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Irene Beasley Papers

Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1903.1/3295

Abstract

Title:
Irene Beasley Papers
Author/Creator:
Beasley, Irene
Collection number:
LAB 2005-106
Size:
4.25 linear feet
Bulk dates:
1930-1953
Inclusive dates:
1908-1978
Collection Area:
Mass Media and Culture
Repository:
Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, Hornbake Library, College Park, MD 20742. Tel: 301-405-9212, Fax: 301-314-2709, Email: askhornbake@umd.edu
Abstract:

Irene Beasley (1904-1980) was a composer, singer, and radio personality nicknamed "the long, tall gal from Dixie." Beasley is best known for Grand Slam, her long-running musical quiz show which was broadcast from 1943 to 1953. Grand Slam was conceived, written, designed, produced, and emceed by Beasley. The collection documents Irene Beasley's broadcasting and singing career.

Important Information for Users of the Collection

Restrictions:

This collection is open for research use.

Preferred citation:

Irene Beasley Papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

Publication rights:

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.

Status:

This collection is PROCESSED.

Historical Note

Elizabeth Irene Beasley (1904-1980), known as Irene Beasley, American composer, singer, and radio personality, was born in 1904 in Whitehaven, Tennessee. Her family moved to Amarillo, Texas, when Irene was six years old. Beasley spent summers with her maternal grandmother in Plum Point, Mississippi. It was her grandmother Holmes who gave Beasley her first piano lessons and stimulated Beasley's lifelong love of music. Her mother died when Beasley was twelve years old, and she became close to her grandparents and aunt and uncle in Memphis, Tennessee. Though her father, James Neel Beasley, was a modest planter when Beasley was born, he became a wealthy grain and oil man in Amarillo.

Irene Beasley attended Sweet Briar College in Virginia and taught all subjects in county elementary schools in Mississippi and Tennessee. She later went to Memphis to teach math, music, and business management at a junior high school.

While teaching, Beasley spent her free time and vacations selling records at a phonograph store and promoted songs by singing them at a five-and-ten. Beasley soon began writing her own songs. Her first song, "If I Could Only Stop Dreaming," written about an older man over whom she had had a youthful crush, was published by her father. Beasley found a piano player with a radio show to broadcast the song. He did so, on the condition that Beasley sang. This led to her radio debut in Memphis in 1928. She sang on the radio in Memphis through 1928, then performed for a year in Chicago theaters, studios, and clubs. She came to New York City in 1929 and was signed by the Columbia Broadcasting System. Beasley performed in nightclubs and vaudeville houses throughout the country and starred in the musical comedy Thumbs Up.

Irene Beasley's radio career was long and varied. Due to her height, she became known as the "long, tall gal from Dixie." Beasley starred in a number of radio series including Old Dutch Cleanser series, Mennen's Sports Slants (co-starring with Ted Husing), La Palina Cigars (co-starring Guy Lombardo) and the Armour Star Hour. She produced and wrote a children's radio series entitiled Aunt Zelena. In 1934, she was voted "Queen of Radio" in a national radio magazine contest.

However, she achieved her greatest success and celebrity as part of the series Grand Slam, a musical quiz show that ran on CBS between 1943 and 1953. Grand Slam was conceived, written, designed, produced, and emceed by Beasley. The show was the first to allow radio listeners to compete along with the studio audience on equal terms. Grand Slam began as a CBS Wesson Oil feature in the late afternoons, but became a five-day-a-week morning show for Continental Baking. By the 1940s, Beasley owned a corn and cotton plantation in Mississippi. After her radio career, she opened a real estate office in Ardsley, N.Y., which she operated until 1977. She died of pneumonia on January 7, 1980 at the age of 75.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Irene Beasley Papers spans the years 1908 to 1978, with the bulk of the material dating from 1930 to 1953. The collection, which documents Irene Beasley's singing career, contains photographs, publicity, business records, correspondence, promotional material, 78 rpm records, sheet music, and some miscellaneous material.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Irene Beasley Papers were donated to the library by Irene Beasley via Agnes (J.J.) Connors in June 1980.

Processing Information

Processed by:

Processed by John Wood, July 1996. Revised by Karen Fishman, October 1999.

