8B. BAVARIAN'S TV & RADIO SHOWS
& Early Cincinnati Area TV & Broadcasters
EARLY CINCINNATI TELEVISION
TV Broadcasting began in Cincinnati in the late 1940s with three stations. All three television stations were developed from companies that had radio stations with the same call letters. (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, and became an NBC affiliate. The station began in 1946 as W8XCT when it conducted experimental broadcasts, and there were only 100 televisions in all of Cincinnati on a closed circuit in 1947. WLW-T originally operated on channel 4, but then on Channel 5, and later referred to as WLW-TV. It was owned by by the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation, which later became a subsidiary of the Aviation Corporation, or Avco.
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 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 and Times Star Newspaper, after they acquired the station WFBE. Of note, WFBE was once owned by the Schott Brothers in the 1920s, who became owners of the Bavarian Brewing Company in 1938.
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. The shows depended upon local advertisers. The Bavarian Brewing Co. was one of these early television sponsors and supported such programs as Midwestern Hayride and The Paul Dixon Show, as mentioned in the Post WWII and Turnaround Efforts time periods. Before TV, Radio was the only medium for live broadcasts from 1920s through the 1940s. Radio continued to be a popular medium after TV took the stage. Bavarian sponsored both radio and TV programs through the 1950s, and also syndicated a couple series. The personalities with these shows would often promote the products of their sponsors on air, such as Bavarian's Old Style Beer, as exemplified by the background page, featuring Paul Dixon, Wanda Lewis and Dotty Mack, as well as other talents shown below.
Originally called Boone County Jamboree (named for the county adjacent to where the Bavarian Brewery was located) Midwestern Hayride was a country music show 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 months after the station started airing, and was hosted in the same location that transmitted WLW radio. The program was simulcasted on radio and TV into the 1960s, and had a prime time hour slot beginning at 8pm. Bavarian started sponsoring Midwestern Hayride (MH) when it began, and did so for about six years, until December, 1954.
The TV show became a big success. In 1951, it was picked up for the summer on NBC-TV and, except for 1953, aired for each summer until 1956, and then was carried by ABC-TV from 1957 until 1959. In its early years, MH was always performed live in front of a live audience of 100, and in its hay days, it would take more than a year to get a ticket to the weekly show. MH continued through the 1960s. It had appearances by many famous country performers, including Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Tex Ritter, to name a few.
A local regular on MH was Bonnie Lou, who later was a cohost on The Paul Dixon Show - another show Bavarian sponsored. The emcee of MH in its early years was Bill Thall, who also appeared in the Corner Store with Bob Shreve. (See below.) Some of the other artists as shown in the Bavarian Brewing Co. ads above were Charlie Gore, Lee Jones, Zeke Turner, Ernie Lee, Jerry Byrd, Neal Burris and Bill Nimmo. Besides songs by country artists, MH featured square dancing, as shown in this video. Towards the end of the 1960s the name of the MH was changed to just Hayride, and it ended in 1972, after nearly 25 years. However, a MW veteran for 16-years, Kenny Price, went on to have a similar but more contemporary country show based in Nashville, called "Hee Haw" beginning around 1976. That show aired until Price's death in 1987.
c. 1950. This performer is practically jumping out of his boots. He's performing on the Midwestern Hayride. The man in the checked shirt on the left is the show's emcee, Bill Thall. Shown in the background is a prop for the show's sponsor, Bavarian's Old Style Beer.
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 moved to WCPO radio in Cincinnati as a news reporter and announcer. He excelled as a reporter, but was interested in becoming an entertainer.
The Paul Dixon Song Shop. In 1949, as television broadcasting was beginning in Cincinnati, Paul Dixon established his own show with Wanda Lewis and Dotty Mack, known as the Paul Dixon (Song Shop) Show on WCPO-TV. They would pantomime to hit songs of the day. For an excerpt of one of his shows, click here. In addition, please see information about Dotty and Wanda below. Due to the popularity of the show, Dixon was lured to New York City to have his shown on Dumont Television in 1954. However, Dixon missed Cincinnati, staying in New York for just a year and returning in April, 1955.
The Paul Dixon Show. Avco Broadcasting provided him with his own shown on their WLW-T network, which appealed to housewives. The show featured Bonnie Lou and Colleen Sharp. It quickly expanded from 30-minutes to 90-minutes and became syndicated in the Dayton, Columbus and Indianapolis markets. He became known as "Paul Babby" on his show. One of his most popular shows was the chicken wedding. Dixon had difficulties coping with his son's death in 1970 and developed some health issues shortly thereafter. His last show aired in 1974, 20 years after it began. In total, Dixon had his own television shows for 25 years. In particular, all of Dixon's co-hosts also had long television careers, and most were highly accomplished, some pursuing other opportunities.
