Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Ruth Lyons for Ocean Spray on WLW c. 1963

I recently got this old poster that advertises Ruth Lyons' WLW Cincinnati television and radio show, The 50/50 Club, as well as one of her sponsors, Ocean Spray, which has a facility in Cincinnati. I assume that the poster was created to hang in grocery stores.

Lyons was such a pioneer of women's talk television that a 2009 book credits her with creating talk television (Before Oprah: Ruth Lyons, the Woman Who Created Talk TV). Lyons' show debuted in 1949 and ran until 1967, when she retired and handed over the reins to Bob Braun, whose discography was previously published here on The Music Weird.

Lyons' show featured a number of local and national celebrities, including Bonnie Lou of "Tennessee Wig Walk" fame and Ruby Wright of "Let's Light the Christmas Tree" and "Three Stars" fame, and also produced some ensemble Christmas albums such as this and this.

1959 newspaper ad for a Ruth Lyons grocery contest at Kroger
For at least some of its run, Lyons' television show was simulcast on WLW AM. Like Braun's later show and fellow Cincinnati host Paul Dixon's show, Lyons performed the product pitches for her sponsors instead of running prerecorded commercials, and her show was such an effective advertising medium that the trivia section on its IMDb page says:
The show was ... a powerful outlet for advertisers; potential sponsors had a one year waiting period before there were openings for their commercials to be able to be scheduled. The mention of a product name on the program meant stores would quickly be sold out of the item.
After getting this poster, I tried to pinpoint when it was made beyond my guesstimate of the early '60s.

According to old issues of Product News and Product Marketing magazines, the low-calorie variety of Ocean Spray cranberry juice cocktail—which is featured alongside the regular stuff on the poster above—was already available in 1964, but I don't know when it was introduced.

The photo of Lyons on the poster was also used in this 1963 newspaper advertisement on the right, so I'm guessing that the poster dates from that time.

Lyons is still fondly remembered in the Cincinnati area. In 2011, a DVD with a documentary about Lyons' show and a bonus CD of songs from her show was released and became a big seller locally. The documentary won six Emmy Awards, the first pressing sold out in 10 days, and a 2013 news article said that sales of the DVD, which is now out of print, raised $75,000 to buy gifts for hospitalized children. 

Bob Braun was also involved in this charity program to buy Christmas toys for hospitalized children, and yours truly was a beneficiary as a child. As of late 2019, the documentary is still airing on television in the Cincinatti area, 

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Uncle Ezra's 1937 Alka-Seltzer Songbook

Uncle Ezra, a character created and played by Patrick Barrett, was a popular personality on the WLS National Barn Dance out of Chicago. Alka-Seltzer, a sponsor of the show, published this songbook—reproduced below in its entirety—in 1937. 

In addition to Ezra, the songbook spotlights Henry Burr, Lulu Belle and Scotty, the Maple City Four, Sally Foster, Joe Kelly, the Hoosier Hot Shots, and Lucille LongUncle Ezra was a rustic humorist rather than a singer, but he nevertheless recorded one record with the Hoosier Hot Shots in 1935 and was the subject of a few songs, at least one of which he cowrote

The songs in the songbook that are associated with Ezra don't appear to have been recorded commercially; "Give Me a Toot on the Tooter, Tommy," which Ezra cowrote, echoes one of Ezra's catchphrases, and "Uncle Ezra Please Slow Down" is about the Uncle Ezra character. A transcription recording of "Give Me a Toot on the Tooter, Tommy" can be heard below.

The booklet invites readers to write to Miles Laboratories (the maker of Alka-Seltzer at that time) in Elkhart, Indiana, to obtain free additional copies of the booklet "for social gatherings, church affairs, banquets, etc." Miles Laboratories was willing to give these away for free because of the heavy advertising content; the booklet contains an ad for a Miles Laboratories product on every other page.

Click on the images below to see larger versions.

Popular Songs of Henry Burr
Favorite Songs of Lulu Belle and Scotty
Favorite Songs of the Maple City Four
Favorite Songs of Uncle Ezra
Favorite Songs of Sally Foster
Popular Songs of Joe Kelly
Popular Songs of the Hoosier Hot Shots
Favorite Songs of Lucille Long