Command Performance (radio)
- Not to be confused with Royal Variety Performance, which is often called the Command Performance, and Royal Command Performance.
Command Performance is a radio program which originally aired between 1942 and 1949. The program was broadcast on the Armed Forces Radio Network (AFRS) with a direct shortwave transmission to the troops overseas. It was not broadcast over domestic U.S. radio stations.
The program was produced before an audience in the Vine Street Playhouse in Hollywood, California, and recorded via electrical transcription. The weekly listening audience of military personnel was estimated at 95.5 million.
Troops sent in requests for a particular performer or program to appear, and they also suggested unusual ideas for music and sketches on the program, such as Ann Miller tap dancing in military boots. Top performers of the day appeared, including Jack Benny, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Fred Allen, Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland and The Andrews Sisters.
An article in a 1943 issue of Tune In magazine estimated the value of the talent appearing on Command Performance as follows: "Presented by a commercial sponsor, 'Command Performance' would have a weekly talent cost of $50,000. For Uncle Sam, there are no charges."
The final episode of Command Performance -- the 415th in the series -- was produced in December 1949. The program was one of nine AFRS shows that were ended as a result of a budget cut by the Secretary of Defense.
Dick Tracy in B Flat
One memorable program, a 55-minute musical adaptation of Dick Tracy, was broadcast on February 15, 1945. Bing Crosby had the title role in Dick Tracy in B Flat with Dinah Shore as Tess Truehart and Jimmy Durante as the Mole. The supporting cast included Judy Garland, Cass Daley, Frank Sinatra, Frank Morgan, Bob Hope, Harry von Zell, Jerry Colonna, Lou Crosby, the Andrews Sisters and the Joe Lilley Chorus.
The program generally ran for 30 minutes outside of holiday and other specials, continuing well after WWII for a total of more than 400 programs.
A spinoff series, Request Performance, aired on CBS in 1945-46.
In 2009, the Pentagon Channel revived the show with some of today's newest acts.
Similar radio programs
The AFRS produced several similar radio music and variety programs during WWII including the following.
- Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs: Command Performance.
- Command Performance in The Internet Archive's Old-Time Radio Collection
- Pentagon Channel: Command Performance
- New York Public Library: AFRS collection
- Library of Congress essay on episode added to the National Recording Registry.
- "Strictly G.I." -- a filmed episode of Command Perfance from archive.org
- Zoot Radio, free old time radio shoe downloads of 'Command Performance.'