This brings back some fond memories.
Wrigley Field was a ballpark in Los Angeles, California which served as host to minor league baseball teams in the region for over 30 years, and was the home park for the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League as well as a current major league team, the later Los Angeles Angels, in their inaugural season, 1961. The ballpark was also used as the backdrop for several Hollywood films about baseball, as well as TV series such as Home Run Derby.
Wrigley Field was built in South Los Angeles in 1925 and was named after William Wrigley Jr., the chewing gum magnate who owned the first tenants, the original Los Angeles Angels Pacific Coast League team. In 1925, the Angels moved from their former home at Washington Park (Los Angeles), which was also known as Chutes Park. Wrigley also owned the Chicago Cubs, whose home (Wrigley Field) is also named after him.
The Los Angeles Wrigley Field was built to resemble Spanish-style architecture and a somewhat scaled-down version of the Chicago ballpark (known then as Cubs Park) as it looked at the time. It was also the first of the two ballparks to bear Wrigley’s name, as the Chicago Park was named for Wrigley over a year after the L.A. Park’s opening. At the time, he owned Santa Catalina Island, and the Cubs were holding their spring training in that island’s city of Avalon (whose ball field was located on Avalon Canyon Road and also informally known as “Wrigley Field”).
Coincidentally, one of Wrigley Field’s boundary streets was Avalon Boulevard (east, behind right field and a small parking lot). The other boundaries of the block were 41st Street (north, behind left field), 42nd Place (south, behind first base), and San Pedro Street (west, behind third base and a larger parking lot). Not only did L.A. Wrigley get its name first, it had more on-site parking than the Chicago version did (or does now).
For 33 seasons, 1925 to 1957, the park was home to the Angels, and for 11 of those seasons, 1926 through 1935 and 1938, it had a second home team in the rival Hollywood Stars. The Stars eventually moved to their own new ballpark, Gilmore Field, just west of the Pan Pacific Auditorium.
With its location near Hollywood, Wrigley Field was a popular place to film baseball movies. The first film known to have used Wrigley as a shooting location was 1927’s Babe Comes Home, a silent film starring Babe Ruth. Some well known movies filmed there were The Pride of the Yankees and the movie version of the stage play Damn Yankees. The film noir classic Armored Car Robbery had its title heist set at Wrigley. It later found its way into television, serving as the backdrop for the Home Run Derby series in 1960, a popular show that featured one-on-one contests between baseball’s top home run hitters, which had a brief revival in the 1990s when it aired on ESPN Classic. Episodes of shows as diverse as The Twilight Zone (“The Mighty Casey,” 1960), Mannix (“To Catch a Rabbit,” 1969) and The Munsters were also filmed there. Some closeups were filmed there for insertion into the 1951 film Angels in the Outfield, a film otherwise set at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.
Wrigley was used for other sports as well. Six world title boxing bouts were held there, including the 1939 Joe Louis-Jack Roper fight. On May 28, 1959, the park hosted the USA-England soccer friendly where England won 8-1 in front of 13,000.
L.A. Wrigley’s minor league baseball days ended when the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League transferred to Los Angeles in 1958. The use of Wrigley was studied by the Dodgers, but they opted for seating capacity over suitability as a baseball field, and instead set up shop in the 93,000 seat Los Angeles Coliseum (which had a 251-foot foul line in left field) while awaiting construction of the baseball-only Dodger Stadium, which has a set capacity of 56,000.
In 1961, a new L.A. Angels club, named after the minor league team Los Angeles Angels (PCL), joined the American League as an expansion team, and took residence at Wrigley for just the one season. The team set a still-standing first-season expansion-team record with 71 wins. Thanks to its cozy power alleys, the park became the setting for a real-life version of Home Run Derby, setting another record by yielding 248 home runs. That 248 mark would stand for over 30 years. After the 1961 season, the team moved to Dodger Stadium (or Chavez Ravine, as it was known for Angels games), which was the Angels’ temporary home while Angel Stadium was being built. The new Dodger Stadium also “took over” for Wrigley Field, as the site of choice for Hollywood filming that required a ballpark setting.
There were no more regular tenants after 1961. By then the park was owned by the city, and various events were staged. On May 26, 1963, a large crowd attended a civil rights rally featuring Martin Luther King, Jr. By 1966 the park was being used for soccer matches and the like. Demolition began in March 1969, to make way for a new recreation facility called Gilbert Lindsay Park. The park has a ball field in the northwest corner of the property, which was once a parking area. The diamond is locally known as “Wrigley Field,” and is the home of Wrigley Little League baseball and softball. The original site of the Wrigley diamond and grandstand is occupied by the Kedren Community Mental Health Center and another parking lot.
The ballpark’s dimensions were cozy but symmetrical, giving a nearly equal chance to right and left-handed batters in the Home Run Derby series. The only difference was that the left field wall was 14.5 feet (4.4 m) high, whereas the right field fence was only 9 feet (2.7 m) high.
The Farmers Market is an area of food stalls, sit-down eateries, prepared food vendors, and produce markets in Los Angeles, USA. It also a historic Los Angeles landmark and tourist attraction, first opened in July 1934.
The Farmers Market features more than 100 restaurants, grocers and tourist shops, and is located just south of CBS Television City. Unlike most farmers’ markets, which are held only at intervals, the Farmers Market of Los Angeles is a permanent installation and is open seven days a week. The dozens of vendors serve many kinds of food—both American cuisine from local farmers and restaurants and Los Angeles’ variety of local ethnic foods from the many immigrant communities of Los Angeles, with many Latin American and Asian cuisines well represented.
Farmers Market is located at the corner of 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles, California, USA. It is adjacent to The Grove outdoor shopping mall; an electric-powered streetcar runs between the two sites.
The market is a destination for foodies in search of the market’s ethnic cuisines, as well as its specialty food markets and prepared food stalls. The front of Farmers Market displays a sign saying “Meet Me at Third and Fairfax.”
The market started when a dozen nearby farmers would park their trucks on a field to sell their fresh produce to local residents. The cost to rent the space was fifty cents per day.
In 1870, when they moved west from Illinois, Arthur Fremont (A.F.) Gilmore and his partner bought two sizable farms, one of which was the 256-acre (1.04 km2) dairy farm at this corner. Gilmore gained control when the partnership dissolved later.
Gilmore Oil Company replaced the dairy farm when oil was discovered under the land during drilling for water in 1905. Earl Bell (E.B.) Gilmore, son of A.F. Gilmore, took over the family business. The younger Gilmore started midget car racing and brought professional football to Los Angeles. He built Gilmore Field for the Hollywood Stars baseball team, which was owned by Bing Crosby, Barbara Stanwyck, and Cecil B. DeMille.
When CBS Television City opened next door in 1952, the Farmers Market provided those working or visiting that television studio a convenient place to shop or eat.
In the 1970s The Country Kitchen, a restaurant owned and operated by Jack and Eileen Smith (located next to the still-operating Du-par’s), was popular with stars and their fans alike. Mickey Rooney could sometimes be found working behind the counter. Other customers included Elvis Presley, Regis Philbin, Rip Taylor, Mae West, Johnny Carson, and even The Shah of Iran on his visit.
Koning Eizenberg Architecture, Inc. devised a major renovation, expansion, and master plan for the Market in the early 1990s. The project was initiated to provide new retail, office, and services spaces and reconfigure circulation and parking for the historic site.
In July 1934 a contingent of farmers pulled their trucks onto an expanse of empty land at the property known as Gilmore Island at the corner of Third and Fairfax in Los Angeles. They displayed their produce on the tailgates of their vehicles; to their delight customers quickly arrived and parked their cars on a hastily created dirt parking lot in spaces designated with chalk. They strolled among the trucks purchasing fruit, vegetables and flowers.
The atmosphere was casual, the open air commerce enticing, the goods fresh, and the result remarkable. Farmers Market became an instant institution.
With a partner, Arthur Fremont Gilmore purchased two ranches in the Los Angeles vicinity. The purchase inaugurated a string of serendipitous events that not even the far-sighted Gilmore could predict. When Gilmore and his partner elected to dissolve their arrangement, they drew straws—Gilmore’s straw secured 256 acres on which he created a successful dairy farm. A.F. Gilmore had no plans for a world-renowned institution when he moved to Los Angeles from Illinois in 1870. Rather, he was seeking a better life on the promising West Coast. When he married Mary Elizabeth Bell in 1882, the small adobe on the property became the new home for his family.
At the turn of the century, while drilling for water for his herd of dairy cows, A.F. Gilmore hit oil. By 1905, the dairy was gone and the Gilmore Oil Company born.
Earl Gilmore, son of Arthur F. Gilmore later developed Gilmore Field and the Pan-Pacific Auditorium on the site.
The Pan-Pacific Auditorium was a landmark structure in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles, California which once stood at 7600 West Beverly Boulevard near the site of Gilmore Field, an early Los Angeles baseball venue predating Dodger Stadium. It was located within sight of both CBS Television City on the southeast corner of Beverly and Fairfax Avenue and the Farmers Market on the northeast corner of Third Street and Fairfax. For over 35 years it was the premiere location for indoor public events in Los Angeles. The facility was closed in 1972, beginning 17 years of steady neglect and decay. In 1978 the Pan-Pacific Auditorium was included in the National Register of Historic Places but 11 years later the sprawling wooden structure was destroyed in a spectacular fire.
Designed by the Los Angeles architectural firm Wurdeman and Becket, which later designed the Music Center and the space-age “Theme Building” at Los Angeles International Airport, the Pan-Pacific Auditorium opened to a fanfare of Boy Scout bugles on May 18, 1935 for a 16-day model home exhibition. Noted as one of the finest examples of Streamline Moderne architecture in the United States, the green and white facade faced west, was 228 feet (69 m) long and had four stylized towers and flagpoles meant to evoke upswept aircraft fins. The widely known and much photographed facade belied a modest rectilinear wooden structure resembling an overgrown gymnasium inside and out. The auditorium sprawled across 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) and had seating for up to 6,000.
Throughout the following 30 years the Pan-Pacific would host the Ice Capades and the Harlem Globetrotters, serve as home to the Los Angeles Monarchs of the Pacific Coast Hockey League along with UCLA ice hockey, UCLA men’s basketball, USC men’s basketball, professional tennis, car shows, political rallies and circuses. During the 1940s it was used for audience-attended national radio broadcasts and in the 1950s for televised professional wrestling shows. At its height, most major indoor events in Los Angeles were held at the Pan-Pacific. Leopold Stokowski conducted there in 1936, 1950s actress Jeanne Crain was crowned “Miss Pan Pacific” there in the early 1940s, General Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke to a beyond-capacity crowd of 10,000 in 1952 a month before being elected President of the United States, Elvis Presley performed there in 1957 shortly before he was drafted into the Army and Vice President Richard Nixon addressed a national audience from the Pan-Pacific in November 1960. The building carried on as Los Angeles’ primary indoor venue until the 1972 opening of the much larger Los Angeles Convention Center, after which the Pan-Pacific Auditorium was closed.
In 1975, the Pan-Pacific made a brief appearance as the entrance to the NBC Studios in New York for the movie Funny Lady. Interest in the building was rekindled somewhat with its 1978 inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. The 1980 release of the movie musical Xanadu brought renewed hopes the building might be saved when the auditorium’s facade was used to portray a dilapidated building which became a sparkling, brightly lit roller disco nightclub, but the movie was critically panned and not an economic success. The building made a brief, final appearance in the 1988 movie, Miracle Mile.
Black-and-white film footage of a man with a jet pack flying from left to right in front of the facade was used in the video for the 1981 Devo single, Beautiful World.
The auditorium continued to deteriorate throughout the 1980s, mostly owing to neglect. A large loading door on the southeast corner was often forced open, allowing free access to anyone. A fire in May 1983 damaged the northern end. On the evening of May 24, 1989 (six days after the 54th anniversary of its opening), the Pan-Pacific Auditorium was destroyed by a spectacular fire, the smoke from which was visible throughout the Los Angeles basin.
There were hopes throughout the surrounding Fairfax District towards refurbishing the Pan-Pacific, possibly as an ice rink or cultural center and the parking lot soon became a park. However, the building was neglected for many years and damaged by small fires accidentally started by transients.
A nearly full-scale, stylized replica of the facade opened as the main entrance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park in Florida on May 1, 1989, just three weeks before the original was destroyed by fire.
Disney California Adventure Park, at the Disneyland Resort, opened new entrance gates in the style of the Pan-Pacific’s facade on July 15, 2011.
Pan Pacific Park, featuring a building echoing the original’s former glory, now sits on the site. There is a scaled-down replica of one of the famous towers.
Gilmore Field is a former minor league baseball park that served as home to the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League from 1939-1957 when they, along with their intra-city rivals, the Los Angeles Angels, were displaced by the transplanted Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League.
Gilmore Field opened on May 2, 1939 and was the home of the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League until September 5, 1957. The stadium had a seating capacity of 12,987 people.
The ballpark was located on the south side of Beverly Boulevard between Genesee Avenue and The Grove Drive, just east of where CBS Television City is currently located. A couple hundred yards to the west was Gilmore Stadium, an oval-shaped venue built several years earlier, which was used for football games and midget auto racing. To the east was the famous Pan-Pacific Auditorium. Both facilities were built by Earl Gilmore, son of Arthur F. Gilmore and president of A. F. Gilmore Oil, a California-based petroleum company that was developed after Arthur struck oil on the family property. The area was rich in petroleum, which was the source of the “tar” in the nearby La Brea Tar Pits.
The field had intimate quarters from the spectator standpoint—first and third bases were 24 feet from the first row of seats. Home plate was 34 feet from the stands. The outfield gave the pitchers more of a break with foul lines 335 feet long, power alleys about 385, and 407 to center field. The power alleys were thus 40 feet deeper than in the cross-town counterpart, Wrigley Field.
