Just Plain Bill

Last updated
Just Plain Bill
Drawing of Ruth Russell by actor-singer Norman Sweetser (1894-1980)
Other namesBill the Barber
GenreDaytime dramatic serial
Running time15 minutes
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
Syndicates CBS,
StarringArthur Hughes,
Ruth Russell
Announcer Don Pardo
Created by Frank and Anne Hummert
Written by Robert Hardy Andrews
David Davidson
Directed by Martha Atwell
Original releaseSeptember 19, 1932 – September 30, 1955
Opening theme"Darling Nellie Gray"
Ending theme"Polly Wolly Doodle"
Sponsored by Kolyonos Toothpaste

Just Plain Bill was a 1932-1955 15-minute American radio drama program heard on CBS Radio and NBC Radio. [1] It was "a story of people just like people we all know.” [1]


Originally called Bill the Barber,[ citation needed ] the program began on CBS on September 19, 1932. It was originally broadcast at night, but on October 16, 1933, CBS added a daytime version. Night broadcasts ended in 1935, leaving only the daytime program thereafter until the show ended on September 30, 1955. [2]

It told the story of Bill Davidson (Arthur Hughes), a barber [3] in the town of Hartville, and his daughter Nancy (Ruth Russell). Bill often became involved in helping his friends and neighbors when he wasn't cutting hair. Davidson was seldom directly affected by the problems in which he became involved, but he wanted to help people — especially Nancy — when they faced difficulties. [4] Also in the cast: Dick Janaver (1911-1999).

The show was created by Frank and Anne Hummert, who produced many radio daytime drama series, including Amanda of Honeymoon Hill , Backstage Wife , Front Page Farrell , John's Other Wife , Little Orphan Annie , Ma Perkins , Mr. Chameleon, Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons , Our Gal Sunday and Young Widder Brown .

Music was by Hal Brown (1865–1942), who played harmonica and whistled the Just Plain Bill opening theme, "Darling Nellie Gray". The closing theme was "Polly Wolly Doodle." Don Pardo was the program's announcer towards the end of the series, which came to an end on September 30, 1955.


Characters in Just Plain Bill and the actors who portrayed them included those shown in the table below.

Bill Davidson Arthur Hughes [5]
Nancy DonovanRuth Russell [5]
Toni Darnay [2]
Kerry DonovanJames Meighan [5]
Wiki DonovanSarah Fussell [2]
Madeleine Pierce [2]
Kathleen ChattonAra Gerald [5]
Jonathan Hillery Macdonald Carey [5]
Shirley KingAudrey Egan [5]
Reba Britton Charlotte Lawrence [5]
Margaret BurnsElizabeth Day [5]
Humphrey FullerCharles Eggleston [5]
Pearl Sutton Ann Shepherd [5]
John Britton William Woodson [5]
Laticia DavenportVera Allen [6]

Announcers included Andre Baruch, Fielden Farrington, Ed Herlihy, and Roger Krupp. [5]


The series was sponsored by Anacin for 18 of the program's 23-year run.[ citation needed ] Its initial sponsor was Kolynos toothpaste, [1] In September 1936, Anacin and BiSoDol replaced Kolynos, with each product sponsoring half of the episodes in a week. (Even with the change, corporate sponsorship remained the same, since all three products had the same manufacturer.) [7] A later sponsor was Clapp’s baby food.

Cultural references

In The Three Stooges short Goofs and Saddles Larry Fine's character is known as "Just Plain Bill."

The April 24, 1949 episode of The Jack Benny Program has Jack shopping for a new car, passing up such dealers as Madman Muntz and Psychiatric Sam in favor of "Just Plain Bill." This episode was remade on February 24, 1952. Bill was played by Jim Backus in the original, and Joseph Kearns in the remake.

