Arthur Godfrey : biography
Godfrey made such an impression on the air that CBS gave him his own morning time slot on the nationwide network. Arthur Godfrey Time was a Monday-Friday show that featured his monologues, interviews with various stars, music from his own in-house combo and regular vocalists. Godfrey’s monologues and discussions were usually unscripted, and went wherever he chose. "Arthur Godfrey Time" remained a late morning staple on the CBS Radio Network schedule until 1972.
However, two pre-written radio monologs proved to be audience favorites and were rebroadcast on several occasions by popular demand, and again later on his television show. They were "What is a Boy?" and a follow-up, "What is a Girl?" With the skilled addition of sentimental music, both monologs captured very well the essence of what made parents love their children, fondly describing the highly varied personality traits of each child as the monolog progressed. Each monolog struck a heartfelt chord with everyone who heard it. "What is a boy?" in particular proved to be so popular that it was released as one of Godfrey’s records, which he issued on Columbia Records (Record no. 39487) in the summer of 1951, with "What is a Girl?" on the b-side of the record. It peaked on the billboard charts in August 1951, one of several successful records Godfrey released between 1947 and 1952.
In 1947, Godfrey had a surprise hit record with the novelty "Too Fat Polka (She’s Too Fat For Me)" written by Ross MacLean and Arthur Richardson. The song’s popularity led to the Andrews Sisters recording a version adapted to the women’s point-of-view. Godfrey’s morning show was supplemented by a primetime variety show, Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, broadcasting from the CBS Studio Building at 49 East 52nd Street where he had his main office. This variety show, a showcase for rising young performers, was a slight variation of CBS’s successful Original Amateur Hour. Some of the performers had made public appearances in their home towns and were recommended to Godfrey by friends or colleagues. These "sponsors" would accompany the performers to the broadcast and introduce them to Godfrey on the air. Two acts from the same 1948 broadcast were Wally Cox and The Chordettes. Both were big hits that night, and both were signed to recording contracts. Godfrey took special interest in The Chordettes, who sang his kind of barbershop-quartet harmony, and he soon made them part of his broadcasting and recording "family."
Performers who appeared on Talent Scouts included Lenny Bruce, Don Adams, Tony Bennett, Patsy Cline, Pat Boone, opera singer Marilyn Horne, Roy Clark, and Irish vocalist Carmel Quinn. Later, he promoted "Little Godfrey" Janette Davis to a management position as the show’s talent coordinator. Three notable acts rejected for the show were Elvis Presley, Sonny Till & The Orioles, and The Four Freshmen. Following his appearances on the Louisiana Hayride, Presley traveled to New York for an unsuccessful Talent Scouts audition in April 1955; after the Talent Scouts staff rejected The Orioles, they went on to have a hit record with "Crying in the Chapel" and kicked off the "bird group" trend of early rock ‘n’ roll.
Godfrey was also an avid amateur radio operator, with the station call sign K4LIB. He was a member of the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in the radio division.
Behind the scenes
Behind Godfrey’s on-air warmth was a volatile and controlling personality. He insisted that his "Little Godfreys" attend dance and singing classes, believing all should be versatile performers regardless of whether they possessed the aptitude for those disciplines. In meetings with the cast and his staff, he could be abusive and intimidating. CBS historian Robert Metz, in CBS: Reflections in a Bloodshot Eye, quoted Godfrey as having once told cast and staffers, "Remember that many of you are here over the bodies I have personally slain. I have done it before and I can do it again." In spite of his ability to bring in profits, CBS executives who respected Godfrey professionally were not fond of him personally, since he often baited them on and off the air.