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Orchestra leader Howard Barlow and soprano Nadine Conner photographed prior to a radio/television simulcast of The Voice of Firestone

The Voice of Firestone was a weekly broadcast of the best in classical music performed by America's most popular classical performers. It began on the NBC radio network December 3, 1928.[1]

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Radio

Performers on the series included Rise Stevens, Robert Merrill, Eleanor Steber, Igor Gorin and Nadine Conner. The program was sponsored by Firestone Tire Company and aired on Monday nights at 8:30pm Eastern Standard Time from its 1928 inception. In 1948, The Voice of Firestone was the first commercial radio program to be carried simultaneously on both AM and FM radio stations. Firestone's 25th anniversary program was broadcast November 30, 1953, and it was heard on radio until 1956.

Firestone sponsored a related television series, The Voice of Firestone Televues, one of the first television series with programming other than news or sports coverage. It began on November 29, 1943 on New York's WNBT-TV, when there were very few television sets. First seen on the NBC television network in April 1944, it continued until January 1947 with special interest topics in a documentary film format. The Voice of Firestone radio-TV programs were known not only for their classical music, but for their vocal support of such organizations as 4-H and the United Nations.

Television

The Voice of Firestone moved its radio series to television in the fall of 1949. The show was considered to be very prestigious (due to the involvement of many classical musicians and Broadway musical stars), but the ratings were always small. In an era when successful programs were capable of garnering as many as half the viewers available in a given time slot, The Voice of Firestone only received three million viewers, a comparatively small number for what was rapidly becoming the nation's most influential mass medium. In 1954, NBC asked Firestone's permission to move the program to a different night or time period. Firestone refused, and the television series was picked up by ABC. The radio series stayed with NBC and ended in 1956.

It continued to air at 8:30 on Mondays until 1959, when ABC insisted on moving the program to a later time period. Firestone refused, and the show was canceled entirely. Although the ratings were low at the time of its cancellation, the fan outcry was very loud, with some writing their congressmen. ABC tried to appease the fans with Music for a Summer Night, a copy of the show minus Firestone, but the results were not favorable. The 30th anniversary show was telecast November 24, 1958.

In 1962, The Voice of Firestone returned, airing at 10pm on Sunday nights. The same relatively small number of viewers tuned in, and the show was canceled permanently in May 1963.

Firestone family

The Firestone family's involvement in the show was very personal. Idabell (Mrs. Harvey) Firestone was the composer of the program's opening and closing themes, the songs If I Could Tell You and In My Garden. Tenor Richard Crooks, the longtime host of the radio broadcasts (from 1928 to 1945), recorded If I Could Tell You, for RCA Victor. Soprano Eleanor Steber, a frequent Firestone host following Crooks, also recorded both of Mrs Firestone's songs.

The orchestra leaders were Hugo Mariani (1928-31), William Daly (1931-36), Alfred Wallenstein (1936-43) and Howard Barlow (1943 on). Featured singers included Lorraine Galler, Bill Toole and Bill Metcalf.

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