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The "Billy Rose Beauties" entertained on the city's Tennessee Theatre stage on April 9, 1942

Bob Cox • Oct 16, 2017 at 4:47 PM

In late March, the Johnson City Press-Chronicle advertised a big band program coming to the Tennessee Theatre, which was located at West Market and Boone streets. A great stage show was coming to town, which, in reality, was four shows in one.

The "Great Four-Star Revue" of trumpeter Harry James and his famous "Billy Rose Beauties" was the most famous of American lovelies and possessed a huge supporting cast of the nation's finest comedians and entertainers.

This great show played the Tennessee Theatre for one day only, Thursday, April 9, 1942, with popular prices prevailing. The theater had been build several years before to serve as a venue for vaudeville acts. It was gorgeous in all aspects. The interior was simply stunning.

A special early bargain matinee was scheduled with a complete stage and screen show at 2:40 p.m. Prices until 1 p.m. were 25 cents plus a defense (war) tax. Prices after 1 p.m. all day were 30 cents plus the tax.

The early show gave those who could not attend at other hours a chance to see this great show. One of the most sensational of all New York shows, this performance was not to be confused with other musical programs similarly advertised.

This was the original "Four-Star Review," presented exactly as it had been featured at the Roxy in New York, where it played to record-breaking crowds.

Just a very few cities in the nearby territory were able to secure this great show, choosing instead to do so in the larger Southern cities. Johnson City was fortunate to get one.

Advertisements said, "Hear the music of big band leaders Harry James, Clyde McCoy and Henry Busse as presented by NBC's gal, Cal Gwin." It noted that it was like hearing all other name bands at one time. Music lovers were strongly urged to do everything possible to be present at the special attraction.

And of course, everyone knew that of all the famous stage beauties in the entertainment world, the "Billy Rose Girls," were the most famous and rightly so. To see a stage full of these really beautiful women in one show was said to be a treat within itself, even if they were the only ones listed on the program.

"Roosevelt's Favorite Comedians" appeared at every scheduled performance, and Anthony and Rogers, another great act, were the only comedians to play four different times at Radio City in New York. They were featured in this great show. Also, such comedy teams as Edison and Louise; Frank Marlowe and Company; and others were on hand to show what they had to offer.

The theater stressed that there were plenty of laughs in this unusual production. It further noted that if patrons wanted to hear the music of their favorite bands, it was imperative that he or she be seated to see the world's most famous beauties and laugh at America's finest comedians.

I missed that special downtown show because it would be six months before I would arrive on the scene at Appalachian Hospital and Training School Inc. at 300 North Boone. My delivery doctor was C. Ward Friberg.


Reach Bob Cox at [email protected]  or go to www.bcyesteryear.com.

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