Thursday, July 12, 2007

The 1930s - Part 4 - A Mysterious Doctor on Vox Pop

The year 1937 was an eventful one on the Houston radio scene. Two big developments concerning KXYZ will be reported on in the next post in the chronology but this post deals with a big development in KTRH's locally produced Vox Pop program.

During July a new feature began on the program on Monday evening on KTRH. The listings for the program each week had been getting very brief and on Sunday, July 11th, a Chronicle story headlined ‘Vox Pop Moves to Met Stage’ announced half of the program scheduled the next evening would move off the streets and onto the stage of the Metropolitan Theater on Main Street with the ‘mysterious Dr. I.Q. shooting questions at the audience.’ There would be three announcers roaming the audience with portable microphones. A $5 prize was to be given for correct answers but anyone who participated in the program would get a consolation prize. Lee Segall was to handle the street portion of the program, the ‘mysterious Dr. I.Q.’ segment would begin at 8:15, half way thru the program.



The listing for Monday, July 12, just called the program Vox Pop but thereafter the program was listed as ‘Vox Pop with Dr. I.Q.’ The following week, the Chronicle reported that the segment had been judged a tremendous success and for the show on the 19th the Dr. I.Q. segment would take up 2/3rds of the show. The word ‘mysterious’ was not used again in newspaper accounts. Listeners and participants had liked the new format because more people could take part and, of course, because they could win cash. The story also said that in one week, KTRH had developed a new radio personality in the person of Ted Nabors, who was the original Dr. I.Q. Nabors was to have a long career in Houston radio, later serving as Program Director of both KTRH and KTHT. In the 1950s, before I became aware of top-40 djs, I probably recognized only 2 names of Houston radio personalities, Fred Nahas, Mr. First-Nighter as he was called, and Ted Nabors.

Dr. I.Q. was sold to Mars Candy Co. in 1939 and put on the air as a summer replacement for Jack Benny and was an even bigger hit than Vox Pop had been and was to run on NBC until 1949, then ABC for one year. There was also a short-lived Dr. I.Q. Jr. series and two times in the 50s, ABC-TV aired a TV version of the show.

The show is remembered for the jingling of silver dollars falling into the hands of the winners, the announcer’s graphic descriptions of the delights of Mars candies and the phrase ‘I have a lady in the balcony, Dr.’ and its many variations.

The show was one of many network shows that traveled to different cities, as did Vox Pop. In March, 1942, it returned to Houston for a six week run in its regular Monday evening time slot on NBC, once again originating from the Metropolitan Theater where it had been born, with KPRC announcers working the microphones. The Chronicle interviewed Lee Segall who at that time was President of Segall Weedin Advertising in Houston and controlled the rights to Dr. IQ throughout his life. He said he still submitted 100 to 200 questions per week to the show of which many were used.

Segall was to sell two other shows to the networks as well as apply for broadcast licenses here and receive an FM permit but by the late 1940s he had relocated to Dallas and put KIXL-AM/FM on the air (see the section on the 1940s) and by the time of his death in 1984 his connection to early Houston radio and the fact the Dr. I.Q. show originated here had been forgotten.

During the TV Quiz Show scandals of the late 50s, Howard Stentz, Radio/TV Editor of the Chronicle, who always did a great job of covering radio during his tenure, remembered Segall and interviewed him about the scandals. Not surprisingly Segall predicted game shows would continue to be around but the feature story mostly concerned Segall’s recollections about Vox Pop and Dr. I.Q. Segall recalled he had been working for the Vox Pop sponsor, Metzger’s Dairy, and they had asked him to come up with a replacement they could sponsor so he came up with two changes - moving the show indoors and adding cash prizes. He recalled that the most anyone could win at any time was originally $20 because they wanted to have lots of small winners instead of one big one, and initially, all the questions were very easy ones. He also stated that when he had taken over producing Vox Pop, he had changed the questions from interview and opinion type queries to questions of simple fact and trivia.

