+ Beginning in 1941, the Coca Cola Company produced a program that would ultimately be the most involved and influential, if not the most important commercial musical radio property to air during World War II and immediately thereafter, “Coca Cola Spotlight Bands”. During 1941, Coca Cola developed plans for a big band series to market their product. The series would feature various popular bands, as opposed to one specific band. They entered into an agreement with the Mutual Broadcasting System. The program would air over all of the Mutual stations six nights a week. Monday through Friday, a fifteen minute program would be broadcast nationally at 10:15-10:30 p.m. (Eastern). Each night, a different band would usually appear from a Mutual studio in New York, Chicago or Hollywood, although several programs were broadcast from other locations. The flagship Mutual stations WOR, WGN and KHJ generally originated the broadcasts. The New York programs originated from the stage of a new Mutual Theatre on West 39th Street. Mutual had renovated the former Maxine Elliott Theatre with state-of-the-art broadcast equipment. Then, on Saturday evening, a thirty minute program would be broadcast at 10:15-10:45 p.m. (Eastern). Whereas Mutual scheduled the bands for the Monday through Friday episodes, the Saturday evening program was reserved for the band that posted the largest nation-wide record sales for the previous week. The identity of the band was kept secret from the national audience until the program went on the air. This was bait to attract a larger audience, which succeeded. In August 1942, Coca Cola entered into an agreement with the Blue Network to launch the revised “Spotlight Bands” series. The Blue Network was the former NBC Blue Network. As of January 1, 1942, NBC began to operate Blue as a quasi-independent entity. The FCC had ordered NBC to divest Blue from its Red network and other operations as the result of a lengthy and expensive anti-trust action. NBC would continue to operate Blue from its technical facilities and using its personnel until 1945 when Blue became the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) after its purchase by Edward J. Noble. Blue offered Coca Cola arguably more local affiliate stations and audience reach than Mutual, but also perhaps a better ability to host remotes from all over the country. Coca Cola and the Blue Network entered into a new 26-week agreement. The name of the program was changed to “The Victory Parade of Spotlight Bands”. The weeknight programs were extended from fifteen minutes to twenty five minutes, airing at 9:30-9:55 p.m. Eastern War Time. The last five minutes of the half-hour to 10:00 p.m. was devoted to news. The listening audience became directly involved with the selection of the bands. A combination of two polls replaced record sales to determine which bands appeared. One poll was conducted with the civilian audience and another was conducted with service personnel and war workers at defense plants. The second series was launched on September 21, 1942, with Harry James performing at the Marine Barracks, Parris Island, South Carolina. The Blue Network recorded and saved the programs in numeric sequence. The popular James ended the first series and launched the second. Three days later, on September 24, 1942, James would appear with Glenn Miller on Miller’s final CBS Chesterfield program in New York. James would succeed Miller on the CBS Chesterfield program beginning September 29, 1942.
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