Old Time Radio

Lonesome for the Lonesome Gal

lonesomeheaderWe reasonably expect that music programs should focus on the music. The presenter is an essential part of the package of course, linking the songs together and injecting their own personality into the mix. “Border Blaster” radio Wolfman Jack‘s programs come to mind. Another is Martha Wilkerson, the audio pin-up girl on G.I. Jive.

G.I. Jive’s
G.I. Jill reminds us of a basic tenet of advertising: Sex Sells. AFRS may not have meant to use sex to sell with G.I. Jill, but she certainly showed that sex could attract listeners. Another personality who used this formula to considerable success was Jean King and her The Lonely Gal.

Author John Dunning called Jean King “one of radio’s best rags to riches sagas.” Ms. King was a Dallas, TX, native who followed her dreams to Hollywood. Dreamers packed Hollywood to overflowing, and King only managed to appear in small parts in a few “B” pictures, and a few episodes of radio’s I Love A Mystery.

King left Hollywood and eventually wound up in Dayton, OH, with no job and no money. About that time, local radio station WING ended their network affiliation and was desperate for content. Ms. King arrived with the idea for a show built around the character of The Lonesome Gal. The Lonesome Gal played romantic Lounge music records and laid down a sensual patter directed at the men in the listening audience. To add some mystery to the mix, the Lonesome Gal was never identified, and King wore a kittenlike mask for public appearances. One of her earliest sponsors was a restaurant filled with empty table; at the end of a 39 week run the owners found they had a busy eatery and $60,000 in the bank.

After two years of success in Dayton, King decided to try her luck on the West coast again in 1949. The Lonesome Gal was slow to launch from Hollywood, until Jean King met, fell in love with, and eventually married producer Bill Rousseau. Rousseau had more than his share of connections in radio, having produced Murder And Mrs. Malone, The New Adventures of Michael Shayne, The Amazing Mr. Malone, Pat Novak For Hire, and Dragnet.

redt01Her husband’s connection may have helped get The Lonesome Gal into syndication, but Jean King’s personality and hard work that kept the program going. The Lonesome Gal was relentless in appealing to its masculine audience. The Gal spoke directly to her listeners as individuals, calling them by intimate pet names like “Sweetie”, “Baby”, “Angel”, “Muffin” and so on. Monologues by the Gal filled the show, where where would express her appreciation for her listening lover, and all of his manly attributes. Some of the monologues would be long or short commercials for the sponsor, usually Bond Street Pipe Tobacco (imagine a pretty girl sensuously filling your pipe) or for Red Top Beer (the Red Top Brewery closed soon after The Lonely Gal went to Hollywood). Others were long soliloquies where the Gal told about some incident that reminded her how much she loves her man, and ending with the title of the song she was introducing.

The Lonesome Gal was blatantly selling sexuality, but it was a decidedly fresh-scrubbed sensuality from an era when no couple would be seen kissing without at least one foot each firmly on the ground (and on opposite sides of the bed).

“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”…….