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Old Time Radio Talent Shows

Do you have what it takes to be a Star? If you do well enough on an Amateur Talent Show, and you might get your big break!

28 old time radio show recordings
(total playtime 15 hours, 44 min)
available in the following formats:

1 MP3 CD
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18 Audio CDs


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Play a sample episode from April 05, 1948:

"Great Talent Hunt"



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Text on OTRCAT.com ©2001-2020 OTRCAT INC All Rights Reserved. Reproduction is prohibited.

Major BowesA professional is someone who is so good at doing something that someone else is willing to pay them to do it. And an amateur does the same thing simply because they love doing it. This does not mean that the amateur has any less talent than the professional, rather it should imply that the amateur simply has yet to be discovered by the people who pay the professionals. 

The contest part of the amateur night came after all they amateurs had performed; the Master of Ceremonies would ask the audience to select a winner. The "winner" may not have been the most talented, often an audience would select who they liked the best, and sympathy could mean as much as talent. Although they claimed amateur status, these acts were often paid, not as much as "professionals" of course, but enough to make it worth the time and talent show experience could be a valuable stepping stone toward "the big time". Many of the most successful acts of the early commercial radio period came from vaudeville, and amateur shows made the transition as well.

After the 1906 earthquake devastated business opportunities (along with his real estate fortune) in his native San Francisco, Ed Bowes moved east to New York where he was delighted to discover the huge opportunities in show business. After successfully producing a few shows, he became the managing director of the Capitol Theatre which opened at 1645 Broadway in 1919. Whether Bowes served in the Great War in either an active or reserve capacity is still debated, but he did insist on being referred to as "Major Bowes" and he ran the Capitol with military efficiency.

Major BowesThe Capitol Theatre was designed as a lavish movie palace but also staged a number of musical revues. These revues provided content for the Capitol Theatre Family Show beginning in 1922 and eventually carried by the Blue or the Red networks. Bowes began broadcasting amateur programs over various stations before landing on WHN in 1934 with The Original Amateur Hour. The next year, sponsorship was picked up by Chase and Sanborn Coffee until Bowes took the show to CBS.

The Original Amateur Hour developed into a talent finding machine, but the mission was always to entertain the listeners at home. Bowes formed several of the best acts from the show into vaudeville touring companies, which also served as scouting missions to find more talented acts. On the air, a "wheel of fortune" was used to determine the order in which the acts would appear, since the audience could not see the wheel on the radio, the spin included musical sound effects and Bowes chanting the popular new catchphrase, "Round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows!"

Another talent show innovation Bowes used was the gong. Since these were, in fact, amateurs, there was always a chance that a particular number could turn out to be a real stinker. If things got intolerably terrible, Bowes would smash a Chinese gong as a signal to get them off the stage. Audience reaction to the gong was mixed, and eventually, the gong disappeared from The Original Amateur Hour, but the gimmick lives on in various forms in modern Television talent shows.

Ted Mack came on in 1935 as, "first assistant in the talent selection, production, and direction". In other words, Mack found and recruited the talent and put the show together, freeing Major Bowes to concentrate on hosting duties. Edward Bowes retired just before he passed away in 1946, and Mack stepped into the hosting role and Albert Fisher became the new First Assistant. The Original Amateur Hour is credited with launching the careers Gladys Knight, Anne Margaret, Louis Farrakhan, Alan King, Maria Callas, and the front man for the Hoboken Four vocal group, a kid named Frank Sinatra.

The amateur show/talent search format was simply too appealing not to be copied, and it lives on with wildly popular TV programs today. Other examples from the Golden Age of Radio include:

  • Are You an Artist, 1949(?), possibly syndicated by Patolaine Casual Wear. A more formal challenger format, last week's champ in four categories, Female, Male, and Juvenile Vocalist and Comedians. Listeners sent their votes to their local station. The "amateurs" were paid professional scale for their appearances.
  • Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, 1949-50, CBS Radio and TV simulcast, sponsored by Lipton Tea. The acts may or may not have been amateurs, but the "scouts" brought them to Godfrey were "man off the street" types. Winners determined by an applause-o-meter.
  • Bob and Ray, December 10, 1949, WHDH Boston. The famous comics do a send-up called "The Arthur Sturdley Talent Show".
  • Chance of a Lifetime, Audition Program. A youth-centered talent/audition program hosted by Don Wilson from The Jack Benny Program. The kids are given a chance to sing in front a panel of three music industry professionals who critique the performance and give tips.
  • Choose a Song Partner, 1947, Eugenia Price Products Syndication. A guess-the-name-of-the-song program.
  • Down Our Way, Commodore Syndication. A singing soap opera, the gang down at local general store are invited to appear on "Professor Talent's" radio program in the next town over.
  • The Great Talent Hunt, 1948, Mutual Network. Jim Backus hosts a search for folks with interesting and unusual talents, like the guy who tap-dances with his tongue.
  • Leave It to Joan, 1950, CBS. America's Comedy Queen Joan Davis appears in the department store talent contest with Al Jolson.,
  • Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour, 1934-1952. We found some early episodes of the show for this collection.
  • Mr. Ace and Jane, March 6, 1948, CBS sponsored by Air Force Recruiting. Jane discovers that the newsboy is a surprisingly good singer, and against Ace's better judgment, gets him on the radio.
  • Philip Morris Night with Horace Heidt, May 23, 1948, NBC. Five Chicago-area acts take on reigning amateur champ, sixteen-year-old trombonist Stanley Morse.

Text on OTRCAT.com ©2001-2020 OTRCAT INC All Rights Reserved. Reproduction is prohibited.

These classic recordings are available in the following formats:

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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.



