Hoffman Hayride (KGO-TV)
The Hoffman Hayride that debuted on KGO-TV (Channel 7) in San Francisco
on May 11, 1949, was part of the development of television as an entertainment medium. The
show that featured Dude Martin and His Round-Up Gang appears to have been one of the more successful
versions of a live entertainment program that the Hoffman Radio Corporation sponsored to help
promote the sales of televisions. Later, Dude Martin went to Los Angeles, but the Hoffman people
rebooted the Hoffman Hayride over KPIX-TV with a new host - Cottonseed Clark. We will delve a bit
into the early television history, but let's first read about the Hoffman Hayride program.
Television was a not a 24 hour a day seven day a week operation as it later became. KGO-TV went
on the air on May 5, 1949. On May 11, KGO's broadcast day began at 7:00pm with a program emceed by
Neil Hamilton called "Hollywood Screen Test". At 8:00pm, it was the Hoffman Hayride. At 8:30pm,
it was "TV Jackpot". And to end the day, at 9:00pm it was a program called "On Trial: Should Congress
Enact A Veteran's Pension?"
In the weeks prior to its on-air debut, KGO-TV ran an ad letting readers and owners of television
sets in the Bay area what to expect when it went on the air. KGO would air its test pattern from
10:00am to 10:00pm daily so viewers could adjust their set to enable good reception of Channel 7. Its
508 foot tall antenna was atop Sutro Mountain. After its opening night on May 5, the station would
be on the air from Tuesday through Saturday each week with a regular schedule of programs. The station
billed itself as "...your new way to look at life."
The first instance of the show was hosted by popular San Francisco disc jockey Dude Martin.
He owned an 1,100 acre ranch in the Pittsburgh, California area. He did his shows, held
entertainment gigs on the ranch and did personal appearances around the area for his show's
The show aired over local television station KCO-TV but did air at various facilities usually
locations that sold Hoffman Televisions. On Wednesday, September 21, 1949, one such show
was to be at the Jacksons television theatre. The store had only been in business one year
and this show was to celebrate its first anniversary.
On November 16, 1949, the show was going to be broadcast from the Berkeley High School
Little Theatre and sponsored by "The Electrical Living Shop"
on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, California. They were advertising Hoffman's new 19 inch
television model with a "direct view picture" for only $599.
In a report of the event, the local paper reported that the station had three $12,000 cameras
to broadcast the live show hosted by Dude Martin. It was the first "live" broadcast originating
in Berkeley other than local University of California football games.
A week later, the show was doing another broadcasting 'first' in the area. The show
was to be broadcast on November 30, 1949 from the Hayward Union High School auditorium
at 8pm. The sponsors of the show were the Hayward area Chamber of Commerce headed by
Roger Anderson. Tickets
were to be sold at Lustig's, Hauschildt's, Alcalde Radio, B-B Home Furnishing
and Ashland furniture stores. Guesting on the show was comedian Hi Pockets. Also appearing
were Clara and Clyde Sandoval who had won the Television Talent search contest in
conjunction with Hayward's "first" Farm, Home and Industry show. And it should be of no surprise
that one of the winners in the preliminary talent contests won a Hoffman radio.
In May 1950, Bob Franklin told readers that the Hoffman Hayride and Dude Martin were
celebrating a first year anniversary. The show was broadcast from various venues around
the bay area and won an Emmy for best local show.
Later in the month, Mr. Franklin reported that show number 55 on May 24, 1950 was to originate from
the Scottish Rite auditorium in San Francisco as part of the World Trade Week and World
Trade Fair going on. That show was to feature some new talent - Pat Shirley and Beverly Tobey along
with "the fast man on the guitar" Rusty Draper.
We are not able to definitely determine when the show ended, but we read the obituary for
Harry (Ted) Johnson who died in may 2011 that indicated the show was on for perhaps
three years. Ted was Dude Martin's bandleader, accordion player and musical arranger.
But the show Hoffman Hayride returned in 1953 but would now be hosted by Cottonseed
Clark and air over KPIX-TV. Bob Foster wrote a bit about the return of the show in an August 1953
article. The new version of the show was just a 30-minute show. Cottonseed was well known
in the area and working at radio station KVSM in San Mateo. That first show included
such well known names as Eddie Dean and Carolina Cotton from Hollywood way along with a talented
actor-singer named Dusty Dale. And a young female by the name of Marilyn Orlando.
