The Breakfast Club initially aired as The Pepper Pot in the early 1930’s. The 8 a.m. National Broadcasting Company (NBC) Blue Network variety show did not have a sponsor and its ratings were less than desirable. By 1933, Don McNeill was asked to take over the floundering show. McNeill rearranged the programming, dividing it into four 15-minute segments, which he named the “four calls to breakfast.” Thus, The Breakfast Club premiered on its NBC network on June 23, 1933.
In addition to the comedy, talk and musical line-ups, the show became known for its moment of silent prayer instituted by McNeill. McNeill was a strong advocate of public prayer and his show often featured inspirational verse, in addition to the moment of prayer. Nevertheless, the fledgling show became a success and quickly picked up Swift and Company as a sponsor.
The Breakfast Club featured Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers, Annette King (future congresswoman Charlotte Thompson Reid), Fran Allison and Sam Cowling, who provided a fact or fiction segment based on his personal almanac. The program became famous for its “four calls to breakfast,” which included a march around the breakfast table every 15 minutes. A cavalcade of celebrities appeared on the show during its 35 plus years run on radio.
Airing from June 1933 to December 27, 1968, The Breakfast Club retains the record for the longest hosting emcee on radio or television. McNeill is also considered the pioneer of morning talk radio show, setting a standard for formats still used today in the talk radio industry.
During its long run, the show was broadcast from several locations. Initially, it was broadcast from the NBC Chicago studios in the Merchandise Mart; however, it also broadcast from the Morrison Hotel, Allerton Hotel and from various other locations in Chicago and around the U.S.
A televised version of the show aired briefly on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) television network during the 1951-52 season, but it could not compete against other shows in the prime-time slot. However, The Breakfast Club continued to enjoy an additional 16 years of success on radio.
Enjoy an episode of The Breakfast Club at: