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Command Performance

Bob Hope on Command Performance

Command Performance was a radio program produced exclusively for the U.S. troops and aired between 1942 and 1949. The program was broadcast on the Armed Forces Radio Network (AFRS) and transmitted by shortwave to the troops overseas, it was not broadcast over domestic U.S. radio stations.  Most of the episodes were recorded before a live studio audience in the Vine Street Playhouse in Hollywood, California.

The basic theme of the program was that soldiers would send in requests for a particular performer or program to appear. They also suggested unusual ideas for music, sketches, or sounds from home on the program, for example: "Ann Miller tap dancing in military boots"; "a sigh from Carole Landis"; "foghorns on San Francisco Bay"; "Errol Flynn taking a shower"; "a slot machine delivering the jackpot" and "Bing Crosby mixing a bourbon and soda for Bob Hope". Top performers of the day appeared, including Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Fred Allen, Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland and The Andrews Sisters.

The first Command Performance was broadcast on March 1, 1942, almost exactly three months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Its success paved the way for the creation of the Armed Forces Radio Service in May 1942. Time magazine described Command Performance as being, "the best wartime program in America".  I'd have to agree with them.  It's ironic and a shame that very few listeners in the United States ever heard it because of it's exclusive distribution to the U.s. Troops around the world.  Variety Magazine also observed that “sometimes the language on these shows is just a little more robust than is passed by standard broadcasting stations. Jack Benny, as we recall, last Sunday night encouraged our fighting men to ‘give ’em hell.'”  Oh, that salty language of Jack Benny.  :)

The main reason that the show wasn't broadcast on domestic U.S. radio stations was that performers volunteered their talents for the program. In 1943, Tune In magazine estimated if "Presented by a commercial sponsor, Command Performance would have a weekly talent cost of $50,000."  Another reason was that performing and production unions waived their rules for the war effort on the condition that the shows were only broadcast to service personnel.

An episode of Command Performance generally ran for 30 minutes with the exception of holiday specials.  The program featured some great musical performances and entertainment that can only be found on these shows.

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.

This Week on Live at 5


This week we have some great Big Band performances on Live at 5 including:

Monday (02/24): Gray Gordon: Live at the Hotel Edison -Jan 18, 1939

Tuesday (02/25): Jimmy Dorsey: Live from The Hollywood Paladium

Wednesday (02/26): Boyd Raeburn: Live on From Hollywood - 1947

Thursday (02/27): Benny Goodman: Live from Panther Room -Aug 10, 1941

Friday (02/28): Bob Crosby: Live on The Ford V8 Revue -1936 #2

Please keep in mind, some of the recordings featured on the show are almost 100 years old. Time has been spent trying to clean up some the audio, but the quality at times, on some of these recordings can be a little sketchy.  There may be some audio garbles, a brief volume drop or two and some pops, but they shouldn't take away from the enjoyment of the recording.  That being said, the content of these shows are classic, so if you need to adjust your volume a bit, I hope you'll find that it's worth it.

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA

Swing City Radio T-Shirt

Show your support for your favorite Big Band and Swing Radio Station by ordering a Swing City Radio T-Shirt.  These T-Shirts are great!  Lots of different styles too.  Check them out!  Just click on the picture or links directly below.

Logo Shirts

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.

Charlie Spivak Soundie

Charlie Spivak

Here is a video of Charlie Spivak and His Orchestra performing "Hop, Skip and Jump."  This was released as a Soundie in the early 1940's.  Soundies were the original music videos, decades before MTV was even an idea.  But as you can see the formula for a music video has never seemed to change.  The band is featured doing some silly things while playing and of course there's beautiful women dancing along with the music.

Check out the goofy expression Charlie has in parts of the video.  He just didn't look too comfortable with the whole process. (Picture Below)

Also, wanted to give out a Happy Birthday to Charlie who would have turned the ripe old age of 115 on February 17th.  Spivak passed away in 1982.


Charlie Spivak

You can hear Charlie Spivak right here on Swing City Radio!

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.

George T. Simon

George Simon

The Big Band Era was filled with colorful personalities, constant drama and most of all, incredible music.  George Simon (1912–2001), covered all of it as the editor-in-chief of Metronome (the most influential magazine to cover the Swing scene) from 1939 to 1955.  The books he later wrote about the era are, in my opinion, the best books that cover the era.

Simon was probably the most influential jazz commentator during the swing era. Thanks to his inside connections with the jazz world, he was able to report information about bands and their personnel with great accuracy. 

He was also an early drummer in the Glenn Miller Orchestra. George later became known for being the most comprehensive writer and resource on Glenn Miller and his band.

George Simon's brother was Richard L. Simon, the co-founder of the American publishing house Simon & Schuster.  One of his nieces, Carly Simon, later became a chart topping singer-songwriter.

I highly recommend reading his books to get a true feel for the era and it's music.  Here are three of them that I have in my collection: "The Big Bands" (1968), "Simon Says: The Sights and Sounds of the Big Band Era" (1971) and "Glenn Miller and His Orchestra" (1974).

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.

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