Classic Television: Amos and Andy

Amos and Andy originated on radio station WMAQ in Chicago, Illinois in 1928. Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, were two white men were the voices of the black characters on the radio show. The show was first heard as a serial, then became a situation comedy and would later become a disc jockey show during the waning years of old-time radio. They were heard on radio for 32 years.

Alvin Childress 1907-1986

Alvin Childress portrayed Amos Jones, a taxicab driver on Amos and Andy. He wasn’t seen nearly as much as Kingfish and Andy who seemed to get the bulk of the airtime in both the radio and television versions.

He was born on September 15, 1907 in Meridian, Mississippi and died on April 19, 1986 in Inglewood, California of Parkinson’s Disease and diabetes.

He worked very hard, much unlike Kingfish and Andy, who seldom were seen working in jobs, during the run of Amos and Andy.

Spencer Williams 1893-1969

Spencer Williams was Andrew H. Brown, but better known as Andy on Amos and Andy and was the gullible foil of the many schemes contrived by the Kingfish. He was born on July 14,1893 in Vidalia, Louisiana and died on December 13, 1969 in Los Angeles, California of kidney ailment.

His most memorable show was the Christmas show, in which he becomes a department store Santa Claus, so that he can buy Arbadella, who was the daughter of Amos a doll for Christmas. The highlight of the show for me was when Amos recites The Lord’s Prayer to Arbadella, before she falls asleep listening to Christmas music.

Williams had never worked in television previously, before appearing on Amos and Andy.

Tim Moore 1887-1958

Tim Moore as the Kingfish may not have had one of the title roles, but his role was central to the success of the show, since he was the center of attention for most of the shows. He was great at coming up with schemes, that relieved Andy of any money he had lying around.

Moore was born December 9, 1887 in Rock Island, Illinois and died on December 13, 1958 in Los Angeles, California.

Tim was a boxer earlier in his career and fought against the great Jack Johnson at least once.

He was famous for lines like “Holy mackerel there Andy” and for selling Andy a house and a lot to put it on. Only problem was that the house was wider than the lot, which caused a unique set of problems. This video of that episode is classic Amos and Andy at its best.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQOtTHmwgm8

Tim’s personal life made the news in March of 1958, when some of his in-laws ate the last of the roast beef. Wikipedia has an extensive entry about the “Roast Beef Scandal”.

Moore married his last wife Vivian (1912–1988) eight months after Benzonia’s death; they had been performing as a comedy team for some time before marrying in 1957.[10][56][57] This marriage won him considerable publicity thanks to the “Roast Beef Scandal” of January 1958. Moore fired a gunshot in his home because of his “mooching in-laws” (stepson, stepdaughter, and her husband) when he found that the last of the New Year’s roast beef had been eaten by them.[44] Moore related, “These free-loaders have eaten everything in the house. My wife protects them and every time we talk about it, we get into an argument. The argument got a little loud and the next thing I knew, the big boy (his stepson Hubbard) jumped out of his chair. I ran upstairs and got out my old pistol. I didn’t want to hit anybody.”[58]

When the police arrived at the home, Moore, pistol still in his belt, told them, “I’m the old Kingfish, boys. I’m the one you want. I fired that shot. I didn’t want to hit anyone, although I could have. Anyway, you should have seen the in-laws scatter when I fired that gun.” [59] The shot Moore fired hit the china cabinet; he was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon, with police calling him the “funniest prisoner in police history.”[58] Moore was initially ordered held on $1,000 bond; the judge changed his mind and released Moore on his own recognizance.[59] Tim and his wife reconciled, with Vivian’s pleading for the charges to be dropped.[60][61] Moore entered a not guilty plea before the case went to trial on 24 March.[62] He received a $100 fine and a year’s probation as his sentence.[63]

