Nancy Lewis & Paul Whiteman
The first Philadelphia TV personality to host a network television show spotlighting area teenagers was bandleader turned disc jockey Paul Whiteman. He was dubbed "the King of Jazz" in the twenties and had the most popular band of that era.
Starting on March 26, 1949, Whiteman asked Philadelphia teenagers to a Saturday evening dance and talent show. It was called "Paul Whiteman's TV Teen Club," which was originated by WFIL-TV, Channel 6 in Philadelphia. The program was also aired over the ABC-TV network. The program was live in the northeast and on kinescope for the rest of the country.
Whiteman was the network's Vice-President in charge of music. Paul also underwrote the show's production. A young, recently hired talent from New York state did a fair amount of announcing on this program after joining the station; his name was Dick Clark. Broadcast Pioneers member Allen Stone also did so.
Weighing three hundred pounds, and dressed in ornate shirts and colorful sports coats, Whiteman spoke "hip phrases" like "real gone." He was 59 years old at the time. The show was sponsored towards the end of its run by Tootsie Roll and Whiteman handed out samples to his teenage friends while Clark pitched the treats to the viewers at home. Bernie Lowe of Cameo-Parkway fame, was the program's Musical Director.
Another interesting aspect of this show was that it started as a TV program only. It became so successful that it was added to the ABC Radio Network's schedule.
The show featured Whiteman with a 10 piece band. Rock and Rollers Charlie Gracie and Bobby Rydell got their start on this program. Rydell started with the show at age nine as the band's drummer and stayed for three years. Leslie Uggams also appeared on the broadcast at the age of eight.
The telecast was produced by Skipper Dawes, the Educational Director for WFIL-TV. Really, Skipper (he was 39 years old at the time) was a talent scout who looked through the area schools for performers. One of Dawes finds was Eddie Fisher, who first got attention on the WFIL Radio broadcast "Magic Lady's Supper Club." Some of the characters from that broadcast also appeared on the Whiteman broadcast.
The program's last airing was in 1954. When the show premiered in 1949, it aired Saturday evenings from 8 to 9 pm. In 1952, the show moved an hour earlier to 7 pm and was shortened to 30 minutes and lasted for another two years in this configuration. However, the search for talent never ended. Just before the show ended, Whiteman featured a young singer by the name of Dion DiMucci, known to us now as "Dion," of "Dion and the Belmonts" fame.
Paul Whiteman was born on March 28, 1890 in Denver, CO. He started his career playing viola in the Denver Symphony in 1907. He then went to the San Francisco Symphony in 1914. During the First World War, he led a 40 piece US Navy band. He organized his now famous dance band in 1918 in San Francisco. He then moved to New Jersey and finally to New York City. Though he was married four times, his last one to wife Margaret lasted 36 years. He passed away on December 29, 1967 in Doylestown, PA.
On Saturday, December 29, 1951, the show aired from 8 pm to 8:30. A TV listing referred to it as "Young talent in songs and dances. Nancy Lewis, co-emcee."
Åke Roos of Sweden, a visitor to our website e-mailed: As a fan of Philadelphia´s legendary rock´n roller, Charlie Gracie (who, by the way, turns 67 today, May 14, 2003) I want you to know that there is a live recording from Paul Whiteman´s Teen Club in Philadelphia. The young Charlie Gracie (remember this is recorded some five years before Gracie made it into the big time when recording his classic "Butterfly") sings "Rock The Joint" accompanied by Paul Whiteman´s Orchestra and it was recorded live on July 14, 1952 on ABC TV..
As shown above, the first show was on Saturday, March 26, 1949. While many websites talk about the first broadcast being on April 2, 1949, this ticket is proof that the program aired a week earlier. The program ran for five years.
Member Bill Russell (who we inducted posthumously into our Hall of Fame in November of 2013) had told our CEO, Gerry Wilkinson, that Whiteman had used a backdrop on Teen Club of a record shop on the program on several occasions. That backdrop was saved and when Bandstand (a local show) came on the air in October of 1952, that's the backdrop that was used for years. That flat is now in the Smithsonian Institute. Russell worked on both the Whiteman broadcast and Bandstand.
Senior TV Director for WFIL-TV Herb Horton was the program's director with Tom Haas being the AD (Assistant Director). Tom later married Margo, Whiteman's daughter who co-hosted the show. Margo left the program and was replaced by Nancy Lewis, who was still a teenager herself. Nancy was a regular on Stan Lee Broza's, "The Children's Hour on WCAU and later WCAU-TV. She said that many of the kids from Broza's program moved over to the Whiteman telecast. She once referred to it as a "graduation" Stan Lee Broza was the first president of this organization and also our first chairman of the board.