Former late night TV host David Letterman, who grew up in Indianapolis where the Paul Dixon show was syndicated, cited Dixon's comedic talent as inspiration for his own antics. Letterman was also a big fan of Dixon's co-host and singer, Bonnie Lou, and of the Ruth Lyon show.
Dotty Mack. Dotty was particularly gifted in pantomiming, and was known as the Queen of Pantomime. She also was given her own show in June, 1953, which ran until 1956. Dotty mack dated various celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, Joe DiMaggio and Dick Van Dyke. She also socialized for many years with Rosemary Clooney (also from Cincinnati), Dorris Day, Eydie Gorme and Steve Lawrence. She moved to Flolrida when her husband died in 1986, and passed away on November 11, 2019.
Wanda Lewis. Wendy was artistic, and she would sometimes design stage sets and draw figures live on the Paul Dixon Show. A couple years after she left that show, she joined her husband on his Uncle Al Show in 1956, oriented to children. A video with her on this show can be viewed here. She was known as Captain Windy on the show. A song in tribute to her character went something like this: " We love little Windy we do, we do. We love little Windy, we do. And if you knew Windy like we all do, you would love little Windy too." The Uncle Al Show
On The Paul Dixon Show (1954 - 1974)
Bonnie Lou. Before co-hosting with Paul Dixon for two decades beginning in 1955, Bonnie Lou was a successful recording artist. She began as a country singer, was skilled at Yodeling and was a cross-over artist and considered to be the first female rock and roll singer. She appeared on Midwestern Hayride starting in 1952, which was another program that Bavarian Brewing Co. sponsored.
Colleen Sharp. Colleen was part of the Paul Dixon show for two decades.
OTHER RADIO & TV TALENTS ASSOCIATED WITH BAVARIAN'S
Below are some hosts of news, sports, music and other shows sponsored by the Bavarian Brewing Co. for Bavarian's beer. They included: Lloyd Baldwin (WCKY, News/Sports); Dick Bray (WCKY, News/Sports); Adolph Menjou (see below); Bill Dawes (WCPO, M-A-D:, John Daly (WCPO, News); Don Webb (WKRC, News); Jack Remington (WKRC, At Random); Cecil Hale (WSAI, Music), Phil Howard (WCPO-TV, Monday Night Fights); Rex Dale (WCKY, Hits), Paul Dixon (WLW-T), and .
SYNDICATED SHOWS BAVARIAN SPONSORED
Besides hosting mostly local shows and local talent, Bavarian would occasionally sponsor syndicated shows. A couple of these are mentioned below.
The Abbott & Costello Show
Featuring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, this show was syndicated on 40 local stations from the fall of 1952 to the spring of 1954. Bavarian sponsored this program during that time. This was the most popular comedy duos of the 1940s and early 1950s. They performed on Broadway in the late 1930s and had their own radio show in the 1940s. They also appeared in numerous films beginning in the early 1940s until 1955. They also began appearing on televisioin in 1951. They are best known for one of the most famous comedy routines of all time, "Who's on First?" It was first performed in vaudeville and then on radio on the Kate Smith show, in 1938.
My Favorite Story with Adolphe Menjou
(a/k/a Your Favorite Story & Your Favorite Playhouse) Bavarian sponsored this syndicated program on WCPO-TV hosted by Adolphe Menjou. It consisted of 25 episodes that was broadcasted between 1953 and 1955. Menjou was originally from Pittsburgh, but had a long and accomplished acting career, which began with talkies. He appeared in such films as Charlie Chaplin's A Woman of Paris, where he played the lead role; Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory with Kirk Douglas; Ernst Lubitsch's The Marriage Circle; The Sheik with Rudolph Valentino; Morocco with Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper; and A Star Is Born with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, and was nominated for an Academy Award for The Front Page in 1931. He is shown in a photo with Bavarian executives in the mid 1950s in Turnaround Efforts.
OTHER CINCINNATI AREA TV BROADCASTERS & TALENTS
Cincinnati was a cradle for other various television talents. In addition to those previously mentioned, below are some other notable talents involved in TV (and movies) that were inducted into the Greater Cincinnati Broadcast Hall of Fame. A couple of these celebrities, (Bob Braun and Bob Shreve) were also once associated with programs sponsored by the Bavarian Brewing Co.
