Bob Emery (broadcaster)

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Big Brother Bob Emery
Photo of a young white man in 1920s outfit holding a banjo in front of a 1920s style radio microphone
Emery at WGI in 1924
Born Clair Robert Emory[1]
(1897-08-12)August 12, 1897
Abington, Massachusetts
Died July 18, 1982(1982-07-18) (aged 84)
Newton, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Occupation Broadcaster
Known for Small Fry Club

Clair Robert "Bob" Emery (1897–1982), known professionally as Big Brother Bob Emery, was a radio and television pioneer and children's show host. He is best known for his pioneer late-1940s network television show, Small Fry Club, and for his long career as a local broadcaster in Boston before and after that.

Early life and career[edit]

Emery was born on August 12, 1897[2] in Abington, Massachusetts. His father James was a farmer, and he was sent to the Farm and Trade School on Thompson's Island, from which he graduated in 1912. He then attended North Abington High School, but did not graduate. [3]

In early 1924, Emery started at radio station WGI in Medford Hillside, Massachusetts, which had been one of the first American radio stations to broadcast regular programming (in 1919, under the callsign 1XE). Emery was a singer and announcer (identifying himself on the air by his initials "CRE", a holdover from ham radio common in early commercial radio) there, then began doing a children's show. In 1924, nearly every radio station had a man or woman who told bed-time stories to the kids, and Boston radio had several. Bob Emery would become the best known, going on to a career in both radio and TV that lasted from the early 1920s till he retired in the late 1960s. When Emery first put the show on the air, it was known as the "Big Brother Club" (this was long before the 1949 publication of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four which lent a sinister cast to the term "Big Brother"; the meaning then was just an affectionate older mentor).

WGI was undergoing financial difficulties (it folded in 1925), so in late September 1924 Emery moved to a new Boston station, WEEI, owned by the Edison Electric Illuminating Company. He did his show there from late September 1924 until the early 1930s.

New York career[edit]

Small Fry Club
Also known as Movies for Small Fry
Genre Children's
Presented by Bob Emery
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
Running time 30 minutes
Original network DuMont
Picture format Black-and-white
Audio format Monaural
Original release March 11, 1947 – June 15, 1951

in the early 1930s, Emery took a radio job in New York City, first working for NBC and then working at several local stations in New York.

He then hosted Small Fry Club[notes 1] (also known as Movies for Small Fry), one of the earliest TV series made for children, on the DuMont Television Network. Emery continued to use "Big Brother Bob Emery" as his stage name in the show.[4]

Small Fry Club aired from March 11, 1947 to June 15, 1951. It originally aired weekly, but soon expanded to five days a week, airing Monday through Friday at 7pm ET. According to television historians Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, the show was possibly the first television series to air five days per week.[5]

This weekday series was one of the few successful series on DuMont, and aired in the evenings for more than four seasons before it was cancelled in 1951.[6]

A recording of part of one episode is known to exist at the Paley Center for Media.[4]

Back in Boston[edit]

After Small Fry Club was cancelled, Emery returned to Boston and continued to do versions of the show on WBZ-TV, still under the title Small Fry Club, until his retirement in January 1968.

Emery ran a show that was both entertaining and educational, with segments about current events, literature, travel, music, and ethics (good manners, being respectful to others, etc.). He sang and played the ukulele or the banjo and had guest performers, as well as interesting speakers who were doing things kids might find exciting. The Big Brother Club had membership cards and an official button (in the shape of a WEEI microphone). Emery also wrote a newspaper column about club activities. WEEI would also sponsor events that Big Brother Club members could attend, including a day at the zoo or a picnic. And while the show had sponsors, Emery was known for caring about kids and not doing an excessive amount of hype.

Emery had several theme songs, one of which was the 1924 song (by Raymond B. Egan and Richard A. Whiting)[7] "The Grass is Always Greener in the Other Fellow's Yard", about being satisfied with what you have and not being envious. He opened his show with this, as well as with a singing jingle about WEEI. His closing song was "So Long Small Fry", written by Bill Wirges[1]

Emery died on July 18, 1982 in Newton, Massachusetts.[2] He was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2010.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Small Fry Club (children, hosted by "Big Brother" Bob Emery)". Classic Themes. Retrieved October 14, 2014. [better source needed]
  2. ^ a b Bob Emery at the Internet Movie Database[better source needed]
  3. ^ Joseph Dinneen. "How Bob Emery Became Big Brother to 12,000 Youngsters." Boston Globe, March 1, 1925, p. E6.
  4. ^ a b "Small Fry Club, The {Segment} (TV)". Paley Center for Media. Retrieved October 13, 2014. 
  5. ^ Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (1964). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows (3rd ed.). New York: Ballantine. p. xiv. ISBN 0-345-31864-1.
  6. ^ Alex McNeil, Total Television. Fourth edition. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-024916-8
  7. ^ Grass Is Always Greener (In the Other Fellow's Yard) at AllMusic
  8. ^ "Claire Robert ("Big Brother Bob") Emery". Massachusetts Broadcaster's Hall of Fame. Retrieved October 14, 2014. 


  1. ^ "Small fry" (originally meaning a small fish) is an American slang expression for "child" or "children".

Further reading[edit]