In 1938 Herbert Fleishaker, owner of the Mission Reds moved his team to Los Angeles, and took the name of the Hollywood Stars after the city’s previous PCL franchise. After but one season, the team was sold to new owners, among them Bob Cobb of Brown Derby Restaurant fame and the inventor of the California Cobb Salad. In their salad days, as it were, the Stars attracted glamorous actors and other celebrities or anyone else who wanted to be “seen,” much as Dodger Stadium would later. One of the L.A. Angels players, Chuck Connors, made a successful move from one side of the box seat railing to the other, becoming the star in “The Rifleman,” a popular 1950’s TV show. The Stars would play at Gilmore Field until 1957.
In 1948, Gilmore Field became the spring training location for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Although L.A.’s Wrigley Field seemed to get the lions’ share of Hollywood screen time, Gilmore Field also had its moments on celluloid. It was featured in a 1949 movie called The Stratton Story, starring James Stewart and June Allyson, the true story of a promising pitcher (Monty Stratton) whose career was curtailed due to a hunting accident that left him with an artificial leg. Stratton’s major league baseball career was over, but he made a comeback at the minor league level. The scenes at the end of the movie were set elsewhere, but were filmed at Gilmore Field. The layout of the outfield, and especially the exceptionally high left and right field corners, help to identify it.
The ballpark site was abandoned after 1957. Gilmore Field was razed in 1958, and much of the site is now occupied by a parking lot at CBS Television City, near the Farmers Market. In September 1997, the Pacific Coast League Historical Society, CBS, and the A.F. Gilmore Company dedicated a bronze plaque in commemoration of Gilmore Field on a wall outside CBS Studio 46.
Gilmore Stadium was used for American football games at both the professional and collegiate level. The stadium was the home of the Los Angeles Bulldogs, the first professional football team in Los Angeles. The Bulldogs competed as an independent team before joining the second American Football League in 1937 and winning its championship with a perfect 8-0-0 record, the first professional football team to win its championship with an unblemished record. After the collapse of the league, the Bulldogs returned to being an independent team before joining the American Professional Football Association in 1939. The Bulldogs then became charter members of the Pacific Coast Professional Football League in 1940 and played in Gilmore Stadium until 1948, when the team moved to Long Beach, California, for its (and the league’s) final season. Gilmore Stadium was also the site of two 1940 National Football League (NFL) Pro Bowls.
On January 14, 1940, the 1939 NFL champion Green Bay Packers met an All-Star team consisting of players from the nine other NFL clubs in the second NFL All-Star game in history. The Packers won 16 to 7.
Extra seating was added to accommodate 21,000 fans for the Pro Bowl for the 1940 NFL season. The crowd set a record as the largest to view a Los Angeles pro game. The event was held on December 29, 1940. The game pitted the 1940 NFL Champion Chicago Bears against an All-Star team from the other NFL clubs in the third NFL All-Star game. The Bears won 28 to 14.
Midget car racing was invented at the track. The track hosted midget car racing from the track’s debut in May 1934 to 1950. The 1939 Turkey Night Grand Prix was held at the track.
Rodger Ward drove Vic Edelbrock’s midget car in a famous August 10, 1950 event at Gilmore Stadium. Ward shocked the racing world by breaking Offenhauser engine’s winning streak by sweeping the events at Gilmore Stadium that night.
Notable drivers that raced at the track include Danny Bakes, Bill Betteridge, Fred Friday, Walt Faulkner, Perry Grimm, Sam Hanks, Curly Mills, Danny Oakes, Roy Russing, Bob Swanson, Bill Vukovich, Rodger Ward, and Karl Young. Drivers that were killed at the track include Ed Haddad, Swede Lindskog, Speedy Lockwood, Frankie Lyons, and Chet Mortemore.
In the sixteen years of the stadium’s existence, over 5 million fans attended races at the track. The stadium drew crowds over 18,000 people each race. Attendance dropped to below 9,000 at normal weekly races by the late 1940s. The attendance drop and increased demand for property in West Hollywood led to the track’s sale in 1950. It was torn down in 1951. Some of its grandstand was installed at Saugus Speedway.
It also hosted donkey baseball, dog shows, rodeos, and at least one cricket match. Esther Williams performed in a diving and water ballet performance. A temporary above ground pool was constructed for the event. Several professional boxing title matches where held in the stadium. U.S. President Harry S. Truman delivered his “stiff upper lip” speech in the stadium.
Gilmore Stadium was featured in a 1934 Three Stooges short featuring a football game, and fittingly titled Three Little Pigskins. The scoreboard, with the name of the stadium, appears prominently in several shots, as does a billboard advertising Gilmore products. A sign for the nearby Fairfax Theater, across Beverly Boulevard at the north (open) end of the stadium, is also visible in the background a couple of times.
On May 19, 1947 Gilmore Stadium was packed with people waiting to hear a speech by Progressive Party candidate for President Henry A. Wallace. Wallace served as vice president under FDR and was also the Secretary of Agriculture (his specialty) and Secretary of Commerce. Also speaking at the event was actress Katharine Hepburn, whose speech stole the show.
The Hollywood Stars were a minor league baseball team that played in the Pacific Coast League during the early and mid 20th century. They were arch rivals of the other Los Angeles based PCL team, the Los Angeles Angels.
The first version of the Hollywood Stars began its existence in 1903 as the Sacramento Solons, a charter member of the PCL. The team moved to Tacoma in 1904, where it won the pennant as the Tacoma Tigers. During the 1905 season, the team returned to Sacramento to finish out the season, moved to Fresno in 1906 to finish last as the Fresno Raisin Eaters, then left the PCL altogether. The Sacramento Solons rejoined the PCL in 1909, and then moved to San Francisco during the 1914 season, finishing out the season as the San Francisco Missions. The team was sold to Utah businessman Bill “Hardpan” Lane and moved to Salt Lake City for the 1915 season. They played as the Salt Lake Bees for the next eleven seasons until Lane moved the team to Los Angeles for the 1926 season. Originally they were known as the Hollywood Bees, but soon changed their name to the Hollywood Stars.
The original Stars, though supposedly representing Hollywood, actually played their home games as tenants of the Los Angeles Angels at Wrigley Field in South Los Angeles. Though the Stars won pennants in 1929 and 1930, they never developed much of a fan base, playing their home games miles from the glamorous Hollywood district. They were merely a team to watch when the Angels were on the road. Attendance had been quite good (by standards of that era) during their inaugural year in 1926, but tapered off after that, exacerbated by the Great Depression.
When, after the 1935 season, the Angels doubled the Stars’ rent, Lane announced the Stars would move to San Diego for the 1936 season, to become the San Diego Padres. Los Angeles became a one-team city once more for the 1936 and 1937 seasons.
The second version of the Hollywood Stars joined the PCL in 1909 as the Vernon Tigers. As the Tigers, the team won two PCL pennants (and finished first in another only to lose the postseason series) before moving to San Francisco for the 1926 season. The transplanted Tigers, now known as the Mission Reds or usually just “the Missions,” foundered in San Francisco, failing to establish a rivalry with the existing San Francisco Seals.
In 1938 Missions’ owner Herbert Fleishaker moved his team back to Los Angeles, and took the name of the departed Stars. After but one season, the team was sold to new owners, among them Robert H. “Bob” Cobb, one of the owners of the Brown Derby restaurant and for whom the Cobb salad is named. The new ownership realized the team needed to represent Hollywood in order to succeed. They sold stock in the team to movie stars, movie moguls, and Hollywood civic leaders (“the Hollywood Stars owned by the Hollywood stars”). (One of these, Gene Autry, subsequently became owner of his own major league franchise, now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.) Another major investor was William Frawley from TV’s I Love Lucy. Moreover, the team actually played in the Hollywood area, beginning in 1939 when 13,000-seat Gilmore Field was opened in the Fairfax District adjacent to Hollywood. (The club played part of the 1939 season in nearby Gilmore Stadium, after having played at Wrigley Field during 1938.)
The new Stars (or “Twinks”) caught on and became a very popular team, winning three pennants before 1958. They had successful affiliations with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball. In 1955, actress Jayne Mansfield was named Miss Hollywood Star. The Stars became genuine rivals of the Angels, and it was not uncommon for fights between the teams to break out during Angels-Stars games. In fact, on August 2, 1953, a brawl between the two teams lasted 30 minutes, broken up only when 50 riot police were sent to Gilmore Field by Chief of Police William Parker, who was at home watching the game on television when the fight started.
The Twinks were innovators. They began the custom of dragging the infield during the fifth inning, creating an artificial break in the action hoping fans would run to the concessions stands. The team began televising home games in 1939, and in later years televised every home game.
The Stars also had the dubious distinction of being the first team to replace the traditional bloused baseball trousers and stirrup socks with shorts and long socks in 1950. The theory was that players could run faster in this gear than in the baggy wool or cotton flannel uniforms of the day. The new uniforms resembling those worn by female softball players were “too Hollywood” even for Hollywood, as well as being very tough on the legs when sliding. They were soon replaced.
The Stars were immortalized on the 1957 jazz album Double Play! by Andre Previn and Russ Freeman. The baseball-themed album, with song titles like Called On Account Of Rain, Batter Up and In The Cellar Blues features a model on the cover wearing a Stars cap, in a rather suggestive pose by 1950s standards.
The Columbia Broadcasting System, owner of Gilmore Field, announced plans to raze the facility to build a new headquarters—CBS Television City, as it became known—in 1952. Before Stars’ owners could make contingency plans, however, the “other shoe dropped.” In October 1957, the Brooklyn Dodgers confirmed their long-rumored move to Los Angeles for the 1958 season, which forced the Stars and the Angels to relocate. The Angels, who had been purchased by Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley prior to the 1957 season, became the Spokane Indians in 1958.
Having no interest in operating the Twinks anywhere but in Los Angeles, the ownership group led by Frank J. Kanne, Jr. was compelled to sell the team, which it did, to a group based in Salt Lake City. The Stars, in a sense, “returned” to Salt Lake City (whence the original Stars had moved in 1926) in 1958, becoming the Salt Lake Bees once more.
Here’s a PowerPoint presentation that features some fabulous shots of L.A. as it once was. Enjoy!
CBS Broadcasting Inc. (CBS) a major US commercial broadcasting television network, started as a radio network, and continues to operate a radio network and a portfolio of large market television and radio stations. The name is derived from the initials of the network’s former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. It is the second largest broadcaster in the world behind the BBC. The network is sometimes referred to as the “Eye Network” in reference to the shape of the company’s logo. It has also been called the “Tiffany Network,” which alludes to the perceived high quality of CBS programming during the tenure of its founder William S. Paley. It can also refer to some of CBS’s first demonstrations of color television, which were held in a former Tiffany & Co. building in New York City in 1950.
The network has its origins in United Independent Broadcasters Inc., a collection of 16 radio stations that was bought by William S. Paley in 1928 and renamed the Columbia Broadcasting System. Under Paley’s guidance, CBS would first become one of the largest radio networks in the United States and then one of the big three American broadcast television networks. In 1974, CBS dropped its full name and became known simply as CBS, Inc. The Westinghouse Electric Corporation acquired the network in 1995 and eventually adopted the name of the company it had bought to become CBS Corporation. In 2000, CBS came under the control of Viacom, which ironically had begun as a spin-off of CBS in 1971. In late 2005, Viacom split itself and reestablished CBS Corporation with the CBS television network at its core. CBS Corporation is controlled by Sumner Redstone through National Amusements, its parent.
Since NBC was the broadcast arm of radio set manufacturer RCA, its chief David Sarnoff approached his decisions as both a broadcaster and as a hardware executive; NBC’s affiliates had the latest RCA equipment, and were often the best-established stations, or were on “clear channel” frequencies. Yet Sarnoff’s affiliates were mistrustful of him. Paley had no such split loyalties: his—and his affiliates’—success rose and fell with the quality of CBS programming.
Paley had an innate, pitch-perfect, sense of entertainment, “a gift of the gods, an ear totally pure,” wrote David Halberstam. “[H]e knew what was good and would sell, what was bad and would sell, and what was good and would not sell, and he never confused one with another.” As the 1930s loomed, Paley set about building the CBS talent stable. The network became the home of many popular musical and comedy stars, among them Jack Benny, (“Your Canada Dry Humorist”), Al Jolson, George Burns & Gracie Allen, and Kate Smith, whom Paley personally selected for his family’s La Palina Hour because she was not the type of woman to provoke jealousy in American wives.
When, on a mid-ocean voyage, Paley heard a phonograph record of a young unknown crooner, he rushed to the ship’s radio room and “cabled” New York to sign Bing Crosby immediately to a contract for a daily radio show.
While the CBS prime-time lineup featured music, comedy and variety shows, the daytime schedule was a direct conduit into American homes—and into the hearts and minds of American women; for many, it was the bulk of their adult human contact during the course of the day. CBS time salesmen recognized early on that this intimate connection could be a bonanza for advertisers of female-interest products. Starting in 1930, astrologer Evangeline Adams would consult the heavens on behalf of listeners who sent in their birthdays, a description of their problems—and a box top from sponsor Forhan’s toothpaste. The low-key murmuring of smooth-voiced Tony Wons, backed by a tender violin, “made him a soul mate to millions of women” on behalf of the R. J. Reynolds tobacco company, whose cellophane-wrapped Camel cigarettes were “as fresh as the dew that dawn spills on a field of clover.” The most popular radio-friend of all was M. Sayle Taylor, The Voice Of Experience, though his name was never uttered on air. Women mailed descriptions of the most intimate of relationship problems to The Voice in the tens of thousands per week; sponsors Musterole ointment and Haley’s M–O laxative enjoyed sales increases of several hundred percent in just the first month on The Voice Of Experience.
As the decade progressed, a new genre joined the daytime lineup: serial dramas—soap operas, so named for the products that sponsored them, by way of the ad agencies that actually produced them. Although the form, usually in quarter-hour episodes, proliferated widely in the middle and late 1930s, they all had the same basic premise: that characters “fell into two categories: 1) those in trouble and 2) those who helped people in trouble. The helping-hand figures were usually older.” At CBS, Just Plain Bill brought human insight and Anacin pain reliever into households; Your Family and Mine came courtesy of Sealtest Dairy products; Bachelor’s Children first hawked Old Dutch Cleanser, then Wonder Bread; Aunt Jenny’s Real Life Stories was sponsored by Spry Vegetable Shortening.
