Lum and Abner

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Chester Lauck and Norris Goff as Lum and Abner in 1949.

Lum and Abner was an American network radio comedy program created by Chester Lauck and Norris Goff that was aired from 1931 to 1954. Modeled on life in the small town of Waters, Arkansas, near where Lauck and Goff grew up, the show proved immensely popular. In 1936, Waters changed its name to Pine Ridge after the show's fictional town.[1]

Jot 'em Down Store[edit]

Created by co-stars Chester Lauck (who played Columbus Edwards, albeit he called himself "Lum Eddards") and Norris Goff (Abner Peabody), Lum and Abner was as low-key as Easy Aces, as cheerfully absurdist as Vic and Sade, and exaggerated The Goldbergs' ethnic focus by amplifying the protagonists' regional identities. As co-owners of the Jot 'em Down Store in the fictional town of Pine Ridge, Arkansas, the pair are constantly stumbling upon moneymaking ideas only to find themselves fleeced by nemesis Squire Skimp, before finally finding a way to redeem themselves. Lum and Abner played the hillbilly theme with deceptive cleverness. The hillbillies knew that the slickers would get what was coming to them sooner or later and either didn't mind or knew more than they let on that the slickers getting theirs was a matter of fortunate circumstance.[clarification needed]

In addition to the title characters, Lauck also played Grandpappy Spears and Cedric Weehunt while Goff played Abner, Squire Skimp, Llewelyn "Mousey" Grey, Dick Huddleston, and most of the other characters.

Show history[edit]

Lauck and Goff had known each other since childhood and attended the University of Arkansas together where they both joined the Sigma Chi Fraternity. They performed locally and established a blackface act which led to an audition at radio station KTHS in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Prior to the audition, the two men decided to change their act and portray two hillbillies, due to the large number of blackface acts already in existence. After only a few shows in Hot Springs, they were picked up nationally by NBC, and Lum and Abner, sponsored by Quaker Oats, ran until 1932. Lauck and Goff performed several different characters, modeling many of them on the real-life residents of Waters, Arkansas.

Lumabner.jpg

When the Quaker contract expired, Lauck and Goff continued to broadcast on two Texas stations, WBAP (Fort Worth) and WFAA (Dallas). In 1933, The Ford Dealers of America became their sponsor for approximately a year. Horlick's Malted Milk, the 1934–37 sponsor, offered a number of promotional items, including almanacs and fictional Pine Ridge newspapers. During this period, the show was broadcast on Chicago's WGN (AM), one of the founding members of the Mutual Broadcasting System. In 1936, Dick Huddleston of Waters petitioned the United States Post Office to changed the town's name to Pine Ridge.[2] Postum cereal sponsored Lum and Abner in 1938–40, before Alka-Seltzer picked up the duo. Miles Laboratories, manufacturers of Alka-Seltzer and One-A-Day Vitamins, became the longest-running sponsor, backing the program from 1941 until 1948. Over the course of its life, Lum and Abner appeared on the two other major radio networks in addition to NBC and Mutual: CBS and ABC (formerly NBC Blue), .

In 1948, the show changed from a 15-minute "comedic soap opera" to a 30-minute self-contained show. New writers were added, including Flying Tiger ace Robert T. Smith, along with an orchestra and a live audience. The new format was unpopular and the series came off the air in 1950. Lauck and Goff experimented with other formats during the hiatus, finally changing back to the original format in 1953, but the revived show was discontinued the following year due to competition from television and Goff's failing health.

Episode status[edit]

The team broadcast more than 5,000 shows, of which over 1,630 episodes exist today. The archive is extensive between 1935 and 1948. As with most old-time radio shows, very little pre-1935 content (in this case, two episodes) survived to the present day. Only a handful of post-1948 programs, and none of the 1953-54 revival, have survived; whatever recordings of those shows are believed to have been destroyed.

Films[edit]

Chester Lauck and Norris Goff brought their radio characters to movie theaters with Dreaming Out Loud (1940).

Like several of their contemporaries, Lauck and Goff had the opportunity to bring their characters to life in movies. The Lum & Abner radio show of March 29, 1940, "The Store Closes to Shoot a Movie," announced a break in the radio series in order to make the first film of the series, Dreaming Out Loud, which was released the same year. Six other films were later produced, the last being Lum and Abner Abroad (1956). This last film, shot in Yugoslavia were originally meant as three episodes of a television pilot but as the series wasn't picked up it was released theatrically.

Legacy[edit]

As well as inspiring the program and its characters, Pine Ridge is also home to the Lum and Abner Museum, which opened in the 1970s and currently features on the National Register of Historic Places.[3] A replica of the Jot 'em Down Store stands adjacent to the Museum.

