CBS Radio Announcer
Bill Cullen worked for the CBS network as an announcer from the time he moved to New York in April of 1944 until the early fifties. He introduced a large number of series, some game shows but some dramas and variety shows as well. This list is almost certainly incomplete; even after years of research, new information may surface.
Bill talked about making the move from local Pittsburgh radio to New York City: "I looked at other no-longer-young guys in a deep rut on stations like mine, and said no, I'm not gonna be like this -- even if I starve."
When he moved to New York, he hardly starved. He was hired at CBS in less than a month. Not only that, but before being hired at CBS, Bill also auditioned successfully at NBC. There, he was told he would replace Ed Herlihy when the popular announcer joined the Army. Herlihy never did leave for the service, and Bill ended up at CBS.
As was common for staff announcers, he worked for several CBS series at the same time, so a chronological list would be difficult. Therefore, shows are listed alphabetically, along with our best guesses as to when Bill worked on them. It's impossible to overstate the amount of work Bill did in this job and the amount of detail that we still don't know. A 1948 newspaper profile of Bill notes that during a single week in August, he performed as host, narrator, or announcer on 48 radio broadcasts for CBS.
The Adventures of Ellery Queen
June 18, 1939 to May 27, 1948 on various networks and times
Durable detective Ellery Queen was heard on radio for nearly a decade and at one time or another on three different networks. Most reference sources don't mention Bill but there is one listing for an episode dated February 19, 1947 for which he is credited as an announcer. Our guess is that he was filling in for the regular announcer.
Arthur Godfrey Time
April 30, 1945 to April 30, 1972
Godfrey was one of the biggest and most powerful stars of radio and early television. Many period sources indicate that Bill at least wrote gags for Godfrey's early show, others say he was occasionally heard on it as well. His second wife, Carol Ames, was a singer for a while on the program, so his appearances may have simply been visits in the early fifties. No modern sources acknowledge Bill's contributions to the Godfrey show, so they were probably minimal.
Casey, Crime Photographer
July 7, 1943 to November 16, 1950
Also January 13, 1954 to April 22, 1955
This long-running mystery series went through several titles: Flashpot Casey; Flashgun Casey; Crime Photographer; and Casey, Press Photographer. Casey would snap a picture at a crime scene, and before you know it, get himself involved in the action. Bill was the announcer for the 1948-49 season, which was sponsored by Toni Home Permanents. Dozens of Casey episodes survive, but only a small number from Bill's season. One of the odd features of this role was that he delivered one commercial in each show as if he was a character in the program, usually talking about the virtues of Toni products at the bar where the regulars gathered.
Casey, Crime Photographer made its way to television in 1951. Bill wasn't involved in that version, but when it went off the air in the summer of 1952, its replacement on the CBS schedule was I've Got A Secret.
Archive.org has a selection of episodes available for listening; Bill is featured in these episodes:
CBS News Summary
(Weeknights at 11:10pm)
The CBS radio network aired a nightly five-minute recap of the day's news events. The April 12, 1945 broadcast--noteworthy for the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the swearing in of Harry Truman as the new President of the United States--is hosted by John Charles Daly. The announcer heard during the first minute of the program is never identified by name but is unmistakably Bill. We have no other episodes of the program from this period, so we have no idea how long Bill was announcer, if he was the sole announcer or if several CBS staff announcers shared the assignment.
The Continental Celebrity Club
December 8, 1945 to June 29, 1946 (Saturdays at 10:15pm)
A short-lived variety half-hour sponsored by the Continental Can Company. The program was hosted by John Daly, already a respected radio newsman and later the host of What's My Line? The featured performers were comic Jackie Kelk (famous as Homer Brown on The Aldrich Family), vocalist Margaret Whiting and Ray Bloch's orchestra.
Each show featured a single celebrity guest, often a dramatic actor who would perform in an original short play and engage in scripted banter with Daly and Kelk. (Lovestruck Jackie routinely swooned over the female guests.) Guests included such popular stars of the day as Ann Rutherford, Diana Lynn and Pat O'Brien.
