Major Bowes Amateur Hour

The Major Bowes Amateur Hour was an American radio talent show broadcast in the 1930s and 1940s, created and hosted by Edward Bowes (1874–1946). Selected performers from the program participated in touring vaudeville performances, under the "Major Bowes" name. The program later transitioned to television under host Ted Mack.

Major Bowes Amateur Hour
Major Bowes Amateur Hour 1935.JPG
Major Bowes as his Amateur Hour became a national radio program, 1935.
Other namesThe Original Amateur Hour,
Major Bowes and His Capitol Family
GenreAmateur talent show, Variety show
Running time60 minutes
Country of originUnited States
Home stationWHN (Apr. 1934—Mar. 1935)
NBC (Mar. 1935—Sept. 1936)
CBS (Sept. 1936—July 1945)
ABC (Sept. 1948—Sept. 1952)
Hosted byEdward Bowes
Jay C. Flippen
Ted Mack
StarringNorman Brokenshire
Phil Carlin
Ted Cott
Created byEdward Bowes
Directed byBob Reed
Recording studioNew York City, New York, USA
Original releaseApril 1, 1934 (1934-04-01) – September 18, 1952 (1952-09-18)
Audio formatMono
Sponsored byChase and Sanborn,
Old Gold Cigarettes


Major Edward Bowes and gong.

Major Bowes and the Original Amateur HourEdit

Bowes brought his amateur hour to the New York City radio station WHN in April 1934.[1] On March 24, 1935, on NBC,[2] The Chase & Sanborn Coffee Company chose this show to fill The Chase and Sanborn Hour. This arrangement lasted until September 17, 1936, when the show moved to the CBS Radio Network. The show remained on CBS for the remainder of its run on radio.

Each week, Bowes would chat with the contestants and listen to their performances. His familiar catchphrase "Round and round she goes, and where she stops nobody knows," was spoken in the familiar avuncular tones for which he was renowned, whenever it was time to spin the "wheel of fortune," the device by which some contestants were called to perform.[3]

Bowes sent the more talented contestants on "Major Bowes" vaudeville tours, often with several units roaming the country simultaneously. Bowes presided over his radio program until his death on his 72nd birthday, June 14, 1946.

Frank Sinatra was perhaps the best-known alumnus of the Bowes program, having appeared as part of the Hoboken Four quartet. Maria Callas also appeared on the program at age 11, performing as Nina Foresti when she sang a selection from Madame Butterfly.[4]

Major Bowes' Shower of StarsEdit

In 1945–1946, CBS presented "an extension series" of the original program.[1] In addition to new talent, it featured performances by winners on the original program who had achieved some additional success.[1]


Major Bowes Amateur Hour also toured the US under the name Major Bowes Jamboree in 1938. The following performers appeared on the stage of Shea's Buffalo:[5]: 5 

"It is composed of 12 prize winning acts which have never before appeared in Buffalo, with Ted Mack, former conductor of Shea's Buffalo Orchestra, returning in the role of master of ceremonies. On the screen will be Mickey Rooney, the delightful star of the Judge Hardy family series, in his newest role, Hold That Kiss with Maureen O'Sullivan and Dennis O'Keefe, Shea's Buffalo News will conclude the bill."

"In the stage show, Major Bowes has booked some of the outstanding acts heard over his weekly radio program, most of which have just won honors within the past weeks. Among these are the Three Chords who startled the studio audience and radio listeners with their uncanny imitations of musical instruments and favorite bands, on the May 12 broadcast."

"Bobby Blakeman, choir boy, who is called the Bobby Breen of the Major's hour, brings an unparalleled sweet voice to the program. Louise Boyd, the amateur Eleanor Powell, has a reputation for never missing a tap in her difficult routine; and the Wallace Brothers,[6][Note 1] two fast stepping youngsters from Harlem, will dance their way into the audience's heart." A very young 10 year old named Tommy DeVito would appear in 1938 to sing and play guitar to "Red River Valley, and would later rise to fame as the founder and lead guitarist of the Four Seasons rock/pop band famous in the 1960s, and whose life was portrayed in the Broadway musical "Jersey Boys" and the film of the same name.

"Other entertainers include Ding, Dong and Dell, harmony trio; Harvey Mearns, Swiss bell ringer; Dick King, Imitator; Neva Ames, xylophone wonder; Duane Sister, acrobatic dancer, Adolph Robinson, song and danceman and Gae Allen, toe tapper on drums."