    28 recordings on 1 MP3 CD for just $5.00
    total playtime 15 hours, 44 min
    Add MP3 CD Collection to Cart

    Click here to see disc contents


      28 shows - total playtime 15 hours 44 minutes
      1. Are You An Artist 490000 Everywhere I Go.mp3
      2. Arthur Godfrey 500515 Winner Mort Jay Showmen.mp3
      3. Bob And Ray 491210.mp3
      4. Chance Of Lifetime Audition First Roberta May.mp3
      5. Choosea Song Partner 470000.mp3
      6. Down Our Way 13 Professors Talent Show.mp3
      7. Great Talent Hunt 480406.mp3
      8. Leave It To Joan 500120 Al Jolson.mp3
      9. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 350324 First Show On Network.mp3
      10. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 360324chicago Night.mp3
      11. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 360917 Detroit.mp3
      12. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 390921 Mansfield Ohio.mp3
      13. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 390921.mp3
      14. Major Bowes01.mp3
      15. Major Bowes02.mp3
      16. Major Bowes16 Label 72 Afrs.mp3
      17. Mr Ace Jane 480306 04 Talent Hunt For Radio Show.mp3
      18. Pal Show 470104 Joe Dimaggio.mp3
      19. Phillip Morris Night 480523.mp3
      20. Plascon Talent Show Grand Finals [sbr].mp3
      21. Songs For Sale 510622.mp3
      22. Star Fora Night 440118 Dr Jekylland Mr Hyde .mp3
      23. Stop Me If Youve Heard This One 391209.mp3
      24. Taxi 691221 13 Talent Show.mp3
      25. Whats Name Of That Song 480218.mp3
      26. Wilkins Amateur Hour 501231.mp3
      27. You Can Be An Actor 460206.mp3
      28. You Can Be Star 490124 Edgar Von Falconberg.mp3
  • MP3 downloads are available instantly after purchase!



    28 recordings on 1 MP3 Collection Download for just $5.00
    total playtime 15 hours, 44 min
    Add MP3 CD Collection to Cart

    Click here to see disc contents


      28 shows - total playtime 15 hours 44 minutes
      1. Are You An Artist 490000 Everywhere I Go.mp3
      2. Arthur Godfrey 500515 Winner Mort Jay Showmen.mp3
      3. Bob And Ray 491210.mp3
      4. Chance Of Lifetime Audition First Roberta May.mp3
      5. Choosea Song Partner 470000.mp3
      6. Down Our Way 13 Professors Talent Show.mp3
      7. Great Talent Hunt 480406.mp3
      8. Leave It To Joan 500120 Al Jolson.mp3
      9. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 350324 First Show On Network.mp3
      10. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 360324chicago Night.mp3
      11. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 360917 Detroit.mp3
      12. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 390921 Mansfield Ohio.mp3
      13. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 390921.mp3
      14. Major Bowes01.mp3
      15. Major Bowes02.mp3
      16. Major Bowes16 Label 72 Afrs.mp3
      17. Mr Ace Jane 480306 04 Talent Hunt For Radio Show.mp3
      18. Pal Show 470104 Joe Dimaggio.mp3
      19. Phillip Morris Night 480523.mp3
      20. Plascon Talent Show Grand Finals [sbr].mp3
      21. Songs For Sale 510622.mp3
      22. Star Fora Night 440118 Dr Jekylland Mr Hyde .mp3
      23. Stop Me If Youve Heard This One 391209.mp3
      24. Taxi 691221 13 Talent Show.mp3
      25. Whats Name Of That Song 480218.mp3
      26. Wilkins Amateur Hour 501231.mp3
      27. You Can Be An Actor 460206.mp3
      28. You Can Be Star 490124 Edgar Von Falconberg.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



    28 recordings on 18 Audio CDs
    total playtime 15 hours, 44 min

    Talent Shows Disc A001

    1. Chance Of Lifetime Audition First Roberta May
    2. Down Our Way 13 Professors Talent Show

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Talent Shows Disc A002

    1. Major Bowes01

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    Talent Shows Disc A003

    1. Major Bowes02

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    Talent Shows Disc A004

    1. Major Bowes16 Label 72 Afrs

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    Talent Shows Disc A005

    1. Plascon Talent Show Grand Finals [sbr]

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Talent Shows Disc A006

    1. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 350324 First Show On Network
    2. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 360324chicago Night

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Talent Shows Disc A007

    1. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 360917 Detroit

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Talent Shows Disc A008

    1. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 390921 Mansfield Ohio

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    Talent Shows Disc A009

    1. Major Bowes Amateur Hour 390921

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Talent Shows Disc A010

    1. Stop Me If Youve Heard This One 391209
    2. Star Fora Night 440118 Dr Jekylland Mr Hyde
    3. You Can Be An Actor 460206

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Talent Shows Disc A011

    1. Choosea Song Partner 470000
    2. Pal Show 470104 Joe Dimaggio
    3. Whats Name Of That Song 480218

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Talent Shows Disc A012

    1. Mr Ace Jane 480306 04 Talent Hunt For Radio Show
    2. Great Talent Hunt 480406

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Talent Shows Disc A013

    1. Phillip Morris Night 480523
    2. Are You An Artist 490000 Everywhere I Go

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Talent Shows Disc A014

    1. You Can Be Star 490124 Edgar Von Falconberg
    2. Bob And Ray 491210

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Talent Shows Disc A015

    1. Leave It To Joan 500120 Al Jolson
    2. Arthur Godfrey 500515 Winner Mort Jay Showmen

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Talent Shows Disc A016

    1. Wilkins Amateur Hour 501231

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Talent Shows Disc A017

    1. Songs For Sale 510622

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
    Talent Shows Disc A018

    1. Taxi 691221 13 Talent Show

    Add Audio CD to Cart - $5.00
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