Bill was the original announcer for the series and stayed with the show until at least March 30. By May, Cullen and Daly were gone and Bud Collyer filled both their roles for the final couple of months. At least five of the shows with Bill survive. Archive.org has a selection of episodes available; Bill can be heard on these episodes:
Crime Letter from Dan Dodge
October 31, 1952 to February 27, 1953 (Fridays at 8:00pm on ABC)
This obscure (and short-lived) detective show was blatantly patterned after The Adventures of Sam Spade, which had been cancelled by NBC in 1951. Besides the heroes' alliterative names, both had wacky secretaries, both told their adventures in flashback and episode titles for both series ended in the word 'Caper'.
Two shows survive, sort of. Each of the two badly edited recordings lasts only 8-10 minutes, suggesting that the program may have only been a fifteen-minute affair in the first place. Bill's commercials for Toni are all missing (darn it!), but his unmistakable voice opens and closes each show.
Surprising (to us anyway) is that the airdates for Dan Dodge are several years later than most of Bill's other announcing chores. By the time this show aired, Bill was already a panelist on I've Got a Secret and had several other television credits. It seems odd that he would return to the relatively lower-profile role of merely announcing a radio program.
Bill Cullen introduces tonight's Crime Letter.
The Danny O'Neil Show
A 15-minute, unsponsored music series consisting entirely of O'Neil singing four musical selections per show and chatting between songs with "Kathleen", a young fan. The announcer's role was limited to a brief introduction and close. There is some evidence that the series continued as late as 1954 as a local NYC show, but Bill apparently wasn't involved in that version.
In 1946, the show expanded to 25 minutes, included guest stars and was conveniently renamed Danny O'Neil and His Guests. One reference book lists Bill as the announcer for both versions of the series. However, we have four episodes of the original series and each of them appear to be introduced by a different announcer. None are identified by name, but one of them is obviously Bill. Bill's episode is from April 9, 1945, making it one of the earliest surviving recordings of his work.
An unidentified announcer opens the show, but I think we can identify him pretty easily
Fun with Dunn
Eddie Dunn's comedy-variety show probably started in early 1943. Three episodes are known to exist, dating between March and November of that year. One magazine article says this was Bill's first network show as an announcer. That would have been around April, 1944. Bill quickly established a reputation for himself as an ad-libber. He was only supposed to introduce the show and sign off at the end. The producer once gave him a single gag line at the top of the show, and he turned it into a five-minute bit.
The series probably didn't last much longer after his arrival, however, and Bill moved on to Sing Along With The Landt Trio. Dunn also briefly hosted the TV series Where Was I? on which Bill was a panelist.
Give and Take
January 1946 to December 26, 1953
John Reed King (pictured here with Bill) was the host for this simple but durable quiz game in which contestants chose their own prize from a table, then answered a single question to win it. A "second guesser" (chosen in an elimination round at the beginning of the show) could win any prize with a correct answer to a missed question. Toni sponsored the show from 1946-51, and since Bill did a lot of work for that sponsor, he may have announced during most of that time. Three episodes are known to exist, and the two that have Bill on them are from January and August of 1949. The show also had a brief TV run in 1952.
The show premiered on August 25, 1945, but a trade paper article indicates Bill didn't come on board until January 10, 1946 at the earliest.
In the spring of 1949, Give and Take went on an extended tour of Texas for several weeks of special broadcasts. Episodes aired live From Houston, then Waco, and finally Beaumont.
As we study Bill more and more, we're intrigued by the diverse paths he and King took with their careers. Bill, early in his national broadcasting career, was frequently cast in the role of loyal sidekick to King. Bill went on to become a star in his own right, while King took precisely the opposite path, leaving national broadcasting for a local career at Bill's old stomping grounds, KDKA in Pittsburgh.
September 30, 1946 to March 28, 1947 (Monday, Wednesday, Friday 4:30-5pm)
Contestants tried to identify famous lines of movie dialogue to win prizes. In a popular stunt segment, members of the studio audience were selected to take part in a "Hollywood Screen Test," performing such stunts as flying to the balcony or reading a part as Lassie. The host was Kenny Delmar, who later gained fame as the voice of Senator Claghorn on The Fred Allen Show.
