Oregon Cartoon Institute

Posts Tagged ‘KGW Hoot Owls’

Last Chance! The Mel Blanc Exhibit At OJM Closes Sept. 12, 2011

In News on September 8, 2011 at 3:32 am

For people who love thinking about pop culture, and for the smaller subset of people who love thinking about pop culture in Portland, this past summer contained an embarrassment of riches. Oregon Jewish Museum’s That’s All, Folks: The Mel Blanc Story exhibit plus Oregon Historical Society’s Oregon Rocks exhibit equalled an unparalleled opportunity to examine Rose City’s cultural past.

There was considerable overlap in the subject matter of the two exhibits.

Mel Blanc was a musician. He grew up surrounded by live music. By 1915, the year Mel Blanc (then Mel Blank) arrived, Portland had 70 movie theaters. Gary Lacher’s and Steve Stone’s research uncovered the interesting factoid that when the Blank family got here from San Francisco, they moved right next door to a nicklodeon. That’s how many theaters there were! Everywhere you turned around! Mel wrote in his autobiography about how he loved them.

He loathed  school, but he loved theaters. “Silent” movies were not silent,  but were accompanied, either by a solo pianist or by a small (or large) orchestra. Recorded music had yet to be invented, so vaudeville theaters disseminated pop music via live music acts of every description – singers, instrumental soloists, and bands of every type.

Mel Blanc was studying violin himself when he became enamored of the deadpan comic timing of violinist “Ben K. Benny”, the vaudevillian who later sawed his way to the top as Jack Benny. Blanc cites Benny as his favorite vaudeville act – he saw him perform every chance he got,  paying his way in with cash he made selling Portland newspapers. Once in Hollywood he worked with Jack Benny for years, both on radio and on television.

.

However it was Portland’s music scene which first attracted the attention of the young, gifted performer.

He must have heard an awful lot about Louis Kaufman, the musical prodigy who outgrew the opportunities for training here in Portland and went to Julliard in 1915 (the year Mel Blanc arrived). Kaufman, like Blanc, played the violin. Like Blanc, he started in Portland and wound up in Hollywood.

He saw Portland bandleader George Olsen ascend to Broadway, and later Hollywood.

.

He saw Portland musician Del Porter, a personal friend, duplicate that feat.

.

When George Olsen was recruited by Fannie Brice for Broadway, his replacement at the Multnomah Hotel was Herman Kenin, another Portlander. Kenin gave Mel Blanc some of his first professional gigs.

.

Portland presented Mel Blanc with enough union scale work as a sousaphone player in dance bands that he was able to take full advantage of the low paying, but tremendously foundational, voice artist gig he was offered at KGW Hoot Owls in 1927. The Hoot Owls show included live music, comic sketches, and a great deal of topical reference and improvisation. The atmosphere of barely contained creative anarchy was similar to what he would later encounter in Los Angeles, at Termite Terrace.

Portland radio historian Craig Adams documented Mel Blanc’s shift from musician to voice artist in this timeline, constructed from newspaper accounts.

If you would like a window into the Jazz Age Portland which produced Mel Blanc, go see That’s All, Folks!: The Mel Blanc Story exhibit at Oregon Jewish Museum.

But go right away! The exhibit comes down on Sept. 12.

If you would like a delightful overview of Portland music, concentrating on Portland rock, head over to Oregon Rocks at Oregon Historical Society.

==========================================================

The Mel Blanc Project  was a series of public history/art education events made possible in part by a grant from the Kinsman Foundation and by a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.

“Despite what some might term the “frivolous” nature of my job, I consider myself an artist, and cartoons, art.” Mel Blanc

