112 Facts About Arthur Godfrey


Arthur Morton Godfrey was an American radio and television broadcaster and entertainer who was sometimes introduced by his nickname The Old Redhead.


At the peak of his success, in the early to mid 1950s, Godfrey was heard on radio and seen on television up to six days a week, sometimes for as many as nine separate broadcasts for CBS.


Arthur Godfrey was strongly identified with many of his commercial sponsors, especially Chesterfield cigarettes and Lipton Tea.


Arthur Godfrey advertised Chesterfield for many years, during which time he devised the slogan "Buy 'em by the carton"; he terminated his relationship with the company after he quit smoking, five years before he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1959.


Arthur Godfrey later became a prominent spokesman for the anti-tobacco movement.


The senior Arthur Godfrey was a sportswriter and considered an expert on surrey and hackney horses, but the advent of the automobile devastated the family's finances.


Arthur Godfrey dropped out after a year at Hasbrouck Heights High School.


Arthur Godfrey's father was something of a "free thinker" by the standards of the era.


Arthur Godfrey did not disdain organized religion but insisted that his children explore all faiths before deciding for themselves which to embrace.


The senior Arthur Godfrey was friends with the Vanderbilts, but was as likely to spend his time talking with the shoeshine man or the hotdog vendor about issues of the day.


Arthur Godfrey's creativity enabled the family to get through some very hard times.


Arthur Godfrey played the piano to accompany silent films, made jams and jellies, crocheted bedspreads, and even cut off and sold her floor length hair, as it was extremely difficult for a woman of her social class to find work without violating social mores of the time.


Arthur Godfrey died of cancer in 1968 at a nursing home in a suburb north of Chicago.


Arthur Godfrey served in the United States Navy from 1920 to 1924 as a radio operator on naval destroyers, then returned home to care for the family after his father's death.


Arthur Godfrey passed a stringent qualifying examination and was admitted to the prestigious Radio Materiel School at the Naval Research Laboratory, graduating in 1929.


On leaving the Coast Guard, Arthur Godfrey became a radio announcer for Baltimore station WFBR, then moved to Washington, DC, to become a staff announcer for NBC-owned station WRC the same year.


Arthur Godfrey vowed that when he returned to the airwaves, he would affect a relaxed, informal style as if he were talking to just one person.


Arthur Godfrey used that style to do his own commercials and became a regional star.


Arthur Godfrey was the station's morning disc jockey, playing records, delivering commercials, interviewing guests, and even reading news reports during his three-hour shift.


Arthur Godfrey loved to sing, and would frequently sing random verses during the "talk" portions of his program.


One surviving broadcast from 1939 has Arthur Godfrey unexpectedly turning on his microphone to harmonize with the Foursome's recording of "There'll Be Some Changes Made".


Arthur Godfrey was eager to remain connected with the Navy, but found his hip injuries rendered him unsuitable for military service.


Arthur Godfrey knew President Franklin D Roosevelt, who listened to his Washington program, and through Roosevelt's intercession, he received a commission in the US Naval Reserve before World War II.


Arthur Godfrey would participate in exercises around the Washington area.


Arthur Godfrey eventually moved his base to the CBS station in New York City, then known as WABC, and was heard on both WJSV and WABC for a time.


Arthur Godfrey became nationally known in April 1945 when, as CBS's morning-radio man in Washington, he took the microphone for a live, first-hand account of President Roosevelt's funeral procession.


Unlike the tight-lipped news reporters and commentators of the day, who delivered news in an earnest, businesslike manner, Arthur Godfrey's tone was sympathetic and neighborly, lending immediacy and intimacy to his words.


Arthur Godfrey made such an impression on the air that CBS had scheduled him for his own morning time slot on the nationwide network before Roosevelt's death.


Arthur Godfrey Time remained a late morning staple on the CBS Radio Network schedule until 1972.


Arthur Godfrey was known for sparking impromptu jam sessions on the air with the band, all of them first-rate musicians who could improvise on the fly.


Over time, tutored by the band's guitarist Remo Palmier, Arthur Godfrey's playing took a decidedly jazzy quality.


In general, Arthur Godfrey despised most of his novelty recordings, including "Too Fat Polka", his biggest-selling record.


Arthur Godfrey took special interest in the Chordettes, who sang his kind of barbershop-quartet harmony, and he soon made them part of his broadcasting and recording "family".


Arthur Godfrey had insisted on employing musicians in his small orchestra who would be able to accompany him quickly and "follow" him as he sang.


Arthur Godfrey was an avid amateur radio operator, with the station call sign K4LIB.


Arthur Godfrey was a member of the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in the radio division.


Arthur Godfrey found that one way to enhance his pitches was to extemporize his commercials, poking fun at the sponsors, the sponsors' company executives, and advertising agency types who wrote the scripted commercials that he regularly ignored.


Arthur Godfrey shrugged off their departure since he knew other sponsors would easily fill the vacancy.


Arthur Godfrey began to veer away from interviewing stars in favor of a small group of regular performers that became known as the "Little Godfreys".


