Thursday, January 14, 2016

Amos ‘n’ Andy: good stuff

Just taking a moment here to give a nod to the legendary “Amos ‘n’ Andy” show, a perennial radio/TV show from 1926 to 1966. It was the highest-rated radio comedy in history.

I watched the syndicated reruns on the tube in the 1960s. Listen to an early radio segment here.

Gosden and Correll
Amos and Andy were two genial characters who dabbled in most of life’s experiences. Amos Jones and Andrew Hogg Brown were black characters, although the creators of the series were two white radio personalities: Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll. They started broadcasting the “Sam ‘n’ Henry” show from Chicago in January 1926, and shifted to the “Amos ‘n’ Andy” format two years later.

Ultimately the show was carried by 70 radio stations nationwide, and attracted 40 million listeners—roughly 1 out of 3 Americans.

Gosden and Correll were skilled entertainers in the established vaudevillian “blackface” tradition. By the time the show moved to television in 1951, “blackface” had lost its credibility and black actors played the roles. Alvin Childress and Spencer Williams play the two main roles.

The TV version of “Amos ‘n’ Andy” was the first television production with black actors and would remain the only opportunity for black acting talent for 20 years.

Childress and Williams
Of course, Gosden and Correll—and even Childress and Williams—gratuitously portrayed the racial stereotypes that were commonly accepted in white society at the time. The show was a spectacular comedic success.

I tried without much success to ascertain the popularity of “Amos ‘n’ Andy” among black audiences. I found one reference to a poll (no details on validity) that reported “77 percent of black New Yorkers” liked the TV show.

Think for a moment about what entertainment was like before cell phones, iTunes and social media.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

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