Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge
Kay Kyser in cap and gown (1942)
|Other names||Kay Kyser's Kampus Klass|
|Country of origin||United States|
|TV adaptations||Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge|
College of Musical Knowledge
|Written by||Fran Coughlin|
|Directed by||Ed Cashman|
|Produced by||Frank O'Connor|
|Original release||February 1, 1939– July 2, 1949|
|Sponsored by||American Tobacco Company|
In the latter half of the 1930s, leaders of big bands sought ways to differentiate their groups from others who played similar music. Successful variations on the standard format of just playing one song after another could quickly move bands from "being merely late-hour fillers" without sponsors to having sponsored broadcasts in better time slots. Tommy Dorsey began featuring amateur musicians, Benny Goodman moved his trio and quartet into the spotlight, and Kay Kyser added a quiz component. Some of the changes were less innovation than adaptation. An article in the trade publication Billboard noted that Dorsey's airing of amateurs followed the example of Major Bowes, and Kyser's contest was a variation on the Professor Quiz program.
Audience participation in the program occurred in two ways. Listeners were invited to submit questions to Kyser, with selected submissions being used on the program. They also could send in answers to questions posed on the air. One episode in December 1937 resulted in more than 2,000 letters being sent to the program. By mid-January 1938, the number of letters from listeners had exceeded 75,000.
Besides Kyser, the show's personnel included singers Trudy Erwin, Julie Conway, Gloria Wood, Lucy Ann Polk, Mike Douglas, Sully Mason, the King Sisters, Georgia Carroll (Kyser's wife), Harry Babbitt and Ginny Simms. Other regulars were pianist Lyman Gandee, trumpeter Bobby Guy, and Merwyn Bogue (better known as Ish Kabibble). Fran Coughlin was the writer. Announcers were Ken Niles, Bud Hiestand, Vern Smith, Bill Forman, and Jack McCoy. Rex Koury was the organist, and Frank O'Connor was the producer. Directors included Ed Cashman, John Cleary, William Warwick, and Harry Sax.
A review in Billboard in 1947 attributed the program's success more to Kyser than to its format. Paul Ackerman wrote: "In fact, the Old Professor's most noteworthy characteristic is ebullience. He's got it to a degree that makes other facets of the program secondary."
Networks and sponsors
On February 1, 1938, Kyser's program gained a sponsor, a network, a new location, and a new title. The American Tobacco Company began sponsoring Kollege, which until then had been a sustaining program. While the program remained on WGN, it was also carried on the Mutual Broadcasting System. At the same time, its site was moved from the Blackhawk to WGN's 600-seat studio. The Chicago Sunday Tribune reported in its January 30, 1938, issue that the show's title would become Kay Kyser's Kampus Klass.
Eight members of the studio audience were selected by random drawing to participate in the quizzes in each broadcast. The grand prize was $50, with another $50 going to other contestants.
The program moved to New York on March 30, 1938, replacing Your Hollywood Parade on NBC. It resumed using the title Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge as it began broadcasting from NBC's Radio City headquarters. Kyser reinforced the theme by wearing a cap and gown during broadcasts. American Tobacco Company continued to sponsor the program until 1945, when a cigarette shortage caused it to cut back on advertising and Colgate-Palmolive became the sponsor. The show's run on NBC ended on June 26, 1948.
Kyser took the program to television on December 1, 1949, on NBC, where it ran weekly until December 28, 1950. The format was essentially the same as that of the radio program, including Kyser's wearing a cap and gown. Kyser, Douglas, and Kabibble were the only entertainers carried over from the radio version. Other regulars were Liza Palmer, Sue Bennett, Diane Sinclair, and Ken Spaulding. Ben Grauer and Roy Marshall were the announcers.
The program returned to TV on July 4, 1954, again on NBC, and ran until September 12, 1954. Tennessee Ernie Ford was the host, and the title used the traditional spelling, College of Musical Knowledge. Frank De Vol's orchestra provided instrumental music, and the Cheerleaders Quintet sang. Jack Narz was the announcer.
- Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 384-385. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3.
- "Evening Dance Hours Improved By Orks' Showmanship Measures" (PDF). Billboard. February 19, 1938. p. 8.
- Wolters, Larry (January 13, 1938). "Our Listening to Radio Cost Billion in '37". Chicago Tribune. Illinois, Chicago. p. 15. Retrieved November 6, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Has Anniversary". Rocky Mount Telegram. North Carolina, Rocky Mount. November 8, 1937. p. 3. Retrieved November 6, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Wolters, Larry (December 19, 1937). "Sponsors Show a Predilection for Air Quizzes". Chicago Tribune. Illinois, Chicago. p. Part 3 - Page 4. Retrieved November 6, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Reinehr, Robert C.; Swartz, Jon D. (2010). The A to Z of Old Time Radio. Scarecrow Press. p. 148. ISBN 9781461672074. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
- "Kyser Kampus Klass Starts on MBS Tuesday". Chicago Tribune. Illinois, Chicago. January 30, 1938. p. 36. Retrieved November 6, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Wolters, Larry (February 26, 1938). "Kyser Will Take Glamor Show's Place on the Air". Chicago Tribune. Illinois, Chicago. p. 18. Retrieved November 6, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Ackerman, Paul (November 15, 1947). "Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge" (PDF). Billboard. p. 14. Retrieved 8 November 2018.
- Wolters, Larry (January 22, 1938). "W-G-N Program Monday to Aid Paralysis Fund". Chicago Tribune. Illinois, Chicago. p. 20. Retrieved November 6, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Kyser to Feature 'Musical Kollege' at Casino Sunday". The Daily Standard. New Jersey, Red Bank. May 25, 1938. p. 20. Retrieved November 7, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Kyser Fate Awaits G.W. Hill; Colgate Offers 10-Yr. Deal" (PDF). Billboard. August 17, 1946. p. 6. Retrieved 8 November 2018.
- McNeil, Alex (1996). Total Television (4th ed.). New York, New York: Penguin Books USA, Inc. p. 172. ISBN 0-14-02-4916-8.
- Books, Tim; Marsh, Earle (1979). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows : 1946 - Present. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 321. ISBN 0-345-25525-9.
- Log of episodes of Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge from Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs
- Log of episodes of Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge from Old Time Radio Researchers Group
- Log of episodes of Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge from radioGOLDINdex
- Scripts of episodes of Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge from Old Time Radio Researchers Group
- Episodes of Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge from Dumb.com
- Episodes of Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge from Old Radio Programs
- 45 episodes from RadioEchoes