“Upset at the Chesterfield people for some reason, [Arthur Godfrey] once avoided doing a commercial through the entire program. Just as he was about to sign off, he said, ‘Oh, and today we’re brought to you by Chesterfields. They’re cigarettes’….
“One day he departed from the script he was handed for a Chesterfield ad and said, ‘You know what? Don’t buy ’em by the pack. Buy ’em by the carton. It’s probably cheaper.’ Six months later Liggett & Myers had to build a new factory…. They couldn’t keep up with demand….
“When Godfrey stopped smoking in 1953, he told his longtime sponsor, ‘I can’t sell your product when I don’t believe in smoking any more. I think it’s a terrible thing.’ Millions of dollars left CBS’s balance sheet that day.”
— From “Arthur Godfrey: The Adventures of an American Broadcaster” (2000) by Arthur J. Singer
I’m surprised Godfrey has held up so well on the Ngram Viewer — he was the Oprah of his time, but before the comments from Stephen and Jack in A View to Hugh, I can’t recall the last time I saw his name.
3 thoughts on “Godfrey loved Chesterfields, he loved them not….”
Lew, I believe the last time I saw Arthur Godfrey mentioned in the news was when he passed away in March of 1983. But I do remember when I was a little kid in Asheboro, he was a TV star of epic proportions. My family would plan Wednesday night activities around his 8 o’clock TV show.
When WFMY-TV signed on the air on September 22, 1949, “Arthur Godfrey and Friends” was the only network program broadcast on that day. A large crowd gathered at Emil Hodge’s appliance store in Greensboro to watch that first evening. It was a big deal. From that day until the program of October 4, 1950, the program was broadcast on a one week delay since there was no live network service. Kinescope recordings were sent to WFMY each week with the preceding Wednesday night’s show. At one time Arthur Godfrey had four network TV shows on the air…three of which were simulcast on radio.
When I went to work for WFMY-TV in February of 1963, I replaced a production assistant named Bob Waddell. Bob had appeared on “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” program and later appeared on Godfrey’s morning show on CBS.
I remember when Godfrey was scheduled for a surgical procedure in the 1950s, the then CBS Evening News Anchor Douglas Edwards interviewed him from his Leesberg, Virginia home via microwave. Remote broadcasting was extremely rare in those days, but CBS put the microwave towers in place for Godfrey to broadcast his show from his home during his recovery period.
Arthur Godfrey was truly a broadcasting pioneer.
Thanks as always, Jack….My memory is a little wobbly on this, but a decade or two ago Dannye and I stayed in a bed and breakfast in Raleigh. The Gray-Fish-Richardson house, circa 1881, had historic connections to the state’s first electric company, to the News & Observer and to Frances Gray Patton’s fiction.
But what I remember most vividly was a large, gaudy ceramic lamp inscribed in gold to Arthur Godfrey from some trade group (cattlemen?). I was told it had belonged to a previous owner of the house who had served as Godfrey’s “Girl Friday.” That would’ve been former Miss North Carolina (1934) Margaret E. (Mug) Richardson.
Arthur Godfrey’s “Girl Friday,” Margaret Richardson, is mentioned often in broadcasting literature, and is usually described as a former beauty queen. John Dunning in his 1998 book “On The Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio” even describes her duties and says she sat beside him during the broadcast of “Arthur Godfrey Time,” his morning CBS Radio & TV show. I remember that show and the unusual set that was used. The set was obviously built for radio. Godfrey sat at a desk which was elevated. On the desk was a large radio type mic. Godfrey wore a large headset, which looked like the ones airline pilots used. (Godfrey flew his own DC-3). Across from Godfrey, there were several rows of chairs for the cast and guests. There was an area between them for the cast members to stand when they performed. I don’t remember anyone sitting beside him within camera range, however that isn’t to say she wasn’t there. It would interesting to look at some of those old shows to see if she was indeed there and that might be possible. That morning show ran from 1952 until 1959. CBS-TV started using videotape in 1956, so there might be some tape out there.
There are at least a couple of mentions that Margaret Richardson was Miss North Carolina 1934, however, a check of wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_North_Carolina doesn’t list any Miss North Carolinas before 1937. I know the Miss America Pageant celebrated it’s 90th anniversary last year, so what happened to Miss North Carolinas between the years 1921 and 1937?