Mel Blanc’s Portland Years: Craig Adams Explains It All For You

In News on June 25, 2011 at 8:00 pm
Portland radio historian Craig Adams and  Live Wire Radio producer Robyn Tenenbaum will give the fourth and final Mel Blanc Lecture on Wednesday, June 29, in PSU’s Lincoln Hall, at 7:30 PM.
.
This event is free and open to the public.
.
CRAIG ADAMS’ MEL BLANC TIMELINE can be found in its entirety on his wonderful website, www.pdxradio.com.
.
.
CHILDHOOD
.
On May 30, 1908 Melvin Jerome Blank was born in San Francisco to Frederick and Eva (Katz) Blank.  Mel had a four year older brother Henry Charles.
.
In 1915 the Blank family moved to Portland when Melvin was six years old and lived at 225 1/2 Sherman St.  Mel grew up in a diverse area of South Portland where  he spent his boyhood listening to conversations between people of various nationalities.  Those conversations would later become the genesis of his mastery of dialects and accents.  Mel attended Shattuck Elementary School, Commerce High School & Lincoln High School.
.
On Dec 14, 1917 Mel participated in the “Winter Swimming & Diving Meet” at Couch School tank.  Eight year old Melvin Blank was part of the 60 foot dash event.
.
By 1920 the Blank family had moved to 543 S.W. 5th Ave.
.
This image is from http://www.pdxhistory.com.
.
On April 2, 1923 Melvin Blank was admitted into the “Keep Growing Wiser Order of Hoot Owls” along with nearly 200 others from all over the United States & Canada.
.
TEEN AGE MEL EXPLORES HIS TALENTS
.
On June 23, 1923 Mel was first featured on the KGW program “Stories By Aunt Nell” from 3:30 to 4pm.  Here’s Mel’s first write up:  “For the entertainment of the children, this afternoon Melvin Blank, a boy with a good voice, will sing a number of solos, accompanied on the piano by his brother, William Blank.  Aunt Nell will read additional chapters from Allen Chaffee’s story of “Sitka, The Snow Baby.”  Children love the story of the little Polar cub and his adventures and messages come in daily asking for another story about him.”
.
On Nov 2, 1923 Mel participated in the semi-annual “Frosh Frolic” to the delight of the freshmen: Violin selections, Melvin Blanc with Clara Tasker accompanying: recitation, “Daddy” by Estelle Weinstein.
.
On Feb 29, 1924 Melvin Blank was a guest on KGW’s “Hoot Owls.” 15 year old Mel performed two numbers he had carried out at Lincoln High’s Commerce Vaudeville show, the same night.
.
.
This  1926 news photo is from  www.pdxhistory.com .
.
On April 29, 1925 Melvin Blank was part of the supporting cast of “A Single Man” presented by “The Council of Jewish Juniors” held in the Woman’s Club building (12th & Taylor Sts.) at 8:15pm.  H.H. Davis wrote the amusing comedy.
.
On Nov 22, 1925 Melvin Blank was a part of the “South Parkway Club Minstrel Show” held at the Neighborhood House (2nd & Woods Sts.).  Featuring Max Rosumny performing the song “Goin’ South.”
.
On April 29, 1926 Melvin Blank participated in the four act play “Disraeli” held at the Heilig Theater by The Center Players.
.
On Oct 13, 1926 Mel was teaching the ukulele at “The B’nai B’rith Center” in preparation for the Winter season.  “Twenty-Five have signed for the Ukulele Club which will start its practice at 8 o’clock under the direction of Melvin Blank.”
.
On Oct 23, 1926 Mel entertained at “The B’nai B’rith Center” Sport Party. “About 45 couples attended.  Several features were given and among them Melvin Blank entertained the guests with several selections on the ukulele and some song hits.”
.
PROFESSIONAL RADIO DEBUT
.
.
In 1927 Melvin Blank became a regular member on Portland’s KGW Hoot Owl broadcasts.
.
MEL LEAVES PORTLAND & RETURNS, Part ONE
.
In 1928-29?  With his deep bass tooting and his Yiddish stories, Mel won enough fame to land a job at San Francisco’s KFWI.  However, Mel couldn’t save the station from going bankrupt.
.
This  photo is from www.pdxhistory.com.
.
On Nov 8, 1929 Mel Blanc returned to the KGW Hoot Owls with a Milt Gross story of his own about the goose that laid the golden eggs.
.
On March 26, 1931 Mel Blanc officially became “Musical Director” of the 11-piece “RKO Westerners” orchestra at Portland’s “RKO Orpheum Theatre”.
.
MEL LEAVES PORTLAND & RETURNS, Part Two
.
On May 17, 1931 it was announced Mel was leaving Portland  (again) for NBC San Francisco (KGO).  It was “Mel’s work on NBC Orange network broadcasts originating at KGW on the Hoot Owls that won him some fame in radio circles in California.”
.
On June 3, 1931 Mel Blanc made his NBC Orange “Pacific Coast Network” debut on the program “The Road Show”.  Mel sang in dialect the song “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and telling the story of “George Washingcohen at Wally Fudge.”  The program was not carried on KGW.
.
On June 23, 1931 KGW listeners had their first opportunity at 9:30am to hear Mel Blanc since he moved to NBC San Francisco.  He was featured on the program “The Entertainers.”