Our Gal Sunday (Anacin again), The Romance of Helen Trent (Angélus cosmetics), Big Sister (Rinso laundry soap) and many others filled the daytime ether.
Thanks to its daytime and primetime schedules, CBS prospered in the 1930s. In 1935, gross sales were $19,300,000, yielding a profit of $2,270,000. By 1937, the network took in $28,700,000 and had 114 affiliates, almost all of which cleared 100% of network-fed programming, thus keeping ratings, and revenue, high. In 1938, CBS even acquired the American Record Corporation, parent of its onetime investor Columbia Records.
In 1938, NBC and CBS each opened studios in Hollywood to attract movieland’s top talent to their networks – NBC at Radio City on Sunset and Vine, CBS two blocks away at Columbia Square.
The extraordinary potential of radio news showed itself in 1930, when CBS suddenly found itself with a live telephone connection to a prisoner called “The Deacon” who described, from the inside and in real time, a riot and conflagration at the Ohio Penitentiary; for CBS, it was “a shocking journalistic coup.” Yet as late as 1934, there was still no regularly scheduled newscast on network radio: “Most sponsors did not want network news programming; those that did were inclined to expect veto rights over it.” There had been a longstanding wariness between radio and the newspapers as well; the papers had rightly concluded that the upstart radio business would compete with them on two counts—advertising dollars and news coverage. By 1933, they fought back, many no longer publishing radio schedules for readers’ convenience, or allowing “their” news to be read on the air for radio’s profit.
Radio, in turn, pushed back when urban department stores, newspapers’ largest advertisers and themselves owners of many radio stations, threatened to withhold their ads from print. A short-lived attempted truce in 1933 even saw the papers proposing that radio be forbidden from running news before 9:30 am, and then only after 9:00 pm—and that no news story could air until it was twelve hours old.
It was in this climate that Paley set out to “enhance the prestige of CBS, to make it seem in the public mind the more advanced, dignified and socially aware network.” He did it through sustaining programming like the New York Philharmonic, the thoughtful drama of Norman Corwin—and an in-house news division to gather and present news, free of fickle suppliers like newspapers and wire services. In the fall of 1934, CBS launched its independent news division, shaped in its first years by Paley’s vice-president, former New York Times man Ed Klauber, and news director Paul White. Since there was no blueprint or precedent for real-time news coverage, early efforts of the new division used the short-wave link-up CBS had been using for five years to bring live feeds of European events to its American air.
A key early hire was Edward R. Murrow in 1935; his first corporate title was Director of Talks. He was mentored in microphone technique by Robert Trout, the lone full-timer of the News Division, and quickly found himself in a growing rivalry with boss White. Murrow was glad to “leave the hothouse atmosphere of the New York office behind” when he was dispatched to London as CBS’s European Director in 1937, a time when the growing Hitler menace underscored the need for a robust European Bureau. Halberstam described Murrow in London as “the right man in the right place in the right era.” Murrow began assembling the staff of broadcast journalists—including William L. Shirer, Charles Collingwood and Eric Sevareid—who would become known as “Murrow’s Boys.” They were “in [Murrow’s] own image, sartorially impeccable, literate, often liberal, and prima donnas all.” They covered history in the making, and sometimes made it themselves: on March 12, 1938, Hitler boldly annexed nearby Austria and Murrow and Boys quickly assembled coverage with Shirer in London, Edgar Ansel Mowrer in Paris, Pierre Huss in Berlin, Frank Gervasi in Rome and Trout in New York. The News Round-Up format was born and is still ubiquitous today in broadcast news.
Murrow’s nightly reports from the rooftops during the dark days of the London Blitz galvanized American listeners: even before Pearl Harbor, the conflict became “the story of the survival of Western civilization, the most heroic of all possible wars and stories. He was indeed reporting on the survival of the English-speaking peoples.” With his “manly, tormented voice,” Murrow contained and mastered the panic and danger he felt, thereby communicating it all the more effectively to his audience. Using his trademark self-reference “This reporter,” he did not so much report news as interpret it, combining simplicity of expression with subtlety of nuance. Murrow himself said he tried “to describe things in terms that make sense to the truck driver without insulting the intelligence of the professor.” When he returned home for a visit late in 1941, Paley threw an “extraordinarily elaborate reception” for him at the Waldorf-Astoria. Of course, its goal was more than just honoring CBS’s latest “star”—it was an announcement to the world that Mr. Paley’s network was finally more than just a pipeline carrying other people’s programming: it was now a cultural force in its own right.
Once the war was over and Murrow returned for good, it was as “a superstar with prestige and freedom and respect within his profession and within his company.” He possessed enormous capital within that company, and as the unknown form of television news loomed large, he would spend it freely, first in radio news, then in television, taking on Senator Joseph McCarthy first, then eventually William S. Paley himself, and with a foe that formidable, even the vast Murrow account would soon run dry.
On October 30, 1938, CBS gained a taste of infamy when Orson Welles and the The Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcast a radio adaptation of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (See below). Its unique format, a contemporary version of the story in the form of faux news broadcasts, had many CBS listeners panicked into believing invaders from Mars were actually devastating Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, despite three disclaimers during the broadcast that it was a work of fiction. The flood of publicity after the broadcast had two effects: an FCC ban on faux news bulletins within dramatic programming, and sponsorship for The Mercury Theatre on the Air—the former sustaining program became The Campbell Playhouse to sell soup. Welles, for his part, summarized the episode as “the Mercury Theater’s own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying ‘Boo!’”
As 1939 wound down, Bill Paley announced that 1940 would “be the greatest year in the history of radio in the United States.” He was right—times ten: the decade of the 1940s would indeed be the apogee of network radio by every gauge. Nearly 100% of 1939’s advertisers renewed their contracts for 1940; manufacturers of farm tractors made radios standard equipment on their machines. Wartime rationing of paper limited the size of newspapers—and hence advertisers—and when papers turned them away, they migrated to radio sponsorship. A 1942 act of Congress made advertising expenses a tax benefit and that sent even automobile and tire manufacturers—who had no products to sell since they had been converted to war production—scurrying to sponsor symphony orchestras and serious drama on radio. In 1940, only one-third of radio programs were sponsored, while two-thirds were sustaining; by mid-decade, the statistics had swapped—now two out of three shows had cash-paying sponsors and only one-third were sustaining.
The CBS of the 1940s was vastly different from that of the early days; many of the old guard veterans had died, retired or moved on. No change was greater than that in Paley himself: he had become difficult to work for, and had “gradually shifted from leader to despot.” He spent much of his time seeking social connections and in cultural pursuits; his “hope was that CBS could somehow learn to run itself.” His brief to an interior designer remodeling his townhouse included a requirement for closets that would accommodate three hundred suits, one hundred shirts and had special racks for a hundred neckties.
As Paley grew more remote, he installed a series of buffer executives who sequentially assumed more and more power at CBS: first Ed Klauber, then Paul Kesten, and finally Frank Stanton. Second only to Paley as the author of CBS’s style and ambitions in its first half-century, Stanton was “a magnificent mandarin who functioned as company superintendent, spokesman, and image-maker.” He had come to the network in 1933 after sending copies of his PhD thesis “A Critique Of Present Methods and a New Plan for Studying Radio Listening Behavior” to CBS top brass and they responded with a job. He scored an early hit with his study “Memory for Advertising Copy Presented Visually vs. Orally” which CBS salesmen used to great effect bringing in new sponsors. In 1946 Paley named Stanton President of CBS and promoted himself to Chairman. Stanton’s colorful, but impeccable, wardrobe—slate-blue pinstripe suit, ecru shirt, robin’s egg blue necktie with splashes of saffron—made him, in the mind of one sardonic CBS vice-president, “the greatest argument we have for color television.”
Despite the influx of advertisers and their cash, or perhaps because of them, the 1940s were not without bumps for the radio networks. The biggest challenge came in the form of the FCC’s chain broadcasting investigation—the “monopoly probe,” as it was often called. Though started in 1938, it only gathered steam in 1940 under new-broom chairman James L. Fly. By the time the smoke had cleared in 1943, NBC found itself shorn of its Blue network, which became ABC. CBS was also hit, though not as severely: Paley’s brilliant 1928 affiliate contract which had given CBS first claim on local stations’ air during sponsored time—the network option—came under attack as being restrictive to local programming. The final compromise permitted the network option for three out of four hours during certain day-parts, but the new regulations had virtually no practical effect, since most all stations accepted the network feed, especially the sponsored hours that earned them money. Fly’s panel also forbade networks from owning artists’ representation bureaus, so CBS sold its bureau to Music Corporation of America and it became Management Corporation of America.
On the air, the war had an impact on most every show. Variety shows wove patriotism through their comedy and music segments; dramas and soaps had characters join the service and go off to fight. Even before hostilities commenced in Europe, one of the most played songs on radio was Irving Berlin’s God Bless America, popularized by CBS’s own Kate Smith. Although an Office of Censorship sprang up within days of Pearl Harbor, censorship would be totally voluntary. A few shows submitted scripts for review; most did not. The guidelines that the Office did issue banned weather reports, including announcement of sports rainouts, news about troop, ship or plane movements, war production and live man-on-the-street interviews. The ban on ad-libbing caused quizzes, game shows and amateur hours to wither for the duration.
Surprising was “the granite permanence” of the shows at the top of the ratings. The vaudevillians and musicians who were huge after the war were the same stars who had been huge in the 30s: Benny, Crosby, Burns and Allen, Edgar Bergen all had been on the radio almost as long as there had been network radio. A notable exception to this was relative newcomer Arthur Godfrey who, as late as 1942, was still doing a local morning show in Washington, D.C. Godfrey, who had been a cemetery-lot salesman and a cab driver, pioneered the style of talking directly to the listener as an individual, with a singular “you” rather than phrases like “Now, folks…” or “Yes, friends….” His combined shows contributed as much as 12% of all CBS revenues; by 1948, he was pulling down a half-million dollars a year.
In 1947, Paley, still the undisputed “head talent scout” of CBS, led a much publicized “talent raid” on NBC. One day, while Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll were hard at work at NBC writing their venerable Amos and Andy show, a knock came on the door; it was Paley himself, with an astonishing offer: “Whatever you are getting now I will give you twice as much.” Capturing NBC’s cornerstone show was coup enough, but Paley repeated in 1948 with longtime NBCers Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy and Red Skelton, as well as former CBS defectors Jack Benny, radio’s top-rated comedian, and Burns and Allen. Paley achieved this rout with a legal agreement reminiscent of his 1928 contract that caused some NBC station affiliates to jump ship and join CBS: CBS would buy the stars’ names as a property, in exchange for a large lump sum and a salary. The plan relied on the vastly different tax rates between income and capital gains, so not only would the stars enjoy more than twice their income after taxes, but CBS would preclude any NBC counterattack because CBS owned the performers’ names. As a result of this sortie, Paley got in 1949 something he had sought for twenty years: CBS finally beat NBC in the ratings.
But it wasn’t just to one-up rival Sarnoff that Paley led his talent raid; he, and all of radio, had their eye on the coming force that threw a shadow over radio throughout the 1940s—television.
In the spring of 1940, CBS staff engineer Peter Goldmark devised a system for color television that CBS management hoped would leapfrog the network over NBC and its existing black-and-white RCA system. The CBS system “gave brilliant and stable colors,” while NBC’s was “crude and unstable but ‘compatible.’” Ultimately, the FCC rejected the CBS system because it was incompatible with RCA’s; that, and the fact that CBS had moved to secure many UHF, not VHF, TV licenses, left CBS flatfooted in the early television age. In 1946, only 6,000 TV sets were in operation, most in greater New York where there were already three stations; by 1949, the number was 3,000,000, and by 1951, 12,000,000. Sixty-four American cities had TV stations, though most of them only had one.
Radio continued to be the backbone of the company, at least in the early 1950s, but it was “a strange, twilight period.” NBC’s venerable Fred Allen saw his ratings plummet when he was pitted against upstart ABC’s game show Stop The Music!; within weeks, he was dropped by longtime sponsor Ford Motor Company and was shortly gone from the scene. Radio powerhouse Bob Hope’s ratings plunged from 23.8 in 1949 to 5.4 in 1953. By 1952, “death seemed imminent for network radio” in its familiar form; most telling of all, the big sponsors were eager for the switch.
Gradually, as the television network took shape, radio stars began to migrate to the new medium. Many programs ran on both media while making the transition. The radio soap opera The Guiding Light moved to television in 1952 and ran another fifty-seven years; Burns & Allen, back “home” from NBC, made the move in 1950; Lucille Ball a year later; Our Miss Brooks in 1952 (though it continued simultaneously on radio for its full television life). The high-rated Jack Benny Program ended its radio run in 1955, and Edgar Bergen’s Sunday-night show went off the air in 1957. When CBS announced in 1956 that its radio operations had lost money, while the television network had made money, it was clear where the future lay. When the soap opera Ma Perkins went off the air November 25, 1960 only eight, relatively minor series remained. Prime time radio ended on September 30, 1962, when Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and Suspense aired for the final time.
The retirement of Arthur Godfrey in April 1972 marked the end of the long-form program on CBS radio; programming thereafter consisted of hourly news summaries and news features, known in the 1970s as Dimension, and commentaries, including the Spectrum series that evolved into the “Point/Counterpoint” feature on the television network’s 60 Minutes and First Line Report, a news and analysis feature delivered by CBS correspondents. The network also continued to offer traditional radio programming through its nightly CBS Radio Mystery Theater, the lone holdout of old-style programming, from 1974 through 1982. The CBS Radio Network continues to this day, offering hourly newscasts, including its centerpiece CBS World News Roundup in the morning and evening, weekend sister program CBS News Weekend Roundup, the news-related feature segment The Osgood File, What’s In the News, a one-minute summary of one story, and various other segments such as commentary from Seattle radio personality Dave Ross, tip segments from various other sources, and technology coverage from CBS Interactive property CNET.
