Dave Garroway  - Epitomized the 1950s mainstream.
Dave Garroway – Epitomized the 1950s mainstream.

Click on the link here for Audio Player – NBC Radio – Sunday With Garroway – Hour 1 – May 2, 1954 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection
Click on the link here for Audio Player – NBC Radio – Sunday With Garroway – Hour 2 – May 2, 1954 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

As a companion piece to yesterday’s Red, Hot and Blue from Dewey Phillips, here is an example of what was going on in mainstream American radio in the 1950s. Dave Garroway was the epitome of the low-key, folksy approach to the radio personality. A direct contrast to Dewey Phillips, but a telling sign as to just how wide the gap was, even in the listening patterns of American Youth at the time.

In 1950, when the Phillips Program was broadcast, mainstream Radio was still the domain of the networks, and the transition of many programs from radio to Television was just getting underway. By 1954, when the Garroway Program was broadcast, Radio was floundering, the mass audiences was leaving in droves, and yet still resistant to the big changes taking place in American society. As you’ll notice during the newscast, there are reports about the impending loss by the French at Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam. And the other major news was regarding the McCarthy hearings – another big issue at the time, and one which would shortly signal a beginning of the end to the McCarthy era.

At the time of this broadcast, May 2, 1954, ripples were starting to appear on the seemingly calm waters of American Popular Culture, but mainstream radio wasn’t about to respond. That wouldn’t begin to happen for at least another year – by that time it was too late. The independent stations rose to power and the dominance of Network Radio, slow to change and slower to react to audience trends, was left as a sort of struggling afterthought.

Dave Garroway continued as the epitome of American Folksy. He became the face of NBC Television‘s Today Show, holding court until 1961, while still maintaining a presence on radio as one of the founding personalities of Monitor, an adventuresome programming idea from NBC, designed to recapture the dwindling audience, starting in June of 1955.

But Sunday With Garroway in 1954 is an interesting curio of another time – a time that bears no resemblance to anything now, except perhaps the resemblance of the Zsa Zsa Gabor/Porfirio Rubirosa scandal to the goings on of any one of a number of pre-fab Reality Show hysterics.

For all its intent – the corniness, the cringe-inducing Pop Music of the time, there were stabs at introducing elements to stimulate curiosity (interviews with Gene Krupa, Professor Gilbert Murray – Professor of Classical Studies at Oxford University, a portion of an address by Admiral Lewis Strauss of The Atomic Energy Commission), and those elements were what Network radio excelled in. Those, unfortunately, bear no resemblance to mainstream radio today.

In 1954 though, this is what you heard throughout most of the country and this was what the mainstream sounded like,  two hours of Dave Garroway, as it was first heard on a typical Sunday evening in May of 1954, sixty years ago.


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