Ruth Lyons began in broadcasting in the 1930s and became a very successful radio host in the 1940s. She started a talk show called the 50 club (because the audience was limited to 50 people) in February, 1946 on WLW radio. In May, 1949, she transitioned the program to television on WLW-T and became the program director of the station in September, 1949. The program was changed to the 50-50 Club (when the audience expanded to 100) in 1953. Her show was the top rated daytime television program in the US from 1952 to 1964. Lyons is credited as the Woman Who Invented Talk TV, before Oprah. She was the only woman to serve on the Crosley Board of Directors. Lyons retired in January, 1967
Bob Braun took over 50-50 Club, when Ruth Lyons retired. Braun frequently appeard on that show, and earlier in his career, Braun worked on the Paul Dixon Show. By 1969, the show was called the Bob Braun's 50-50 Club, and later to the Bob Braun Show and Braun and Company. He left his show and Cincinnati in 1984 for California do commercials, talk shows and small movie roles. Braun returned to Cincinnati and had a program on WSAI Radio in 1994, retiring in November, 1999. He was replaced by Nick Clooney.
Bob Shreve was an on-air announcer, a mellow singing voice, a movie host, a soft-shoe dancer and a comedian. In the early 1950s he appeared on a comedy show known as The General Store on WLW-T with Bill Thall, and their
characters were Elmer Diffledorfer and and Willie, respectfully. They made numerous appearances as their comic characters on the Midwestern Hayride. Shreve also co-hosted an afternoon show with Wanda Lewis (previously mentioned) and Colin Male, and was a frequent performer on the 50/50 Show with Ruth Lyons. He also played a clown and robot on The Uncle Al Show. Around 1960 he hosted the The Three Stooges shorts, and had such surprise guests as The Three Stooges themselves and Jerry Lewis. Shreve went on to have several of his own shows, and was a pioneer of all-night broadcasting (1:30am to 6am on weekends) from 1963 until 1970 on WCPO-TV. After it was cancelled, it was picked up by WLW-TV for a couple of years, and then moved to WKRC-TV as the Past Prime Playhouse (PPP) until 1985.
Al Lewis, best known as Uncle Al, he began on WCPO-TV as an art director and then became host of an hour-long sow called Al's Corner Drugstore. He played a soda jerk who would take phone-in requests for songs that he would play on his accordion. The show was on a set where people could walk in from the street to watch, and it became popular for neighborhood children. They started calling him Uncle Al. In June, 1950, that became the name of his show, oriented to children. Wanda Lewis joined her husband on The Uncle Al Show in in 1956. She was at first called Captain Windy, dressed like a superhero, and Lewis continued to play his accordion on the show at times. The Uncle Al Show holds the unofficial record for the longest running regularly scheduled series with the same host for the show's entire run of 35-years. It briefly aired nationally for a year on ABC starting in the fall of 1958. Three years before then, CBS wanted to host a similar show on their national network, but the ABC network refused to release Lewis from his contract. Instead, CBS settled on a show called Captain Kangaroo hosted by Howedy Doody alum Bob Keeshan.
Nick Clooney, shown on the chair below, was the brother of Rosemary Clooney. He was the father of the actor George Clooney, making Rosemary George's aunt. Nick began his television career with eight-years at WKYT in Lexington, KY. He then had his own talk show in Columbus, OH, on WLWC in 1968 for a year, before coming to Cincinnati to host a local morning talk program, The Nick Clooney Show, first on WCPO-TV and then on WKRC-TV about a year later. He became news director and lead anchor in 1975 for WKRC-TV, and was probably best remembered at that time for his thorough coverage of the tragic 1977 Beverly Hills Supper Club fire, where 165 lives were lost. In 1984, Clooney left Cincinnati to be a co-anchor at KNBC in Los Angles, but returned to WKRC-TV in the late 1980s for a short time. Afterwards, he hosted an evening news program in Salt Lake City for KSTU for several years. Clooney was a host on American Movie Classics, and then returned to Cincinnati in 1999, to replace Bob Braun. He had an unsuccessful run for Northern Kentucky's 4th Congressional District in 2004. In 2008, he was a Distinguished Journal-in-Residence at American University (in Washington, D.C.) and taught a course on his book, The Movies That Changed Us. He was the commencement speaker for the University of Cincinnati in June, 2012, and appeared in The Monuments Men, directed by his son, George, in 2014.
For more information about these hosts, please click on the links below.
Newspapers.com and the Cincinnati Enquirer, Dayton News & Herald Journal
The background photo was taken on the floor of the Paul Dixon Song Show in 1952.
The show featured Wanda Lewis (on the left) and Dotty Mack (on the right.)