WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN OCTOBER 1950
 
 

Bing Crosby has his final huge hit after twenty years as the biggest selling, most influential and widely admired singer in the world though it wasn’t specifically credited to him, but rather his son Gary Crosby… And Friend.

Play A Simple Melody was written by Irving Berlin as maybe the most prominent example of counterpoint melody dominating a popular song as two separate melodies are sung by two leads against each other each with different lyrics expressing differing points of view to further accentuate the technique.

It had been a hit in 1916 for Billy Murray and Elsie Baker and was remarkably forward looking in how Murray expresses a fondness for rhythm based music – hinting at the coming of jazz – while Baker longs for the old fashioned music from her youth.

The decision to pair Bing with his son, who would have a moderately successful career singing and acting for years, played the contrasting lyrics to the hilt with Gary naturally taking on the younger character who is impatient for more modern music, although it doesn’t show any awareness in the arrangement of the most recent – and most rhythmic – music, rock ‘n’ roll, while Bing displays his characteristic unflappable style in response.

Despite a troubled home life that marred their father-son relationship, the two show a natural affinity for one another’s approach during the song and while it may have been a gimmick designed to launch 17 year old Gary’s career, the results are anything but contrived and artificial.

The flip-side, Sam’s Song, was also a duet between the two and like the top side which hit #2 on the charts, this side was also a huge hit topping out at #3 earning Bing Crosby yet another milestone when it became the first ever two-sided gold record.
 


 
 

Peanuts debuts in seven newspapers starting its run as the most popular, and arguably the most beloved, comic strip in history.

Having first created prototypes of some of the characters for his first comic, the one panel Li’l Folks, published locally in Minnesota, his more expansive idea of a full comic strip was accepted for syndication but the title proved to be a problem when legal action was threatened by someone who’d used a similar one years earlier.

The syndicator came up with the name Peanuts which creator Charles M. Schulz hated, refusing to refer to it as such even after it became known worldwide.

 

 

The strip focused on kids with decidedly adult problems, often psychological in nature, and mirrored the times they ran in, subtly commenting on real world issues in a decidedly matter-of-fact presentation. Over time the demands of a comic strip – all of which Schulz drew, colored and lettered himself – and his own aging making him further removed from the current exchange of cultural ideas meant the strip relied more on typical character based humor.

But the characters themselves were so familiar, Charlie Brown representing the insecure person that lurks inside everybody, with his dog Snoopy having made his first appearance in the third strip while brother and sister Linus and Lucy Van Pelt made their debuts separately in 1952, the strip felt as though it was a living breathing community with its ever expanding cast all becoming household names over the years, something aided immeasurably by the massively popular Charlie Brown Specials that began airing in 1965.

After fifty years Schulz announced his retirement in early 2000, deciding that no one else would continue it after he departed. Having completed five more Sunday strips these ran in subsequent weeks including the final strip which was published the day after Schulz died at the age 77.
 
 

 
 
 

 
Tom Corbett Space Cadet makes its debut on television part of the boom in the science fiction craze that would dominate much of the decade.

The program starred 29 year old Frankie Thomas who’d risen to fame as a child star on Broadway in the early-1930’s before transitioning to films. His career slowed down considerably however as he outgrow the childhood roles by the late 1930’s and he was stuck in a succession of B-movies and radio parts when television revived his fortunes after he was cast as Corbett, one of the young space cadets enrolled in the Space Academy in the 24th Century training to be Solar Guards who patrolled the galaxy. Though limited in budget which made for a small cast – just three students in the class – they did manage to be slightly progressive within that as they cast Margaret Garland as Dr. Joan Dale, a regular member of the crew of their spaceship The Polaris.

Tom Corbett Space Cadet had numerous tie-ins during the era, comic books and comic strips, full length books, records and games, plus lots of advertising featuring the cast. The show itself was aired for fifteen minutes three times a week and a half hour on Saturdays and was one of just a handful of shows to at one time or another appear on all four networks – CBS, ABC, NBC and Dumont – over its five year run.

Though with its primarily young audience it never cracked the Top Thirty in the ratings, the show was the most successful long term of the early 1950’s sci-fi realm.
 
 
 
 
 
The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe is published kicking off the extensive children’s book series The Chronicles Of Narnia, one of the most widely read collection of children’s books in history.

Set in wartime England the story focuses on the residual effects of the Blitz which sent families out of the endangered cities to the countryside to avoid the Nazi bombings where they enter a magical world with talking animals and the tyrannical White Witch who rules the land.

C.S. Lewis clearly is drawing on the real events of World War Two in the story, partly drawn from his own experiences hosting three such evacuee children, but he also manages to look at the war through children’s eyes who used fantasy as a way to deal with the horrors surrounding them and their uncertain future in imagining some way to prevail over a seemingly unbeatable enemy.

Even after a half century has passed it continually places high on the greatest books ever written, particularly the greatest Young Adult books and is one that almost all kids have encountered before leaving school.
 

 
 
 

Beulah debuts on ABC television breaking new ground in a myriad of ways.

It was the first hit comedy show on ABC as the fourth network struggled to gain a footing in the industry; it was also the first successful sitcom to not use a laugh track, but most importantly it was the first time an African-American woman had the lead role in a network series.

The character of Beulah had begun on radio in 1939 with a white male actor, Marlin Hunt, in the role, yet another example of the extreme prejudice in America at the time wherein white people were broadly accepted playing caricatured black characters. Upon Hunt’s death he was replaced by yet another white male actor before African-American Hattie McDaniel, who’d won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1939 for Gone With The Wind, took over and the show promptly became a hit, proving the skeptical networks that the public would accept the authentic casting.