But while Mr. Foster said that Cottonseed had "...made the new Hoffman Hayride a must...", he
also did not mince his criticisms. Mr. Foster pointed out some 'weak spots' in the show.
One was Big Jim DeNoon, a talented singer who led the show's band. But he said the 'orchestra'
was "...not the best group of western musicians..." and he questioned whether Big Jim could
carry the show with its fast cues and split second changes. He noted that "...several of
his instrumentalists put on good performances ... for dance halls ... but were sloppy on their
solo renditions and obviously doing a great deal of faking (recorded music?) and quite
noticeable to the musicians and audience. Mr. Foster also indicated that the producer of the
show Charlotte Morris was "okeh" in the direction but was presented in an uninspired manner.
Mr. Foster strongly hinted to Cottonseed that those weaknesses needed to be fix - quickly.
But Mr. Foster did mention that he was very impressed by the one of the performers. He said
the star of the show was a ten-year old girl by the name of Marilyn Orlando. He said she
"...just drips showmanship, has a fine voice and will go a long, long way in show business."
He said her rendition of "Johnny Is The Boy For Me" reminded him of the early singing
of Sue Thompson and wanted to see more of her on the show in the future.
Later in 1953, Mr. Foster wrote of his impressions of Patti Prichard who appeared on the show
and did a rendition of "Riccochet" that said was the best he had heard of that tune
which was done by Teresa Brewer at the time. Patti also did the tune on the local Les Malloy show.
Mr. Foster noted that he had first noticed Patti four years previously on the "Jay Grill Show".
About a month later, he complimented the show on the duet numbers that Eddie Dean and Patti
Prichard were doing. Mr. Foster seemed to be trying to take credit for that duo by stating
he had suggested the sing together.
Mr. Foster wrote in a feature article commemorating the first anniversary of the new version
of the Hoffman Hayride that "...there is little question that appearing on the Hoffman Hayride
has helped Patti Prichard become San Francisco's top female television star."
The show impacted a few careers as well. One was Dusty Dale. He won a local TV Emmy award for
makeup and was doing stints at a night club in Oakland with a limited following. Appearing
on the Hayride show made him a much sought after character actor and singer.
Mr. Foster indicates that Nat Sinclair was the producer and Forrester Mashbier the director.
He also indicated that Cottonseed had signed a 104-week contract with Hoffman Television,
meaning the show would be on television another two years.
In September 1954, a news item indicated a reporter took in the show at the Santa Clara
County Fair and had more than 6,000 in the audience in the fairgrounds grandstand. The show
was being aired over KOVR for a half-hour each week. Marilyn Orlando made a return to
the scene where she won a talent context at the fair that got her entertainment career
on the upswing. The reporter noted that Russ Petit made sure the young lady received a
bouquet of flowers to mark her return, now as a featured star of the Hoffman Hayride.
But that same night was a perhaps sad occasion for one of the show's other female singers,
Patti Prichard. She had her own show that aired on Friday nights at 6pm. Which made it
impossible for her to do the show in Stockton with the rest of the Hayride gang. That night
at the fair was her last appearance as a cast member of the Hoffman Hayride.
Getting to the show itself proved to be a memorable experience for Patti. She received a police
escort from San Francisco from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's office when she left her show
on KPIX at 6:15pm. The article noted "...she hung on for dear life..." as the escort made its
way to the Santa Clara fairgrounds in just under an hour.
That show also featured a technical disruption as the power went out for a short time. But KOVR still
ran the entire show for its viewers but not as scheduled.
In 1955, the show received a couple of local Emmy awards. Dusty Dale repeated as a winner
for makeup. Big Jim DeNoon (despite the criticism of Mr. Foster) won as best musical performer.
In March 1955, readers were told that the Hoffman Hayride would return to KOVR
on April 2. However Cottonseed Clark or Big Jim DeNoon would not be a part of the show nor
would any of the other regulars. The new version of the show would feature Bob Kennedy
and "...will be less expensive than the other Hoffman Hayrides..." The reporter noted
that from what he had seen, "...it won't hold a candle to either Dude Martin or Cottonseed
Clark's versions." But we also wonder how does that reconcile to the reported two year contract
that Cottonseed had signed for the show?