THE CINCINNATI KID (Con't)
Commercial television was still in its infancy, but WLWT was one of the best places to be at that stage of the broadcast industry. "We didn't know what we were doing so we copied the way a theater operates," explains Bob. "We'd set up our sets the same way and do our acts in front of them. We had full dress rehearsals with an 18 piece band. You hear about early television always being chaotic, well, we didn't experience that. It was always rehearse-rehearse-rehearse."
Behind the scenes at WLWT's "Midwestern Hayride"
Bob moved into directing at WLWT and experienced the usual butterflies
associated with producing live television, where the chance to pull everything
together happens just once. "It
was thrilling. Occasionally
something might go wrong, but we had the best cameramen who were also engineers.
You could almost turn the show over to one of these guys and they would
run it. I started off doing the
news and then went into musical formats. 'Melody
Showcase' aired on Sunday afternoons and was picked up by NBC.
We had talk shows and a program called "Breakfast Party" which
also made it onto the network for a season.
Every Saturday night I directed "Midwestern Hayride," one of
the best country and western shows you've ever seen. We had some fine talent in
Cincinnati…The Clooney sisters were there, and also a popular singer who would
become a longtime friend…Ernie Lee."
Good ol' Ernie Lee in the late 1940s
WTVT mainstay Ernie Lee was already familiar to Midwest audiences from his stage
appearances and seven year stint as the star of his own country and western show
on WLW radio. Lee was a star
performer and emcee on WLWT's 'Midwestern Hayride' when television was still a stepchild to radio.
"I had listened to Ernie on the radio long before I went into broadcasting," recalls Bob. "Ernie and I worked together on 'Midwestern Hayride' and we became friends. Remember, I was only 21 at the time, and Ernie used to tell people 'I raised that boy.'"