CBS is the last of the original Big Four radio networks still owned and operated by its founding company; ABC Radio was sold to Citadel Broadcasting in 2007 (and is now a part of Cumulus Media) while Mutual (now defunct) and NBC Radio were acquired by Westwood One in the 1980s (Westwood One and CBS were under common ownership from 1993 to 2007; the former would be acquired outright by Dial Global in October 2011).
CBS’s first television broadcasts were experimental, often only for one hour a day, and reaching a limited area in and around New York City (over station W2XAB channel 2, later called WCBW and finally WCBS-TV). To catch up with rival RCA, CBS bought Hytron Laboratories in 1939, and immediately moved into set production and television broadcasting. Though there were many competing patents and systems, RCA dictated the content of the FCC’s technical standards, and grabbed the spotlight from CBS, DuMont and others by introducing television to the general public at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The FCC began licensing commercial television stations on July 1, 1941; the first license went to RCA and NBC’s WNBT (now WNBC); the second license, issued that same day, was to WCBW, (now WCBS). CBS-Hytron offered a color system in the 1940s, but it was not compatible with the black-and-white standards set down by RCA. At first, the FCC approved the non-compatible system, but—in time—the FCC rejected CBS’s technology in favor RCA’s compatible color system in 1953.
During the World War II years, commercial television broadcasting was reduced dramatically. Toward the end of the war, commercial television began to ramp up again, with an increased level of programming evident in the 1945–1947 period on the three New York television stations which operated in those years (the local stations of NBC, CBS and DuMont) But as RCA and DuMont raced to establish networks and offer upgraded programming, CBS lagged, advocating an industry-wide shift and restart to UHF for their incompatible (with black and white) color system. Only in 1950, when NBC was dominant in television and black and white transmission was widespread, did CBS begin to buy or build their own stations (outside of New York) in Los Angeles, Chicago and other major cities. Up to that point, CBS programming was seen on such stations as KTTV Channel 11 in Los Angeles, which CBS—as a bit of insurance and to guarantee program clearance in Los Angeles—quickly purchased a 50% interest in, partnering with the Los Angeles Times newspaper. CBS then sold their interest in KTTV (which today is the West Coast flagship of the Fox network) and purchased outright Los Angeles pioneer station KTSL (Channel 2) in 1950, renaming it KNXT (after CBS’s existing Los Angeles radio property, KNX), later to become KCBS-TV. The “talent raid” on NBC of the mid-forties had brought over established radio stars; they now became stars of CBS television as well. One reluctant CBS star refused to bring her radio show, My Favorite Husband, to television unless the network would re-cast the show with her real-life husband in the lead. Paley and network president Frank Stanton had so little faith in the future of Lucille Ball’s series, re-dubbed I Love Lucy, that they granted her wish and allowed the husband, Desi Arnaz, to take financial control of the production. This was the making of the Ball-Arnaz Desilu empire, and became the template for series production to this day.
In the late 1940s, CBS offered the first live television coverage of the proceedings of the United Nations General Assembly (1949). This journalistic tour-de-force was under the direction of Edmund A. Chester, who was appointed to the post of Director for News, Special Events and Sports at CBS Television in 1948.
As television came to the forefront of American entertainment and information, CBS dominated television as it once had radio. In 1953, the CBS television network would make its first profit, and would maintain dominance on television between the years 1955 and 1976 as well By the late 1950s, the network often controlled seven or eight of the slots on the “top ten” ratings list with well-respected shows like Route 66. This success would continue for many years, with CBS bumped from first place only by the rise of ABC in the mid-1970s. Perhaps because of its status as the top-rated network, during the late 1960s and early 1970s CBS felt freer to gamble with controversial properties like the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and All in the Family and its many spinoffs during this period.
One of CBS’s most popular shows at that time was M*A*S*H, a dramedy based on the hit Robert Altman film. It ran from 1972–1983, and was set, like the film, during the Korean War in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. The final episode aired on February 28, 1983 and was 2½ hours long. It was viewed by nearly 106 million Americans (77% of viewership that night) which established it as the most watched episode in United States television history, a record which stood until the broadcast of Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, also on CBS.
Upon becoming commercial station WCBW in 1941, the pioneer CBS television station in New York broadcast two daily news programs, at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. weekdays, anchored by Richard Hubbell. Most of the newscasts featured Hubbell reading a script with only occasional cutaways to a map or still photograph. When Pearl Harbor was bombed on Sunday, December 7, 1941, WCBW (which was usually off the air on Sunday to give the engineers a day off), took to the air at 8:45 PM with an extensive special report. The national emergency even broke down the unspoken wall between CBS radio and television. WCBW executives convinced radio announcers and experts such as George Fielding Elliot and Linton Wells to come down to the Grand Central studios during the evening and give information and commentary on the attack. The WCBW special report that night lasted less than ninety minutes. But that special broadcast pushed the limits of live television in 1941 and opened up new possibilities for future broadcasts. As CBS wrote in a special report to the FCC, the unscheduled live news broadcast on December 7 “was unquestionably the most stimulating challenge and marked the greatest advance of any single problem faced up to that time.” Additional newscasts were scheduled in the early days of the war. In May 1942, WCBW (like almost all television stations) sharply cut back its live program schedule and the newscasts were canceled, since the station temporarily suspended studio operations, resorting exclusively to the occasional broadcast of films. This was primarily due to the fact that much of the staff had either joined the service or were redeployed to war related technical research, and to prolong the life of the early, unstable cameras which were now impossible to repair due to the wartime lack of parts. In May, 1944, as the war began to turn in favor of the Allies, WCBW reopened the studios and the newscasts returned, briefly anchored by Ned Calmer, and then by Everett Holles. After the war, expanded news programs appeared on the WCBW schedule—renamed WCBS-TV in 1946—first anchored by Milo Boulton, and later by Douglas Edwards. On May 3, 1948, Douglas Edwards began anchoring “CBS Television News,” a regular 15-minute nightly newscast on the rudimentary CBS Television Network, including WCBS-TV. It aired every weeknight at 7:30 PM, and was the first regularly scheduled, network television news program featuring an anchor (The nightly Lowell Thomas NBC radio network newscast was simulcast on television locally on NBC’s WNBT (now WNBC) for a time in the early 1940s and the previously mentioned Richard Hubbell, Ned Calmer, Everett Holles and Milo Boulton on WCBW in the early and mid-1940s, but these were local television broadcasts seen only in New York City). The NBC Television Network’s offering at the time “NBC Television Newsreel” (premiered February 1948) was simply film with voice narration. In 1950, the name of the nightly news was changed to Douglas Edwards with the News, and the following year, it became the first news program to be broadcast on both coasts, thanks to a new coaxial cable connection, prompting Edwards to use the greeting “Good evening everyone, coast to coast.” The broadcast was renamed The CBS Evening News when Walter Cronkite replaced Edwards in 1962. Edwards remained with CBS News with various daytime television newscasts and radio news broadcasts until his retirement on April 1, 1988.
Although CBS-TV was the first with a working color television system, they lost out to RCA in 1953, due in part because the CBS color system was incompatible with existing black-and-white sets. Although RCA, then-parent company of NBC, made its color system available to CBS, the network was not interested in boosting RCA’s profits and televised only a few specials in color for the rest of the decade. The specials included the Ford Star Jubilee programs (which included the first telecast ever of MGM’s 1939 film classic The Wizard of Oz). Other specials were also shown: the 1957 telecast of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Cole Porter’s musical version of Aladdin, and Playhouse 90’s only color broadcast, the 1958 production of The Nutcracker, featuring choreography by George Balanchine. This telecast was based on the famous production staged annually since 1954 in New York, and performed by the New York City Ballet. CBS would later show two other versions of the ballet, a semi-forgotten one-hour German-American version hosted by Eddie Albert, shown annually for three years beginning in 1965, and the well-loved Baryshnikov production from 1977 to 1981. (This production later moved to PBS.)
Beginning in 1959, The Wizard of Oz, now telecast by CBS as a family special in its own right (after the cancellation of Ford Star Jubilee), became an annual tradition on color TV. However, it was the success of NBC’s 1955 telecast of the musical Peter Pan, starring Mary Martin, the most watched television special of its time, that inspired CBS to telecast The Wizard of Oz, Cinderella and Aladdin.
From 1960 to 1965, CBS-TV limited its color transmissions to only a few specials such as The Wizard of Oz, and only then if the sponsor would pay for it. Red Skelton was the first CBS host to telecast his weekly programs in color, using a converted movie studio, in the early 1960s; he tried unsuccessfully to persuade the network to use his facility for other programs, then was forced to sell it. Color was being pushed hard by rival NBC. Even ABC had several color programs, beginning in the fall of 1962, but those were limited because of the network’s financial and technical situations. One famous CBS-TV special made during this era was the Charles Collingwood-hosted tour of the White House with First Lady Jackie Kennedy. It was, however, shown in black-and-white. Beginning in 1963, at least one CBS show, The Lucy Show, began filming in color at its star and producer Lucille Ball’s insistence; she realized that color episodes would command more money when they were eventually sold into syndication, but even it was broadcast in black and white through the end of the 1964–65 season. This would all change by the mid-1960s, when market pressure forced CBS-TV to add color programs to the regular schedule for the 1965–66 season and complete the changeover during the 1966–67 season. By the fall of 1967, nearly all of CBS’s TV programs were in color, as were NBC’s and ABC’s. A notable exception was The Twentieth Century, which consisted mostly of newsreel archival footage, though even this program used at least some color footage by the late 1960s.
In 1965, CBS telecast a new color version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. This version, starring Lesley Ann Warren and Stuart Damon in the roles formerly played by Julie Andrews and Jon Cypher, was shot on videotape rather than being telecast live, and would become an annual tradition for the next nine years.
In 1967, NBC outbid CBS for the rights to the annual telecast of The Wizard of Oz and the film moved to NBC. However, the network quickly realized their mistake in allowing what was then one of its prime ratings winners to be acquired by another network, and by 1976, the film was back on CBS, where it remained through the end of 1997. CBS showed it twice in 1991, in March and again the night before Thanksgiving. Thereafter, it was shown the night before Thanksgiving.
By the end of the 1960s, CBS was broadcasting virtually all of its schedule in color, but many of its shows (including The Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry R.F.D., Petticoat Junction, Hee Haw and Green Acres) were appealing more to older and more rural audiences and less to the young, urban and more affluent audiences that advertisers sought to target. Fred Silverman (who would later head ABC, then NBC) made the decision to cancel most of those otherwise hit shows by mid-1971 in what became colloquially referred to as the “Rural Purge,” with Green Acres star Pat Buttram remarking that the network cancelled “anything with a tree in it.”
While the “rural” shows got the axe, new hits, like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, M*A*S*H, The Bob Newhart Show, Cannon, Barnaby Jones, Kojak and The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour took their place and kept CBS at the top of the ratings through the early 1970s. The majority of these hits were overseen by then East Coast vice president Alan Wagner. Also, 60 Minutes moved to 7 pm ET on Sundays in 1976 and became an unexpected hit.
Silverman also first developed his strategy of spinning new shows off an established hit while at CBS, with Rhoda and Phyllis spun from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Maude and The Jeffersons spun from All in the Family and Good Times from Maude.
After Silverman’s departure, CBS dropped behind ABC in the 1976–77 season, but still rated strongly, based on its earlier hits and some new ones: One Day at a Time, Alice, Lou Grant, WKRP in Cincinnati, The Dukes of Hazzard (suspiciously “rural”) and, the biggest hit of the early 1980s, Dallas.
By 1982, ABC had run out of steam, NBC was in dire straits with many failed programming efforts green-lighted by Silverman during his 1978 to 1981 tenure there, and CBS once more nosed ahead, courtesy of Dallas (and its spin-off Knots Landing), Falcon Crest, Magnum, P.I., Simon & Simon and 60 Minutes. CBS also broadcast the popular NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament every March beginning in 1982 (taking over for NBC). There were a few new hits – Kate & Allie, Newhart, Cagney & Lacey, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Murder, She Wrote—but the resurgence was short-lived. CBS had gone deeply into debt as a result of the failed effort by Ted Turner to take control over CBS. The battle was headed by CBS chairman Thomas Wyman. CBS sold its St. Louis station KMOX-TV and allowed the purchase of a large portion of its shares (under 25 percent) by Loew’s Inc. Chairman Lawrence Tisch. Consequently, collaboration between Paley and Tisch led to the slow dismissal of Wyman, Tisch becoming chief operating officer, and Paley returning as chairman.
In 1984, The Cosby Show and Miami Vice debuted on NBC and grabbed high ratings immediately, bringing that network back to first place by the 1985–1986 season along with other huge hits Family Ties, The Golden Girls, L.A. Law, and 227. ABC had in turn also rebounded with hits like Dynasty, Who’s the Boss?, Hotel, and Growing Pains. By the 1988–1989 season, CBS had fallen to third place behind both ABC and NBC, and had some major rebuilding to do.
Ironically, some of the groundwork had been laid as the network fell in the ratings, with hits Simon & Simon, Falcon Crest, Murder, She Wrote, Kate & Allie and Newhart still on the schedule from the most recent resurgence, and future hits Designing Women, Murphy Brown, Jake and the Fatman, and 48 Hours having recently debuted. Plus, CBS was still getting decent ratings from 60 Minutes, Dallas and Knots Landing. But the ratings for Dallas were a far cry from what they were in the early 1980s. During the early 1990s, the network would bolster its sports lineup by adding Major League Baseball telecasts and the Winter Olympics.
Under network president Jeff Sagansky, the network was able to get strong ratings from new shows Diagnosis: Murder, Touched by an Angel, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Walker, Texas Ranger, and a resurgent Jake and the Fatman during this period, and CBS was able to reclaim the first place crown briefly, in the 1992–1993 season, though its demographics skewed older than ABC, NBC or even Fox, with its relatively limited presence at that time. In 1993, the network made a breakthrough in establishing a successful late night talk show franchise to compete with NBC’s The Tonight Show when it signed David Letterman away from NBC after the Late Night host was passed over as Johnny Carson’s successor on Tonight in favor of Jay Leno. However, CBS would soon suffer a major blow in a move that would change American television forever.
