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Major Bowes Amateur Hour

Thousands from All Over the Country Flocked to Join this Gong-style Talent Show. Update: additional rare episode

8 old time radio show recordings
(total playtime 5 hours, 55 min)
available in the following formats:

1 MP3 CD
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6 Audio CDs


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Play a sample episode from September 21, 1939:

"September 21, 1939 Broadcast"



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These classic recordings are available in the following formats:
  • Text on OTRCAT.com ©2001-2018 OTRCAT INC All Rights Reserved. Reproduction is prohibited.

    Major Bowes Amateur Talent ContestTalent Contest (1934-1946)

    The amateur talent contest craze was at its height in the 1930s, and Major Bowes stepped in to take advantage of it. At the height of the depression, this popular show made the major a rich man, making two million a year – twice that of Al Jolson, and Jack Benny.

    Poor folks traveled from all over the country to be on the New York show. Selling their houses, hitching rides, traveling in box cars, over 10,000 people applied weekly to be on the program. Many of the applicants were poor black men from the south, hoping to tap dance, sing or harmonica their way to fame and fortune. Most were turned away, as only 500-700 were auditioned and only 20 appeared on the show. Even after making the cut-throat audition and appearing live on the show, many were gonged off before finishing their act, a cruel practice that made audiences roar with laugher. Although competition was fierce and spots on the show were difficult, many who even did well on the show did not continue on to be famous. A few of the exceptions were Frank Sinatra, Beverly Sills, Paul Winchell and Robert Merrill.

    Major Bowes with guestContestants were given $10 and an all-you-can-eat pass to a cafeteria across the street from the studio. Each contestant had to sign a contract stating that they would not use Bowes name to gain them further appearances. If they did happen to get work as a result of being on his show, they were to pay Bowes 15% of their profits. The unlucky ones who didn't make it this far were put on relief and often went to live on the streets of New York. Some returned home penniless.

    Major Bowes and His GongCharacters and personalities were an important component to each show. The Major interviewed contestants and found that the human interest aspect of the show helped raise its popularity. One of the Majors biggest fears was that a gonged contestant would turn nasty. As a result he always kept a strong bodyguard nearby. Before he would hit the gong, he would signal the bodyguard, "who hustles them up to the microphone and down again. I always signal him before letting the bell go, and he is always ready to grab the poor boob before he can say anything vile. As the 1940s grew near, the amateur craze began to wane. Although the show continued until The Major's death in 1946, ratings dropped slightly. The show was again revived in 1948 with Ted Mack, Bowes' friend and former MC, as the announcer. This show continued on into the 1950s with some success.

    For more talent scount excitement, see also: Rudy Vallee and Arthur Godfrey.

    Ticket Old Gold Cigarettes

    Text on OTRCAT.com ©2001-2018 OTRCAT INC All Rights Reserved. Reproduction is prohibited.


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    COMMENTS

    My mother was a blues singer on The Major Bowes Show and she performed across country with his "all girl review". She went by the name Ginny Tull (also Virginia Tull) Unfortunately we have no recordings of her performances. I've got a copy of her original contract with Major Bowes and lots of wonderful stills and press clippings, but no audio. She passed away before she ever got to meet her grandchildren. I have this fantasy that I'll be able to find a recording someday and that her grandchildren will get to meet her through her music. Anyone out there in the interwebs happen to have such a broadcast?

    Dan Verified Purchase

    I am looking for a recording from Major Bowes Talent Contest at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA. Specifically for Charlie Summers, Sr. and his performance.

    Brad Verified Purchase

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  • MP3 CDs are delivered by mail. These archival quality MP3 CDs are playable in your computer and many MP3 player devices.



    8 recordings on 1 MP3 CD for just $5.00
    total playtime 5 hours, 55 min
    Add MP3 CD Collection to Cart

    Click here to see disc contents


      8 shows - total playtime 5 hours 55 minutes
      1. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 350324 First Show on Network.mp3
      2. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 360324Chicago Night.mp3
      3. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 360917 Detroit.mp3
      4. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 390921 Mansfield Ohio.mp3
      5. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 390921.mp3
      6. Major Bowes01.mp3
      7. Major Bowes02.mp3
      8. Major Bowes16 label 72 AFRS.mp3
  • MP3 downloads are available instantly after purchase!



    8 recordings on 1 MP3 Collection Download for just $5.00
    total playtime 5 hours, 55 min
    Add MP3 CD Collection to Cart

    Click here to see disc contents


      8 shows - total playtime 5 hours 55 minutes
      1. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 350324 First Show on Network.mp3
      2. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 360324Chicago Night.mp3
      3. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 360917 Detroit.mp3
      4. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 390921 Mansfield Ohio.mp3
      5. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 390921.mp3
      6. Major Bowes01.mp3
      7. Major Bowes02.mp3
      8. Major Bowes16 label 72 AFRS.mp3
  • Standard Audio CDs are delivered by mail on archival quality media with up to 60 minutes on each CD and play in all CD players



    8 recordings on 6 Audio CDs
    total playtime 5 hours, 55 min

    Major Bowes Disc A001

    1. Major Bowes01

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Major Bowes Disc A002

    1. Major Bowes02

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    Major Bowes Disc A003

    1. Major Bowes16 label 72 AFRS
    2. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 350324 First Show on Network

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Major Bowes Disc A004

    1. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 360324Chicago Night
    2. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 360917 Detroit

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Major Bowes Disc A005

    1. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 390921 Mansfield Ohio

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Major Bowes Disc A006

    1. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 390921

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
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