Milkman’s Matinee: The Birth of a Late Night Legend

On the night of August 6, 1935, one of America’s longest-running and most legendary late night radio programs, Milkman’s Matinee, made its debut on WNEW-AM in New York, NY.

Milkman’s Matinee was the creation of WNEW DJ Stan Shaw, who became the program’s first host. It took some persuading on his part to convince WNEW executives that there were enough people awake at night to tune in to the show, but he was successful and the show became a huge hit.

Over the next 57 years, Milkman’s Matinee became a late night staple to night owls in New York City and elsewhere around the world who had radios capable of catching it on the airwaves. When the popularity of big band and swing music was in its prime, Milkman’s Matinee was the place to sit up all night long and tune in as Stan Shaw and his successors took telegram requests from listeners and played the music of stars such as Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller, Count Basie, Woody Herman, Sammy Kaye, and all the rest of the big band greats.

In addition to Stan Shaw, the show helped launch the careers of other notable radio and TV personalities such as the night owl favorites Art Ford (1942-1954), Jack Lazare (1954-1963), Al “Jazzbeau” Collins (1981), and Marty Wilson (1980-1987??).

The first broadcasts of this program ran from midnight-6 am. Later on toward the end of the 1930s, the show moved to a 2-7 am timeslot and remained there for the next few decades.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, the audience for 1930s-1940s era big band music had dwindled to a very small minority of radio listeners and the 1950s-60s pop music that was WNEW’s primary format was gradually being shifted aside for newer and more popular music genres such as hard rock, psychedelica, and disco. Naturally, Milkman’s Matinee’s audience began to suffer a rapid decline during this period. As a result, the show was discontinued several times and was renamed The Nightmare Show sometime in the early ’70s.

In 1976, Milkman’s Matinee made a triumphant comeback to the airwaves and reverted back to its old namesake. On the night the show returned to the airwaves, WNEW was swamped all through the night with requests from listeners for big band songs!

In December of 1992, Milkman’s Matinee fate was finally sealed when it – along with WNEW itself – went off the air for good. Or so it seemed…..

In 2013, Milkman’s Matinee was reborn on Metromedia Radio and can now be heard across a number of radio stations in the USA and across the globe!

References:

Bibliography:

Sterling, Christopher H. et al; The Concise Encyclopedia of American Radio. New York and London: Routledge Books, 2010, pg. 28.

 

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