Little Bits of History

Amos ‘n’ Andy Precursor

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 12, 2014
Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden

Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden

January 12, 1926: Sam ‘n’ Henry air on Chicago, Illinois radio station WGN. Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll were approached to perform a ten-minute recurring program for the radio station and base it on a popular comic, The Gumps. Instead, the duo proposed using their own characters for the program. Like The Gumps, each ten minute program would be stand alone however there would be recurring characters and an ongoing story. This is sometimes considered to be the first situation comedy.

Sam Smith and Henry Johnson were African-Americans recently moved from Birmingham, Alabama to the Windy City. As the two arrived in Chicago, they were confronted with finding jobs and making enough to pay the rent and other essential bills. Eventually, Sam and Henry set up their own moving company with Henry as boss and Sam as the poor schmuck who did all the work. While in Chicago, they became part of a African-American fraternity called the Jewels and then more shenanigans followed. The program ran for 586 episodes with Gosden and Correll writing and producing them all. They also provided all the voices for the different characters. They wished to record their program and sell it to other radio stations but the idea was denied. They had their last broadcast at WGN on January 29, 1928.

They moved to a competing Chicago station in March. WMAQ was now their home and their characters were given new names. Amos ‘n’ Andy was set in Manhattan’s Harlem district. Amos ‘n’ Andy had a much longer run and even switched venues from radio to television where they were on the air from 1951-1953. There was a wider cast of characters involved in the reincarnated series. Still, only Correll and Gosden provided voices while on radio. They created many new microphone techniques to convey a sense of more people in the room.

When the show moved to television, there was a change of cast. The Caucasian creators had to cede their roles to African-American actors. At the time, there was some criticism about the roles. However, most of the characters were ordinary people and not stereotypes. They were working men or mother with children and they behaved like everyone else, they just happened to have dark skin. Amos himself was a business man who started a taxi company. Andy is more stereotypical as an unemployed and dim-witted man who always managed to have some cash on hand. Gosden died in 1982 at the age of 83. Correll died in 1972 at the age of 82.

Algonquin J. Calhoun: (Kingfish is trying to get Calhoun to help him dupe Andy) What? Do you think I is low down enough to deceive Brother Andy? (begins hitting fist on desk) Do you think I is crooked enough! Do you think I is spineless enough! (Kingfish puts $20 on the desk) Uh, well, just call me Jellyfish (pockets the $20)

Amos Jones: (learning that Sapphire may be having an affair) I can’t believe she’d do a thing like this, but I guess Sapphire feels that by falling in love, again, she can recapture her youth.
Andrew ‘Andy’ Hogg Brown: I don’t know, Amos. It’s gonna be pretty hard to capture anything that got away that long ago.

George ‘Kingfish’ Stevens: (speaking to his jealous wife, Sapphire) You know I wouldn’t look at another woman. Don’t forget, Honey, I’ve been married to you for 22 years, and you done soured me on the whole female sex.

George ‘Kingfish’ Stevens: (explaining what a ballet is to Andy) It’s somethin’ like the opera with the yellin’ and the screachin’ taken out of it. – all from Amos ‘n’ Andy

Also on this day: Reach for the Stars – In 1866, the Royal Aeronautical Society was formed.
Pow! Bop! – In 1966, Batman premiered on ABC Television.
Presentation is Everything – In 1943 The Office of Price Administration in the US issued an edict renaming food items.
The Big Sleep – In 1967, James Bedford died and was cryogenically preserved.

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