AMERICAN JEWISH Caravan of stars; dave tarras

WMGM/September 13, 1953 

Last year, the American Folklife Center/Library of Congress

completed the long awaited catalog of the 10,000 + paper holdings (photographs, scripts, memos, fan mail, FOIA reports, etc.) of my collection of Yiddish radio programs   (You can open the pdf at the top of the home page of this Yiddish Radio landing page.)

         A few weeks ago, I received a thumb drive with images of the 1,200+ discs in the collection. In many ways it was like encountering them for the first time: I have not seen the discs in  over 25 years. 

        While a number of shows from the collection got extremely wide exposure thanks to the popularity of the 2002 Yiddish Radio Project series, (you can hear those on the adjoining Yiddish radio page) a significant number of the shows still remain untransferred and unheard and so I will continue to post them here. 

        One of the shows which was overlooked for the Yiddish Radio Project was perhaps the most popular of all the post-war Jewish radio shows:  The American Jewish Caravan of Stars (AJCS) the brainchild of Yiddish radio super producer Sholom Rubinstein (R) (1918- 2008) who had been in radio since the 1920s thanks to his father newspaper editor/radio pioneer, Z. Rubinstein. (Much more about Sholem Rubinstein to follow) 

         Over a number of interviews with Sholom Rubinstein in the early 1990s, he told of  fashioning a show on the then popular Camel Caravan:  a brassy, rotation of big name Big Bands, comedy hosts, popular singers and clever little playlets throughout the show.  The  structure worked because the pool of Yiddish entertainers was still quite large and so had everyone from Molly Picon,  Morey Amsterdam, Jennie Goldstein, Joey Adams among others as hosts with the orchestra led by the great composer/conductor Abe Ellstein. 

         The American Jewish Caravan of Stars ran from 1951- 1961 until radio gave out and, for two months in 1965,  was even revived as a TV show on the hard to reach/weak signal  UHF channel 47 in a slot following a teen dance show  "Disc O Teen" hosted by legendary TV personality, Zacherley! 

        Though radio historian/producer Andy Lanset and I interviewed AJCS host  (Dick DeFreitas) and Rubinstein a number of times from 1990-1993,  neither had copies  of the show.     Curiously, copies of the program turned up in the collection of the Silvershein family which was donated after the NPR series aired in 2002 and is a mystery as to why Silvershein had these first generation station dubs.  Much more about candymaker Phil Silvershein -- and the inspiration he drew from a Yiddish song to create a world famous candy -- in a forthcoming posting. 

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       The 56 year old Dave Tarras was still at the height of his powers doing double duty at WHN/WMGM appearing on AJCS under composer/conductor Abe Ellstein (with whom he was also recording)  and on The American Jewish Hour: Yiddish Melodies in Swing which, under Sam Medoff had been on the air since 1940 (and would continue until 1955) and with whom he was also recording on the Newark based jazz label, Savoy.  (Medoff, whose father was the prolific Ukrainian/Russian/Yiddish recording artist David Medoff, would soon change his name to "Sam Meade" and then again to  "Dick Manning" under which moniker he wrote the pop hit "Papa Loves Mambo."