Amos 'n' Andy

The 1931 Bud Billiken Celebration

Curator's note: Would two white guys who did a radio show five nights a week speaking in Black dialect (and who had just appeared in a film in blackface) get top billing and star treatment at the Bud Billiken celebration in the 21st century? Not likely. But it was a different story in 1931 when Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll had the hottest show on radio and had recently starred in the feature film "Check and Double Check". Below read the text of the piece written by Nahum Daniel Brascher for the August 21, 1931 edition of the Chicago Defender. (I still can't believe that Duke Ellington was obliged to play second fiddle that day.)

Above: Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll ("Amos 'n' Andy") greeting well-wishers at the 1931 Bud Billiken Day festivities in Chicago's Washington Park. (Photo from the Chicago Defender).

By Nhaum Daniel Brascher for the "Chicago Defender":

"Say what you will, 35,000 Chicago kiddies, many of their parents and "much of their friends" voted unanimously Saturday at the Bud Billiken picnic for the Chicago Defender, the L. Fish Furniture company, Amos 'n' Andy, Duke Ellington and others who joined in making the day the hugest fun day in the history of Chicago.

Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, otherwise known as "Amos 'n' Andy", took a big spot in the events of the day. Arriving at the park incognito, accompanied by Assistant Attorney General Nathan K. McGill, general manager of the Chicago Defender; Dr. Herman K. Bundenden, coroner and city health commissioner, and Alex Robb, assistant manager of the National Broadcasting Company, Chicago, they sat in their car, in Washington Park, viewing the parade and the thousands of happy Billiken kiddies as they scrambled from cars and trucks over to the grandstand.

The party then walked slowly to the stand under police escort. Some few recognized---perhaps by intuition---the radio funmakers, but not many.

The party walked up the steps to the grandstand, where Duke Ellington and his boys, Malcom Vineberg of the L. Fish Furniture Company, Lucius Millinder and his Cotton Club orchestra and others were assembling.

Lucius Millinder Plays

Finally Bud Billiken introduced Millinder for a musical number. And did those boys play! The air was hot with joy, but they made it hotter. When they finished, the happy thousands yelled, whistled, screamed and danced. Then Bud introduced Dr. Bundesen and Attorney McGill.

Bud then told the band to strike up "The Perfect Song", the signature selection selection of "Amos 'n' Andy".You thought it was lively before! You ain't heard nothin' yet! The crowd went wild---they did---they did.

Amos 'n' Andy mounted chairs with megaphones, but you couldn't hear your ears. The radio boys waved greetings, smiled, laughed, tried to talk, but in vain. It couldn't be done.

Then Bud had a happy thought. "Band boys, play "Hail, Hail! the Gang's All Here'".

They did. Amos 'n' Andy led the chorus, waving vigorously their megaphones. It got so good toward the end that Andy jumped down from his chair and danced a jig.

When it was over the crown let out a salvo of applause that could be heard for miles.

Gosden and Correll, the men, were immensely interested and impressed. They tarried beyond the time of other engagements, saying hello and howdy-do to all they could reach out of the vast throng.

They saw a sight that opened their eyes wide in unaffected pleasure and they will never forget the ovation given them.

That the event was on their mind was evinced when Correll (Andy) remarked: "I am glad it is a beautiful day. I was thinking about the picnic last night when I had my dog out for a walk, and I hoped for a day just like this, so the children could enjoy themselves".

When the men were escorted tp their car for departure, hundreds of children and many grownups followed them in the car and waved them a cheering farewell. "We will never forget this day", said Gosden (Amos)."

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WMAQ radio history | "Amos 'n' Andy" | "Fibber McGee and Mollie" | "The Breakfast Club"
Dick Kay | Television at the Merchandise Mart | 1970 television facilities tour | Channel 5 turns 20
The "Chicago School" of television | "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" | Dave Garroway | Mary Hartline
"Lights Out" | Sound effects | 1930 studio tour | WLS | "Empire Builders" | Barry Bernson
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Experimental Television: 1930-1933 | Bob Deservi | Kermit Slobb | Ding Dong School | Quiz Kids
Bob Lemon | The Korshak Chronicles | KYW: The Chicago Years | WENR | O.B. Hanson | Renzo
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Chicago Television for Kids |
Radio Hall of Fame |The NBC News Night Report: 23 February, 1967
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