Whiteman at this time was living on his Bucks County farm. Whiteman originally sold ABC the idea with the concept that the program would help reduce juvenile delinquency.
During July of 2014, we heard from Barbara Anderson. She says:
My parents, Ed and Ruth Sattler, were both involved with Paul Whiteman's TV Teen Club in 1949-50. Ruth Stoms was one of the kids on the show. Ed Sattler was behind the camera. They met, fell in love, and got engaged, which ended Ruth's career on the show!
They are now living in Tennessee, but are cleaning out the house and came across some old mimeographed scripts (from Teen Club).
Barbara sent along electronic copies of many of the early scripts from the program. Later, she donated the original scripts to our archival project. Thank you, Barbara so much. Like we always say, HISTORY IS ONLY WHAT GETS SAVED!
The earliest script we currently have is from Saturday, April 30, 1949. This is the show's fourth program. Here's what the opening of the telecast looked like that evening.
POPS: (Introduces Jury)
JURY: Hi Pops. Hi Kids. Hello Mother.
POPS: What d’ya have in the way of talent tonight?
JURY: Pu-lenty, Pal. (STAND)
Kids that Dance, Kids that Sing
Kids that do most anything
Lovely Ladies, Be-Bop Babies
Comedy Acts with Crazy Cracks
Trombone, Clarinet and sax (BIG BREATH)
Tight-rope walkers, double-talkers
Philadelphians and New Yawkers
Handsome Guys with Flashing Eyes
And little girls with lots of curls
Everything has lots of pep
Cause all the kids are really hep
Whew! Time Out (SIT DOWN)
POPS: (Remark about kids knocking themselves out) Anyway, come on, let’s
Start the show!
(MARGO’S ENTRANCE. STARTS ACROSS TO POPS)
JURY: Yes, I guess we might as well cause all the….. (SEE MARGO PASS)…
kids in the audience are…. (WHISTLE)
MARGO: Hi, Pops!
POPS: Well, hello there Margo, honey!
JURY: (STAND UP AND WHISPER) That’s his daughter, Margo. Pretty nice,
huh? She helps him introduce the acts cause he can’t ever remember what
comes, next, you know. (POINT TO HEADS)
POPS: Hey, jury. I heard that.
JURY: (SIT FAST) Hi pops. Hi kids. Hello mother.
MARGO: You kids get crazier every week.
COUGH: (UP FAST) Who’s crazy
JURY: Who are.
COUGH: So all right. I’m crazy. (SIT)
MARGO: Are you really to start the show, gang?
JURY: Yeah, man. And for the first act, (BOOK) we have decided, now wait a
minute, (BIZ) Oh, yes. (NAME) Right over there.
FIRST ACT PERFORMS
MARGO: Well kids, how do you… Say, what are you all doing?
JURY: (WORKING) Oh, just getting ready for something.
MARGO: What are they, flowers?
MARGO: What are they for?
JERRY: Don’t you know what day is tomorrow? May Day! The first day of May.
JANIE: So naturally, we have to celebrate
COUGH: (STANDS) Well, I’m ready.
NAP: Me, too
JERRY: Let’s go, boys.
(BOYS LEAVE JURY BOX AND GIRLS TAKE NEW PLACES)
GIRLS: Ladies and gentlemen, presenting the Stumble Bum Ballet Company in
Their famous may pole dance. First, the may pole himself.
(BILL TO CENTER)
GIRLS: And now, ladies of the ensemble
(MUSIC AND DANCE)
JANIE: And now everybody, the Queen of the May. Who is it to be?
(VOTING FOR QUEEN)
(OTHERS CARRY QUEEN AROUND THE STAGE, OVER TO POPS AND OFF)
MARGO: Everything satisfactory, kids?
JURY: Simply delightful, Margo.
MARGO: What would you like next?
JURY: (SING) Say it with music, beautiful music.
MARGO: What kind of music?
BUDDY: (SING) Sweet and lovely. Sweeter than the flowers in May.
TRIO: Something sentimental is what we wanta hear. Something sweet and
gentle, in tones so soft and clear.
JERRY & JANIE: Not too hot, ya understand. None of that be-bop dixieland band.
(SING) Come along, come along to Alexander’s Ragtime Band.
JURY: No, no, no. None of that stuff. We’re in the mood for….
BUDDY: Soft lights and sweet music with you in my arms.
MARGO: Well, in that case, there’s you man. Right over there.SECOND ACT PERFORMS!
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Picture originally donated by Broadcast Pioneers member Francis Davis
Researched and compiled by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
© 2006, Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
All Rights Reserved
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