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George Gobel, guitarist and comedian, was born 104 years ago today
George Gobel, comedian and actor, was born 104 years ago today.
Gobel was the star of his own weekly NBC television show, The George Gobel Show, which ran from 1954 to 1960 (the last season on CBS, alternating with The Jack Benny Program).
Gobel graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Chicago in 1937. He initially pursued an entertainment career as a country music singer, appearing on the National Barn Dance on WLS radio and later on KMOX in St. Louis. After his discharge at the end of World War II, he switched from singing to comedy.
Gobel began a comedy show on NBC in 1954. It showcased his quiet, homespun style of humor — a low-key alternative to what audiences had seen on Milton Berle's shows.
A huge success, the popular series made the crewcut Gobel one of the biggest comedy stars of the 1950s. His guests included Jimmy Stewart, Fred MacMurray, Henry Fonda and Tennessee Ernie Ford.
The centerpiece of Gobel's comedy show was his monologue about his supposed past situations and experiences, with stories and sketches allegedly about his real-life wife, Alice (nicknamed "Spooky Old Alice" and played by actress Jeff Donnell).
Gobel's hesitant, almost shy delivery and penchant for tangled digressions were the chief sources of comedy, more important than the actual content of the stories. Gobel labeled himself, "Lonesome George," and the nickname stuck for the rest of his career.
The TV show typically included a segment in which Gobel appeared with a guitar, started to sing, then got sidetracked into a story, with the song always left unfinished after fitful starts and stops. It was a comedy approach that prefigured the Smothers Brothers.
He had constructed a special version of the Gibson L-5 archtop guitar featuring diminished dimensions of neck scale and body depth, befitting his own smaller stature. Several dozen of this "L-5CT" or "George Gobel" model were produced in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He also played the harmonica.
George Gobel died in 1991, shortly after undergoing heart surgery. He was 71.
Here, is a segment of George Gobel on the Tonight Show, with Bob Hope and Dean Martin looking on.