The January 14, 1950 episode of The Bob Hope Show has Hope, with guest star Bing Crosby, performing a soap opera parody called "Just Plain Bing." [8]

In the M*A*S*H episode "Major Fred C. Dobbs," Hawkeye tape-records an encounter between Frank Burns and Hot Lips in the latter's tent, then plays it back for Frank in the guise of "my favorite armed forces soap opera, Just Plain MacArthur."

The comedy team Bob and Ray parodied the show in their sketch "Just Fancy Dan."

Listen to

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>The Young and the Restless</i> television series

The Young and the Restless is an American television soap opera created by William J. Bell and Lee Phillip Bell for CBS. The show is set in a fictionalized version of Genoa City, Wisconsin. First broadcast on March 26, 1973, The Young and the Restless was originally broadcast as half-hour episodes, five times a week. The show expanded to one-hour episodes on February 4, 1980. In 2006, the series began airing encore episodes weeknights on SOAPnet until 2013, when it moved to TVGN. As of July 1, 2013, Pop still airs the encore episodes on weeknights. The series is also syndicated internationally.

<i>As the World Turns</i> American television soap opera (1956-2010)

As the World Turns is an American television soap opera that aired on CBS for 54 years from April 2, 1956, to September 17, 2010. Irna Phillips created As the World Turns as a sister show to her other soap opera Guiding Light. Running for 54 years, As the World Turns holds the third-longest continuous run of any daytime network soap opera on American television, surpassed only by General Hospital and Guiding Light. As the World Turns was produced for the first 43 years in Manhattan and in Brooklyn from 2000 until 2010.

<i>Search for Tomorrow</i> television series

Search for Tomorrow is an American television soap opera. It began its run on CBS on September 3, 1951, and concluded on NBC, 35 years later, on December 26, 1986.

<i>The Brighter Day</i> television series

The Brighter Day is an American daytime soap opera which aired on CBS from January 4, 1954, to September 28, 1962. Originally created for NBC radio by Irna Phillips in 1948, the radio and television versions ran simultaneously from 1954–1956. Set in New Hope, Wisconsin, the series revolved around Reverend Richard Dennis and his four children, Althea, Patsy, Babby and Grayling.

<i>One Mans Family</i> television series

One Man's Family is an American radio soap opera, heard for almost three decades, from 1932 to 1959. Created by Carlton E. Morse, it was the longest-running uninterrupted dramatic serial in the history of American radio. Television versions of the series aired in prime time from 1949 to 1952 and in daytime from 1954 to 1955.

Winner Take All, an American radio-television game show, ran from 1946-1952 on CBS and NBC. It was the first game show produced by the Mark Goodson-Bill Todman partnership. The series was originally hosted by Ward Wilson, but is best known for being the first game hosted by Bill Cullen.

<i>Hawkins Falls, Population 6200</i> television series

Hawkins Falls, Population 6200 is a U.S. television soap opera that was broadcast in the 1950s. Though it was not the first original (non-radio-derived) soap opera on American TV, it was the first to be successful, running for more than five years.

<i>Aunt Jennys Real Life Stories</i>

Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories is a 15-minute radio soap opera that aired January 18, 1937 – November 16, 1956, on CBS, sponsored by Spry shortening. The program was heard weekdays at 11:45 a.m. until 1946, when it moved to 12:15 p.m.

<i>Backstage Wife</i>

Backstage Wife is an American soap opera radio program that details the travails of Mary Noble, a girl from a small town in Iowa who came to New York seeking her future.

<i>Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons</i>

Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons was one of radio's longest running shows, airing October 12, 1937 to April 19, 1955, continuing well into the television era. It was produced by Frank and Anne Hummert, who based it upon Robert W. Chambers' 1906 novel The Tracer of Lost Persons. The sponsors included Whitehall Pharmacal, Dentyne, Aerowax, RCA Victor and Chesterfield cigarettes. It aired on the NBC Blue network until 1947, when it switched to CBS.

<i>Bachelors Children</i>

Bachelor's Children is a domestic daytime drama broadcast that originated on Chicago's WGN in 1935-36, continuing on CBS and NBC until September 27, 1946.

