EDWARD BOWES Biography - Bussiness people and enterpreneurs


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Name: Edward Bowes                                                                       
Born: 14 June 1874                                                                       
Died: 14 June 1946                                                                       
Edward Bowes (b. 14 June 1874, San Francisco; d. 14 June 1946, Rumson, New               
Jersey) was an American radio personality of the 1930s and 40s whose Major Bowes'       
Amateur Hour was the best-known amateur talent show in radio during its eighteen-year   
(1934-1952) run on NBC and CBS.                                                         
Bowes made his first business success in real estate, until the cataclysmic San         
Francisco earthquake (and resulting fire) of 1906 wiped out his fortune. He then         
went to New York City, in search of other opportunities. He soon realized that           
the theatrical world was lucrative, and he worked busily in New York as a               
musical conductor, composer, and arranger. He also produced Broadway shows, such         
as Kindling in 1911-12 and The Bridal Path in 1913. He was married to Kindling           
star Margaret Illington, from 1910 until her death in 1934; her portrait by             
Adolfo Müller-Ury had been painted in 1906 for her first husband, the theatre           
manager, Daniel Frohman.                                                                 
He became managing director of New York's imposing Capitol Theatre, which he ran         
with military efficiency and bearing. He insisted on being addressed as "Major           
Bowes"; his nickname sprang from his earlier military rank, though historians           
are divided on whether he was an active-duty officer in World War I or held the         
rank as a member of the Officer Reserve Corps.                                           
In 1934 Bowes brought his best-known creation to New York station WHN in 1934.           
He had actually hosted scattered amateur nights on smaller stations while               
manager of the Capitol. Within a year of its WHN premiere, The Original Amateur         
Hour (its original name, according to historian Gerald Nachman, was Major Bowes         
and His Capitol Family), began earning its creator and host as much as $1               
million a year, according to Variety.                                                   
The rapid popularity of The Original Amateur Hour made him better known than             
most of the talent he featured. Some of his discoveries did become stars,               
including opera stars Lily Pons, Robert Merrill, and Beverly Sills; comedian             
Jack Carter; pop singer Teresa Brewer; and, Frank Sinatra (fronting a quartet           
known as the Hoboken Four when they appeared on the show in 1937).                       
The show consistently ranked among radio's top ten programs throughout its               
entire run. Bowes's familiar catchphrase, "...around and around she goes and             
where she stops nobody knows", spoken in the familiar avuncular tones for which         
he was so renowned, whenever it was time to spin its "wheel of fortune," the             
device by which some contestants were called to perform. In the early days of           
the show, whenever a performer was simply too terrible to continue, Bowes would         
stop the act by striking a gong (a device that would be revived in the 1970s by         
Chuck Barris's infamous The Gong Show). Bowes heard from thousands of listeners         
who objected to his terminating these acts prematurely, so he abandoned the gong         
in 1936.                                                                                 
Nachman recorded that Bowes, "a businesslike fellow with a mirthless chuckle who,       
unlike most emcees, had a gift for nongab," went out of his way to make                 
contestants feel at ease, habitually taking them out to dinner before their             
appearances. Nachman also credits Bowes for featuring more black entertainers           
than many network shows of the time.                                                     
The grave of Major Edward Bowes in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery                               
Major Bowes died on the eve of his 72nd birthday at his home in the New York             
suburb of Rumson, New Jersey. The following week, his talent coordinator Ted             
Mack took over the hosting chores, first as the interim, and later as permanent         
host until Mack ended the series 24 years later, on September 27, 1970. As a             
measure of the affection attached to Bowes' name, the show continued to be               
called Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour until the 1950-51 season, when it             
became simply Original Amateur Hour and in 1955 became Ted Mack and The Original         
Amateur Hour.                                                                           
Major Bowes was referred to in Cab Calloway's "I Love to Singa" from the movie "The     
Singing Kid" (1936), and in the Dorothy Fields lyrics for "Never Gonna Dance"           
from the Astaire/Rogers film "Swing Time" (1936).                                       
Nineteen months after Bowes's death, on January 18, 1948, the program, with Ted         
Mack as host, debuted on the DuMont Television Network, ultimately running on           
all four major networks until 1970. The radio version, also with Mack, ran until