Al Pearce (1898-1961)
Al Pearce had always been a performer, but his guitar and songs had been strictly a hobby until the mid 1920s, when his real estate business suddenly failed. A KFRC executive saw Al and his brother Cal performing a vaudeville sketch at a real estate convention, and they were immediately hired. Their program on KFRC, “The Happy Go Lucky Hour,” debuted in 1929 and was an immediate hit on the Don Lee Network.
The popular program graduated from a West Coast offering to nationwide on CBS. It moved to NBC in 1933 and became “Al Pearce and His Gang,” then returned to CBS in 1939, debuting on October 11 of that year under the sponsorship of Dole Pineapple. In 1941, Camel Cigarettes sponsored the program, which remained a network staple until 1947. Throughout World War II, Al also appeared as a featured guest on Armed Forces Radio Service programs such as “Mail Call” and “Command Performance.”
Al played the recurring character “Elmer Blurt, The Low-Pressure Salesman” throughout the years on his radio program; along with a rhythmic knock on an imaginary door, it is Elmer’s voice that is heard muttering the show’s trademark opening of “Afraid you’re all listenin’ in maybe, I hope-I hope-I hope-I hope.” In 1943, Pearce played both Elmer and himself in the feature film “Here Comes Elmer,” which also starred Dale Evans (Mrs. Roy Rogers), Frank Albertson and Nat King Cole.
He later starred in several more low-budget motion pictures during the 1940s, including “Hitchhike To Happiness” (1945, co-starring Dale Evans again), “One Exciting Week” (1946) and “The Main Street Kid” (1948). In February 1952, he moved to television, hosting “The Al Pearce Show,” which began as a daytime comedy-variety show from Hollywood on CBS. The program moved to Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. as the summertime replacement for “The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show” on CBS later in the same year, originating from New York.
In the late 1950s, he was the spokesman for Rambler American automobiles. Al Pearce is honored on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in radio with a star near 6328 Hollywood Blvd.
Albert “Al” Pearce died on June 2, 1961, at Newport Beach from complications following surgery.
LISTEN TO AL PEARCE ON THE AIR!
We don’t currently have any recordings of the program when it originated from San Francisco, so here’s a special episode of “Al Pearce & His Gang,” originating from Hollywood on the CBS network and heard in the Bay Area on KSFO. (KSFO was the local CBS affiliate from January 1, 1937, until December 31, 1941.) On tonight’s program, America’s favorite singing cowboy, Gene Autry, pays a visit to Al and the gang, and Elmer Blurt tries to sell insurance door-to-door.
All articles copyright © 1997-2006 by John F. Schneider. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with the generous permission of the author.