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 Arthur Godfrey

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Arthur Godfrey

  • Birth 31 Aug 1903 New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
  • Death 16 Mar 1983 New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
  • Burial Leesburg, Loudoun County, Virginia, USA
  • Memorial ID 6813947

Radio, Television Personality. One of the first superstars of early television, "The Old Redhead" appeared in two Top 10 prime-time shows - "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" on Monday nights and "Arthur Godfrey and His Friends" on Wednesday nights - for CBS at the same time for 8 1/2 years. Scouts (Dec. 6, 1948-July 21, 1958) was slightly higher rated, reaching No. 1 for the 1951-52 season. The following year, Scouts and Friends were No. 2 and 3, respectively, just behind "I Love Lucy". It sometimes was hard to distinguish the two shows apart, but Scouts showcased struggling performers and relative newcomers before a live audience. Godfrey gave significant boosts to the careers of Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, Steve Lawrence, Al Martino, Patsy Cline, Leslie Uggams, the McGuire Sisters, Pat Boone, Roy Clark, Eddie Fisher, Connie Francis at age 13 playing an accordion and others. At the end of the program, the studio audience selected the winner by an applause meter. Yet, Godfrey proved less than perfect when his screening staff flunked Elvis Presley in early 1955 and Buddy Holly in 1956. Friends (Jan. 12, 1949-April 28, 1959) employed a regular cast of clean-cut performers, including the Chordettes (four female barbershop harmonizers from Sheboygan), Janette Davis, Bill Lawrence, the Mariners, Frank Parker, Marion Marlowe, Julius LaRosa, Hawaiian dancer Haleloke and later Boone, the McGuire Sisters, Lu Ann Simms and others. Archie Bleyer's Orchestra and second banana Tony Marvin were on both shows. Godfrey, the freckled-faced ukulele player, had been one of the biggest stars on radio in the late 1940s with his down-to-earth, person-to-person style. He changed over to television without a hitch. He also recorded on the Columbia label such songs as "Too Fat Polka" that reached No. 2 on the charts in 1947; "Slap 'Er Down Again, Paw"; "I'm Looking Over a Four-Leafed Clover"; "Candy and Cake"; "Slow Poke"; "The Thing"; and "Dance Me Loose". He seemed to be everywhere. The sponsors loved him because he hawked only products he had actually tried or regularly used. No listener or viewer doubted that he loved Lipton tea. He frequently confounded studio types in refusing to adhere to the allocated 60 seconds and delighted in tossing aside prepared scripts and telling his audience, "Aw, who wrote this stuff? Everybody knows Lipton's is the best tea you can buy. Getcha some Lipton's, hot the pot with plain water for a few minutes, then put the fresh hot water on the tea and let it just sit there." Godfrey earned a million dollars a year, enabling him to own a large estate in the Virginia horse country, maintain a large duplex apartment in Manhattan and fly back and forth in his own airplanes. He constantly plugged air travel as the way to go, leading Eddie Rickenbacker to say Godfrey did more to boost aviation than any person since Charles Lindbergh. Then in a dramatic turnabout, he became a controversial figure, especially after firing the handsome LaRosa on-air in October 1953. He said the singer had gotten to be too big a star and lost his humility. Audiences were stunned and shaken. Soon, the ax fell on other Friends, including the popular Chordettes, Breyer, Marlowe, Haleloke and the Mariners. He had running feuds with Ed Sullivan and columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, and his ratings began to fall. Later, he was co-host for Candid Camera in 1960-61 and continued his radio show, "Arthur Godfrey Time" from 1960 until a tearful farewell in 1972. He also appeared in the movies, including "Four For Texas" in 1963, "The Glass Bottom Boat" in 1966 and "Where Angels Go…Trouble Follows" in 1968. He was born in New York City Aug. 31, 1903 and served in the U.S. Navy as a radio operator on destroyer duty (1920-24) and in the U.S. Coast Guard (1927-30). He died in New York City on March 16, 1983. When CBS celebrated its 75th anniversary, strangely no mention was made of Godfrey, the superstar who was watched and listened to by countless millions and who generated countless millions of dollars for the studio in advertising revenue.

Bio by: Ron Coons

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Kenneth McNeil
  • Added: 1 Oct 2002
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6813947
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Arthur Godfrey (31 Aug 1903–16 Mar 1983), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6813947, citing Union Cemetery, Leesburg, Loudoun County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .