|The Ford Show|
|Also known as|
|Written by||Norman Lear|
|Directed by||Bud Yorkin|
|Starring||Tennessee Ernie Ford|
|Composer||Harry Geller's Orchestra|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||121|
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Picture format||Black-and-white (seasons 1–2)|
Color (seasons 3–5)
|Original release||October 4, 1956 –|
June 29, 1961
The Ford Show (also known as The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford and The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show) is an American variety program, starring singer and folk humorist Tennessee Ernie Ford, which aired on NBC on Thursday evenings from October 4, 1956, to June 29, 1961. The show was sponsored by the Ford Motor Company, whose founders shared a last name with the host but had no known relation. Beginning in September 1958, the show was telecast in color, and was broadcast from NBC Studios at 3000 W. Alameda Avenue in Burbank, California.
Ford first gained attention as the host of Hometown Jamboree in Los Angeles. In 1954, he hosted a brief revival of Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge, a quiz show on NBC. His subsequent The Ford Show was frequently among the Top 20 programs, finishing in the Nielsen ratings at #19 for the 1956–1957 season, #14 in 1957–1958, #20 in 1958–1959, #14 in 1959–1960 and #24 in 1960–1961. It is also one of the first places that showed Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts characters in animated form, which, like the later specials, was directed by Bill Melendez.
Despite the objection of studio bosses, Ford closed all but 18 of the 121 episodes of his program with a hymn or other spiritual song. It became one of the most popular segments of his show. In 1959, Gisele MacKenzie became the only guest star to close the Ford program with a hymn.
Ford often used the country refrain, "Bless your pea-pickin' hearts!" In the first season, the choral group called "The Voices of Walter Schumann" served as backup. After Schumann's death, the group was made more contemporary, renamed "The Top Twenty," and performed in the four later seasons of the show.
On October 8, 1958, Ford introduced the 1959 Ford vehicle models on the program, with the singer/ actress Ann Blyth as his guest.
On January 7, 1960, Ford had two big-name guests, Dean Martin and Jack Bailey, host of the Queen for a Day daytime series. In the skit Martin drops by as Ford and Bailey poke fun at Martin's Rat Pack friends. Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper was among the many guests on the program.
On June 8, 1961, South African golfer Gary Player, then twenty-five, guest starred in a comedy skit in which Player presumes to give Ford golfing lessons.
On April 28, 1960, Ford presented one of his only five programs without guest stars at Drury College (since University), a Congregationalist institution in Springfield, Missouri. He sang his trademark "Sixteen Tons" and the hymn "Take My Hand, Precious Lord".
In his series finale, Ford had no guests. Therefore, singer Anita Bryant, and Joe Flynn, later Captain Binghamton on ABC's McHale's Navy, hold the distinction of having been the final guests on The Ford Show, in the episode which aired on June 22, 1961. On March 30, 1961, Flynn had also appeared on the show in a patriotic episode set at sea aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown.
Greer Garson and Reginald Gardiner were the first two guest stars, having appeared on The Ford Show premiere episode. Two weeks later, Zsa Zsa Gabor made her only appearance. The next week, actor Adolphe Menjou made his only visit to The Ford Show. Charles Laughton appeared several times in comedy skits with Ford. William Bendix, Jeannie Carson, Pat O'Brien, and Sir Cedric Hardwicke were also guests of Ford's.
Kate Smith was the only guest to appear in two consecutive episodes, aired on January 15 and 22, 1959. Smith performed "It Was So Beautiful," "Somebody Loves Me," "There's a Goldmine in the Sky", and "When The Moon Comes Over The Mountain," which the following year served as the theme song for her CBS musical series. The Kate Smith Show. Smith and Ford performed duets: "You're Just in Love" and "Hey Good Lookin'." In the second segment, Ford's vocal group, The Top Twenty, performed a western medley, "Take Me Back to My Boots and Saddle," "I'm an Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande" (from Johnny Mercer), "Ragtime Cowboy Joe" (the song of the University of Wyoming), "Tumbling Tumbleweeds", "Wagon Wheels," and "Don't Fence Me In."
