Amos and Andy

Amos and Andy

Freeman Gosden

Born on May 5, 1899 in Richmond, Virginia

Died on December 10, 1982 in Los Angeles, California of heart failure


Charles Correll

Born on February 2, 1890 in Peoria, Illinois

Died on September 26, 1972 in Chicago, Illinois of a heart attack


AMOS AND ANDY

NBC, CBS, 1929-1960

Amos 'n' Andy creators Gosden and Correll were white actors familiar with minstrel traditions. They met in Durham, North Carolina, in 1920. Both men had some scattered experience in radio, but it was not until 1925 that the two appeared on Chicago's WQJ. Their appearances soon led to a regular schedule on another Chicago radio station, WEBH, where their only compensation was a free meal. The pair's hopes were that the radio exposure would lead to stage work; they were able to sell some of their works to local bandleader Paul Ash which brought them enough name recognition to be offered jobs at the Chicago Tribune's station WGN in 1925. The offer was steady and lucrative enough to allow them to now become full-time broadcasters. The Victor Talking Machine Company was also interested enough to offer them a recording contract.

Since the Tribune syndicated Sidney Smith's popular comic strip The Gumps, which had successfully introduced the concept of daily continuity, WGN executive Ben McCanna thought a serialized version would work on radio. He suggested that Gosden and Correll adapt The Gumps for radio. The idea seemed to involve more risk than either Gosden or Correll was willing to take; neither was adept at imitating female voices, which would have been necessary for The Gumps. They were also conscious of having made names for themselves with their previous act. By playing the roles of characters doing dialect, they would be able to conceal their identities enough to be able to return to their old pattern of entertaining if the radio show was a failure.

Instead, they proposed a series about "a couple of colored characters" but borrowing certain elements of The Gumps. Their new show, called Sam 'n' Henry, began on January 12, 1926, and fascinated radio listeners throughout the Midwest. It became so popular that in 1927 Gosden and Correll requested it be distributed to other stations on phonograph records in a "chainless chain" concept that would have been the first radio syndication. When WGN rejected the proposal, Gosden and Correll quit the show and the station (their last musical program for WGN was announced in the Chicago Daily Tribune of January 29, 1928). Episodes of Sam 'n' Henry continued to be aired until July 14, 1928. Contractually, Correll and Gosden's characters belonged to WGN, so when they left WGN, they performed in personal appearances but could not use the character names from the radio show.

WMAQ, the Chicago Daily News station, hired Gosden and Correll and their former WGN announcer, Bill Hay, to create a series similar to Sam 'n' Henry. They offered higher salaries than WGN and the right to pursue the "chainless chain" syndication idea. The creators later said they named the characters Amos and Andy after hearing two elderly African-Americans greet each other by those names in a Chicago elevator. Amos 'n' Andy began on March 19, 1928 on WMAQ, and prior to airing each program they recorded their show on 78 rpm disks at Marsh Laboratories, operated by electrical recording pioneer Orlando R. Marsh. Early 1930s broadcasts of the show were done from the El Mirador Hotel in Palm Springs, California. Some broadcasts in the 1930s were also done in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

For the program's entire run as a nightly serial, Gosden and Correll portrayed all the male roles, performing over 170 distinct voice characterizations in the show's first decade. With the episodic drama and suspense heightened by cliffhanger endings, Amos 'n' Andy reached an ever-expanding radio audience. It was the first radio program to be distributed by syndication in the United States, and by the end of the syndicated run in August 1929, at least 70 stations besides WMAQ carried the program by means of recordings.

Wikipedia, edited by Ron Sayles