Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ballad Of Amateur Hour

What shall we do with the bold milkman
Who loud in the little hours
Whistles away like a hearty Pan
Till slumber deserts our bowers?
He shall whistle an air for Major Bowes,
The best that his tongue can twist to;
And a thousand milkmen will vote him first
As night after night will his lips be pursed
In the very tune that we called accursed,
For a suffering world to list to.

What shall we do with the grocer's boy
Whose resonant warblings fret us,
As he chants to the cheeses for simple joy
Or lyrically wraps the lettuce?
Why, he shall warble for Major Bowes,
Later, my friends, or sooner.
And never, ah never again will he
Sing to the squash and the broccoli,
But now in radio ranks shall be
Numbered another crooner.

What shall we do with the neighbors brood
Who, shrill and fierce as hornets,
Shatter the spell of our solitude
With fiddles and fifes and cornets?

Why, they shall serenade Major Bowes
With cornet and fife and fiddle.
Such sound and fury they'll all display
That the tones which frightened the Muse away
We shall hear by night, we shall hear by day,
Whenever a dial we twiddle.

What shall we do with the family bore
Whose persiflage never ceases?
And what with the audible miss next door
Who's clever at speaking pieces?

Why, they shall babble for Major Bowes
Their artful impersonations.
And an affable agent will bid them sign
A contract, square on the dotted line,
For alternate evenings at half-past nine
On, very distinguished stations.

What shall we do with Major Bowes,
Lord of the aerial garden,
Who turns our amateurs into pros
With never a Beg Your Pardon?

When the world is so full of a number of sounds;
When the air repents its store
Of tenors and torchers and boop-a-doopers,
Of Kiddie Koncerts and Drama Groupers,
Of yodellers yodelling cowboy ballads,
Of commentators on books and salads,
Of those who imitate birds and breezes,
Of bearded jests and of ancient wheezes,
What shall we do with the man who'd seek
Sunday by Sunday and week by week
To swell the flood with more?

What shall we do with Major Bowes?
Nobody knows, nobody knows.


Major Bowes Amateur Hour, American radio's best-known talent show, was one of the most popular programs broadcast in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. It was created and hosted by Edward Bowes (1874–1946). In the 1920s Bowes was the imposing manager of New York's equally imposing Capitol Theatre and would insist on being addressed as "Major Bowes." He acted the part to the hilt, complete with military bearing and imperious manner. He once admonished an underling, "How will people think you're important if you don't act important?"

Each week, Bowes would chat with the contestants and listen to their performances. He usually seemed vaguely impatient with the proceedings, and his constant refrain of "All right, all right" was lampooned by radio and films of the day. Bowes was known for his quick dispatch of untalented performers by sounding either a loud bell (similar to that used to denote the end of a boxing round) or a gong (thus inspiring a later series, The Gong Show). Bowes's theatrical and managerial savvy extended the hit radio show into a profitable stage franchise. Bowes sent the more talented contestants on "Major Bowes" vaudeville tours, often with several units roaming the country simultaneously.

No comments:

Post a Comment