In 1993, the fledgling Fox network outbid CBS for the rights to air the National Football League, resulting in several stations switching to Fox. The loss of the NFL, along with an ill-fated effort to court younger viewers, led to a drop in CBS’ ratings. The network also dropped its MLB coverage (after losing approximately US$500 million over a four-year span) in 1993 and NBC, which already aired the Summer Olympics, took over coverage of the Winter Olympics beginning with the 2002 Games.
Still, CBS was able to produce some hits, such as Cosby, The Nanny, and Everybody Loves Raymond, and would regain the NFL (taking over the American Football Conference package from NBC) in 1998.
Another turning point for CBS came in the summer of 2000 when it debuted the summer reality shows Survivor, and Big Brother which became surprise summer hits for the network. In January 2001, CBS debuted the second season of the show after its airing of the Super Bowl and scheduled it Thursdays at 8 pm ET, and moved the police procedural CSI (which had debuted that fall Fridays at 9 pm ET) to Thursdays at 9 pm ET and was both able to chip away at and eventually beat NBC’s Thursday night lineup, and attract younger viewers to the network.
CBS has had additional successes with police procedurals Cold Case, Without a Trace, Criminal Minds, NCIS, The Mentalist, and Person of Interest, along with CSI spinoffs CSI: Miami and CSI: NY, and sitcoms Everybody Loves Raymond, The King of Queens, Mike & Molly, Two and a Half Men, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, The New Adventures of Old Christine, and 2 Broke Girls.
During the 2007–08 season, Fox ranked as the top-rated network, primarily due to its reliance on American Idol. However, according to Nielsen, CBS has been the top-rated network every season since then. The two tend to nearly equal one another in the 18–34, 18–49, and 25–54 demographics, although Fox typically wins these by the narrowest of margins.
During the 1960s, CBS began an effort to diversify, and looked for suitable investments. In 1965, it acquired electric guitar maker Fender from Leo Fender, who agreed to sell his company due to health problems. The purchase also included that of Rhodes electric pianos, which had already been acquired by Fender. This and other acquisitions led to a restructuring of the corporation into various operating groups and divisions; the quality of the products coming out of these acquired companies was extremely lower, hence the term “pre-CBS” (meaning higher, sought after quality) and “CBS” (mass-produced lower quality).
In other diversification attempts, CBS would buy (and later sell) sports teams (especially the New York Yankees baseball club), book and magazine publishers (Fawcett Publications including Woman’s Day, and Holt, Rinehart and Winston), map-makers, toy manufacturers (Gabriel Toys, Child Guidance, Wonder Products), and other properties.
As William Paley aged, he tried to find the one person who could follow in his footsteps. However, numerous successors-in-waiting came and went. By the mid-1980s, the investor Laurence Tisch had begun to acquire substantial holdings in CBS. Eventually he gained Paley’s confidence, and with his support took control of CBS in 1986.
Tisch’s primary interest was turning profits. When CBS faltered, under-performing units were given the axe. Among the first properties to go was the Columbia Records group, which had been part of the company since 1938. Tisch also shut down in 1986 the CBS Technology Center in Stamford, which had started in New York City in the 1930s as CBS Laboratories and evolved to be the company’s technology research and development unit.
Columbia Records was a record label owned by CBS since 1938. In 1962, CBS launched CBS Records International to market Columbia recordings outside North America, where the Columbia name was controlled by others. In 1966, CBS Records was made a separate subsidiary of Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. CBS sold the CBS Records Group to the Japanese conglomerate Sony in 1988 initiating the Japanese buying spree of US companies (MCA, Pebble Beach Co., Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, et al.) that continued into the 1990s. The record label company was re-christened Sony Music Entertainment in 1991, as Sony had a short-term license on the CBS name.
Sony purchased from EMI its rights to the Columbia Records name outside the US, Canada, Spain and Japan. Sony now uses Columbia Records as a label name in all countries except Japan, where Sony Records remains their flagship label. Sony acquired the Spanish rights when Sony Music merged with Bertelsmann subsidiary BMG in 2004 as Sony BMG, co-owned by Sony and Bertelsmann. Sony bought out BMG’s share in 2008.
CBS entered the publishing business in 1967 by acquiring Holt, Rinehart & Winston, who published trade books, textbooks, and the magazine Field & Stream. The next year, CBS added the medical publisher Saunders to Holt, Rinehart & Winston. In 1971, CBS acquired Bond/Parkhurst, the publisher of Road & Track and Cycle World.
CBS greatly expanded its magazine business by purchasing Fawcett Publications in 1974, bringing in such magazines as Woman’s Day. It acquired the majority of the Ziff Davis publications in 1984.
CBS sold its book publishing businesses in 1985. The educational publishing division, which retained the name Holt, Rinehart & Winston, was sold to Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; the trade book division, renamed Henry Holt and Company, was sold to the West German publisher Holtzbrinck.
CBS exited the magazine business by selling the unit to its executive Peter Diamandis. Diamandis sold the magazines to Hachette Filipacchi Médias in 1988, forming Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S.
Forming the CBS Musical Instruments division, the company also acquired Fender (1965–1983), Electro-Music Inc. (Leslie speakers) (1965–1980), Rogers Drums (1966–1983), Steinway pianos (1972-), Gemeinhardt flutes, Lyon & Healy harps (in the late 1970s), Rodgers (institutional) organs, and Gulbransen home organs. The last musical purchase was the 1981 acquisition of the assets of then-bankrupt ARP Instruments, developer of electronic synthesizers.
Between 1965 and 1985 the quality of Fender guitars and amplifiers declined significantly. Encouraged by outraged Fender fans, CBS Musical Instruments division executives executed a leveraged buyout in 1985 and created FMIC, the Fender Musical Instrument Corporation. At the same time, CBS divested itself of Rodgers, along with Steinway and Gemeinhardt, all of which were purchased by Steinway Musical Properties. The other musical instruments properties were also liquidated.
CBS made a brief, unsuccessful move into film production in the late 1960s, creating Cinema Center Films. This profit-free unit was shut down in 1972; today the distribution rights to the Cinema Center library rest with Paramount Pictures for home video (via CBS Home Entertainment) and theatrical release, and with CBS Paramount Television for TV distribution (most other ancillary rights remain with CBS). It released such films as The Reivers (1969), starring Steve McQueen, and the musical Scrooge (1970), starring Albert Finney.
Yet ten years later, in 1982, CBS took another try at Hollywood, in a joint venture with Columbia Pictures and HBO called TriStar Pictures. Despite releasing such box office successes as The Natural, Places in the Heart, and Rambo: First Blood Part II, CBS felt the studio was not making a profit and in 1985, sold its stake in TriStar to The Coca-Cola Company, Columbia Pictures’ owner at the time.
In 2007, CBS Corp. announced its desire to get back into the feature film business slowly launching CBS Films and hiring key executives in the Spring of 2008 to startup the new venture. The name CBS Films was actually used once before in 1953 when the name was briefly used for CBS’s distributor of off-network and first-run syndicated programming to local TV stations in the United States and abroad.
CBS entered into the home video market, when joined with MGM to form MGM/CBS Home Video in 1978, but the joint venture was broken by 1982. CBS joined another studio: 20th Century Fox, to form CBS/Fox Video. CBS’s duty was to release some of the movies by TriStar Pictures under the CBS/Fox Video label.
CBS entered the video game market briefly, through its acquisition of Gabriel Toys (renamed CBS Toys), publishing several arcade adaptations and original titles under the name “CBS Electronics,” for the Atari 2600, and other consoles and computers, also producing one of the first karaoke recording/players. CBS Electronics also distributed all Coleco-related video game products in Canada, including the ColecoVision. CBS later sold Gabriel Toys to View-Master, which eventually ended up as part of Mattel.
On September 14, 2009, it was revealed that the international arm of CBS, CBS Studios International, struck a joint venture deal with Chellomedia to launch six CBS-branded channels in the UK during 2009. The new channels would replace Zone Romantica, Zone Thriller, Zone Horror and Zone Reality, plus timeshift services Zone Horror +1 and Zone Reality +1. On October 1, 2009, it was announced that CBS Reality, CBS Reality +1, CBS Drama and CBS Action would launch on November 16, 2009 replacing Zone Reality, Zone Reality +1, Zone Romantica and Zone Thriller respectively. On April 5, 2010, Zone Horror and Zone Horror +1 were rebranded as Horror Channel and Horror Channel +1.
By the early 1990s profits had fallen as a result of competition from cable companies and from video rentals, and in consequence of the high cost of programming. About 20 former CBS affiliates switched to the rapidly rising Fox Television Network in the mid-1990s, while many television markets across the United States (e.g. KDFX in Palm Springs, California and KECY in Yuma, Arizona reportedly the first to do so in August 1994) lost their CBS affiliate for awhile. CBS ratings were acceptable, but the network struggled with an image of stodginess. Laurence Tisch lost interest and sought a new buyer.
￼In 1995, Westinghouse Electric Corporation acquired CBS for $5.4 billion. As one of the major broadcasting group owners of commercial radio and television stations (as Group W) since 1920, Westinghouse sought to transition from a station operator into a major media company with its purchase of CBS.
Westinghouse’s acquisition of CBS had the effect of suddenly turning the combined company’s all-news radio stations in New York (WCBS and WINS) and Los Angeles (KNX and KFWB) from bitter rivals to sister stations. While KFWB switched from all-news to news-talk in 2009, WINS and WCBS remain all-news stations, with WINS (which pioneered the all-news format in 1965) concentrating its news on the five core New York City boroughs and WCBS, with its much more powerful signal, covering the surrounding tri-state metro area.
In 1997, Westinghouse acquired Infinity Broadcasting Corporation, owner of more than 150 radio stations, for $4.9-billion. Also that year, Westinghouse began the CBS Cable division by acquiring two existing cable channels (Gaylord’s The Nashville Network (now Spike TV) and Country Music Television) and starting a new one (CBS Eye on People, which was later sold to Discovery Communications).
Following the Infinity purchase, operation and sales responsibilities for the CBS Radio Network was handed to Infinity, which turned management over to Westwood One, a company Infinity managed. WWO is a major radio program syndicator that had previously purchased the Mutual Broadcasting System, NBC’s radio networks and the rights to use the “NBC Radio Networks” name. For a time, CBS Radio, NBC Radio Networks and CNN’s radio news services were all under the WWO umbrella.
As of 2008, Westwood One continues to distribute CBS radio programming, but as a self-managed company that put itself up for sale and found a buyer for a significant amount of its stock.
CBS also owned CBS Telenoticias, a Spanish-language news network.
In that same year of 1997, Westinghouse changed its name to CBS Corporation, and corporate headquarters were moved from Pittsburgh to New York. And to underline the change in emphasis, all non-entertainment assets were put up for sale. Another 90 radio stations were added to Infinity’s portfolio in 1998 with the acquisition of American Radio Systems Corporation for $2.6 billion.
In 1999, CBS paid $2.5 billion to acquire King World Productions, a television syndication company whose programs include The Oprah Winfrey Show, Jeopardy!, and Wheel of Fortune. By the end of 1999, all pre-CBS elements of Westinghouse’s industrial past (beyond retaining rights to the name for brand licensing purposes) were gone.
By the 1990s, CBS had become a broadcasting giant, but in 1999 entertainment conglomerate Viacom—a company that ironically was created by CBS in 1952 as CBS Films, Inc. to syndicate old CBS series and was spun off and renamed Viacom in 1971—announced it was taking over its former parent in a deal valued at $37 billion. Following completion of this effort in 2000, Viacom was ranked as the second-largest entertainment company in the world.
Coincidentally, Viacom had bought Paramount, which as mentioned earlier once invested in CBS, in 1994.
Having assembled all the elements of a communications empire, Viacom found that the promised synergy was not there, and at the end of 2005 it split itself in two. CBS became the center of a new company, CBS Corporation, which included the broadcasting elements, Paramount Television’s production operations (currently named CBS Television Studios), UPN (which later merged with Time Warner’s The WB into The CW), Viacom Outdoor advertising (renamed CBS Outdoor), Showtime, Simon & Schuster, and Paramount Parks, which the company sold in May 2006. It is the legal successor to the old Viacom.
The second company, keeping the Viacom name, kept Paramount Pictures, assorted MTV Networks, BET, and (until May 2007) Famous Music, which was sold to Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
As a result of the aforementioned Viacom/CBS corporate split, as well as other acquisitions over recent years, CBS (under the moniker CBS Studios) owns a massive film and television library spanning nine decades; these include not only acquired material from Viacom and CBS in-house productions and network programs, but also programs aired originally on competing networks. Shows and other material in this library include I Love Lucy, The Twilight Zone, The Honeymooners, Hawaii Five-O (both the original and current remake), Gunsmoke, The Fugitive, The Love Boat, Little House on the Prairie (US TV rights only), Star Trek, The Brady Bunch, Cheers, Becker, Family Ties, Mork & Mindy, Happy Days, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (distribution rights on behalf of copyright holder Lucasfilm), Evening Shade, Duckman, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its spin-offs, the CBS theatrical library (My Fair Lady, Scrooge, etc.), and the entire Terrytoons library from 1921 forward, among others.
Both CBS Corporation and the new Viacom are still owned by Sumner Redstone’s company, National Amusements. As such, Paramount Home Media Distribution (formerly Paramount Home Entertainment) continues to handle DVD distribution for the CBS library.
ACNielsen estimated in 2003 that CBS can be seen in 96.98% of all American households, reaching 103,421,270 homes in the United States. CBS has 204 VHF and UHF affiliated stations in the U.S. and U.S. possessions. CBS is also carried on cable television across Canada, via its affiliates, as well as in Bermuda, via local affiliate ZBM-TV.
