Red Benson

Norman Benson worked at WCAU radio and WEEU radio in nearby Reading, PA. Then he went to New York City where he hosted several different network television programs including "Name That Tune." Eventually Red came back to Philly where he ended up on WPEN radio doing a talk show.

The original host of TV's "Name That Tune" was Red Benson who also hosted the program on radio (December 20, 1952 to April 10, 1953). The TV show premiered on NBC during the middle of 1953. Red continued with the show until early of June of 1954 when the show moved to CBS-TV with a new host, Bill Cullen. Only one known recording of that show with Benson as host is presently known to exist.

In 1946, Red was featured in a Mutual radio broadcast called "Suffer the Little Children." During 1949, he hosted a quiz show on WOR about motion pictures. It was called "Movie Matinee." Red was also on WOR-TV with a kiddie show "The Wigwam Party" which aired daily in the early evening hours. Red also co-wrote an episode of the TV Show, "Get Smart."

On WPEN Radio in the fifties and sixties, he was known for his pleasing voice and mild manner. Red was a mainstay in our city's broadcasting for years. His program was in several different time periods over the years. During some of his time at WPEN, Benson originated his program from a coffee shop on the 2200 Block of Walnut Street in Center City Philadelphia. The luncheonette was part of the Sun Ray Drug Store on that block.

Also, word comes to us that Red was part of a vocal trio called, "The Three Dandies," which was made up of Benson, Ellen Marr and Charles Swier. The group was together briefly in mid- thirties. The trio was part of "The Children's Hour" performers on WCAU Radio. The three, and others can be seen in a 1934 Children's Hour cast photo. In 1956, he recorded "Seek, Seek, Seek."

Born on February 21, 1917, Norman "Red" Benson passed away on June 19, 1966 (at the age of 49), but the memory of him will live in the hearts and minds of Philadelphians for many years to come. He most certainly was a broadcast pioneer and on Friday evening, November 16, 2012, Red Benson was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame.

For many years, Bulletin columnist Frank Brookhouser (Frank also did in 1953, a 15 minute Sunday evening broadcast on WCAU-TV with the same name as his Bulletin column, MAN ABOUT TOWN; the paper owned WCAU at that time) told and retold this story he heard of Red's show. It goes something like this: Two second graders were standing in the school yard during recess when a huge B-52 airplane flew overhead. "Look at that swept wing," said the first little boy. "Yes, and note the angle of attack," said the second one. "Uh huh," the first one stated. "Amazing, the pressure that develops along the leading edge in a dive, it's almost 1,200 pounds per square inch." Just then the bell rang, ending recess. They looked at each other and one said "well, I guess we better get back inside and finish stringing those darned beads."

Scott Benson (Red's youngest son), a visitor to our website e-mailed: I was very interested, and touched, to find your page on Norman "Red" Benson. I'm his youngest son.... I can also confirm that Dad was, indeed, "Name That Tune's" original host, circa 1954, on WNBC in New York. The Museum of Television and Radio in Manhattan has a kinescope of what I believe was the pilot of NTT (Name That Tune), and I have been fortunate enough to see it. (Interestingly enough, one of Dad's guests on that program was a very, very young Bernadette Peters.)

Susan Benson Master, a visitor to our website e-mailed: What a thrill to see my Dad's pictures and bio on your website. My brother, Steve Benson, made sure to share this with me. I will, in turn, make sure my grandchildren get to know their "pop-pop Red," through the miracle of technology. Thank you so much for preserving our family history. We are so proud of our Dad and the legacy he left in Philly broadcasting.

Marilyn Benson Merchant, a visitor to our website e-mailed: Red Benson's face and "Name That Tune" were briefly noted last evening, May 5th (2002), on NBC's 75th Anniversary Special. His face jumped out at me and it all came back. For years, I knew Red Benson was a close cousin to my father, Simon. My father's parents were Israel and Matilda Benson. The family came from Russia around 1910 and settled in Columbus, Ohio. ...As a child, in the '50's, I remember a signed black and white glossy photo (of Red) with a microphone.


Known Time Periods & Stations

September 1958 - WPEN Radio - 10 am to 1 pm
Saturday, July 16, 1960 - WPEN Radio - 10 am to 1 pm

From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Text compiled and researched by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
Photo courtesy of Dennis McGuire, Mac McGuire's son

© 2007, Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
All Rights Reserved

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