Glenhall Taylor:
Before Television
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Director Glenhall Taylor (right) tries to focus on a script for the “Sealtest Variety Theater,” while guest star Bob Hope focuses on his co-star, Dorothy Lamour.

I was with the Pickwick Broadcasting Corporation for four and a half years, a year and a quarter of which I spent as manager of the company’s station, KTM, in Los Angeles. When I was assigned to that position, my boss, Henry Hohman, warned me that none of the station’s employees nor any of its sponsors should know that I’d played piano professionally or that I had engaged in other entertainment activities on the sister station in San Francisco. I was to be 100 percent businessman.

I played my new role to the hilt and probably would have kept it up indefinitely, but Henry was a piano buff. KTM had an informal Saturday night variety program, and it was Hank’s habit to sit in the station lobby with the other spectators, watching the performances through the big glass window of the studio. One night he beckoned me to his side and said, “Get in there and play something.”

I reminded him of his warning against appearing in a role other than that of a businesslike station manager. “Aw, what the hell,” he said, “none of our clients will know if your name isn’t mentioned.”

With that, he instructed the master of ceremonies to announce me as a “guest artist who wishes to remain anonymous.” Then he ordered me to “play ‘Twelfth Street Rag’ the way you used to in San Francisco.” And so I played. After all, he’d convinced me that nobody in the radio audience would know it was I, so our secret would not be violated.

I had no sooner returned to the lobby when the switchboard operator informed me there was a call waiting for me. I picked up the phone. A voice asked, “Hey — are you Glenhall Taylor?”

I confessed. Excitedly, the voice continued: “Glen, this is Frankie, from San Francisco!”

Click here to purchase "Before Television: The Radio Years" by Glenhall Taylor
Click the mike to purchase “Before Television: The Radio Years” by Glenhall Taylor

Puzzled, I asked, “Frankie who?”

“Frankie, the bootlegger! I thought that was you the minute I heard ‘Twelfth Street Rag.’ I’d recognize your playing that anywhere!”

My past had caught up with me! Frankie, whose last name I never did learn, was — like my respectable boss — a piano buff who particularly liked my flashy version of the well-worn standard rag. In San Francisco, he’d call up KTAB during the late-hour “Night Owls” program I hosted, wording his request in a difficult-to-say-no-to manner: “Hey, Glen — if you’ll play ‘Twelfth Street Rag,’ I’ll send up a fifth of gin.”

It was the sort of reward one learned to appreciate in the late twenties and early thirties — especially good pay for three minutes’ work.

The Pickwick Broadcasting Corporation eventually returned me to San Francisco as manager of KTAB. I remained until 1933 when the broom of a new top management swept me out along with several of my colleagues. After some freelancing, I eventually wound up on the staff of KHJ, Los Angeles, where my duties of announcing, writing and producing replaced those of Sylvester (Pat) Weaver who had just been transferred to the Don Lee Broadcasting System’s San Francisco station, KFRC, where I had once worked. That was in August 1934.

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Copyright © 1979 by Glenhall Taylor. All rights reserved.

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