As you all know, music is one of the forces in my life that has always kept me young and active. Over twenty five years in radio and then running my own talent management firm, I have been blessed to work with many top names in rock and roll and country from back in the day and cherish those memories. This past Sunday I had on the 50’s channel on Sirius radio and Pat Boone was hosting the hour and his theme for the hour gave me the idea for this week’s “Art’s World”.
He mentioned that today we have shows like American Idol, The Voice and America’s Got Talent, etc. that can bring undiscovered singers to the big stage and help forge successful careers. But back in the early 1950’s the only way new talent got discovered was either by radio’s “Amateur Hour” hosted by Ted Mack or “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” on CBS-TV. Boone recalled his own experience on Godfrey’s Talent Scouts show as a winner and then an extended stay on Godfrey’s daily morning TV show. That all led to Pat Boone signing with Dot Records and going on to become a teen idol. Then during that hour, Boone went on to play records from the 50’s that were done by popular singers who got their big break with Godfrey, and it is quite a list of names. He had some cute anecdotes about each of the singers and how these stints with Godfrey led to their success.
As for who some of that talent aside from Boone, there was Patsy Cline and after several appearances with Godfrey she was signed by Decca Records and would go on to become one of country music’s top female performers of all time, a member of the Grand Ole Opry, inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame and so much more that would come her way both in life and after her untimely death.
There was a very young Steve Lawrence who debuted on the Godfrey show and immediately was a hit with the ladies. Steve’s success path was under way with Godfrey but really took off when he joined the Tonight Show with Steve Allen. Here he would also meet his future wife, singer Eydie Gorme.
Another future star who got her start with Godfrey was a young teen singer and accordion player from New Jersey, Connie Francis. She not only impressed the audience but Godfrey as well and she spent some time on his show. That would lead to her signing with MGM Records and becoming one of the rock and roll era’s top female performers. Why she is still not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a mystery.
There were two female groups that made their mark on the Godfrey show, the McGuire Sisters and the Chordettes. Both groups had lucrative record deals with Coral Records and Cadence Records respectively each with several Top 10 hits along the way. While Chordettes preferred to keep it low key and pretty much confined themselves to the Godfrey show, the McGuire Sisters became a big Las Vegas act and touring show.
Then of course , there was Julius LaRosa, personally discovered and hand picked by Godfrey. The good looking Italian had a great voice, the ladies adored him and he became a staple of the Godfrey show and had a number of hit records. But when he decided to go outside the Godfrey “family” for an agent, Godfrey fired him live on air during the TV show and it became big news for weeks.
It also exposed some of the dirty dealings that took place with Godfrey and the power he wielded back then with not only performers, but the CBS Network and the TV world in general. He was really not the nice, homey, friendly man you saw on TV every day. The way he operated in those early days of television would not work at all in today’s world. Yet, despite all that back then, Arthur Godfrey was responsible for many future stars and their success and being able to go their own way in various channels of entertainment. He was also responsible for the talk show/entertainment package that would be adopted by the late night talk shows that would come along in the 50’s and become a staple of late night TV.
So, these days when you look at shows like The Voice, American Idol, AGT and others, as well as the late night shows, you have to give a nod of thanks to “the ol’ redhead” Arthur Godfrey for setting it all in motion.
Art Koch, National Features & DVD Editor, NightMoves Magazine and AAN