VAV!/July 10, 2012 By Dennis Nyhagen
General Foods' Maxwell House Coffee brand sponsored a long running series of highly popular Radio programs throughout the Golden Age of Radio, many of them collectively titled Maxwell House Coffee Time in one form or another:
Above: Maxwell House Coffee Time 'The Best Things In Life Are Free 7/17/47
1926-1932 Maxwell House Concerts
1931 Lanny Ross
1937-1949 Maxwell House Coffee Time
The Frank Morgan Show
1938 I Give You My Life
1939 America's Lost Plays
1940 Kate Hopkins, Angel of Mercy
1940 Maxwell House Good News
1941 The Housewarming
1942 Post Toasties Time
1943 Blind Date
1944 Those We Love
1946 Meredith Willson Summer Show
1947 Wendy Warren and The News
1949 Father Knows Best
The 'Part of the American Scene' theme was carried forward in Maxwell House's print promotions during the Summer of 1947
The years during which Maxwell House Coffee sponsored its Maxwell House Coffee Time saw some of Radio's most enduring favorites airing under the Maxwell House banner. When their prime time season headliners would take a well-earned summer break Maxwell House often continued Maxwell House Coffee Time during the summer with many well-received summer programs featuring supporting artists from their prime time season shows, such as Meredith Willson from Burns and Allen, and band singer, comedienne, and actress, Frances Langford.
Maxwell House Coffee Time with Frances Langford airs as a Summer replacement
Maxell House Coffee sponsored the long-running Burns and Allen Program between 1945 and 1949. Every summer that Burns and Allen took off for their ensemble's Summer vacation, Maxwell House had the option of holding Burns and Allen's timeslot for that summer. For 1947 Maxwell House chose to feature the Screen and Radio comedienne and singing star Frances Langford in her own half-hour situation comedy and variety program. Maxwell House billed the production as "Part of the American Scene," a theme Maxwell House also promoted in its magazine ads for the Summer of 1947. The Print ad campaign was also accompanied by beautiful paintings commissioned for the campaign illustrating some of the more vacation spots of the U.S. which evoked Summer and iced coffee and relaxation.
Summer replacement programs were generally viewed as placeholders by the networks. Fully aware that a few less listeners would be tuning in to the same primetime slot during the Summer vacation season, as often as not Summer replacement programs featured a few less production values and big-name talent than their regular season counterparts. Maxwell House Coffee Time with Frances Langford was a definite exception to these broadcasting and advertising business axioms.
The show Maxwell House mounted for France Langford during the Summer of 1947 was quite arguably at least the equal of its regular season prime time occupant: The Burns and Allen Program. Billed as "a part of the American Scene" the half-hour program was a fast paced, brilliantly directed and orchestrated, tightly structured, and wonderfully written production. Its format was also both novel and consistently structured:
The introduction and opening song or two from Frances Langford.
The first Maxwell House Blended Coffee message.
A song from the American Scene by the Dick Davis Chorus.
A nostalgic reminiscence from the American Scene
The weekly 'American Scene' comedic sketch
A second Maxwell House Coffee message
A medley of choral and instrumental pieces saluting music from America's history
Closing messages and announcements
Maxwell House's commercial messages were very skillfully integrated into each production; never abrupt, jarring, or disruptive to the flow of the program. At the same time, the first commercial message of each program ran from two to three minutes, counting Carmen Dragon's interstitial scoring. Each weekly American Scene sketch throughout the series depicted a nostalgic, evocative element of American society. The medleys presented as the last segment of each program were salutes to various American composers or American music styles.
'Good to the Last Drop'
All of Carmen Dragon's musical pieces were beautifully scored, but it was the medleys that demonstrated Dragon's mastery in arrangement and composition. From the July 19th 1947 edition of the Williamsburg Journal-Tribune:
If you're fans of George Burns and, Gracie Allen you'll know that they are on vacation now and you're probably missing their antics. Have you listened to the show that is taking their place for the summer? It's an entirely different kind of show but you'll hear some good music if you'll tune in to WHO, 1040, at 6:30 on Thursday evenings.
Frances Langford and Carmen Dragon are featured in the new summer series pinch-hitting for the Burns and Allen show. Dragon and his 25-piece orchestra with the vocals by Frances and a choral group of 8 men present the works of Stephen Foster, musical comedy composers, contemporary hit writers and some circus and hillbilly music for those preferring that type of entertainment. It's a varied program to please a musical cross-section of America.
Each week a skit on some phase of American life will be given such as the boys at the ol' swimmin' hole, a baseball game, a family picnic or something similar.
Miss Langford and Mr. Dragon, who have been working together on the "Don Ameche Show," are enthusiastic about each other's work. "She's one singer who knows the type of music that is right for her and sticks to it," says Carmen about Frances. Frances praises Carmen with "He's a musician's musician."
The combined Maxwell House Print and Radio campaigns complemented each other quite seamlessly. The message of the campaign was "Maxwell House Coffee is part of the American Scene." Both the extravagant Print ads and the overarching 'American Scene' theme of each episode perfectly underscored Maxwell House's messaging. All told it was a brilliant campaign. Maxwell House continued the 'American Scene' campaign once The Burns and Allen Program returned to the air on September 4th 1947. The only change in the accompanying print ads was the replacement of The Frances Langford Program for The Burns and Allen Program.
Maxwell House's Frances Langford Program was perfectly suited for its Summertime audience. It was light, patriotic, entirely wholesome, adequately amusing, and beautifully scored and performed. This is one of the collectable gems from The Golden Age of American Radio.
For the definitive listing, of programs visit The Digital Deli On-Line.
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