The Breakfast Club
“The Breakfast Club” was a long-running ABC radio morning variety hour (and briefly on ABC-TV in 1954-1955) which began in 1933 when host Don McNeill took over an un-sponsored program called “The Pepper Pot” on the NBC Blue network (which later became ABC). McNeill re-named it “The Breakfast Club” and divided the hour into four segments called “the four calls to breakfast,” with each “call” resulting in a march around the breakfast table.
For the first 15 years the 9 AM show originated over WLS from Chicago’s Merchandise Mart and during its last 20 years on the air, from various Chicago hotels including the Allerton. The combination of music, informal talk, and jokes, much of it of a topical nature, made the show so popular that McNeill has been credited as the first person to make morning talk and variety a viable radio format.
In addition to special guests, there were “regulars” on the show like Aunt Fanny (Fran Allison of television’s “Kukla, Fran & Ollie”), comic Sam Cowling, Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers, singers Johnny Desmond and Annette King (who went on to become an Illinois congresswoman for five terms from 1962 to 1971 under her real name Charlotte Thompson Reid), and Eddie Ballantine and his Orchestra. There were also conversations with members of the studio audience and the observance of a moment of silent prayer each morning.
McNeill avoided politics, except for his strong support of public prayer, but he did run for president in 1948 on the Laugh Party ticket. Many of his guests were top celebrities and also fans of the show, including Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, and Jerry Lewis.
After a remarkable 35-year network run, much of it sponsored by Swift and Company, “The Breakfast Club” ended production on December 27, 1968. The Tampa Bay ABC affiliate, WSUN, carried the show all the way to the final broadcast while Orlando’s WHOO dropped it from their daily schedule in 1966.
1933 - 1968 Other Tampa Bay Area Stations (Featured Program)