"Uncles" were popular characters on early radio. Uncle Wip (Chris Graham) was heard over SIP in Philadelphia. Uncle John (John Daggett) was featured on KHJ in Los Angeles. But the most famous "uncle" was Uncle Don (Don Carneyborn Harold Rice) who broadcast his young children's show from the powerful 50,000 watt WOR station in New York.
Carney's program debuted in September of 1928. It aired five- and sometimes six-times-a-week. He sang, played the piano, and told stories. This Big Little Book® retells Carney's story about a mystery cruiser.
Uncle Don continually introduced a variety of features: the "Earnest Savers Club" which encouraged setting up accounts at the Greenwich Savings Bank; a "Healthy Child Contest"; a "Talent Quest" that provided screen tests for winners. The program is fondly remembered for some of its nonsense. Uncle Don would start his program by arriving in an imaginary autogiro he called a "puddle-jumper." His opening song became known almost everywhere across the country:
Hello nephews, nieces too,
Mothers and daddies, how are you?
This is Uncle Don all set to go,
With a meeting on the ra-di-o!
We'll start off with a little song
To learn the words will not take long;
For they're as easy as easy can be,
So come on now and sing with me:
Hibbidy-Gits has-ha ring boree,
Sibonia Skividy, hi-lo-dee!
Honi-ko-doke with an ali-ka-zon,
Sing this song with your Uncle Don!
The show was a model for the many kiddie programs that followed: pledge the flag, sing, tell jokes, announce birthdays, tell a story, and give club news.
Carney is often remembered by a story that never took place. The story told of Carney's signing off one evening and thinking his microphone was off, said, "There! I guess that'll hold the little bastards for another night." He spent much of his career trying to undo the false story.