Three Steps to Heaven is an American soap opera that aired on NBC from August 3, 1953 to December 31, 1954. It was created by Irving Vendig. Don Pardo was the announcer.

<i>Perry Mason</i> (radio series) Radio program.

Perry Mason is a radio crime serial based on the novels of Erle Stanley Gardner. Broadcast weekdays on CBS Radio from 1943 to 1955, the series was adapted into The Edge of Night which ran on television for an additional 30 years.

<i>Big Sister</i> (radio series)

Big Sister was a daytime radio drama series created by Lillian Lauferty and broadcast on CBS from September 14, 1936, to December 26, 1952. It was sponsored by Lever Brothers for Rinso until 1946 when Procter & Gamble became the sponsor.

<i>Days of Our Lives</i> American daytime soap opera

Days of Our Lives is an American daytime soap opera broadcast on NBC. It is one of the longest-running scripted television programs in the world, airing nearly every weekday since November 8, 1965. A co-production of Corday Productions and Sony Pictures Television, the series was created by husband-and-wife team Ted Corday and Betty Corday. During Days of Our Lives' early years, Irna Phillips served as a story editor for the program and many of the show's earliest storylines were written by William J. Bell.

Kitty Foyle is an American old-time radio and television soap opera originally aired during the 1940s and 1950s that was based on the successful 1940 film of the same name starring Ginger Rogers. Kitty Foyle was created by soap opera mogul Irna Phillips of Guiding Light fame and produced by daytime radio monarchs Frank and Anne Hummert of Helen Trent recognition. The program originally starred Julie Stevens in the title role of Kitty Foyle on radio. On television, the title role was portrayed by Kathleen Murray.

Edward Frank Hummert, Jr., professionally known as Frank Hummert and sometimes credited as E. Frank Hummert, was an American advertising agent originally but was best known for writing/producing episodes of nearly 100 daytime/primetime radio dramas and soap opera serials between the 1930s and the 1950s.

The American Melody Hour was an American old-time radio program. The American Melody Hour was designed as a musical variety show. The program showcased a half-hour playing and singing "the tunes of yesterday and tomorrow..." mostly sung by baritone Bob Hannon.

The Pepsodent Show is an American radio comedy program broadcast during the Golden Age of Radio. The program starred comedian Bob Hope and his sidekick Jerry Colonna along with Blanche Stewart and Elvia Allman as high-society crazies Brenda and Cobina as well as a continuously rotating supporting cast and musicians which included, for a time, Judy Garland, Frances Langford and Desi Arnaz and his orchestra.

<i>Front Page Farrell</i>

Front Page Farrell is an American old-time radio program that was broadcast on Mutual from June 23, 1941 to March 13, 1942, and on NBC from September 14, 1942, to March 26, 1954. The episodes broadcast on Mutual originated at WOR, making the program the first live serial that Mutual broadcast from New York City.


  1. 1 2 3 Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. pp. 378–379. ISBN   0-19-507678-8 . Retrieved 9 April 2020.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Cox, Jim (2015). Radio Crime Fighters: More Than 300 Programs from the Golden Age. McFarland. p. 150. ISBN   978-1-4766-1227-0 . Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  3. "Commercial premiers" (PDF). Billboard. September 30, 1933. p. 16. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  4. Edmondson, Madeleine; Rounds, David (1976). From Mary Noble to Mary Hartman : the complete soap opera book. Bratcliff Manor, New York: Stein and Day. p. 56. ISBN   0812820940.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 186. ISBN   978-0-7864-4513-4.
  6. Steinhauser, Si (March 9, 1945). "Radio Comics Establish Youth Foundation". The Pittsburgh Press. Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh. p. 37. Retrieved April 16, 2020 via Newspapers.com.
  7. "Air Briefs" (PDF). Billboard. September 26, 1936. p. 10. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  8. "The_Bob_Hope_Program". Archived from the original on 2016-06-24. Retrieved 2016-08-24 via Internet Archive.