For the initial broadcasts from the Metropolitan, Harry Grier, Tom Jacobs and Ben Weedin, all of KTRH, handled the microphones in the audience. Segall was later to form an advertising agency in partnership with Weedin and the latter was the producer of the Dr. I.Q. show in its last run on TV.

The images above are from the archives of the Houston Chronicle at the Houston Public Library.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember Ted Nabors' morning radio program, "Musical Clock" and its theme music, "Twighlight Time" by the Three Suns? It probably aired starting in the late 1930s and into the 1940s.

Roy

HRH Blogger said...

No, sorry. A little before my time but I'd like to know more. Can you tell us any more about Ted Nabors? I just barely remember him from the 1950s.

Anonymous said...

I can't tell you more about Ted Nabors except that we listened to him almost every morning on our little Zenith table top radio. I believe the name of his program was probably because he would give the time of day very often. I was just a little kid myself during that time. At the time we lived on the north side of Houston in the Hogan-Lorraine/Hardy St. area, and the other thing I remember were the factory whistles in the area at 8 and 8:20 am and again at about 4 pm and at 5 pm. There were only 3 local AM stations in the late 30's and into the 40s and of course no FM.

Roy

HRH Blogger said...

Thanks for getting back to me on that. I take it this was on KTRH? Interesting that they chose their morning man to host the quiz show. Also interesting that the theme was Twilight Time for a morning show but I can't recall that melody.

I'll be on the lookout for that program listing when I get back to doing research.

Bruce

Anonymous said...

Not absolutely sure Ted Nabor's Musical Clock program was on KTRH, but if it wasn't it had to be on either KPRC or KXYZ, the only radio stations there. I googled "The Three Suns" and they were a trio on guitar, accordian and organ and their Twilight Time piece was an instrumental. I guess Ted Nabors just liked it for his theme song.

HRH Blogger said...

I'll keep my eye out for a listing. All three stations were closely interrelated. KPRC and KTRH shared a transmitter site at Deepwater on what is now highway 225; KTRH and KXYZ had shared some staff earlier in the decade and possibly did still. KXYZ was run by the nephew of Jesse Jones who owned the Chronicle, the Rice Hotel, and KTRH.

Anonymous said...

Ted Nabors'opening music was "Twighlight Time" by the Three Suns.It was a morning show and must have been popular because my mother listened to it in Beaumont, Texas long before we moved to Houston and I started as a control engineer for the station.
Nabors also emceed a quiz show from the Rice Hotel ballroom, just a few floors down from the station's studio in the Rice Hotel.
-ag

Bruce said...

Interesting that you guys have been able to remember that detail for this long. Must've been a pretty memorable tune. So far as I know at this time, Nabors only worked for KTRH up until at least the mid-40s when KTHT came on the air; I only remember him from KTHT in the 50s.

ag thanks for adding your information. If there's any more you can add, please do.

Anonymous said...

HELLO-YES I remember I'm his son Paul Nabors & live and work in Denton, Texas. KTRH was located in the Rice Hotel. My Dad worked for KTRH 18years & then went to KTHT. After KTHT he was on KTRK-TV & had a morning program called Soundtrack which consisted of music, news, & various celebreties. Growing up my sister & I were fortunate enough to meet a lot of celebreties. I got to take my picture with Roy Rogers & Dale Evans and my sister & I with Gene Autry. Still have the pictures. I alsoo have the original script of the Dr.IQ program. He also worked with Walter Cronkite in the 30's at KTRH. He did lot of MC work including ST. THOMAS UNIVERSITY MARDI GRAS, & the big bands in the Rice Hotel Ballroom, and narrated midnight Mass on Christmas Eve several years. The quiz show from the hotel ballroom was called the Quiz of Two Cities and was between Houston and New Orleans. I think the station was WWL in New Orleans. Contestant were asked questions & if they had right answer won silver dollars.

Bruce said...

Great to hear from you. Thanks for the additional information. That script is a collector's item, I'm sure; I would love to see it.