Niagara Gazette — Since the early days of broadcasting Niagara Falls has always been spotlighted by radio and television networks and, of course, the movie industry. Scores of events have been carried coast-to-coast and even overseas (e.g. Nik Wallenda’s walk in 2012). At the dawn of the 20th century, the Shredded Wheat Co. Band, promoting its products and Niagara’s scenic wonder, was heard weekly on stations throughout the U.S. and Canada. In 1926, the famous Carborundum Band started to play on radio.
One of the highest rated programs on NBC-TV in 1955 was “The Tonight Show” that Steve Allen hosted from 1954 until 1957. That 105-minute show — instead of today’s 60-minute version — was brought to the Cataract City June 13, 1955, mostly through the efforts of the late Eddy Joseph, a veteran radio personality and longtime general manager of WHLD.
Eydie Gorme, 84, the popular singer who died last weekend, was center stage that night when she and Steve Lawrence were guests on the NBC “Tonight Show,” televised live from Goat Island. Two years later, in 1957, they became a husband-wife team. Among their notable duet singles recorded in earlier days on the Coral label: “Make Yourself Comfortable” (1954) and “Close Your Eyes (Take a Deep Breath)” (1955).
Longtime residents familiar with the extensive preparations for that live telecast from here — one of the first times that the show ventured away from its Manhattan studio — may recall the rift that a former manager of the state parks commission caused in the days leading up to the telecast. The story goes that the surly parks boss tried to dictate to Allen and the “Tonight Show” producers who should be the guests interviewed. In fact, the parks official backed down when Allen made it clear that the network was calling the shots and if the parks manager didn’t like that arrangement, the plans would be scrapped with the show returned to New York City.