The Voice of Firestone

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NBC (ended 1959)

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The Voice of Firestone

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The Voice of Firestone began on the first Monday evening in December, 1928, the initial program was broadcast on a national network. Speaking over the airwaves at that time, Harvey S. Firestone said that he hoped the Voice of Firestone would be "a wholesome feature in your household." By short wave, the broadcast was carried to all corners of the world. The broadcast was carried by 41 stations. It featured the Firestone orchestra under the direction of Hugo Mariani. Guest soloists were Franklin Baur, Vaughn De Leath and Stefana Di Stefana. Since that first broadcast December 3, 1928, the program has been devoted exclusively to the best in all types of music and as featured many of the world's greatest artists. The original theme song of the program was Memory Lane. In 1936 it was replaced by a composition-In My Garden, by Idabelle Firestone, wife of Harvey Firestone and "In My Garden" remained the opening signature until 1941. It was replaced as the opening theme by another of Mrs. Firetone's compositions "If I Could Tell You". "In My Garden" became the closing theme song. When the program first went on the air, Hugo Mariani was the orchestra conductor. He was succeeded by William Daly, who died in 1937. Alfred Wallenstein, who succeeded Daly, became conductor of the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra in 1943, and Howard Barlow became conductor for the program. March 21, 1948 marked a milestone for The Voice of Firestone. When the Voice of Firestone moved into the studio to put on its radio program, the lighting equipment used for the previous day's telecast was still up. On the spur of the moment Firestone decided to telecast as well as broadcast its show that evening. The Voice of Firestone became the first commercially sponsored musical program to be televised. At that same time it became the first to be simulcast on AM, FM, TV and short wave. Much thought was given during the next year to ways and means of making the program as interesting to the eye as it had always been to the ear. During the Summer of 1949 many of these problems were solved and on September 5, 1949 simulcasting of The Voice of Firestone began on a regular basis. On May 3, 1954 The Voice of Firestone was telecast in color from the Colonial Theater in New York. Many of the World's greatest opera stars have appeared on The Voice of Firestone through the years. Richard Crooks was first heard on the program in 1932 and appeared so regularly that he established a record surpassing that of any other Metropolitan star with a radio program. Some of the highlights during its history included the American television debut of Jeanette MacDonald on November 13, 1950. Fred Waring fronted two theme shows--one on college songs (co-starring Sterling Holloway) and one an Easter Program. Many shows (in abbreviated editions) were presented on the program. These included "Scherezade" (with Roberta Peters), "Carmen" (with Robert Merrill and Rosalind Elias), "Romeo and Juliet" (with Peters, Nicolai Gedda and William Walker and Jerome Hines' "I Am the Way" with Hines playing Christ with Walker, Mildred Miller and David Starkey as his co-stars. In 1958 The Voice of Firestone took a different direction trying to keep up with the changing times. The show now hosted and narrated by John Daly would feature not only classical music but popular music with a different guest conductor including Arthur Fiedler, Wilfrid Pelletier and Harry John Brown. This would only last until June 1, 1959 when The Voice of Firestone would leave the air. A return after a three year hiatus in 1962 of The Voice of Firestone would only last a Season. The Firestone family was deeply involved in the production of the program. When the show debuted in December, 1928, Harvey S. Firestone greeted the audience with the following words: "As each week brings you a new Firestone program, we hope your enjoyment may bring us all closer together and that The Voice of Firestone may always have a friendly echo in your memory." Firestone and his son Harvey, Jr. both served as hosts for the radio version of the show. Idabelle Firestone composed the music for both the show's opening and closing themes. Words for the opening theme "If I Could Tell You" were written by Madeleine Marshall while words for the closing theme "In My Garden" were written by Lester O'Keefe. The show's most frequent guest was Rise Stevens with 47 appearances. The artist most identified with the radio program was Richard Crooks, who began appearing on the show in 1932. He ended his career in 1945 when he lost a top note during a Firestone program and retired on the spot. Leonard Warren was also a frequent guest on the show with his co-stars in two appearances being Nadine Conner and Dorothy Warenskjold. Many awards have been bestowed upon The Voice of Firestone program. The Chamber of Commerce of the United States honored the program for its contribution to the culture of America. Another honor was the Sylvania Award for an outstanding contribution to creative television technique. The program carries the approval of parent-teacher associations (or juvenile listening. The National Association for Better Radio and Television cited it as the outstanding program in both radio and television categories. It has won the Governor's Award of the State of Ohio "for consistently furthering culture in entertainment," and was recognized by the Ohio Education Association for "outstanding service in behalf of public education." The Lee De Forest Award was bestowed on Harvey S. Firestone, Jr., as the individual responsible for "the most outstanding contribution to the cultural development of radio and television." The George Foster Peabody Radio-Television Award, one of the highest honors in the field of entertainment, was presented to Firestone in 1956. The award, covering the year 1955, cited The Voice of Firestone for "the exclusive beauty and high quality of its program structure" and the company for "highest sensitivity not only in the matter of superb program standards but also in its understanding of advertising proprieties." Several times the program has been selected as the best classical musical program in the annual critics' polls conducted for Fame Magazine by Television Today and Motion Picture Daily. The 1958 Christmas program won Christopher Awards for Frederick Heider, producer; Richard Dunlap, director; and Harold Flender and David Gregory, writers. The program also has received two Freedoms Foundation awards, and numerous other awards from such organizations as the American Legion Auxiliary and the General Federation of Women's Clubs. Still another distinction occurred on January 20 when The Voice of Firestone presented a simulated telecast at the White House. The occasion was a State Dinner in honor of President and Senora Frondizi of Argentina for which President and Mrs. Eisenhower requested a typical North American program of classical and semi-classical music. The performance was the first such in the history of official While House entertainment. The program starred Rise Stevens and Brian Sullivan of the Metropolitan Opera. Oscar Shumsky, violinist, and was conducted by Wilfrid Pelletier. Many hours of the program's time have been donated through the years for special tributes and public service messages about the activities and programs of such organizations as the National 4-H Clubs, Boy Scouts, Future Farmers of America, Red Cross, USD and other associations working to improve the health and welfare of the world's people. In honor of the company's 30 years of continuous live music programming on The Voice of Firestone, the American Federation ol Musicians presented a plaque to Harvey S. Firestone, Jr., in 1958, accompanied by a letter expressing the "grateful good wishes of 260,000 members" who proclaim "you and The Voice of Firestone the alltime champions of live music and musicians."moreless
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