Don McNeill's BREAKFAST CLUB

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Don McNeill's Breakfast Club was a long-run morning variety show on NBC Blue Network/ABC radio (and briefly on television) originating in Chicago, Illinois.

 

Hosted by Don McNeill, the radio program ran from June 23, 1933, through December 27, 1968. McNeil's 35½-year run as host remains the longest tenure for an emcee of a network entertainment program, surpassing Johnny Carson (29½ years) on The Tonight Show and Bob Barker (34⅔ years) on The Price Is Right, albeit split between radio and television, whereas the latter two were television only.

McNeill periodically explaining to the viewing audience what they're not hearing, or to the radio audience what they're not seeing. The show also includes a one-minute, on-air silent prayer. The Breakfast Club dates from 1955, and is so early in the history of television that when McNeill asks the members of the studio audience which of them actually own sets, only three people raise their hands.

 

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In Chicago during the early 1930s, McNeill was assigned to take over an unsponsored early morning variety show, The Pepper Pot, with an 8 a.m. timeslot on the NBC Blue Network. McNeill re-organized the hour as The Breakfast Club, dividing it into four segments which McNeill labeled "the Four Calls to Breakfast."

McNeill's revamped show premiered in 1933, combining music with informal talk and jokes often based on topical events, initially scripted by McNeill but later ad-libbed. In addition to recurring comedy performers, various vocal groups and soloists, listeners heard sentimental verse, conversations with members of the studio audience and a silent moment of prayer. The series eventually gained a sponsor in the Chicago-based meat packer Swift and Company, beginning February 8, 1941. McNeill is credited as the first performer to make morning talk and variety a viable radio format.

The program featured Fran Allison (later of Kukla, Fran and Ollie fame) as "Aunt Fanny", plus Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers and various comedy bits. Every quarter-hour came the "Call to Breakfast"—a march around the breakfast table. A featured vocalist on the show, under her professional name of Annette King, was Charlotte Thompson Reid, who later became an Illinois congresswoman for five terms (1962–71). Eileen Parker became a vocalist with the program in 1953.

The Breakfast Club initially was broadcast from the NBC studios in the Merchandise Mart. In 1948, after 4,500 broadcasts from the Merchandise Mart, the program moved to the new ABC Civic Studio. It was also heard from other Chicago venues: the Terrace Casino (at the Morrison Hotel), the College Inn Porterhouse (at the Sherman House) and "the Tiptop Room of the Warwick Allerton Hotel on Chicago's Magnificent Mile," as well as tour broadcasts from other locations in the U.S. It remained a fixture on the ABC radio network (formerly the NBC Blue Network; it became known as ABC in 1945), maintaining its popularity for years and counting among its fans Supreme Court Associate Justice William O. Douglas.

After ABC Radio was split into four networks in 1968, The Breakfast Club was moved to the new American Entertainment network, and was known for its last months on the air as The Don McNeill Show.

 

Don McNeils Breakfast Club Part 1

Don McNeils Breakfast Club Part 2

Don McNeils Breakfast Club Part 3

Don McNeils Breakfast Club Part 4

THE BREAKFAST CLUB - DON MCNEILL'S

The first installment of The Breakfast Club, Chicago-based radio personality Don McNeill's second attempt at breaking into television, in 1955. Guest singer Eileen Parker does "You Turned The Tables On Me," and the band performs "Jeepers Creepers," Johnny Desmond sings "My Big Little Man"--a song co-authored by a boy later killed in a traffic accident-- "I Dream of Jeannie," and "Pinetree Pine Over Me."

 

McNeill periodically explaining to the viewing audience what they're not hearing, or to the radio audience what they're not seeing. The show also includes a one-minute, on-air silent prayer. The Breakfast Club dates from 1955, and is so early in the history of television that when McNeill asks the members of the studio audience which of them actually own sets, only three people raise their hands.

 

The last broadcast of the Breakfast Club. The program was taped on December 20, 1968, at the Allerton Hotel and aired on December 27

McNeill with comedian Sam Cowling on a broadcast remote from San Francisco, 1956.