|“It’s one o’clock, and here is Mary Margaret McBride!”|
Born this day in 1899: Mary Margaret McBride (1899–1976), journalist and pioneering radio talk show host.
Mary Margaret McBride, a native of Missouri, earned a journalism degree from the University of Missouri in 1918. She worked for the Cleveland Press and the New York Evening Mail before launching a very successful freelance career. McBride was a regular contributor to national magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan, and McCall’s.
In 1934 she landed a job as host of a daytime radio show, the Martha Deane Show, on WOR. McBride portrayed the fictional Deane, a married lady and grandmother who dispensed household tips and filled the airtime with light chitchat. The intelligent and worldly McBride tired of her character in a matter of weeks, and on air revealed to a surprised audience (not to mention management), that she was neither married nor and grandmother. It turned out that her audience, too, preferred shows about weightier subjects. For the next six years 3 t0 8 million listeners tuned in each day to hear McBride talk with the leading figures of the day.
From 1937 to 1941 she hosted a fifteen-minute talk show on CBS radio under her own name, and from 1941 to 1950 hosted a 45-minute talk show for NBC and later (1950–1954) for NBC. Each broadcast was heralded with “It’s one o’clock, and here is Mary Margaret McBride!” McBride was a skilled journalist and an avid reader (she read two books each night). She also had an excellent, nearly photographic, memory. These traits, along with her easy-going personality, made her an excellent interviewer. She was also, it turned out, a highly skilled pitchman (well, pitchwoman) for her show’s sponsors. She pitched only products she liked, and never promoted alcohol or tobacco on her show.
Her shows and interviews were unscripted, and their genuineness engendered a bond between listeners and host. Her fans sent her letters by the thousands, as well as gifts and products to sample for potential sponsorships.
Eleanor Roosevelt was McBride's favorite interviewee.
McBride interviewed tens of thousands of guests during her career—both white and African Ameican—including authors, actors, writers, chefs, and a whole range of public figures. Her show’s style and format established the talk-show genre for both radio and television. Her serious book discussions and interviews also presaged the popularity of public radio.
From 1960 almost up until her death she broadcast a show from her home three times each week. In addition, she wrote numerous books and had a syndicated column with the Associated Press.
McBride was herself the subject of many interviews. Follow the link to see her being interviewed by Mike Wallace.
Listen to historian Susan Ware discuss her book about McBride at the Library of Congress.
Listen to Jacki Lyden interview Susan Ware on NPR.
Mary Margaret plus Zora Neale Hurston plus zombies!
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