a hopeful audience member to get a ticket to the weekly show. MH continued through the 1960s as well, featuring many famous country performers, including Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Tex Ritter, to name just a few.
A local regular on MH was Bonnie Lou, who would later become a cohost on The Paul Dixon Show - another popular program that Bavarian sponsored. In its early years, MH’s emcee was Bill Thall, who also appeared in the Corner Store with Bob Shreve. Some artists shown in the Bavarian Brewing Co. ads above were Charlie Gore, Lee Jones, Zeke Turner, Ernie Lee, Jerry Byrd, Neal Burris and Bill Nimmo. In addition to songs by country artists, MH featured square dancing, as shown in this video. Towards the end of the 1960s the name of MH was changed to just Hayride, and it finally ended in 1972, after a nearly 25-year run on the air. However, a MW veteran for 16 years, Kenny Price, went on to host a similar but more contemporary country show that was based in Nashville and called "Hee Haw.” Price’s program began airing around 1976 and ran until his death in 1987.
PAUL DIXON: AN EARLY PIONEER OF TELEVISION
& TALK SHOWS
Dixon began his career with radio in New York City and Chicago in the 1940s. In 1945 he moved to WCPO radio in Cincinnati as a news reporter and announcer. Dixon excelled as a reporter, but he was more interested in becoming an entertainer. He had very successfull shows based in Cincinnati as described below. He was also a spokesperson for Bavarian's, as shown in the photo below with his co-hosts Wand Lewis (left) and Dotty Mack (right).