The puppeteers Edgar Bergen, with Charlie McCarthy, and Shari Lewis (twice in 1960 and 1961) and Lamb Chop were Ford program guests. Peter Palmer, the actor who played Li'l Abner on Broadway, also appeared. Ann B. Davis, while still a cast member of The Bob Cummings Show, guest starred. Dwayne Hickman, another Bob Cummings Show alumnus, appeared with Ford in 1960, after he had already begun his own series, CBS's The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.
Many other singers of various genres of music appeared with Ford: Tony Bennett, Carol Channing, Rosemary Clooney, Nelson Eddy, Gordon MacRae, Jaye P. Morgan, Odetta, Lily Pons, John Raitt, Jimmie Rodgers, Tommy Sands, Jo Stafford, Merle Travis, and Ethel Waters. Pianists Hoagy Carmichael and Liberace were also guests. Bandleader Spike Jones appeared early on the program on November 15, 1956. Tab Hunter appeared on October 27, 1960.
Lee Aaker and Rin Tin Tin and Jon Provost and Lassie appeared in separate segments of The Ford Show. Provost appeared on the only segment which aired on Christmas Day – 1958. On New Year's Day 1959, Danny Thomas guest starred with his television children, Rusty Hamer and Angela Cartwright. A Thomas supporting cast member, Pat Carroll, also guest starred with Ford. In the fall of 1959, Jay North, cast as CBS's Dennis the Menace, appeared with Tennessee Ernie Ford.
Before his popularity had skyrocketed, Johnny Cash guest starred with comics Homer & Jethro on May 12, 1960. June Carter, his future second wife, guest starred on October 28, 1957. On November 6, 1958, Jane Wyman, then host of her own anthology series, guest starred with Tennessee Ernie Ford in 1958. In the skit, she played a wardrobe expert trying to improve Ernie's appearance. Ford and Wyman sang "Hog Tied Over You." Her former husband, Ronald W. Reagan, appeared in October 1959 in a comedy skit in which Reagan lets Ford act as host of Reagan's General Electric Theater so long as Reagan performs as the director.
Walter Brennan, who frequently portrayed the roles of an eccentric "old timer" or a prospector, appeared with Tennessee Ernie Ford on May 30, 1957, some three months prior to the launching of his ABC situation comedy, The Real McCoys. On December 26, 1956, Spring Byington, then seventy, guest starred on The Ford Show while at the peak of her success on CBS' December Bride comedy series. Another older star who appeared with Ford was William Frawley between his stints as Fred Mertz on CBS's I Love Lucy and as "Bub" on ABC's My Three Sons. Versatile actor Cesar Romero appeared on the Ford series on January 16, 1958. Comedian Eve Arden, still known mostly for her role as the engaging teacher on Our Miss Brooks, guest starred on the episode which aired on October 3, 1960.
Other guests include:
The Ford Show was produced and directed by Bud Yorkin. Television icon Norman Lear was also a writer on The Ford Show, though he has claimed that Roland Kibbee was in fact the show's main writer and that he merely wrote the opening monologues. Lear has also stated that both Yorkin and Kibbee were in charge on the show's production. The program was officially named not for the host, but for the show's sponsor, the Ford Motor Company.
In its first season, The Ford Show was preceded on the NBC schedule by Jackie Cooper's The People's Choice sitcom; in its last season, by another comedy, John Forsythe's Bachelor Father. Cooper and Forsythe had also been guests on The Ford Show.
From January 3, 1955, to June 28, 1957, Ford also hosted an NBC daytime program with Country singer Molly Bee, a native of Oklahoma City. Bee had also appeared several times on The Ford Show. After the prime time program ended in 1961, Ford joined ABC and hosted another half hour daytime program, based from San Francisco, with Anita Gordon and Dick Noel, which aired from April 2, 1962, to March 26, 1965. The ABC series was produced and directed by William Burch.
In the summer of 1961, The Ford Show was replaced by Great Ghost Tales. On the 1961–1962 NBC schedule, the vacant Ford Company time slot was filled by Hazel, also sponsored by Ford Motor Company.