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IT’S DIFFICULT FOR ME to imagine 1943, what with having been less than a year old for most of that year. However, through the wonders of Sirius XM “Radio Classics,” I recently enjoyed Your Hit Parade, December 18, 1943, with girls all screaming as Frank Sinatra sang “Pistol Packing Mama.” Not exactly a memorable bit of the American Song Book, but it was No. 5 among that week’s “most heard on the air and most played on the automatic coin machines, an accurate, authentic tabulation of America’s taste in popular music.”
Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits about this radio (and later television) program, its talented performers, its sponsor, and its listeners.
The Format. According to John Dunning’s The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio, 1998, “In those days before disc jockeys, Your Hit Parade was the final word in popular music…. People who gathered at radios and cheered on the winner winced a week later when their favorite fell from grace. Hardly anyone disputed the tabulation, except at one point, some disgruntled tunesmiths of Tin Pan Alley.”
Sinatramania. When Frank Sinatra joined Your Hit Parade on January 6, 1943, the program was almost eight years old and the 27-year-old singer was already provoking Sinatramania among his bobby soxer fans.
Lucky Strike Sponsorship. As noted by Wikipedia, the program’s predecessor was devised in 1928 “by American Tobacco’s George W. Hill, an attempt to popularize the consumption of tobacco products, which were increasingly used by young people and women. For the latter demographic group, the company also launched the slogan ‘Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet’ at the same time.”
“Lucky Strike Green Has Gone to War.” Another Lucky Strike tidbit from Wikipedia: “The brand’s signature dark-green pack was changed to white in 1942. In a famous advertising campaign that used the slogan ‘Lucky Strike Green has gone to war,’ the company claimed the change was made because the copper used in the green color was needed for World War II. American Tobacco actually used chromium to produce the green ink, and copper to produce the gold-colored trim.”
Wikipedia offers another thesis: “Famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy was challenged by company president George Washington Hill to improve the existing green and red package, with a $50,000 bet at stake. Loewy changed the background from green to white, making it more attractive to women, as well as cutting printing costs by eliminating the need for green dye. He also placed the Lucky Strike target logo on both sides of the package, a move that increased both visibility and sales. Hill paid off the bet.”
Sinatra’s Revolving Door. Frank Sinatra continued to delight screaming bobby soxers into 1945, but not without controversy with American Tobacco sponsors. Wikipedia notes, “By 1944 however, Sinatra’s move to Hollywood led to a conflict with American Tobacco as it determined that the singer was the one to pay the production costs (including the telephone hook-up to New York) and was fired for messing up the No. 1 song, “Don’t Fence Me In” by interjecting a mumble to the effect that the song had too many words and missing a cue. An Armed Forces Radio Service transcription survives of this show. As Sinatra zoomed in popularity, he was rehired, returning (1947–49) to co-star with Doris Day.”
Check out the “Don’t Fence Me In” link for amplification on this bit of Sinatramania.
Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll continue enjoying Your Hit Parade, including its fostering on-the-road family song fests. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022