CBS unveiled its Eye Device logo on October 20, 1951. Before that, from the 1940s through 1951, CBS Television used an oval spotlight on the block letters C-B-S. The Eye device was conceived by William Golden based on a Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign as well as a Shaker drawing. (While commonly attributed to Golden, there is speculation that at least some design work on the symbol may have been done by another CBS staff designer, Georg Olden, one of the first African-Americans to attract some attention in the postwar graphic design field.) The Eye device made its broadcasting debut on October 20, 1951. The following season, as Golden prepared a new “ident,” CBS President Frank Stanton insisted on keeping the Eye device and using it as much as possible. (Golden died unexpectedly in 1959, and was replaced by one of his top assistants, Lou Dorfsman, who would go on to oversee all print and on-air graphics for CBS for the next thirty years.)
An example of CBS Television Network’s imaging (and the distinction between the television and radio networks) may be seen in a video of The Jack Benny Program from 1953; the video appears to be converted from kinescope, and “unscoped” or unedited. One sees the program very nearly as one would have seen it live on CBS. Don Wilson is the program announcer, but also voices a promo for Private Secretary, which starred Ann Sothern and alternated weekly with Jack Benny on the CBS schedule. Benny continued to appear on CBS radio and television at that time, and Wilson makes a promo announcement at the end of the broadcast for Benny’s radio program on the CBS Radio Network. The program closes with the “CBS Television Network” ID slide (the “CBS eye” over a field of clouds with the words “CBS Television Network” superimposed over the eye). There is, however, no voiceover accompanying the ID slide. It is unclear whether it was simply absent from the recording or never originally broadcast (a staff announcer may have provided a voiceover message, if so, it was not recorded on this clip).
The CBS eye is now an American icon. While the symbol’s settings have changed, the Eye device itself has not been redesigned in its entire history. In the network’s new graphic identity created by Trollbäck + Company in 2006, the eye is being placed in a “trademark” position on show titles, days of the week and descriptive words, an approach highly respecting the value of the eye. The eye logo has frequently been copied or borrowed by television networks around the world, notable examples being the Austrian Broadcasting System (ORF) which used to use a red version of the eye logo, Associated TeleVision in the United Kingdom, Frecuencia Latina in Peru, Nippon Television in Japan and Rede Bandeirantes in Brazil. The logo is alternately known as the Eyemark, which was also the name of CBS’s domestic and international syndication divisions in the mid-to-late 1990s before the King World acquisition and Viacom merger.
Through the years, CBS has developed several notable image campaigns, and several of the network’s most well-known slogans date from the 1980s. 1981’s “Reach for the Stars” used a space-themed campaign to capitalize on both CBS’s stellar improvement in the ratings and the historic launch of the space shuttle Columbia. 1982’s “Great Moments” juxtaposed scenes from classic CBS programming such as I Love Lucy with scenes from the network’s then-current classics such as Dallas and M*A*S*H. From 1983 through 1986, CBS (by now firmly atop the ratings) featured a campaign based on the slogan “We’ve Got the Touch.” Vocals for the campaign’s jingle were contributed by Richie Havens (1983–84; one occasion in 1984–85) and Kenny Rogers (1985–86). The 1986–87 programming season ushered in the “Share the Spirit of CBS” campaign, the network’s first to use full-out computer graphics and DVE effects. Unlike most network campaign promos, the full length version of Share the Spirit not only showed a brief clip preview of each new fall series, but also utilized the CGI effects to map out the entire fall schedule by night. The success of that campaign led to the 1987–88 “CBS Spirit” (or CBSPIRIT) campaign. Most CBS Spirit promos utilized a procession of show clips once again. However, the new graphic motif was a swirling (or “swishing”) blue line, that was used to represent “the spirit.” The full length promo, like the previous year, had a special portion that identified new fall shows, but the mapped-out fall schedule shot was abandoned.
For the 1988–89 season, CBS unveiled its new image campaign, officially known as “Television You Can Feel” but more commonly identified as “You Can Feel It On CBS.” The goal was to convey a more sensual, new-age image through distinguished, advanced-looking computer graphics and soothing music, back-grounding images and clips of emotionally powerful scenes and characters. However, it was this season in which CBS began its ratings free fall, the deepest in the network’s history. CBS ended the decade with “Get Ready for CBS.” The 1989–90 version was a very ambitious campaign that attempted to elevate CBS out of last place (among the major networks); the motif was network stars interacting with each other in a remote studio set, getting ready for photo and TV shoots, as well as for the new season on CBS. The high-energy promo song and the campaign’s practices saw many variations across the country as every CBS affiliate participated in it, as per a network mandate. Also, for the first time in history, CBS became the first broadcast network to team with a national retailer to encourage viewership, with the CBS/Kmart Get Ready Giveaway.
For the 1990–91 season, the campaign featured a new jingle—The Temptations offered an altered version of their hit “Get Ready.” The early 1990s featured less-than-memorable campaigns, with simplified taglines such as “This is CBS” (1992) and “You’re On CBS” (1995). Eventually, the advertising department gained momentum again late in the decade with Welcome Home to a CBS Night (1996–1997), simplified to Welcome Home (1997–1999) and succeeded by the spin-off campaign The Address is CBS (1999–2000).
Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, CBS’s ratings resurgence was backed by their “It’s All Here” campaign, and their strategy led, in 2005, to the proclamation that they were “America’s Most Watched Network.” Their most recent campaign, beginning in 2006, proclaims “We Are CBS” with the voice of Don LaFontaine. As of 2009, the network has shifted to a campaign entitled “Only CBS” in which the network proclaims several unique qualities it has. In 2011, CBS returned to the usage of “America’s Most Watched Network.”
Especially during the 1960s, the three major networks, NBC, CBS and ABC, would show elaborate promos during the summer months of their upcoming fall schedule of that year. In 1961, CBS took the unusual step of airing a program entitled CBS Fall Preview Special: Seven Wonderful Nights, using, not the usual television voiceovers, but stars of several CBS shows to promote the upcoming shows, stars such as Ed Sullivan (The Ed Sullivan Show), Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone), and Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale (Perry Mason). The stars would appear and show previews of the entire lineup for one specific day of the week.
As of fall 2010, CBS operates on an 87½-hour regular network-programming schedule. It provides 22 hours of prime time programming to affiliated stations: 8–11 p.m. Monday to Saturday (all times ET/PT) and 7–11 p.m. on Sundays. Programming is also provided 10 am–3 p.m. weekdays (game shows The Price Is Right and Let’s Make a Deal, soaps The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful, and talk show The Talk); 7–9 a.m. weekdays and Saturdays (CBS This Morning); CBS News Sunday Morning, nightly editions of the CBS Evening News, the Sunday political talk show Face the Nation, a 2½-hour early morning news program Up to the Minute and CBS Morning News; the late night talk shows Late Show with David Letterman and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson; and a three-hour Saturday morning live-action/animation block under the name Cookie Jar TV.
In addition, sports programming routinely appears on the weekends, although with a somewhat unpredictable schedule (mostly between noon and 7:00 pm ET).
CBS’s daytime schedule is the home of the long-running game show The Price Is Right. The Price is Right, which began production in 1972, is notable as the longest continuously running daytime game show on network television. After being hosted by Bob Barker for 35 years, the show has been hosted by actor/comedian Drew Carey since 2007. The network is also home to a new version of the game show Let’s Make a Deal, hosted by singer/comedian Wayne Brady. As of 2012, CBS is the only network still producing daytime game shows.
CBS introduced a new talk show titled The Talk on October 2010. The show is similar to ABC’s The View with a panel of hosts including Julie Chen, Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Aisha Tyler and Sheryl Underwood.
As of August 2012, CBS Daytime airs two daytime soap operas each weekday: the hour long series The Young and the Restless and the half-hour series The Bold and the Beautiful.
CBS has aired the most soap operas of the Big Three networks. It aired 3½ hours of soap operas from 1982 to 2009. With the ending of Guiding Light in September 2009, ABC overtook CBS as the network with the most daily hours dedicated to soap operas. CBS reclaimed this distinction in January 2012, after ABC canceled two of its three remaining soap operas.
Other than Guiding Light, notable daytime soap operas that once aired on CBS include As the World Turns, Love of Life, Search for Tomorrow, The Secret Storm, The Edge of Night and Capitol.
Notable daytime game shows that once aired on CBS include Match Game, Tattletales, The $10/25,000 Pyramid, Press Your Luck, Card Sharks, Family Feud, and Wheel of Fortune. CBS games that also aired in prime time include Beat the Clock, To Tell the Truth and Password. Two long-running primetime-only games were the panel shows What’s My Line?, and I’ve Got a Secret.
CBS broadcast the live action series Captain Kangaroo on weekday mornings from 1955 through 1982, and on Saturdays through 1984. From 1971 through 1986, the CBS News department produced one-minute In the News segments broadcast between other Saturday morning programs. Otherwise, in regards to children’s programming, CBS has aired mostly animated series for children, such as reruns of Mighty Mouse, Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry cartoons, as well as the original version of Scooby-Doo, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies, Garfield and Friends and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In 1997, CBS began broadcasting Wheel 2000 (a children’s version of the syndicated game show Wheel of Fortune), and was broadcasting it simultaneously with GSN.
In September 1998, CBS began contracting out to other companies to provide programming and material for their Saturday morning schedule. The first of these special blocks was CBS Kidshow, which featured programming from Canada’s Nelvana studio. It aired on CBS Saturday mornings from 1998 to 2000, with shows like Anatole, Mythic Warriors, Rescue Heroes, and Flying Rhino Junior High. Its tagline was, “The CBS Kids Show: Get in the Act.”
In 2000, CBS’s deal with Nelvana ended. They then began a deal with Nickelodeon (owned by CBS’s former parent company Viacom, which at one time was a subsidiary of CBS) to air its Nick Jr. programming under the banner Nick Jr. on CBS. From 2002 to 2005, Nick’s non-preschool series aired on it as well, under the name Nick on CBS.
In 2006, after the Viacom-CBS split (as described above), CBS decided to discontinue the Nick Jr. lineup in favor of a lineup of programs produced by DIC Entertainment and later, the Cookie Jar Group, as part of a three-year deal which includes distribution of selected Formula One auto races on tape delay. KOL Secret Slumber Party on CBS premiered in September of that year; in the inaugural line-up, two of the programs were new shows, one aired in syndication in 2005 and three were pre-2006 shows. In mid-2007, KOL withdrew sponsorship from CBS’s Saturday Morning Block and the name was changed to KEWLopolis on CBS. Complimenting CBS’s 2007 line-up was Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, and Sushi Pack. On February 24, 2009, it was announced that CBS renewed its contract with Cookie Jar for another three seasons, through 2012. On September 19, 2009, KEWLopolis has been changed into Cookie Jar TV.
CBS was the original broadcast network for the animated primetime holiday specials based on the comic strip Peanuts, beginning with A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965. Over thirty holiday Peanuts specials (each for a specific holiday such as Halloween) were broadcast on CBS from that time until 2000, when ABC acquired the broadcast rights. CBS also aired several primetime animated specials based on the work of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel), beginning with How the Grinch Stole Christmas in 1966, as well as several specials based on the comic strip Garfield over the course of the 1980s (which led to Garfield getting his own Saturday morning cartoon on the network, Garfield and Friends, from 1988 to 1995). Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, produced in stop motion by the Rankin/Bass studio, has been another annual holiday staple of CBS since 1972, but that special originated on NBC in 1964. As of 2011, Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman are the only two pre-1990 animated specials remaining on CBS; Charlie Brown and The Grinch moved to ABC, while cable network ABC Family owns the Garfield specials.
All of these animated specials, from 1973 until 1990, began with a fondly remembered opening animated logo (about seven seconds long), which showed the words “A CBS Special Presentation” in colorful lettering (the ITC Avant Garde typeface, widely used in the 1970s, was used for this logo). The word “SPECIAL,” in all caps and repeated multiple times in multiple colors, slowly zoomed out from the frame in a spinning counterclockwise motion against a black background, and rapidly zoomed back into frame as a single word, in white, at the end; the logo was accompanied by a jazzy yet majestic up-tempo fanfare with dramatic horns and percussion (which was edited incidental music from the CBS crime drama Hawaii Five-O, titled “Call to Danger” on the Capitol Records’ soundtrack LP). This opening sequence appeared immediately before the beginning of all CBS specials of the period (such as the Miss USA pageants and the annual Kennedy Center Honors presentation), not just animated ones. (This opening was presumably designed by, or under the supervision of, longtime CBS creative director Lou Dorfsman, who oversaw print and on-air graphics for CBS for nearly thirty years, replacing William Golden, who died in 1959.)
CBS was also responsible for telecasting the series of Young People’s Concerts conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Telecast every few months between 1958 and 1972, first in black-and-white and then switching to color in 1966, these programs introduced millions of children to classical music through the eloquent commentaries by Maestro Bernstein. They were nominated for several Emmy Awards, and were among the first programs ever broadcast from Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
Over the years, CBS has broadcast three different productions of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet The Nutcracker – two live telecasts of the George Balanchine New York City Ballet production in 1957 and ’58 respectively, a little-known German-American filmed production in 1965 (which was subsequently repeated three times and starred Edward Villella, Patricia McBride, and Melissa Hayden), and beginning in 1977, the Baryshnikov staging of the ballet, starring the Russian dancer along with Gelsey Kirkland – a version that would become a television classic, and remains so today. This production later moved to PBS.
In April 1986, CBS presented a slightly abbreviated version of Horowitz in Moscow, a live piano recital by Vladimir Horowitz, arguably the greatest pianist of the 20th century. It marked Horowitz’s return to Russia after more than sixty years. The program was shown as an episode of the series CBS News Sunday Morning (9:00 am in the U.S. is 4:00 pm in Russia). It was so successful that CBS repeated it a mere two months later by popular demand, this time on videotape, rather than live. In later years, the program was shown as a stand-alone special on PBS, and the current DVD of it omits the Charles Kuralt commentary, but includes additional selections not heard on the CBS telecast.
In 1986, CBS telecast Carnegie Hall: The Grand Reopening in primetime, in what was now a rare move for a commercial network station, since most primetime classical music specials were now relegated to PBS and A&E. The program was a concert commemorating the re-opening of Carnegie Hall after its complete renovation. It featured, along with luminaries such as Leonard Bernstein, popular music artists such as Frank Sinatra.
