Thursday, December 15, 2016

The History of the Journal's Mary Lee Tucker Program – Part 4

Jimmy Dulio and his Band, a featured act at the 1956 Mary Lee Tucker benefit show
The Mary Lee Tucker Christmas benefit show was the highlight of Lorain’s holiday season for decades. Each year the show got bigger and bigger.

The Lorain Journal did receive help in their charitable effort. Beginning in 1946, the City Club of Lorain donated its service and sponsored the Mary Lee Tucker benefit show, making it their own project. The Club planned the programs, judged talent and selected the acts.

Eventually, up and coming celebrities – often at the very beginning of their successful careers – were brought in to emcee the show. Examples of these performers included singer and comic Leo DeLyon, who emceed the 1954 show, and satirist Bob McFadden who was the master of ceremonies for the 1955 show.
Some local acts became popular fixtures of the show. For example, by the late 1950s, Jimmy Dulio and his 14-piece Big Band had provided musical accompaniment for singers and dancers for many years, as well as being one of the featured acts themselves.
A promotional photo for the 1962 show from the December 5, 1962 Journal
By the 1960s, the benefit show was an eclectic mix of local and outside talent. The 1964 edition included WEWS-TV’s Don Webster as the master of ceremonies. Jim “Mudcat” Grant, former Indians pitcher was scheduled to perform a song and dance routine. Acts included singing star Lee Rand (courtesy of the Colony Lounge); vocalist and banjo artist Ron Sluga; vocalist, impressionist and recording artist Jerry Lee; professional dancers Paul and Phyllis Taber; dancing duo Judy Miller and Ron Spangler from the WEWS “Big 5 Show”; 4-year old dancer Little Sammy Willis; and 67-year old Mickey McGuire, who was billed as having danced in every Mary Lee Tucker show since the beginning. Local acts included the Satin Dolls: Nancy Hoyman, Diana Simbell, Donna Sparks and Judy Shilling; Lou Ann Merner, an Avon Lake dance student;

For the 1964 show, Biz Grove (Charles Bisgrove) and his Orchestra – the successor to the Jimmy Dulio band –  provided the musical accompaniment for the acts, as well as being a featured act.

Here’s the article from the December 7, 1964 Journal promoting the upcoming show. It includes a nice history of the Mary Lee Tucker department of the Journal – except it neglects to mention Rhea Soper Eddy.

For 1964, the Mary Lee Tucker benefit show effort also included a Saturday morning “Kris Kringle” version, specifically designed to appeal to teenagers. That show took place on the Saturday before the Wednesday, December 9, 1964 evening edition, and brought the entire “Big 5 Show” to the Palace to the delight of local youth.
As described in the Journal, the star-studded show included recording artist Johnny CymbalDick Blake, Jim “Mudcat” Grant,  and Cleveland’s own Dave C. and The Sharptones.

Next: Clothe-A-Child
To donate to the Morning Journal’s Mary Lee Tucker Clothe-A-Child program, click here.

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