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Nelson sang “Silent Night” with Shirley Temple at her radio debut, Christmas Eve, 1939 on Screen Guild Theatre.
Eddy began his more than 600 radio appearances in the mid 1920’s. His first may have been on December 26, 1924 at station WOO in Philadelphia.
Besides his many guest appearances, he hosted “The Voice of Firestone” (1936), Vicks Open House (1936), The Chase & Sanborn Hour (1937-9), and Kraft Music Hall (1947-8). He had his own show on CBS in 1942-3. Eddy frequently used his radio shows to advance the careers of promising young singers.
Eddy’s warm sense of humor spilled over into his radio shows which might feature serious music, but were never straight-laced. It was in a series of comedy routines with Charlie McCarthy on the Chase & Sanborn Hour that Nelson’s name became associated with the song, “Shortnin’ Bread.”
Click here for an extensive list of Nelson’s radio shows.
For an exhaustive list of Nelson’s 600-odd radio appearances, see:
Kiner, Larry, Nelson Eddy: A Bio-Discography, Scarecrow Press, Metuchen, NJ, 1992.
The following list of highlights has been compiled by Anita Derby McCreery
Nelson Eddy’s first known radio broadcast was for station WOO, Philadelphia, on Friday, December 26, 1924 when he was twenty-three years old.
He sang again on October 3, 1925 at an event called the Radio Exposition. Station WIP took over the Exposition’s studio to present seven opera arias sung by members of the Philadelphia Civic Opera Company of which Nelson was a member.
He appeared on the Newton Coal Hour twice in 1927 and once in 1928. There were several other special radio recitals. He appeared several times in 1929 and at least five times in 1930.
In February and again in October 1931, he sang on both the Dutch Masters and Congress Cigars programs.
In July 1932, he began a weekly program called the Hoffman Variety Hour which ran through the summer and fall of that year.
On January 5, 1933, Eddy appeared in a radio production of Jerome Kern’s Showboat on NBC, with the original Broadway Captain Andy, Charles Winninger; Lanny Ross; Mabel Jackson; Annette Hanshaw; Malone & Padgett (“Pic & Pat”); the Hall Johnson Choir; and Jules Bledsoe, the original Jim. (Nelson’s contribution is uncertain. Since Lanny Ross undoubtedly took the tenor rôle of Ravenal, and Winninger and Bledsoe account for Captain Andy and Jim, Eddy may have sung the comedic part of Frank, originated on Broadway by Sammy White.
Early 1933 also found him on the Socony-Vacuum Show on CBS with Harry Von Zell, and, on March, 31, performing the rôle of Gurnemanz in Parsifal, conducted by Stokowski, with Rose Bampton, Robert Steel, Dudley Marwick, Alexis Tcherkassky, and Leonard Treash.
By this time he had signed a movie contract with MGM and was in Hollywood.
In March 1934, he appeared on the Ford Sunday Evening Hour. In November, he began regular monthly and twice-a-month appearances on Voice of Firestone.
In March 1935, his film Naughty Marietta was released, and Nelson Eddy became a superstar. He continued his monthly and twice-a-month appearances on Voice of Firestone until June 1935, also appearing on Ford Sunday Evening Hour. While his selections still centered on concert music such as “Vision Fugitive” and “Evening Star” from Tannhäuser, he began to add operetta songs.
In September 1936, he began weekly appearances on Vicks Open House, continuing until April 1937.
From August 1937 to January 1939, Eddy served as host of the Chase and Sanborn Hour, a weekly program with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, plus celebrity guests. Eddy sang three or four songs on each program, such as “Great Day,” “Halls of Home, “Drums in my Heart,” and “Play, Gypsies.” He also took parts in skits and banter with Charlie McCarthy. This is where his famous comedy of singing “Shortnin’ Bread” originated.
During this time, he was also guested on a number of other radio programs such as Good News of ’38 (12/37), Leo on the Air (an MGM promo for Girl of the Golden West), Ford Sunday Evening Hour, March of Dimes, Gulf Screen Actors’ Guild, Polish War Relief, etc.
In 1940, Nelson starred in the films New Moon and Bitter Sweet, and did a number of recordings. He had little time for radio until December when he performed in The Juggler of Notre Dame with Ronald Colman. This program was so popular that it was redone for Christmas 1941 and 1942.
In January 1941, Eddy appeared on the Presidential Inauguration program for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s unprecedented third term. He say “Crown of the Year”, “How Do I Love Thee?” and one of his favorites, “The Blind Ploughman.”
April 1941 found him on the Ford Sunday Evening Hour and, in June, performing on a USO Benefit on CBS from the Hollywood Bowl.
January 1942, he appeared again on the Chase and Sanborn Hour, and in March with the New York Philharmonic, Deems Taylor doing the commentary.
On April 29, 1942, he started his own program, The Nelson Eddy Show, also called the Electric Hour, a weekly half-hour program that ran until January 1943.
During this time, he also appeared as guest on a variety of programs. In June, September, and November, 1943, he guested on a Bell Telephone Hour program subtitled Presenting Nelson Eddy. He also appeared on a number of Command Performance’s, programs of exceptional quality that were recorded and broadcast exclusively through the Armed Services Radio.
Eddy appeared in radio-play versions of some of his hit films. For Lux Radio Theater, hosted by Cecil B. DeMille, Eddy appeared in Phantom of the Opera (September 13, 1943), and, with Jeanette MacDonald, Naughty Marietta (June 12, 1944), and Maytime (September 4, 1944). For Screen Guild Theatre, he and Miss MacDonald starred in I Married an Angel (June 1, 1942) and Rose Marie (June 23, 1947).
The Nelson Eddy Show/Electric Hour resumed September 13, 1944 and continued weekly through July 1945, broke for the summer, and then ran from September through June 1946.
“The Nelson Eddy Program, as it gave ample evidence Sunday on its return to the air after a ten week vacation, is one of the most appealing Sabbath afternoon music programs — serious but not sedate, pleasant but not frivolous…Eddy’s personality in injected graciously, not too forced, to help immensely in creating a warm, informal tie between program and audience….The Electric Hour has spark.” -Review in Variety
In the same time period, he appeared with Voice of Firestone a number of times, also GE House Party, a great many Command Performance’s, and the Bell Telephone Hour.
In January 1947 Nelson resumed a three-month stint of trading quips with that saucy ventriloquists’ dummy, Charlie McCarthy, who by now had his won The Charlie McCarthy Show.
Eddy starred on the Kraft Music Hall from July to September 1947, and again from June 1948 to September 1949.
August 1950, and again in March, May, and August 1952, Eddy starred on the Bell Telephone Hour / Presenting Nelson Eddy show.
Nelson’s nightclub act, which would occupy him for the rest of his life, premiered in January 1953. Variety wrote, “Nelson Eddy, vet of films, concerts, and stage, required less than one minute to put a jampacked audience in his hip pocket in one of the most explosive openings in this city’s nitery history…Before Eddy had even started to sing, they liked him personally as a warm human being – something he had never seemed to be in his long career in other mediums. The austerity had disappeared along with the stony faced Mountie…”
February 1953 found Nelson on the Telephone Hour, the Charlie McCarthy Hour, Colgate Comedy Hour, Guest Stars (a public service show), and the Bob Hope Show.
He continued to make appearances on radio and on TV (see Nelson’s TV Shows) until his death on March 6, 1967.