Laugh of the Party
An audience participation show in which "ordinary folks" (presumably from the studio audience) become radio comedians. Jack Lescoulie was the host. Two consecutive episodes from January 15 & 16, 1947 exist, and Bill is identified as the announcer on both of them. Also known as The Fun House.
One Night Stand
One Night Stand was one of dozens, maybe hundreds of "band remotes" that filled the program schedules of networks and local stations alike throughout the thirties and forties. Typically half-hour shows, and usually heard late at night, these series would originate from wherever a popular band was performing: hotels, nightclubs, army bases and the like.
The single listing we have for Bill is for July 6, 1944, from the Hotel Astor in New York City. Tommy Tucker is the bandleader and introduces the songs himself, so Bill is left with little to do. This was almost certainly not the only time Bill announced for the series, but other listings from that time period fail to name any announcer.
Sing Along with the Landt Trio
Sometimes listed simply as Sing Along (or even Sing-A-Long), and sometimes just known as The Landt Trio, this daytime variety show was Bill's second job as an announcer, following Fun With Dunn. Dan, Karl and Jack Landt were among the earliest radio stars. They had a decade-long NBC show that started all the way back in 1928. Their CBS series ran for five years in the early forties, and Bill probably joined the program sometime in late 1944. Bill met his second wife, vocalist Carol Ames, when both were working on this series.
Only two episodes of Sing Along With The Landt Trio are known to survive. One of them, the episode of June 7, 1944, was preserved along with the entire day's CBS schedule due to the historical interest in the network's D-Day coverage.
April 2, 1946 to September, 1946
No details are known about Bill's involvement with this variety series, outside of a single reference in a 1952 profile. From vintage newspaper listings, we know the series was an early-evening 15-minute affair. A handful of 1946 episodes exist which do not include Bill. From the episodes that exist, we gather that the program was a fifteen minute daytime affair hosted by Gordon MacRae.
This is Nora Drake
October 27, 1947 to January 2, 1959
(15 minute daily serial at 2:30pm)
This long-running soap opera began on NBC, was heard on both NBC and CBS during 1948 and became exclusively a CBS show sometime in 1949. Bill was the show's original announcer, making it the only NBC show on which he worked in this early part of his career. Toni Home Permanents sponsored the show until 1951, which was likely the end of Bill's tenure as well. At least eighteen episodes with Bill survive.
The announcer's role in a continuing drama such as this one was very important. Between the opening introductions, the commercials at the beginning and end of each show, the recap at the start of the program and the "tune in tomorrow" epilogue, Bill's contributions amounted to about a third of the show's brief running time each day!
Bill's early work in radio, both as an announcer and as a quiz show host, was frequently sponsored by Toni Home Permanents. Bill apparently developed a strong relationship with the company during this time. A 1948 Billboard report stated that the company was getting ready to move into television production (at a time when sponsoring and producing a series went very much hand-in-hand) and that they had called upon Bill to brainstorm new ideas for shows. If Bill had any ideas that made it on the air, we haven't learned about them yet.
Check out a page about Toni's famous ad campaign on a huge site dedicated to old-time radio. And if you'd like to hear This is Nora Drake, Archive.org has a full 17 episodes of the series; all except the June 23, 1948 episode feature Bill as narrator/commercial announcer.
Waitin' for Clayton
Late 1945 - Mid 1946
A fifteen-minute variety series also known as The Patti Clayton Show. The show aired back-to-back with Skyline Roof (above) for much of its run. Our assumption is that Bill was the announcer for both series during that period.
Footnotes in pop culture history: Patti Clayton of Waitin' for Clayton was the first person to record the Chiquita Banana jingle.
Winner Take All
June 3, 1946 to September 6, 1946
Bill's big break. He started as the announcer for this series when it debuted. Original host Ward Wilson left the show three months into the run (some sources say he was ill, others suggest he was fired) and Bill took over. He continued to work as an announcer on other series for several more years, but this set him on his way as a game show host. See the first listing under QUIZ SHOWS in our radio section for more information about Winner Take All.