Many of these artists were relatively obscure, but were given colossal national exposure, some of them former Talent Scouts winners, including Hawaiian vocalist Haleloke, veteran Irish tenor Frank Parker, Marion Marlowe and Julius LaRosa, who was in the Navy when Arthur Godfrey, doing his annual Naval reserve duty, discovered the young singer.


Arthur Godfrey subsequently invited him on the show as a guest, offering him a job upon his discharge.


Arthur Godfrey had a regular announcer-foil on the show, Tony Marvin.


Arthur Godfrey preferred his performers not to use personal managers or agents, but often had his staff represent the artists if they were doing personal appearances, which allowed him considerable control over their careers and incomes.


In 1953, after LaRosa hired an agent, Arthur Godfrey was so angry that he fired him on the air.


Arthur Godfrey was one of the busiest men in the entertainment industry, often presiding over several daytime and evening radio and TV shows simultaneously.


In 1951 Arthur Godfrey narrated a nostalgic movie documentary, Fifty Years Before Your Eyes, produced for Warner Brothers by silent-film anthologist Robert Youngson.


Arthur Godfrey had been in pain since the 1931 car crash that damaged his hip.


Arthur Godfrey learned to fly in 1929 while working in broadcast radio in the Washington, DC, area, starting with gliders, then learning to fly airplanes.


Arthur Godfrey was badly injured on his way to a flying lesson one afternoon in 1931 when an oncoming truck lost its left front wheel and hit him head on.


Arthur Godfrey spent months recuperating, and the injury kept him from flying on active duty during World War II.


Arthur Godfrey served during the war as a reserve officer in the United States Navy in a public affairs role.


Arthur Godfrey used his pervasive fame to advocate a strong anti-Communist stance and to pitch for enhanced strategic air power in the Cold War atmosphere.


Arthur Godfrey made a television movie in 1953, taking the controls of an Eastern Air Lines Lockheed Constellation airliner and flying to Miami, thus showing how safe airline travel had become.


At one time during the 1950s, Arthur Godfrey had flown every active aircraft in the military inventory.


Arthur Godfrey's continued unpaid promotion of Eastern Air Lines earned him the undying gratitude of good friend Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War I flying ace who was the president of the airline.


Arthur Godfrey was such a good friend of the airline that Rickenbacker took a retiring Douglas DC-3, fitted it out with an executive interior and DC-4 engines, and presented it to Godfrey, who then used it to commute to the studios in New York City from his huge Leesburg, Virginia, farm every Sunday night.


In January 1954, Arthur Godfrey buzzed the control tower of Teterboro Airport in his DC-3.


Arthur Godfrey claimed that the windy conditions that day required him to turn immediately after takeoff, but in fact he was upset with the tower because they would not give him the runway that he requested.


Arthur Godfrey later recorded a satirical song about the incident called "Teterboro Tower", roughly to the tune of "Wabash Cannonball".


The original Leesburg airport, which Arthur Godfrey owned and referred to affectionately on his show as "The Old Cow Pasture", was less than a mile from the center of town, and local residents had come to expect rattling windows and crashing dishes every Sunday evening and Friday afternoon.


In 1960, Arthur Godfrey proposed building a new airport by selling the old field and donating a portion of the sale to a local group.


Since Arthur Godfrey funded the majority of the airport, it is known as Leesburg Executive Airport at Arthur Godfrey Field.


Arthur Godfrey resisted criticism from network affiliates in Southern states and struck back.


Arthur Godfrey noted that black and white troops were serving together in the Korean War, and he attacked critics including Democratic Georgia Governor Herman Talmadge.


Arthur Godfrey insisted that his "Little Godfreys" all attend dance and singing classes, believing they should be versatile performers regardless whether they possessed the aptitude for those disciplines.


Arthur Godfrey demanded, though there was no contractual requirement, that his cast members refrain from hiring personal managers or booking agents.


Arthur Godfrey insisted his staff could handle all of that.


Arthur Godfrey's attitude was controlling before his hiatus for hip surgery, but upon his return, he added more air time to his morning shows and became critical of a number of aspects of the broadcasts.


Arthur Godfrey began casting a critical eye on others in his cast, particularly LaRosa, whose popularity continued to grow.


CBS historian Robert Metz suggested that Arthur Godfrey had instituted the practice because his own physical limitations made him sensitive to the need for physical coordination on camera.


Arthur Godfrey claimed he had advised Godfrey, but was nonetheless barred, via a notice placed on a cast bulletin board, from appearing on the show for a day in retaliation.


At that point, LaRosa, whose success on records had brought interest from top show business managers and agents, retained manager Tommy Rockwell to renegotiate his contract with Arthur Godfrey or, failing that, to receive an outright release; however, such talks had yet to occur.


Arthur Godfrey discovered that LaRosa had hired Rockwell in the wake of the dance lesson reprimand, when he received a letter from Rockwell, dictating that all future dealings with LaRosa would be handled through General Artists Corporation, Rockwell's agency.