In order to compete with NBC, which produced the now-legendary televised version of the Mary Martin Broadway production of Peter Pan, CBS responded with Cinderella, with music by Richard Rodgers and a book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Based upon the classic French fairy tale Cinderella, it is the only Rodgers and Hammerstein musical written for television. It was originally broadcast live in color on CBS on March 31, 1957 as a vehicle for Julie Andrews, who played the title role; that broadcast was seen by over 100 million people. It was subsequently remade by CBS in 1965; that version starred Lesley Ann Warren, Stuart Damon, Ginger Rogers and Walter Pidgeon among others, and added a new song, “Loneliness of Evening,” which had been composed for South Pacific in 1949 but not sung in that musical. This version was rebroadcast several times on CBS into the early 1970s, and is occasionally broadcast on various cable networks to this day. Both versions are available on DVD.
From 1949 until 2002, the Pillsbury Bake-Off, a national cooking contest held annually, was broadcast on CBS as a special. Hosts included Arthur Godfrey, Art Linkletter, Bob Barker, Gary Collins and Alex Trebek.
The Miss USA beauty pageant aired on CBS from 1963 until 2002, and during a large portion of that period was known for having a CBS game show host as pageant host. John Charles Daly hosted the show from 1963–1966, Bob Barker from 1967 until 1987 (at which point he quit in a dispute over fur coats), Alan Thicke in 1988, Dick Clark from 1989–1993, and Bob Goen from 1994–1996. The show’s highest ratings were in the early 1980s, when it regularly topped the Nielsen ratings. Viewership dropped sharply from the 1990s to the 2000s, from an estimated viewership of 20 million to an average of 7 million from 2000–2001. In 2002, owner Donald Trump brokered a new deal with NBC, giving them half-ownership of the Miss USA, Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA and moving them to NBC on an initial five-year contract. The pageants were first shown on NBC in 2003.
On June 1, 1977, it was announced that Elvis Presley had signed a deal with CBS for a new television special. It was agreed that CBS would videotape concerts during the summer of 1977. It was filmed during Presley’s final tour in the cities of Omaha, Nebraska, on June 19, 1977, and Rapid City, South Dakota, on June 21, 1977. On August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley died in his Graceland mansion. On October 3, 1977, CBS showed a posthumous 1977 TV special starring Elvis Presley. It was released nearly two months after the death of Elvis.
CBS programs are shown outside the US. For instance, CBS News is shown for a few hours a day on satellite channel Orbit News in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The CBS Evening News is shown in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Italy on Sky News, despite the fact that Sky is part of News Corporation (owners of Fox News Channel).
In the UK, CBS took over 6 of Chello Zone’s channels in 2009. These were the first channels branded CBS outside the US. The channels are called CBS Action, CBS Drama, and CBS Reality, while CBS Reality has a timeshifted (+1) channel as well. Other channels as part of the deal are The Horror Channel and its timeshifted channel.
In Australia, Network Ten has an output deal with CBS Paramount giving them rights to carry the programs Jericho, Dr. Phil, Late Show with David Letterman, NCIS and Numb3rs as well access to stories from 60 Minutes (the rights of which have been sold to the Nine Network which broadcasts their own 60 Minutes), while Network Ten reporting is used in the United States for Australian topics.
In Bermuda, there is a CBS affiliate owned by the Bermuda Broadcasting Company using the call sign ZBM.
In Canada, CBS, like all major American TV networks, is carried in the basic program package of all cable and satellite providers. The broadcast is shown almost exactly the same in Canada as in the United States. However, CBS’s programming on Canadian cable and satellite systems are subject to the practice of “simsubbing,” in which a signal of a Canadian station is placed over CBS’s signal, if the programming at that time is the same. As well, many Canadians live close enough to a major American city to pick up the over the air broadcast signal of an American CBS affiliate with an antenna.
NOTE: Simultaneous substitution (known also as simsubbing or signal substitution) is a practice mandated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) requiring Canadian cable, direct broadcast satellite, Internet protocol television, and Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service television distribution companies to distribute the signal of a local or regional over-the-air station in place of the signal of a foreign or non-local television station, when the two stations are airing identical programming simultaneously. Although the policy officially applies to any foreign signal, in actual practice the distant signals are virtually always of American origin.
The practice has become controversial because its implementation will often pre-empt the signals of US networks available through Canadian cable and satellite providers such as those of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. Simsubbing usually receives nationwide attention in the days leading up to the annual broadcast of the Super Bowl football championship, where the famed high-profile US Super Bowl commercials are virtually blocked from viewing on Canadian television. The Canadian network broadcasting the championship is eligible to request that the US broadcaster’s signal be replaced in Canada with its own signal, so long as both broadcasts are aired simultaneously.
The CRTC first commissioned simsubbing in 1972, and it is sometimes erroneously called simulcasting, the name of a practice different from simultaneous substitution in that there is no signal replacement. According to the CRTC, the practice of simultaneous substitution is necessary “to protect the rights of broadcasters, to enable TV stations to draw enough advertising dollars and to keep advertising dollars in the Canadian market.” Canadian broadcast television networks. They must request each and every substitution on an individual basis, have been criticized for exploiting the regulation and not investing enough money into Canadian content.
In Hong Kong, The CBS Evening News is aired live in the early morning and the local networks have an agreement to rebroadcast sections 12 hours later to fill up the local news programs when they have insufficient content to report.
The CBS Evening News is seen in the Philippines via satellite on Q-TV (a sister network of broadcaster GMA Network) while CBS This Morning is shown in that country on the Lifestyle Network. Studio 23 and Maxx, channels owned by broadcaster ABS-CBN in the Philippines show the Late Show with David Letterman.
In India CBS licenses their brand to Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd. for use with three CBS-branded channels, named Big CBS Prime, Big CBS Spark, and Big CBS Love.
In 1995, CBS refused to air a segment of 60 Minutes that would have featured an interview with a former president of research and development for Brown & Williamson, the nation’s third largest tobacco company. The controversy raised questions about the legal roles in decision-making and whether journalistic standards should be compromised despite legal pressures and threats. The decision nevertheless sent shock waves throughout the television industry, the journalism community, and the country. This incident was the basis for the 1999 film by Michael Mann, The Insider.
In 2001, Bernard Goldberg, who was a reporter with CBS for 28 years, had his book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, published. This book heavily criticized the media, and some CBS reporters and news anchors in particular, such as Dan Rather. Goldberg accused CBS of having a liberal bias in most of their news.
In 2004, the FCC imposed a record $550,000 fine on CBS for its broadcast of a Super Bowl half-time show (produced by then sister-unit MTV) in which singer Janet Jackson’s breast was briefly exposed. It was the largest fine ever for a violation of federal decency laws. Following the incident CBS apologized to its viewers and denied foreknowledge of the event, which was broadcast live on TV. In 2008, a Philadelphia federal court annulled the fine imposed on CBS, labeling it “arbitrary and capricious.”
CBS aired a controversial episode of 60 Minutes, which questioned U.S. President George W. Bush’s service in the National Guard. Following allegations of forgery, CBS News admitted that documents used in the story had not been properly authenticated. The following January, CBS fired four people connected to the preparation of the news-segment. Former network news anchor Dan Rather filed a $70 million lawsuit against CBS in 2007, contending the story, and his termination, were mishandled. Parts of the suit were dismissed in 2008, the suit was dismissed, and his motion to appeal was denied in 2010. These documents aside, however, questions remain regarding many of the circumstances of George W. Bush’s National Guard service.
In 2007, retired Army Major Gen. John Batiste, consultant to CBS News, appeared in a political ad for VoteVets.org critical of President Bush and the war in Iraq. Two days later, CBS stated that appearing in the ad violated Batiste’s contract with them and the agreement was terminated.
In January 2013, CNET named Dish Network’s “Hopper with Sling” digital video recorder as a nominee for the CES “Best in Show” award (which is decided by CNET on behalf of its organizers, the Consumer Electronics Association), and named it the winner in a vote by the site’s staff. However, CBS Interactive, part of CBS, disqualified the Hopper, and vetoed the results because the company was in active litigation with Dish Network. CNET would announce that it would no longer review any product or service provided by companies that CBS was in litigation with. The new vote subsequently gave the Best in Show award to the Razer Edge tablet instead. On January 14, 2013, CNET editor-in-chief Lindsey Turrentine addressed the situation, stating that CNET’s staff was in an “impossible” situation due to the conflict of interest posed by the situation, and promised that she would do everything within her power to prevent a similar incident from occurring again. The conflict also prompted one CNET senior writer, Greg Sandoval, to resign. As a result of the controversy, the CEA announced on January 31, 2013 that CNET will no longer decide the CES Best in Show award winner due to the interference of CBS (the position will be offered to other technology publications), and the “Best in Show” award was jointly awarded to both the Hopper with Sling and Razer Edge.
Nathaniel Adams Coles (b. March 17, 1919, d. February 15, 1965), known professionally as Nat King Cole, was an American singer and musician who first came to prominence as a leading jazz pianist. He owes most of his popular musical fame to his soft, baritone voice, which he used to perform in big band and jazz genres.
Cole was one of the first African Americans to host a television variety show, The Nat King Cole Show, and has maintained worldwide popularity since his death from lung cancer in February 1965.
Nathaniel Adams Coles was born in Montgomery, Alabama, on March 17, 1919. Coles had three brothers: Eddie, Ike, and Freddy, and a half-sister, Joyce Coles. Ike and Freddy would later pursue careers in music as well. When Cole was four years old, he and his family moved to Chicago, Illinois, where his father, Edward Coles, became a Baptist minister. Cole learned to play the organ from his mother, Perlina Coles, the church organist. His first performance was of “Yes! We Have No Bananas” at age four. He began formal lessons at 12, eventually learning not only jazz and gospel music, but also Western classical music, performing, as he said, “from Johann Sebastian Bach to Sergei Rachmaninoff”.
The family lived in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. Cole would sneak out of the house and hang around outside the clubs, listening to artists such as Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, and Jimmie Noone. He participated in Walter Dyett’s renowned music program at DuSable High School.
Inspired by the performances of Earl Hines, Cole began his performing career in the mid-1930s while still a teenager, adopting the name “Nat Cole”. His older brother, Eddie, a bass player, soon joined Cole’s band, and they made their first recording in 1936 under Eddie’s name. They also were regular performers at clubs. Cole, in fact, acquired his nickname, “King”, performing at one jazz club, a nickname presumably reinforced by the otherwise unrelated nursery rhyme about Old King Cole. He also was a pianist in a national tour of Broadway theatre legend Eubie Blake’s revue, “Shuffle Along”. When it suddenly failed in Long Beach, California, Cole decided to remain there. He would later return to Chicago in triumph to play such venues as the famed Edgewater Beach Hotel.
Cole and two other musicians formed the “King Cole Swingers” in Long Beach and played in a number of local bars before getting a gig on the Long Beach Pike for US$90 ($1,489 today) per week. The trio consisted of Cole on piano, Oscar Moore on guitar, and Wesley Prince on double bass. The trio played in Failsworth throughout the late 1930s and recorded many radio transcriptions. Cole was not only pianist but leader of the combo as well.
Radio was important to the King Cole Trio’s rise in popularity. Their first broadcast was with NBC’s Blue Network in 1938. It was followed by appearances on NBC’s Swing Soiree. In the 1940s the trio appeared on the Old Gold, Chesterfield Supper Club and Kraft Music Hall radio shows.
Legend was that Cole’s singing career did not start until a drunken barroom patron demanded that he sing “Sweet Lorraine”. Cole, in fact, has gone on record saying that the fabricated story “sounded good, so I just let it ride.” Cole frequently sang in between instrumental numbers. Noticing that people started to request more vocal numbers, he obliged. Yet the story of the insistent customer is not without some truth. There was a customer who requested a certain song one night, but it was a song that Cole did not know, so instead he sang “Sweet Lorraine”. The trio was tipped 15 cents for the performance, a nickel apiece.
During World War II, Wesley Prince left the group and Cole replaced him with Johnny Miller. Miller would later be replaced by Charlie Harris in the 1950s. The King Cole Trio signed with the fledgling Capitol Records in 1943. The group had previously recorded for Excelsior Records, owned by Otis René, and had a hit with the song “I’m Lost”, which René wrote, produced and distributed. Revenues from Cole’s record sales fueled much of Capitol Records’ success during this period. The revenue is believed to have played a significant role in financing the distinctive Capitol Records building near Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles. Completed in 1956, it was the world’s first circular office building and became known as “The House that Nat Built.”
Cole was considered a leading jazz pianist, appearing in the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts (credited on the Mercury Record label as “Shorty Nadine”—derived from his wife’s name—as he was under exclusive contract to Capitol Records at the time). His revolutionary lineup of piano, guitar, and bass in the time of the big bands became a popular setup for a jazz trio. It was emulated by many musicians, among them Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, and blues pianists Charles Brown and Ray Charles. He also performed as a pianist on sessions with Lester Young, Red Callender, and Lionel Hampton.
“…I started out to become a jazz pianist; in the meantime I started singing and I sang the way I felt and that’s just the way it came out.”
Cole’s first mainstream vocal hit was his 1943 recording of one of his compositions, “Straighten Up and Fly Right”, based on a black folk tale that his father had used as a theme for a sermon. Johnny Mercer invited him to record it for his fledgling Capitol Records label. It sold over 500,000 copies, proving that folk-based material could appeal to a wide audience. Although Cole would never be considered a rocker, the song can be seen as anticipating the first rock and roll records. Indeed, Bo Diddley, who performed similar transformations of folk material, counted Cole as an influence.
In 1946, the Cole trio paid to have their own 15-minute radio program on the air. It was called, “King Cole Trio Time.” It became the first radio program sponsored by a black performing artist. During those years, the trio recorded many “transcription” recordings, which were recordings made in the radio studio for the broadcast. Later they were used for commercial records.
