Saturday, August 20, 2022

Hop Harrigan on the Radio

In the Thirties heroic aviators became a hot commodity, with such comic strips as The Adventures of Smilin' Jack and such pulp magazines as G8 and His Battle Aces. In 1939 Action Comics no. 1  (June 1938) introduced the world to Superman and suddenly the young medium of comic books were a big business. The character of Hop Harrigan was both a heroic aviator and a comic book hero. With his best friend Tank Tinker and an heiress named Gerry, Hop Harrigan founded the All-American Aviation Company, which led he and Tank on an number of adventures.

Hop Harrigan first appeared in All-American Comics no. 1 (April 1939). It was the first comic book published by  All-American Publications. It was  a sister of company to two other related companies, National Allied Publications and Detective Comics, Inc. Even in the Golden Age the three companeis would be referred to colloquially and collectively as "DC Comics," as all three bore the "DC bullet" on their titles. The three companies would promote each other's titles in their own, and their characters would even appear together. Indeed, they are the companies that by 1946 would comprise the modern day DC Comics (initially called National Comics Publications and later National Periodical Publications until at last being formally named DC Comics). Hop Harrigan was created by Jon L. Blummer, who worked on such characters as Ultra-Man, Captain X of the RAF, and Little Boy Blue for DC, and created the superhero Fighting Yank for the comic book publisher Nedor.

While Hop Harrigan never earned his own title like other All-American stalwarts like The Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman, he was a popular character nonetheless. He appeared as a backup feature not only in All-American Comics, but also such titles as All-Flash, All-Star Comics, Comic Cavalcade, and Green Lantern. It should have surprised no one, at least those savvy to comic book characters, when Hop Harrigan received his own radio show in 1942.

Hop Harrigan
debuted on August 31 1942 on Blue Network (which would become the American Broadcasting Company during the run of the radio show).  It starred Chester Stratton as Hop Harrigan. Mr. Stratton was also the lead on the radio show The O'Neills and appeared on the radio serial Pepper Young's Family, as well as making appearances on Broadway and in movies. Tank Tyler was played by Jackson Beck, already familiar to DC Comics fans as the narrator on The Adventures of Superman, as well as the voice of Bluto in Paramount's "Popeye" cartoons. Hop's girlfriend Gail Nolan was played by Mitzi Gould, who also appeared on such radio shows as Into the Light and Life Can Be Beautiful. Eventually Albert Aley, who was also one of the writers on the show, would take over the role of Hop Harrigan. The announcer on the show was Glenn Riggs, who also served as the announcer on several other shows, including The Adventures of Jungle Jim, Boston Blackie, Ethel and Albert, and Vic and Sade. He served as Bing Crosby's announcer for years.

Much of Hop Harrigan was written by Bob Burtt and Wilfred Moore. The two had created the hit radio show Captain Midnight, so it should come as no surprise that Hop Harrigan resembled that show to a large degree. As mentioned earlier, Albert Aley was also one of the writers.

Many radio shows had fan clubs that fans could join. Hop Harrigan had no less than two: the All-American Flying Club and the American Observers Corps. Both groups had their own pins and other related merchandise. As a mark of the popularity of Hop Harrigan, in the show's second month on the air it received 124,264 letters from people wanting premiums offered on the show. In the mid-Forties Grape Nut Flakes was the show's sponsor.

Hop Harrigan lasted on ABC until August 2 1946. It moved to the Mutual Broadcasting Company, where it debuted on October 2 1946. There it lasted until February 6 1948.  By the mid to late Forties aviator heroes were not as popular as they had once been, and it seems quite possible that because of that the character of Hop Harrigan had declined in popularity. Indeed, despite having his own radio show and a 1946 movie serial, Hop Harrigan last appeared in All-American Comics no. 99 (July 1948). Sadly, he has not been seen in DC Comics very much since.

While Hop Harrigan's radio show ended in 1948 and he stopped appearing regularly in comic books that same year, he is not forgotten. Several (perhaps all) of the episodes of Hop Harrigan survived and they are available on both Old Time Radio sites and YouTube. Hop Harrigan may not be the best known All-American Comics character these days, but for a time he had a bigger impact in media beyond comic books.

Friday, August 19, 2022

"Autumn Leaves" by John Coltrane

The bad news today is that I feel miserable. It is the height of ragweed season here and my head feels like a lead weight. The good news is that it is abnormally cool for August (highs in the low eighties) and it feels like autumn. Since I don't feel like writing a long blog post tonight, I thought I would then leave you with John Coltrane's rendition of "Autumn Leaves."

Monday, August 15, 2022

Late Great Songwriter Lamont Dozier

Singer and songwriter Lamont Dozier died on August 8 2022 at the age of 81. With brothers Brian and Eddie Holland he was one third of the songwriting and production team Holland-Dozier-Holland. Together they wrote such hits as "Heat Wave" by Martha and The Vandellas, "Baby Love" by The Supremes, "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)" by Marvin Gaye, "It's the Same Old Song" by The Four Tops, and many others.

Lamont Dozier was born on June 16 1941 in Detroit, Michigan. It was a teacher in elementary school who encouraged him in his writing. By the time he was 12 or 13, he would be setting his words to music. He was 15 when he formed the doo-wop group The Romeos. The Romeos would record two singles, ""Gone, Gone, Get Away" and "Moments to Remember You By." After The Romeos disbanded, Lamont Dozier auditioned for the new label, Anna Records. At the label, he became part of the group The Voice Masters. The Voice Masters released a total of five singles from 1957 to 1961.

It was in 1961, using the name Lamont Anthony, he released his first solo single. The A-side was "Let's Talk It Over," but the label preferred the B-side, "Popeye." "Popeye" was subsequently withdrawn due to objections from King Features, the copyright holders of the character Popeye. It was re-recorded as "Benny the Skinny Man." In 1961 he released one last single under the name Lamont Anthony, this one under the Checkmate label. It was "Just to Be Loved."

It was also in 1961 that Lamont Dozier received a job offer from Barry Gordy, Jr., to work for his new label Motown. He would receive a salary of $25 a week against royalties. Lamont Dozier began working with another young songwriter, Brian Holland. Brian's older brother, Eddie Holland, soon joined them. Together Holland-Dozier-Holland would write many of Motown's biggest hits, composing songs for such artists as The Marvelettes, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, Martha and The Vandellas, and The Four Tops.

Dozier-Holland-Dozier left Motown in 1967 after a dispute over royalties and profit-sharing with Barry Gordy. They went onto start their own labels, Invictus and Hot Wax. It was in 1973 that Lamont Dozier left the team and resumed his singing career. In 1973 he released his debut solo album, Out Here On My Own. He released the single "Trying to Hold on to My Woman," which went to no. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. From 1974 to 2018 he would release eleven more albums. He would also co-write songs with such songwriters as Eric Clapton, Mike Hucknall of Simply Red, and Phil Collins. He also wrote songs for such artists Alison Moyet, Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle, Debbie Gibson, and Joss Stone.

Along with his partners, Brian and Eddie Holland, there can be no doubt that Lamont Dozier was one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Arguably, it was as much songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland who were responsible for the success of Motown as it was the label's various artists. Some important was the songwriting and production team to Motown that in 1986 Mary Wilson of The Supremes told The Washington Post, "Holland-Dozier-Holland left and the sound was gone." Few songwriters could ever match the success of Lamont Dozier.