While there are a few
NBC programs to be found on our page of "other" Bill Cullen radio
we decided to put these four thematically similar series on a single
NBC, 1954-55, Saturdays 2-6pm
According to the
for the series, this four-hour weekly radio show was one of the first
designed for drivers to enjoy in their cars. As one article
reported, "The trend is away from 'living room' listening. The TV set
the center of attraction there. Radio rules the roost in the
bedroom and auto." At the time, some scripted radio comedies and
dramas were still popular, but the handwriting was clearly on the wall,
and this program in many ways served as a template for the segmented
of news, features, music and general yakking that modern audiences
Bill introduced a variety of recorded and live entertainment, including regular performances from a young Steve Lawrence at about the same time he was being "discovered" on Steve Allen's Tonight show. The show's origination moved to the west coast at some point in order to accommodate Bill's transcontinental commute to host Place the Face. Several episodes of Roadshow are preserved in the Library of Congress, though we have yet to find any collectors who have one.
WRCA (later WNBC), September 19, 1955 to September 29, 1961
Originally heard daily 6:30-9:30am, expanded to 6-10am
(Also Saturdays in a two-hour version at various morning hours)
Bill was already a
figure when he was tapped to host the local morning program for NBC's
station in New York. He had spent six weeks filling in as a
temporary morning host in the spring of 1955, and became the permanent
host that fall. Originally, the three-hour show (which was known
as The Bill Cullen Show) still retained some vestiges of what
now think of as old-time radio, most notably a live, nine-piece
Less than two months into the new gig, Bill's show changed to match the format and structure of the popular NBC weekend series Monitor. (A daily network version of Monitor known as Weekday debuted at about the same time.) Renamed New York Pulse with Bill Cullen (and later shortened to the single-word title), the show eliminated its live orchestra but added an ambitious mix of features, interviews and reports from all over the city, emphasizing news and information over music and entertainment.
Eventually, the ambitious features gave way to a more streamlined entertainment program similar to what is still common on morning radio shows today. Bill spun records, read commercials, chatted with guests, stopped for news and weather reports, even ran contests, including a regular "Finders Keepers" game in which he would offer clues to the location of a hidden thousand-dollar bill.
Even though Bill was the
deejay for the flagship radio station of the National Broadcasting
his program wasn't nearly as popular as other NYC morning shows of the
day. This may partly be because he was among the last to realize
the significance and impact of rock and roll music. "I'm
a rock 'n' roll fan," he said in 1958. "I'm not young enough to
savage. When I hear the beat, I don't want to get up and
I just feel like going to
Sometime in the late fifties, the title of the series reverted back to The Bill Cullen Show. We have bits and pieces from Pulse over the years, from Bill's personal collection. A small handful of episodes and partial episodes, all from 1957, are preserved in the Library of Congress.
Our great thanks to Kenneth Johannessen, whose intensive research has turned up several vintage news articles and reviews that helped give us a much better sense of this important period in Bill's career. Kenneth is also responsible for tracking down the Variety reviews for many radio and television series sprinkled throughout these pages.
A 1956 commercial for Eagle Pencils.
Bill talks to Macy's and Gimbels employees during the 1955 Christmas season.
Bill talks about Pulse in a 1988 interview with Alan Colmes.
NBC Weekends. June 12, 1955 to January 26, 1975
Bill's regular contributions: 1971-1973
Bill contributed to this
weekend radio series but frankly, what NBC personality didn't? Monitor
was a wide-ranging program encompassing news, sports, interviews,
even traditional record spinning. (Imagine All Things
crossed with your favorite easy listening station.) It ran for
every weekend on NBC radio stations. There was no single, regular
host. Instead, a virtual "Who's Who" of NBC newscasters,
hosts and other personalities took turns serving as anchors, who were
Besides Bill, the list
Blair, Hugh Downs, Art Fleming, Joe Garagiola, Dave Garroway, Monty
Don Imus, Murray the K, Hal March, Frank McGee, Ed McMahon, Garry
Henry Morgan, Bert Parks, Gene Rayburn, John Bartholomew Tucker, David
Wayne and many others.
Bill hosted Saturday
broadcasts from 1971 to 1973. In a January, 1972 interview, Bill
admitted "I'm just filling in on Monitor until the network
someone else." He also revealed he was being paid $500 an hour
his three-hour Monitor shift.
Bill succeeded Joe
Garagiola as host,
who had succeeded Ed McMahon. Bill also sat in as Monitor
host at other times. The picture above, for example, is
identified as being from Monitor and is dated December, 1970.
newsman Bill Moyers with our Bill, by the way.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
NBC, January 4, 1960 to January 31, 1975
Emphasis began as a five-minute feature heard eight times each weekday on NBC radio stations. Originally designed as a vehicle for the network's news correspondents, it evolved into a lighter feature and included a wide variety of personalities as hosts. It also shrank over time from five minutes down to three and a half, and finally to about a minute. The "emphasis" changed depending on which personality was hosting that segment. Bill's shows on leisure activities were called Emphasis: Time Off (later, they became Emphasis: At Ease).
Other contributors to the
included Dr. Joyce Brothers (Mind Over Matter), Ann Landers (Everyday
Living), Gene Shalit (Man About Everything) and Edwin Newman
(Critic At Large). Newsmen Frank Blair, John Chancellor,
Huntley, Sander Vanocur and Russ Ward were among the journalists who
A 1967 article says Bill
five short features a week for the series. He continued to
segments to the series until it left the air in 1975.