Amos ‘n’ Andy is an American radio and television sitcom set in Harlem, Manhattan’s historic black community. The original radio show, which ran from 1928 until 1960, was created, written and voiced by two white actors, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, who played Amos Jones (Gosden) and Andrew Hogg Brown (Correll), as well as incidental characters.
Political activist groups and clergy members attacked producers of Amos ‘n’ Andy absent of suggestive alternatives or viable solutions to what was deemed a negative stereotyped to the Negro race. For 15 years (1928 – 1943) 4,091 national radio shows aired and from the man on the street to the President of the U.S.A. laughed and enjoyed Amos ‘n’ Andy. Black citizens were hired to play music and supporting roles.
When the show moved to television, black actors took over the majority of the roles; white characters were infrequent. Amos ‘n’ Andy began as one of the first radio comedy series and originated from station WMAQ in Chicago. After the first broadcast in 1928, the show became a hugely popular radio series. Early episodes were broadcast from the El Mirador Hotel in Palm Springs, California. The show ran as a nightly radio serial (1928–43), as a weekly situation comedy (1943–55) and as a nightly disc-jockey program (1954–60). A television adaptation ran on CBS (1951–53) and continued in syndicated reruns (1954–66). It would not be shown to a nationwide audience again until 2012.
In 1943, after 4,091 episodes, the radio program went from a 15-minute CBS weekday dramatic serial to an NBC half-hour weekly comedy. While the five-a-week show often had a quiet, easygoing feeling, the new version was a full-fledged sitcom in the Hollywood sense, with a regular studio audience (for the first time in the show’s history) and an orchestra. More outside actors, including many black comedy professionals, such as Eddie Green and James Baskett, were brought in to fill out the cast. Many of the half-hour programs were written by Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, later the writing team behind Leave It to Beaver and The Munsters. In the new version, Amos became a peripheral character to the more dominant Andy and Kingfish duo, although Amos was still featured in the traditional Christmas show. The Christmas show also became a part of the later television series. The later radio program and the TV version were advanced for the time, depicting blacks in a variety of roles, including successful business owners and managers, professionals, and public officials, in addition to the comic characters at the show’s core. It anticipated and informed many later comedies featuring working-class characters (both black and white), including The Honeymooners, All in the Family, and Sanford and Son.
Adapted to television, The Amos ‘n Andy Show was produced from June 1951 to April 1953 with 52 filmed episodes, sponsored by the Blatz Brewing Company. The television series used black actors in the main roles, although the actors were instructed to keep their voices and speech patterns close to those of Gosden and Correll. Produced at the Hal Roach Studios for CBS, the show was among the first television series to be filmed with a multicamera setup, four months before I Love Lucy used the technique. The series’ theme song was based on radio show’s “The Perfect Song” but became Gaetano Braga‘s “Angel’s Serenade”, performed by The Jeff Alexander Chorus. The program debuted on June 28, 1951.
The main roles in the television series were played by the following black actors:
- Amos Jones – Alvin Childress
- Andrew Hogg Brown (Andy) – Spencer Williams
- George “Kingfish” Stevens – Tim Moore
- Sapphire Stevens – Ernestine Wade
- Ramona Smith (Sapphire’s Mama) – Amanda Randolph
- Algonquin J. Calhoun – Johnny Lee
- Lightnin’ – Nick Stewart (billed as “Nick O’Demus”)
- Ruby Jones – Jane Adams
- Ruby Dandridge in various roles
- Dudley Dickerson in various roles
- Roy Glenn as numerous authority figures
- Jester Hairston in various roles
- Theresa Harris as Gloretta
- Jeni Le Gon in various roles
- Sam McDaniel in various roles
- Lillian Randolph as Madame Queen (2 episodes); Caroline’s mother (1 episode)
- Bill Walker in various roles