When the story broke, local television personality and columnist Paul Coates invited Tim Moore to appear on his KTTV television show; Moore explained the situation in two guest appearances. Coates was promptly taken to task for Moore’s appearances on his show by Stanley Robertson, a journalist for the African-American newspaper, the Los Angeles Sentinel, calling Moore “disgraceful” and labeling the two shows with Moore as “television’s darkest hour.” Coates replied to his critic in his 29 January 1958 Los Angeles Times column, calling Moore “a pretty wonderful, sincere man” and saying he strongly resented Robertson’s attack on him.[59]

Because of the “Roast Beef Scandal,” Moore was once more in demand and even received a testimonial tribute dinner from the Friars Club of Beverly Hills, and appearing on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar.[64] The publicity also won him an extended performance engagement at the prominent Mocambo nightclub.[4]

He died nine months later in December of 1958, when he died of pulmonary tuberculosis.

Amos and Andy Debuts On Television in 1951

There were 78 episodes filmed of Amos and Andy between June of 1951 and April of 1953. It was the first television series to have a African-American cast. The NAACP objected to CBS airing the show and the last show aired in June of 1953, when Blatz Beer the sponsor ended their sponsorship, due to pressure from the NAACP.

The show was seen in syndication until it was pulled off the air completely in 1966 and was not seen again on a national basis until Rejoice TV began airing the shows again nationally from their Houston independent television network.

NAACP objected to the show saying that the show stereotyped blacks in a negative way. However, I have known some black people who loved the show and were not happy, that they couldn’t see the show.

This collection of 74 of the episodes can be found at Amazon.com, with the digitally restored version slightly more expensive. I am not involved in getting any remuneration from the sale of these videos….just letting fans know where they can be found.

http://www.amazon.com/AMOS-ANDY-Shows-DIGITALLY-RESTORED/dp/B004I1BEHU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1374076863&sr=8-2&keywords=amos+and+andy+dvds

Anyone interested in listening to the 380 available old-time radio episodes of Amos and Andy can find them here on 4 MP3 CD’s.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/OLD-TIME-RADIO-Amos-And-Andy-380-Eps-On-4-MP3-CDs-I-OTR-/231012193567?pt=Music_CDs&hash=item35c966551f

218 episodes of the radio version can be heard for free at this website:

http://otr.net/?p=amnd

 

 

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Old Time Radio: Amos and Andy

 

Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll reading the script for the popular Amos and Andy radio program on NBC.

Amos and Andy was one of the most popular shows in old time radio history.

The show evolved from the Sam N’ Henry show broadcast in 1926 and Correll and Gosden decided to produce a similar show named Amos and Andy which started broadcasting in 1928.

It was the first radio program to be syndicated and was being broadcast across the United States despite the shows being locally recorded in Chicago on radio station WMAQ.

John Dunning wrote in his On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio that Amos and Andy may have been the most popular show in radio history.

Charles Correll portrayed Amos on the broadcasts while Freeman Gosden did he voices of  Andy and Kingfish.

The show was broadcast on radio from March 19, 1928 till November 25, 1960 with the last shows having the characters being disc jockeys in the last six years of the series.

Movie houses would stop the movie in 1931 and broadcast the Amos and Andy show that night to the patrons of the theater to keep them from staying home to listen to the show on the radio.

Correll and Gosden made a point not to look at each other during the broadcasts to keep from breaking into laughter.

Dunning relates that writer George Bernard Shaw says there were three things he would remember about the United States – Rocky Mountains, Niagara Fall and Amos and Andy.

Freeman and Gosden were criticized by the media for their portrayal of blacks.

The television version of the show was my favorite version but listening to the few copies of the radio version still left in circulation made me realize the radio show was just as funny without the pictures.

NAACP charged that the television program was mocking the black community and CBS was forced to take the show off the air.

It is sad that after 32 years of being broadcast on radio that only about 350 shows can be heard today with the rest of the shows meeting an unknown fate.

Otr.net has 219 shows available to listen to for free. Show No. 158 is the best show of all Amos and Andy shows I have heard and became a Christmas tradition.

http://otr.net/?p=amnd