Name That Tune
First episode: July 6, 1953
Bill's first episode: September 2, 1954
Bill's last episode: March 24, 1955
Bill's show seen Thursdays at 10:30pm on CBS
Last episode: Oct 19, 1959
Two contestants are seated across the stage from a large ship bell. The live orchestra plays a song, and the contestants must race across the stage to ring the bell and...well, you know.
Four tunes were played, with an absurd scoring system of $5, $10, $20, and $40, with the high scorer after four tunes winning the game. In other words, the one who names the fourth tune wins.
The winner advances to "The Golden Medley," a series of seven tunes submitted by a home viewer. The contestant has 30 seconds to name each of the tunes one at a time; the first tune pays $25, with each tune doubling the money to a maximum of $1,600.
The first season of Name That Tune aired on NBC, with Red Benson as host. It ended in June, 1954. The show resumed the following fall on CBS with Bill as host. His version lasted just over six months. The show returned once again in the fall of 1955 with George DeWitt, and only then did it become a hit.
Fans of the seventies and eighties versions, or younger viewers with no memory of the classic game at all, might be surprised at what a simple contest the original Name That Tune actually was, and how quickly it moved. In the surviving episode at UCLA, three full games are played in the half-hour .
Unlike George DeWitt, Bill was not much of a singer. "I've got five good notes," he once admitted, "but I can't get above middle C." Vocal chores on the show were handled by Vicki Mills, who sometimes confused contestants by singing familiar songs in exotic foreign languages.
Name That Tune was a replacement for another of Bill's shows, Place the Face. Two weeks later, Place the Face returned to television on a new day, time and network, and Bill hosted both series.
Two of Bill's episode are available for viewing in the two major archives for such things. The March 10, 1955 episode, which is part of the vast television holdings at UCLA. In addition, the October 14, 1954 episode exists at The Paley Center (formerly the Museum of Television and Radio) in New York and Beverly Hills. Neither are available to collectors. Hardly any episodes of the better-known George DeWitt version exist either, for that matter.