Ted Mack eraEdit

Major Bowes Amateur Hour
Advertisement for The Original Amateur Hour, with Ted Mack
Created byMajor Bowes
Based onMajor Bowes and His Original Amateur Hour
StarringTed Mack
Country of originUnited States
Original networkDuMont (January 18, 1948 - September 25, 1949)
NBC (October 4, 1949 - September 11, 1954)
ABC (October 30, 1955 - June 23, 1957)
CBS (May 1, 1959 - October 9, 1959)
ABC (March 7, 1960 - September 26, 1960)
CBS (October 2, 1960 - September 27, 1970)

Ted Mack, who joined the Bowes operation in 1935,[7] was "first assistant in the talent selection, production and direction"[8] for Bowes, became the interim host of the radio show and a few months later moved it to the fledgling medium of television. It was intermittently broadcast on the DuMont Television Network during 1947 and began regular weekly programs January 18, 1948, still using Bowes' name in the title, Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour. The TV show subsequently moved to each of the four commercial networks, eventually ending up on its original network, CBS,[9] where the radio show continued to run until 1952. (Another source says that Mack's program ran on ABC radio, rather than on CBS.)[1]: 262 

Starting with the 1950–51 season, both the radio and television versions became simply Original Amateur Hour and in 1955, the TV version was renamed Ted Mack and The Original Amateur Hour. Future stars who appeared on the show included Pat Boone and Gladys Knight.

Each episode usually featured eight acts.[10] Viewers selected the winner, casting votes for their favorites by telephone or by mail. Each segment's winner was announced the next week. All contestants who won for three consecutive weeks appeared in an annual championship episode.[8]

Mack's style was decidedly more charitable than that of Bowes. The Major made a strong impression on a young Alan King, who had appeared on the Bowes program as a teen. He was discussing Bowes with Johnny Carson once, and suddenly stomped on the floor and yelled, "Can you hear me down there, Major Bowes?" suggesting that the late radio host had been consigned to Hell as punishment for his treatment of young performers.[citation needed]

In his comic monologue on his album Sinatra at the Sands (1966), Frank Sinatra describes how his vocal group The Hoboken Four's appearances were so popular on Major Bowes Amateur Hour in the mid-1930s that they were brought back week after week, under a different name each time.[citation needed]

1992 versionEdit

On January 26, 1992, the Family Channel launched its version of the program, The New Original Amateur Hour, with Willard Scott as host.[11]

Notes and referencesEdit


  1. ^ The Wallace brothers – (i) Norman Wallace (né Norman Albert Wallace; 1919–2008) and (ii) Scott Wallace (né Andrew Scott Wallace; 1923–1998)


  1. ^ a b c d Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924–1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4. P. 213.
  2. ^ "The Wheel of Major Bowes Gave Opportunity to Many Amateurs". Kansas City Times. Kansas City, Missouri. April 27, 1956. p. 48. Retrieved May 31, 2016 – via  
  3. ^ "The Warner Brothers Cartoon Companion: A".
  4. ^ Sies, Luther F. (2014). Encyclopedia of American Radio, 1920–1960 (2nd ed.). c, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-5149-4. P. 416.
  5. ^ "Shows of the Week: Shea's Buffalo." Erie County Independent (Hamburg, New York), Vol. 64, No. 32, June 2, 1938, p. 3 (col. 1) (accessible via at link)
  6. ^ "Norman Wallace; Tap Dancer Who Started In Vaudeville," Boston Globe, September 16, 2008, p. D8 (accessible via;  )
  7. ^ "Original Amateur Hour's Ted Mack Is Dead at 72". Garden City Telegram. Garden City, Kansas. Associated Press. July 13, 1976. p. 3. Retrieved May 31, 2016 – via  
  8. ^ a b "'Original Amateur Hour' Returns to NBC Television". Mason City Globe-Gazette. Mason City, Iowa. June 28, 1957. p. 16. Retrieved May 31, 2016 – via  
  9. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7. P. 1057.
  10. ^ "Ted Mack To Return March 7". Oneonta Star. Oneonta, New York. February 27, 1960. p. 11. Retrieved May 31, 2016 – via  
  11. ^ "NBC's Willard Scott to Host 'New Original Amateur Hour'". San Bernardino County Sun. December 26, 1991. p. 47. Retrieved May 31, 2016 – via  

External linksEdit