Beginning in the late 1940s, Cole began recording and performing pop-oriented material for mainstream audiences, in which he was often accompanied by a string orchestra. His stature as a popular icon was cemented during this period by hits such as “The Christmas Song” (Cole recorded that tune four times: on June 14, 1946, as a pure Trio recording, on August 19, 1946, with an added string section, on August 24, 1953, and in 1961 for the double album The Nat King Cole Story; this final version, recorded in stereo, is the one most often heard today), “Nature Boy” (1948), “Mona Lisa” (1950), “Too Young” (the #1 song in 1951), and his signature tune “Unforgettable” (1951) (Gainer 1). While this shift to pop music led some jazz critics and fans to accuse Cole of selling out, he never totally abandoned his jazz roots; as late as 1956, for instance, he recorded an all-jazz album After Midnight. Cole had one of his last big hits in 1963, two years before his death, with the classic “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer”, which reached #6 on the Pop chart.
On November 5, 1956, The Nat King Cole Show debuted on NBC. The variety program was the first of its kind hosted by an African-American, which created controversy at the time. Beginning as a 15-minute pops show on Monday night, the program was expanded to a half hour in July 1957. Despite the efforts of NBC, as well as many of Cole’s industry colleagues—many of whom, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte, Frankie Laine, Mel Tormé, Peggy Lee, and Eartha Kitt, worked for industry scale (or even for no pay) in order to help the show save money—The Nat King Cole Show was ultimately done in by lack of a national sponsorship. Companies such as Rheingold Beer assumed regional sponsorship of the show, but a national sponsor never appeared.
The last episode of The Nat King Cole Show aired December 17, 1957. Cole had survived for over a year, and it was he, not NBC, who ultimately decided to pull the plug on the show. Commenting on the lack of sponsorship his show received, Cole quipped shortly after its demise, “Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark.”
Throughout the 1950s, Cole continued to rack up successive hits, including “Smile”, “Pretend”, “A Blossom Fell”, and “If I May”. His pop hits were collaborations with well-known arrangers and conductors of the day, including Nelson Riddle, Gordon Jenkins, and Ralph Carmichael. Riddle arranged several of Cole’s 1950s albums, including his first 10-inch long-play album, his 1953 Nat King Cole Sings For Two In Love. In 1955, his single “Darling Je Vous Aime Beaucoup” reached #7 on the Billboard chart. Jenkins arranged Love Is the Thing, which hit #1 on the album charts in April 1957.
In 1958, Cole went to Havana, Cuba to record Cole Español, an album sung entirely in Spanish. The album was so popular in Latin America, as well as in the USA, that two others of the same variety followed: A Mis Amigos (sung in Spanish and Portuguese) in 1959 and More Cole Español in 1962. A Mis Amigos contains the Venezuelan hit “Ansiedad,” whose lyrics Cole had learned while performing in Caracas in 1958. Cole learned songs in languages other than English by rote.
After the change in musical tastes during the late 1950s, Cole’s ballad singing did not sell well with younger listeners, despite a successful stab at rock n’ roll with “Send For Me” (peaked at #6 pop). Along with his contemporaries Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Tony Bennett, Cole found that the pop singles chart had been almost entirely taken over by youth-oriented acts. In 1960, Nat’s longtime collaborator Nelson Riddle left Capitol Records for Frank Sinatra’s newly formed Reprise Records label. Riddle and Cole recorded one final hit album, Wild Is Love, based on lyrics by Ray Rasch and Dotty Wayne. Cole later retooled the concept album into an Off-Broadway show, “I’m With You.”
Cole did manage to record some hit singles during the 1960s, including in 1961 “Let There Be Love” with George Shearing, the country-flavored hit “Ramblin’ Rose” in August 1962, “Dear Lonely Hearts”, “That Sunday, That Summer” and “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days Of Summer” (his final hit, reaching #6 pop).
Cole performed in many short films, sitcoms, and television shows and played W. C. Handy in the film St. Louis Blues (1958). He also appeared in The Nat King Cole Story, China Gate, and The Blue Gardenia (1953). In January 1964, Cole made one of his final television appearances on The Jack Benny Program. Cole was introduced as “the best friend a song ever had,” and sang “When I Fall in Love.” It was one of Cole’s last performances. Cat Ballou (1965), his final film, was released several months after his death.
Around the time Cole launched his singing career, he entered into Freemasonry, being raised in January 1944 in the Thomas Waller Lodge No. 49 in California, the lodge being named after fellow Prince Hall mason and jazz musician Fats Waller.
Cole’s first marriage, to Nadine Robinson, ended in 1948. On March 28, 1948 (Easter Sunday), just six days after his divorce became final, Cole married singer Maria Hawkins Ellington (although Maria had sung with Duke Ellington’s band, she was not related to Duke Ellington). The Coles were married in Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. They had five children: Natalie (born 1950) (Watts 1), who herself would go on to have a successful career as a singer; adopted daughter Carole (1944–2009, the daughter of Maria’s sister), who died of lung cancer at 64; adopted son Nat Kelly Cole (1959–1995), who died of AIDS at 36; and twin daughters Casey and Timolin (born 1961).
Cole had affairs throughout his marriages. By the time he developed lung cancer, he was estranged from his wife Maria and living with actress Gunilla Hutton, best known as the second Billie Jo Bradley on Petticoat Junction (1965–1966) and also notable as a regular cast member (Nurse Goodbody) on Hee Haw. But Cole was with Maria during his illness, and she stayed with him until his death. In an interview, Maria expressed no lingering resentment over his affairs. Instead, she emphasized his musical legacy and the class he exhibited in all other aspects of his life.
In August 1948, Cole purchased a house from Col. Harry Gantz, the former husband of Lois Weber, in the all-white Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The Ku Klux Klan, still active in Los Angeles well into the 1950s, responded by placing a burning cross on his front lawn. Members of the property-owners association told Cole they did not want any undesirables moving in. Cole retorted, “Neither do I. And if I see anybody undesirable coming in here, I’ll be the first to complain.”
Cole fought racism all his life and rarely performed in segregated venues. In 1956, he was assaulted on stage during a concert in Birmingham, Alabama, with the Ted Heath Band (while singing the song “Little Girl”), by three members of the North Alabama Citizens Council (a group led by Education of Little Tree author Asa “Forrest” Carter, himself not among the attackers), who apparently were attempting to kidnap him The three male attackers ran down the aisles of the auditorium towards Cole and his band. Although local law enforcement quickly ended the invasion of the stage, the ensuing melée toppled Cole from his piano bench and injured his back. Cole did not finish the concert and never again performed in the South. A fourth member of the group who had participated in the plot was later arrested in connection with the act. All were later tried and convicted for their roles in the crime.
In 1956, he was contracted to perform in Cuba and wanted to stay at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, Havana, but was not allowed to because it operated a color bar. Cole honored his contract, and the concert at the Tropicana was a huge success. The following year, he returned to Cuba for another concert, singing many songs in Spanish. There is now a tribute to him in the form of a bust and a jukebox in the Hotel Nacional.
After his attack in Birmingham, Cole stated “I can’t understand it…I have not taken part in any protests. Nor have I joined an organization fighting segregation. Why should they attack me?” A native of Alabama, Cole seemed eager to assure southern whites that he would not challenge the customs and traditions of the region. A few would keep the protests going for a while, he claimed, but “I’d just like to forget about the whole thing.” Cole had no intention of altering his practice of playing to segregated audiences in the South. He did not condone the practice but was not a politician and believed “I can’t change the situation in a day.” African-American communities responded to Nat King Cole’s self-professed political indifference with an immediate, harsh, and virtually unanimous, rejection, unaffected by his revelations that he had contributed money to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and had sued several northern hotels that had hired but refused to serve him. Thurgood Marshall, chief legal counsel of the NAACP, reportedly suggested that since he was an Uncle Tom, Cole ought to perform with a banjo. Roy Wilkins, the executive secretary of the organization, challenged Cole in a telegram: “You have not been a crusader or engaged in an effort to change the customs or laws of the South. That responsibility, newspapers quote you as saying, you leave to the other guys.’ That attack upon you clearly indicates that organized bigotry makes no distinction between those who do not actively challenge racial discrimination and those who do. This is a fight which none of us can escape. We invite you to join us in a crusade against racism.”
Cole’s appearances before all-white audiences, the Chicago Defender charged, were “an insult to his race.” As boycotts of his records and shows were organized, the Amsterdam News claimed that “thousands of Harlem blacks who have worshiped at the shrine of singer Nat King Cole turned their backs on him this week as the noted crooner turned his back on the NAACP and said that he will continue to play to Jim Crow audiences.” To play “Uncle Nat’s” discs, wrote a commentator in The American Negro, “would be supporting his ‘traitor’ ideas and narrow way of thinking.” Deeply hurt by the criticism of the black press, Cole was also suitably chastened. Emphasizing his opposition to racial segregation “in any form,” he agreed to join other entertainers in boycotting segregated venues. He quickly and conspicuously paid $500 to become a life member of the Detroit branch of the NAACP. Until his death in 1965 Cole was an active and visible participant in the civil rights movement, playing an important role in planning the March on Washington in 1963.
Cole sang at the 1956 Republican National Convention in the Cow Palace, San Francisco, California, on August 23, 1956. There, his “singing of ‘That’s All There Is To That’ was greeted with applause.” He was also present at the Democratic National Convention in 1960 to throw his support behind Senator John F. Kennedy. Cole was also among the dozens of entertainers recruited by Frank Sinatra to perform at the Kennedy Inaugural gala in 1961. Cole frequently consulted with President Kennedy (and later President Johnson) on civil rights.
Cole was a heavy smoker throughout his life and rarely seen without a cigarette in his hand. He was a smoker of Kool menthol cigarettes, believing that smoking up to three packs a day gave his voice its rich sound. (Cole would smoke several cigarettes in rapid succession before a recording.) After an operation for stomach ulcers in 1953, he had been advised to stop smoking but did not do so. In December 1964, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He underwent cobalt and radiation therapy and was initially given a positive prognosis. On January 25, he underwent surgery to remove his left lung. Despite medical treatments, he died on February 15, 1965, at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California.
Cole’s funeral was held on February 18 at St. James Episcopal Church on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. His remains were interred inside Freedom Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.
Cole’s last album, L-O-V-E, was recorded in early December 1964—just a few days before he entered the hospital for cancer treatment—and was released just prior to his death. It peaked at #4 on the Billboard Albums chart in the spring of 1965. A “Best Of” album went gold in 1968. His 1957 recording of “When I Fall In Love” reached #4 in the UK charts in 1987.
In 1983, an archivist for EMI Electrola Records, EMI (Capitol’s parent company) Records’ subsidiary in Germany, discovered some songs Cole had recorded but that had never been released, including one in Japanese and another in Spanish (“Tu Eres Tan Amable”). Capitol released them later that year as the LP Unreleased.
In 1991, Mosaic Records released “The Complete Capitol Recordings of the Nat King Cole Trio,” an 18-compact-disc set consisting of 349 songs. (This special compilation also was available as a 27-LP set.)
In the summer of 1991, Natalie Cole and her father had a hit when Natalie’s own newly-recorded voice track was mixed with her father’s 1961 rendition of “Unforgettable” into a new duet version as part of a tribute album to her father’s music. The song and album of the same name won seven Grammy awards in 1992.
Cole was inducted into both the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. In 1990, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1997 was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. In 2007, he was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
An official United States postage stamp featuring Cole’s likeness was issued in 1994.
In 2000, Cole was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the major influences on early rock and roll.
Here’s a blogpost kindly shared by the folks at Radio Free Kaslo, a fun, funky Canadian radio program. I’m a fan of the show, and am happy to have given them access to my jazz collection, which apparently is going to be featured in future shows as well.
Today’s Radio Free Kaslo broadcast (Friday, April 12, 2013), features the stunning insights of marketing guru to the stars (and all-around Big Personality) Blair Enns…
… an interview that includes tough, probing questions (like “have you ever caught a fish in Kootenay Lake, and if so, how big?”) with Liberal candidate for the British Columbia legislature Greg Garbula…
… and music from Emmy Lou Harris & Rodney Crowell’s new album…
…as well as a soulful tune from the great Billie Holiday…
… the latter pulled from the extensive Jazz collection of author Jess Waid (The Mike Montego Series and the forthcoming He Blew Blue Jazz). Many thanks to Jess!
OK: sound good? Then listen in!
I never actually met Sinatra, but I did experience a “drive-by” exchange. While leaving Hollywood High School one afternoon with a gorgeous blonde classmate, I got the “evil eye” from Ol’ Blue Eyes. He was heading west on Selma at Highland Avenue driving a ’54 gray T-bird convertible. I guess he might’ve been jealous. Eat your heart out, Frankie baby.
Francis Albert “Frank” Sinatra, (b. December 12, 1915, d. May 14, 1998) was an American singer and film actor. Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra found unprecedented success as a solo artist from the early to mid-1940s after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the “bobby soxers”, he released his first album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra in 1946. His professional career had stalled by the 1950s, but it was reborn in 1953 after he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in From Here to Eternity.
He signed with Capitol Records in 1953 and released several critically lauded albums (such as In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers!, Come Fly with Me, Only the Lonely and Nice ‘n’ Easy). Sinatra left Capitol to found his own record label, Reprise Records in 1961 (finding success with albums such as Ring-a-Ding-Ding!, Sinatra at the Sands and Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim), toured internationally, was a founding member of the Rat Pack and fraternized with celebrities and statesmen, including John F. Kennedy. Sinatra turned 50 in 1965, recorded the retrospective September of My Years, starred in the Emmy-winning television special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music, and scored hits with “Strangers in the Night” and “My Way”.
With sales of his music dwindling and after appearing in several poorly received films, Sinatra retired for the first time in 1971. Two years later, however, he came out of retirement and in 1973 recorded several albums, scoring a Top 40 hit with “(Theme From) New York, New York” in 1980. Using his Las Vegas shows as a home base, he toured both within the United States and internationally, until a short time before his death in 1998.
Sinatra also forged a highly successful career as a film actor. After winning Best Supporting Actor in 1953, he also garnered a nomination for Best Actor for The Man with the Golden Arm, and critical acclaim for his performance in The Manchurian Candidate. He also starred in such musicals as High Society, Pal Joey, Guys and Dolls and On the Town. Sinatra was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1983 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1985 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1997. Sinatra was also the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Trustees Award, Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.