.
On August 13, 1931 it was announced NBC’s San Francisco based “The Road Show” had been canceled.  Mel returned to KGW in Portland where they immediately debuted a new show in which Mel was the main character, entitled “De Inside Dope On Heestery”.  The program was heard at 9pm every night except Wednesday’s and Sunday’s.  The show also featured Rita Bell & Albert Gillette and ran until Sept 12, 1931.  Mel was also back on The Hoot Owls and featured on other KGW shows.
.
On Sept 24, 1931 (Follow-up) “The Road Show with Mel Blanc as master of ceremonies made a hit last Summer and many and bitter were the complaints when due to the terrific expense of the production, NBC saw fit to side track it.”
.
MEL LEAVES PORTLAND & RETURNS, Part THREE
.
On March 1, 1932  “Mel Banc left for Los Angeles. On April 6, 1932 Mel Blanc began on KNX Los Angeles at 3pm.  Mel would also be heard later over “The Don Lee Columbia Network”, serving CBS’s West Coast affiliates only.
.
On Oct 25, 1932 it was announced Mel Blanc was working at KHJ Los Angeles.  The station was the flagship of the West Coast “Don Lee Broadcasting System,” DLBS.  Mel was a regular on the networks “Merrymakers” program, heard on KOIN in Portland.
.
On Feb 17, 1933 Mel Blanc appeared on the DLBS Network program  “Happy-Go-Lucky Hour” at 2:15pm, doing one of his Yiddish stories.  This show was heard on KOIN.  Another appearance on March 7, 1933.
.
On May 24, 1933 it was announced Mel Blanc was just married a few days ago and the couple were moving to Portland.
.
On June 1, 1933 “Mel Blanc and bride were both heard over Portland’s KEX at 9:30pm on “Circus Court of The Air.”
.
On June 14, 1933 Mel Blanc and wife began the program “Cobwebs and Nuts” on KEX, running Monday through Saturday 11 to midnight.  “To describe it, is too much trouble, but it can be said the thing will be conducted by Mel Blanc.”  [Mel was one of the first disc jockey’s, spending part of the program talking back to recordings.  This mentioned on 4-7-49.]
.
On Nov 29, 1933 Mel launches an additional program called “Hi-de-ho-ho Corporation” on KEX at 9pm. This program is 15 minutes long and runs Monday’s, Wednesday’s & Friday’s.  It lasted until December 27, 1933.
.
MEL LEAVES PORTLAND, Part FOUR
.
On June 15, 1935 the last “Cobwebs and Nuts” program aired on KEX. Mel and Estelle Blanc move to LA.
.
On Feb 7, 1937 Mel Blanc was heard for the first time in a “Looney Tunes” animated short, released from Warner Bros. on this date, “Porky’s Road Race” with cast Joe Dougherty & Billy Bletcher.  [Porky’s Road Race Copyright – July 3, 1937]
.
On Sept 30, 1937 Mel Blanc is already referred to in print as “The Man of a Hundred Voices”.
..
The  June 29 Lincoln Hall lecture  celebrating Mel Blanc Day is a six way panel discussion between Dennis Nyback, Anne Richardson, Craig Adams, Robyn Tenenbaum, Sean McGrath and Courtenay Hameister on the topic of Portland radio: past, present and future.
.
For Mel Blanc scholars who want to bone up before June 29, Craig Adams published a timeline of Mel Blanc’s Portland career on his website, http://www.pdxradio.com.
.

===========================================================

The Mel Blanc Project  is a series of public history/art education events made possible in part by a grant from the Kinsman Foundation and by a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.

Another recommended method of deepening your knowledge is to attend the entire lecture series,  Mel Blanc: The Portland Years.

Test Your Mel Blanc Knowledge

In News on June 23, 2011 at 5:56 am
1. Mel Blanc’s favorite character was:
.
a) Sylvester the Cat, because Sylvester was the closest to his own, normal speaking voice
.
b) Woody Woodpecker, because Woody’s laugh was perfected in the halls of Lincoln High School
.
c) Bugs Bunny, because a doctor was once able to bring him out of a long coma by asking to speak to Bugs
.
Answer: c
.
Editor’s note: Mel Blanc asserted that Bugs Bunny was his favorite character, however all three answers are statements taken from his autobiography.
.
.
2. Melvyn Jerome  Blank changed his name because
.
a) Melvyn Douglas didn’t want the competition
.
b) a teacher said “You’ll never amount to anything. You’re just like your name – a blank.”
.
c) he didn’t know what his real name was
.
answer: b
.
Editor’s note: “c” may in some sense also be true — the name Blank may have been given to an ancestor at Ellis Island by an government worker too impatient to discover/spell/record the real name. For all we know “a” is true as well
.
3. Mel Blanc began his life long smoking habit of one pack a day….
.
a) at age 27, when he left Portland for Hollywood
.
b) at age 19, when he joined the KGW Hoot Owls as a cast member
.
c)  at age 8, when he began  selling newspapers on street corners in downtown Portland
.
answer: c
.
4. Mel Blanc’s weekly salary as director/writer/producer/performer on Cobweb & Nuts, a daily one hour Portland radio show was
.
a $220
.
b $89
.
c $15
.
answer: c. He and his wife budgeted $1 a day for food (for both of them)
.
5. As a young Portland creative, Mel Blanc rented a house in
.
a) NW Portland, close to where Will Vinton later opened an animation studio
.
b) SW Portland, close to the radio station on 6th & Alder, where he worked
.
c) NE Portland, close to the Hollywood Theater, which he loved to attend
.
d) SE Portland, just off Hawthorne, with all the other cool kids his age
.
Answer: d
.
6: Mel Blanc moved from Portland to LA in 1935 because
.
a) Warner Brothers was hiring geniuses – Chuck Jones, Tex Avery  and Bob Clampett – and he knew that was where he belonged
.
b) his wife missed her parents
.
c) he didn’t want to start selling insurance door to door
.
Answer: c

===================================================================

Oregon Cartoon Institute’s Mel Blanc Project  is a series of public history/art education events made possible in part by a grant from the Kinsman Foundation and by a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.

Another recommended method of deepening your knowledge is to attend the entire lecture series,  Mel Blanc: The Portland Years.