At that point, Arthur Godfrey immediately consulted with CBS President Dr Frank Stanton, who noted that Arthur Godfrey had hired LaRosa on the air and suggested firing him the same way.


Whether Stanton intended this to occur after Arthur Godfrey spoke with LaRosa and his manager about the singer's future on the program, or whether Stanton suggested Arthur Godfrey actually fire LaRosa on air without warning, is unknown.


Arthur Godfrey then signed off for the day, saying, "This is the CBS Radio Network".


The LaRosa incident was the beginning of an era of controversy that enveloped Arthur Godfrey, gradually destroyed his folksy image, and diminished his popularity.


The focus of Arthur Godfrey's anger was the fact that Bleyer, while on hiatus from the show, had produced a spoken-word record by Arthur Godfrey's Chicago counterpart Don McNeill to be issued by Cadence.


Arthur Godfrey claimed Bleyer simply shrugged off the dismissal and focused on developing Cadence, which found significant success with hit records by the Everly Brothers and Andy Williams.


The charge, given Arthur Godfrey's sudden baring of his own ego beneath the facade of warmth, brought anger, mockery and a significant backlash from both the press and public.


Arthur Godfrey later claimed he had given LaRosa a release from his contract that the singer had personally requested.


Arthur Godfrey subsequently fired other producers, writers and cast members including Marion Marlowe, Lu Ann Simms, Haleloke and The Mariners.


The integrated quartet believed Arthur Godfrey had caved in to the continued criticism from CBS affiliates in the South over their continued presence on the show.


Occasionally, Arthur Godfrey snapped at cast members on the air, including Tony Marvin.


Arthur Godfrey later dismissed long-time vocalist Frank Parker, an Italian-American known for his Irish tenor.


Arthur Godfrey had been told Parker made jokes about him during a Las Vegas appearance.


Arthur Godfrey appeared on many major magazine covers including Life, Look, Time, and more than a dozen TV Guide covers.


Arthur Godfrey was the first man to make the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine.


Arthur Godfrey owned the Kenilworth Hotel in Florida, which supposedly had a sign in front that read NO DOGS OR JEWS ALLOWED.


In fact Arthur Godfrey was only a part-owner of the hotel and insisted that when he took that stake, he ended any discriminatory policies that existed.


Arthur Godfrey was an avid hunter who teamed with professional hunters to kill big-game animals on safari in Africa, employing helicopters to gain close access to his prey.


Yet, despite the disease's discouragingly high mortality rate, it became clear after radiation treatments that Arthur Godfrey had beaten the substantial odds against him.


Arthur Godfrey returned to the air on a prime-time TV special but resumed the daily morning show on radio only, reverting to a format featuring guest stars such as ragtime pianist Max Morath and Irish vocalist Carmel Quinn, maintaining a live combo of first-rate Manhattan musicians as he had done since the beginning.


Arthur Godfrey became a persuasive spokesman advocating regular medical checkups to detect cancer early, noting his cancer was cured only because it was discovered when still treatable.


Arthur Godfrey sang, danced, did commercials and announced that he'd make greater use of the new videotape technology for the future.


The Arthur Godfrey show was the last daily longform entertainment program on American network radio when Arthur Godfrey and CBS agreed to end it in April 1972, when his 20-year contract with the network expired.


Arthur Godfrey by then was a colonel in the United States Air Force Reserve and still an active pilot.


Arthur Godfrey appeared in the films 4 for Texas, The Glass Bottom Boat, and Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows.


Arthur Godfrey made various guest appearances, and he and Lucille Ball co-hosted the CBS special 50 Years of Television.


Arthur Godfrey made a cameo appearance in the 1979 B-movie Angels Revenge.


In retirement, Arthur Godfrey wanted to find ways back onto a regular TV schedule.


Arthur Godfrey renounced a lucrative endorsement deal with Colgate-Palmolive when it became clear to him that it clashed with his environmental principles.


Arthur Godfrey had made commercials for Colgate toothpaste and the detergent Axion, only to repudiate the latter product when he found out that Axion contained phosphates, implicated in water pollution.


Arthur Godfrey was a dedicated horseman and master at dressage and made charity appearances at horse shows.


Arthur Godfrey found in later years that his enthusiasm for high-tech had its limits when he concluded that some technological developments posed the potential to threaten the environment.


Arthur Godfrey initially resisted the idea, floated by his agent, but finally relented.


At an initially amicable meeting, Arthur Godfrey reasserted that LaRosa wanted out of his contract and asked why he had not explained that instead of insisting he was fired without warning.


Godfrey biographer Arthur Singer helped to arrange a permanent home for the Godfrey material at the Broadcasting Archives at the University of Maryland in early 1998.


Arthur Godfrey died of the condition at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan on March 16,1983, at the age of 79.


Arthur Godfrey was buried at Union Cemetery in Leesburg, Virginia, not far from his farm.


Arthur Godfrey was next married to the former Mary Bourke from February 24,1938, until their divorce in 1982, a year before his death.


Arthur Godfrey's granddaughter is Mary Schmidt Amons, a cast member on The Real Housewives of Washington, DC.