The Original Amateur Hour was America's first ever talent game show.
WHN-AM (The Amateur Hour): 4/1/1934 – 3/17/1935
NBC Radio: 3/24/1935 – 9/13/1936
CBS Radio (Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour): 9/17/1936 – 7/19/1945
ABC Radio: 9/29/1948 – 9/18/1952
DuMont: 1/18/1948 – 9/25/1949
NBC: 10/4/1949 – 9/11/1954
ABC (Ted Mack and The Original Amateur Hour): 10/30/1955 – 6/23/1957, 3/7/1960 – 9/26/1960
CBS (Ted Mack and The Original Amateur Hour): 5/1/1959 – 10/9/1959, 10/2/1960 – 9/27/1970
The Family Channel (The New Original Amateur Hour): 1/26/1992 – 4/19/1992
Major Edward Bowes (1934–1945)
Ted Mack (1948–1970)
Willard Scott (1992)
The format of the program remained virtually unchanged from its premiere in early network radio. The show was essentially an amateur talent contest, the non-professional status of contestants thus distinguishing this show from Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts which also ran during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Contestants traveled to New York's Radio City from all parts of the country to sing, dance, play music, and participate in various forms of novelty entertainment. Those who passed an initial screening were invited to compete on the program.
At the beginning of the show, the talent's order of appearance was determined by spinning a wheel. After it was announced how many episodes the current one marked (the final broadcast on CBS being the 1,651st), the wheel was spun. As the wheel spun, the words "Round and round she goes, and where she stops nobody knows" were always intoned. (From the late 1950s forward, the wheel was gone: it was symbolized by flute arpeggios as Ted Mack invoked the traditional phrase.)
Winners were determined by viewers who voted via letters and phone calls, and winning contestants returned to compete against a crop of new talent on the next program. Between amateur acts, the host conducted rambling interviews and shared corny jokes with contestants. Contestants who won three times earned cash prizes, scholarships, or parts in a traveling stage show associated with the program.
Major Edward Bowes
Chase and Sanborn
Old Gold Cigarettes