The National Lum and Abner Society[edit]

The National Lum and Abner Society, formed in 1984, published a bimonthly newsletter, The Jot 'Em Down Journal, until 2007. Between 1985 and 2005 the organization held 20 annual conventions (skipping 2004) in Pine Ridge and Mena, Arkansas, playing host to numerous veterans of the Lum and Abner radio programs and motion pictures. Since 2007, the NLAS has existed as an organization with free membership with its Jot 'Em Down Journal transferred to the NLAS website. Founding officers Sam Brown, Tim Hollis, and Donnie Pitchford have remained connected to the organization since the beginning.

NLAS Convention guest stars included radio-television-cinema veterans Roswell Rogers, Clarence Hartzell, Jerry Hausner, Elmore Vincent, Wendell Niles, Bobs Watson, Les Tremayne, Louise Currie, Willard Waterman, Parley Baer, Cathy Lee Crosby, Forrest Owen, Mary Lee Robb, Kay Linaker, Frank Bresee, Fred Foy, Barbara Fuller, Sam Edwards, Dick Beals, Rhoda Williams, Robie Lester, Ginny Tyler, Nancy Wible, and Dallas McKennon. Additionally, various family members and personal friends of Chester Lauck and Norris Goff were present.

The first NLAS "Reunion" took place in June 2011 as part of the annual Lum and Abner Festival in Mena, Arkansas to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the Lum and Abner show as well as the 75th anniversary of the changing of the name of Waters, Arkansas to Pine Ridge. The NLAS has released the first three CD volumes of Audio Jot 'Em Down Journals for blind members, working through the Helping Hands for the Blind organization in California. These contains readings of the 1984-89 printed issues of The Jot 'Em Down Journal. A fourth volume is on hold at present.

Currently there is talk of a possible NLAS event in Mena, Arkansas planned for 2014.

Lum and Abner comic strip[edit]

The "Lum and Abner" comic strip is home-based at a new site, Lum and Abner Comic Strip. The third year commenced with strip and audio #105 on Sunday, June 3, 2013.

Each strip is accompanied by an audio dramatization with voices, sound effects and music, a feature designed with blind fans of "old time radio" in mind, but one that any reader may access.

The project began early in 2011, when negotiations between Ethan C. Nobles of www.firstarkansasnews.net, the Chester Lauck family and cartoonist Donnie Pitchford resulted in a new comic strip series based on the classic radio programs and its characters. Beginning June 5, 2011, "Lum and Abner" officially began appearing at http://firstarkansasnews.net in a "Sunday strip" format with a new installment each Sunday. Readers may sign up for a free e-mail subscription by visiting GoComics. The comic strip made its newspaper debut in "The Mena Star" of Mena, Arkansas on Thursday, July 28, 2011. It has since been signed by two more Arkansas papers, "The Saline Courier" of Benton and "The Standard" of Amity.

In April 2013, radio producer Joe Bevilacqua entered into an agreement with Donnie Pitchford to broadcast the Lum and Abner comics as part of his weekly radio show The Comedy-O-Rama Hour. The first two Lum and Abner radio comics premiered Saturday, April 13, 2013, at 2:30 pm ET.

The success of these broadcasts prompted the release of 100 All New “Lum & Abner” Comic Strips audiobook written and directed by Donnie Pitchford, produced by Donnie Pitchford and Joe Bevilacqua, featuring Donnie Pitchford and a full cast. The three hour long audio theater is available from Waterlogg Productions and Blackstone Audio.

Lum and Abner, the classic American network radio comedy show, was created by Chester Lauck and Norris Goff and aired from 1931 to 1954. For first time since 1954, veteran radio theater producer Joe Bevilacqua and comic strip artist Donnie Pitchford bring you one hundred new “Lum and Abner” audio comic strips! These hilarious comedy shorts are written, produced, and directed by Donnie Pitchford, with great love for the original, and feature old-time radio style music and sound effects, original scripts, plus a series of new stories based on 1936 “Lum and Abner” radio scripts by Chester Lauck and Norris Goff.

The cast includes: Donnie Pitchford as Abner, Lum, Cedric, Grandpap, Dick, Squire, Mousey, Snake, narrator, and other characters Tim Hollis as Lum, Cedric, Grandpap, Cousin Cliff Sam Brown as Dick and narrator Daron McDaniel as Washington Kyle Cage as Jimmy Nicola Cuti as Captain Cosmos Laura Pitchford as Evalena Schulz and Lizabeth Special guest star: Kay Linaker Sound effects by Sam Brown Vintage music performed by Ralph Waldo Emerson II, Elsie Mae Emerson, and Chris McPherson Original Music composed and performed by Mark Ridgeway

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