Upon moving to television in 1950 the role was played first by Ethel Waters who quit after the first year, first being replaced by an ill McDaniel who was battling cancer before Louise Beavers stepped in for the remainder of the show’s three year run. The rest of the cast underwent frequent turnover as well and the show constantly faced charges that the depictions of the black characters were based on established and demeaning stereotypes.

Though this is certainly true the show was so popular in part because the African-American community finally were allowed to see true representation on screen, something which remained woefully lacking on American television for the next twenty years and while improved there’s still a notable disparity even in the Twenty-First Century.
 
 
 
 

Earl Lloyd becomes the first African-American to play a game in the NBA on October 31.

Though Chuck Cooper was the first player of color ever drafted by an NBA team in April when selected by the Boston Celtics, they started their season one day later, November 1st, allowing Lloyd, who’d been drafted in the 9th round that spring by the Washington Capitols, to be the first to step foot on the court in a regular season game.

Despite Lloyd’s six points, ten rebounds and five assists in the contest, the Capitols lost to the Rochester Royals 78-70. The following night Cooper scored nine points with two rebounds in his first game for the Celtics and the league never looked back, in time becoming the most inclusive professional sports league in America.

Lloyd’s best season came in 1955 when he averaged ten points and nearly eight rebounds a game en route to a championship with the Syracuse Nationals and in 2003 he was inducted into The Basketball Hall Of Fame for his pioneering role in integrating the league.

 

 
 

Two of radios most iconic comedians make the jump to television. First George Burns and Gracie Allen debut on October 12, and on October 28 Jack Benny does likewise.

Burns and Allen were the top comedy team of their era on radio, with Allen’s scatterbrain misunderstandings providing the biggest laughs while Burns’ unflappable deadpan reactions guided the story.

Benny meanwhile was arguably radio’s biggest star on its best show for decades, as his vain cheapskate character was the centerpiece of a talented ensemble that largely made the shift to television with him before the show scaled back the co-stars appearances over time.

Ironically both female leads, Allen and Jack Benny’s own real life wife Mary Livingstone, who made their respective shows tick, were casualties of the demands of television. Both had felt far more comfortable reading the script in hand as was the practice in radio where nobody but the studio audience saw the actors delivering their lines, but on television they had memorize their parts and Livingstone developed stage fright and was gradually eased out of the show.

Meanwhile Allen had pages of convoluted non-sensical dialogue to commit to memory each week which became exhausting even as it earned her five Emmy Awards for her acting. In 1958 she decided to retire while still on top but subsequently faced heart ailments and passed away in 1964. Burns, who lived to a hundred, continued performing until the end of his life.

Benny, who was Burns’ real life best friend, died in 1974 ten years after his program left the air after thirty two consecutive years on radio and television.
 
 
 
 

Benny’s autobiography was called I Always Had Shoes and that combined with his spendthrift ways all but guaranteed that he was sure to be a fan of Neolite Soles, a rubberized sole for shoes to replace the standard leather soles that everything but sneakers used prior to this.

Firm but flexible, they last twice as long as leather and since nobody seemed to buy new shoes in 1950, preferring instead to simply keep buying new soles for the old shoes, these will cut your costs down considerably. For Jack that means he can keep wearing the same shoes he bought second hand in 1928.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
RECORDS REVIEWED FOR OCTOBER 1950:

LA MELLE PRINCE: Get High
LA MELLE PRINCE: Phone Me Blues
JOE THOMAS: Harlem Hop
HAL SINGER: Rock Around The Clock
HAL SINGER: Fine As Wine
WYNONIE HARRIS: Mr. Blues Is Coming To Town
WYNONIE HARRIS: I Want To Love You Baby
SMILEY LEWIS: Dirty People
SMILEY LEWIS: If You Ever Loved A Woman
HAROLD BURRAGE: Hi-Yo
HAROLD BURRAGE: I Need My Baby
AMOS MILBURN: Bad, Bad Whiskey
AMOS MILBURN: I’m Going To Tell My Mama
IVORY JOE HUNTER: Lying Woman
JOHNNY OTIS’ CONGREGATION: Wedding Boogie
JOHNNY OTIS (ft. LITTLE ESTHER & MEL WALKER): Far Away Xmas Blues
BIG JOE TURNER: Jumpin’ At The Jubilee
GOREE CARTER: Lonely World
THE ORIOLES: I Cross My Fingers
THE ORIOLES: Can’t Seem To Laugh Anymore
LARRY DARNELL: Oh, Babe!
LARRY DARNELL: Christmas Blues
WILD BILL MOORE: Burnt Toast
WILD BILL MOORE: Goon Blues
TUFF GREEN: She Ain’t No Good
JIMMY PRESTON (with BURNETTA EVANS): Oh Babe!
JIMMY PRESTON (with BURNETTA EVANS): Stop That Baby
EMMIT SLAY (with TODD RHODES): Looky Ploot
TODD RHODES: Belle Isle Boogie
FLOYD DIXON: Girl Fifteen
FLOYD DIXON: Walkin’ And Talkin’ Blues
TINY BRADSHAW: Breaking Up The House
IVORY JOE HUNTER: Don’t You Believe Her
ANNIE LAURIE: Now That You’re Gone
WYNONIE HARRIS: Oh Babe!
RAY CHARLES: I’ll Do Anything But Work
BIG JOE TURNER: Back Breaking Blues
PAUL GAYTEN: If You Got The Money, Honey, I Got The Time
WYNONIE HARRIS: Teardrops From My Eyes

 
 
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