Amos 'n' Andy was a situation comedy popular in the United States from the 1920s through the 1950s. The show began as one of the first radio comedy serials, written and voiced by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll and originating from station WMAQ in Chicago, Illinois. After the series was first broadcast in 1928, it grew in popularity and became a huge influence on the radio serials that followed.
Amos 'n' Andy creators Gosden and Correll were white actors familiar with minstrel traditions. They met in Durham, North Carolina in 1920, and by the fall of 1925, they were performing nightly song-and-patter routines on the Chicago Tribune's station WGN. Since the Tribune syndicated Sidney Smith's popular comic strip The Gumps, which had successfully introduced the concept of daily continuity, WGN executive Ben McCanna thought the notion of a serialized drama could also work on radio. He suggested to Gosden and Correll that they adapt The Gumps to radio. They instead proposed a series about "a couple of colored characters" and borrowed certain elements of The Gumps. Their new series, Sam 'n' Henry, began January 12, 1926, fascinating radio listeners throughout the Midwest. That series became popular enough that in late 1927 Gosden and Correll requested that it be distributed to other stations on phonograph records in a "chainless chain" concept that would have been the first use of radio syndication as we know it today. When WGN rejected the idea, Gosden and Correll quit the show and the station that December. Contractually, their characters belonged to WGN, so when Gosden and Correll left WGN, they performed in personal appearances but could not use the character names from the radio show.
When WMAQ, the Chicago Daily News station, hired the team and their WGN announcer, Bill Hay, to create a series similar to Sam 'n' Henry, they offered higher salaries than WGN and the rights to pursue the "chainless chain" syndication concept. Amos 'n' Andy began March 19, 1928, on WMAQ.
Initially, Gosden and Correll portrayed all the male roles. Between the two, they voiced over 170 distinct characterizations in the show's first decade. With the episodic drama and suspense heightened by cliffhanger endings, Amos 'n' Andy reached an ever-expanding radio audience. It was one of the earliest success stories of radio syndication, and at least 70 stations besides WMAQ carried the program using prerecorded records.
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