In the late 40s a sultry female radio voice stopped male listeners in their tracks: "Sweetie, no matter what anybody says, I love you better than anybody in the whooooole world". Then, over sweet organ music, the lovely lady would sing:
" Lonesome.....I'm a real lonesome gal. I can't stop feeling lonesome... Heaven knows when I shall....."
As the music faded, that sexy voice continued softly....."Hi Babeeee....this is your Lonesome Gal...and I want you to sit back, kick off your shoes, and light up a pipeful of Bond Street Tobacco so you can relax with a gal that loves you...."
This unusual, and quite remarkable, syndicated radio show was the product of radio producer Bill Rousseau, and his wife, Jean King, although her identity would not be revealed until 1953. It began as a local show on WING in Dayton, Ohio where King, then in her mid-30s, had perfected her show, by interspersing mildly sexy chatter with sweet, instrumental music on records. John Dunning says of this show: King "spoke in as intimate a manner as radio would allow" and she soon "had more than fifty stations and an income of six figures."
In public appearances, King wore a mask. adding to her mystery. Her local sponsors in Ohio were overwhelmed with the results of the advertising on her program. Based on her Midwest success, King headed to California again. She had originally gone to Southern California from her native Texas to look for acting work and she had minimum success in radio (a few roles on "I Love A Mystery") and she played minor parts in grade-B movies, including some in the Tarzan series. After WW II, she headed for the Midwest and after two years of "Lonesome Gal" in Ohio, it was time to return to the West Coast.
King had trouble there, getting her show on the air, until her new husband, Bill Rousseau, a producer of radio's "Dragnet", was able to get sponsor syndication for hundreds of local stations. At one time, King was actually recording 300 of these 15 minute shows per week, all individually tailored to a particular sponsor or town. Philip Morris paid the bills in seven major markets in the U.S. King had a studio built in their home with a microphone so sensitive that, as Time magazine described it, it could "pick up each wisp of her breath and every sugary nuance of her voice."
Male listeners (married or not) found it difficult to pull away from this sultry siren of the airwaves. King did the whole show herself, with one engineer to play the records, nearly all of which were dreamy, instrumental love songs. Rarely did she play a record with a vocalist---no sense inviting competition into a tiny world of just her and her listener. Of course, she did all the commercials herself too, and they were written for her own special pitch.
A typical commercial, from an April 1951 show, delivered in her soft, slow, breathy voice, sounded like this:
"You know, Sweetie, I hope you've got a special friend, someone that you know and understand so well that just sitting together without a word spoken is enough. I hope that you've got a friend like that and that you share another wonderful bond of friendship--Bond Street Tobacco. When you pass that mild, mellow Bond Street Tobacco over to your friend and watch him light up his pipe--that's like the old tradition of breaking bread. You see, Baby, what it amounts to is that you're sharing more than tobacco...you're sharing something precious....the experience of smoking a pipe full of pleasure--the joy of smoking Bond Street. It doesn't matter where you are--in a boat casting for salmon, or playing a game of cards, or just walking in the country. You and your friend are smoking your pipes, filled with Bond Street Tobacco, and somehow the fishing is better, the card game is more interesting, the walk is more enjoyable. So, Angel, be generous with all the things you have---share them with your friends. And there is no gesture more generous, more friendly, than passingyour Bond Street Tobacco over to your friend and saying 'Here you are--help yourself.' Because along with the pleasures of smoking he discovers, he'll discover another fine reason for saying: 'I'll Remember April".......
(And, of course, the engineer would then play the recording of "I'll Remember April" he had cued up. )
Each quarter-hour show would include one long commercial, two
short commercials, and soft, sexy chatter introducing two or three short
musical records. King prided herself on leading up to each song with an
anecdotal story or commentary which ended with the title of the piece.
Here's some samples of her dialogue and see if it isn't obvious to you what
song will follow:
1) "Honey, last week I read about these two cute little dogs in a show-biz act who were dressed as bride and groom. And when waltz music started, they danced off together on their hind legs. No, it's true, really....but when when I told other people about it, they didn't believe me....."
2) "Isn't it fortunate that talented people write these wonderful shows for the musical stage? I think of someone writing the story and the dialogue. And another person composing the songs to help us understand the story. Just think, Angel, they do all this work so that in the near future audiences can enjoy the magic of some enchanted evening...."
3) " Muffin, have you ever been on a scavenger hunt? Gee, I think they're fun! Every time I've been on one, I've been given a list of things that are almost impossible to obtain. Of course, that's what makes it fun. The most difficult things I ever had to find were a bird's eye lash and a red curl from a bearded lady. Yes, scavenger hunts take you to some mighty far away places..."
Each show ended with a gentle good-bye, a reminder of the sponsor and an invitation to be on time for her next program. Here's a typical sign-off for Lonesome Gal in a late 40s show:
"Well, Sweetie, I've always said that I like everybody, but that doesn't apply to the guy that invented the clock. I no sooner get snuggled up and cozy with you and then I have to leave. But thanks to flavorful Red Top Beer, I'll be back Monday for another visit with you. Honey, I don't know about you, but weekends always make my heart grow fonder. They prove to me that your lonesome gal loves you better than anybody in the whole wide world. "
Then the music theme fades in and she sings:
"If you have love to spare And lips to share.... Why don't you be a pal, and Share them.....with your lonesome gal? ...........Good-night, baby".......
Any written transcription of King's programs cannot do justice to the warm intimacy her voice created. While she projected a sultry and thoughtful interest in her listener, there was nothing risque or improper in her delivery or innuendo. She may have been selling sexuality, but it was freshly-scrubbed and made her audience quite comfortable. Even a listener of today, half a century later, cannot help but feel some of the irresistible charm of the totality of these programs, including the commercials. "Lonesome Gal" was not only a one-of-a-kind show, it was one of lasting appeal.
King died in Aug 1993; she was 76. Dunning includes a 50s publicity photo of her in his book, "Tune In Yesterday." A total of about 27 of her 15 minute programs (most of them for Red Top Beer or Bond Street Pipe Tobacco) have survived and are in trading currency today. Listening to any one of them will convince the OTR fan that this program was truly something special.