Encoded by:

EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Cary O'Dell, January 2005.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Publicity, 1930-1978 (0.50 linear foot)

This series contains articles about Beasley from newspapers and radio magazines written between 1930 and 1978 and contains some undated material. Most of the articles were written during the popularity of Grand Slam. Some of the later magazine articles are in depth and are accompanied by photos of Irene at work on Grand Slam or at home.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Publicity, 1930-1950, und. series 1box 1folder 1

Series 2: Business Correspondence and Records, 1928-1976 (0.50 linear foot)

This series contains various business records and correspondence from the life and career of Irene Beasley spanning the years between 1928 and 1976 but also contains some undated material. Included in this series is correspondence from the Ted Bates Advertising Agency, correspondence concerning copyright of Beasley's songs, congratulatory telegrams, and scripts from Grand Slam. The series also contains a New York state real estate broker's license from 1971, and a 1976 letter from a young acquaintance asking for information about Beasley's career.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Business Correspondence, 1928-1976 series 2box 1folder 2
Ted Bates Advertising Agency, 1946-1951 series 2box 1folder 3
"Grand Slam" scripts, 1946-1953 series 2box 1folder 4
Musical Bazaar series 2box 1folder 5
Musical Grand Slam series 2box 1folder 6

Series 3: Photographs, 1908-1952 (0.50 linear foot)

This series contains photographs of Irene Beasley dating from 1908 to 1952 but also includes some undated material. Most of the photos cover the period from 1930 to 1952. It includes many posed still photos of Beasley as well as performance photographs. Some show theaters with Irene Beasley's name on the marquee. There are also photographs of Beasley with other entertainers from the period such as Paul Ash, Ted Husing, and the Old Dutch Cleanser Orchestra.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Photographs -- Irene at age 3 1/2, 1907 series 3box 1folder 7
Photographs, 1930 series 3box 1folder 8
Photographs, 1931 series 3box 1folder 9
Photographs, 1933 series 3box 1folder 10
Photographs, 1934 series 3box 1folder 11
Photographs, 1935 series 3box 1folder 12
Photographs, 1937 series 3box 1folder 13
Photographs, 1942 series 3box 1folder 14
Photographs, 1944 series 3box 1folder 15
Photographs, 1946 series 3box 1folder 16
Photographs, 1947 series 3box 1folder 17
Photographs, 1949 series 3box 1folder 18
Photographs, 1950 series 3box 1folder 19
Photographs, 1952 series 3box 1folder 20
Photographs, Undated series 3box 1folder 21
Photographs -- "Grand Slam", Undated series 3box 1folder 22

Series 4: Promotional Material, 1946-1952 (1.50 linear feet)

This series contains promotional material from Beasley's career spanning the years 1946-1952 and containing much undated material. It contains photo montages, pages from a promotional scrapbook, programs from nightclub performances, and a promotional postcard. Grand Slam promotional materials, including a station promotional packet, a commemorative issue of Grand Slam News for the sixth anniversary show (1952), two tickets to the sixth anniversary show, plus promotional information releases from 1946 and 1948 including biographical information about Beasley are in this series. The series also includes a complete scrapbook highlighting Beasley's commercial ability.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / FrameItem
Grand Slam Promotional Material (oversize), undated series 4box 2folder 1
Grand Slam Promotional Material (oversize), undated series 4box 2folder 1item 1.0
Wooden Plaque - Song Hits Award of the Month (oversize), undated series 4box 2folder 1item 2.0
Scrapbook (oversize), undated series 4box 2folder 1item 3.0
Wooden Plaque - Song Hits Award of the Month (oversize), undated series 4box 2folder 2
Scrapbook (oversize), undated series 4box 2folder 3

Series 5: Music, 1925-1951 and undated (1.50 linear feet and 34 LPs)

This series contains undated music written and sung by Beasley, including the song "Choo Choo Train" with original music sheets, proofreader copies as well as the final printed product. This series also contains scripts and music from the program Aunt Zelena. In addition, this series contains thirty-four 78 rpm long-playing records. These recordings are housed with the audio collection, but access is limited since the recordings have not been reformatted or cataloged.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / FrameItem
Music series 5box 3folder 1
Wake Up and Dream (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 1item 1.0
Aunt Zelena - Turtle & Goldfish (oversize), June 9, 1930 series 5box 3folder 1item 2.0
Aunt Zelena - Kitty Morrie's (oversize), June 20, 1930 series 5box 3folder 1item 3.0
Music, July 18, 1930 series 5box 3folder 2
Aunt Zelena (oversize), June 30, 1930 series 5box 3folder 2item 1.0
Aunt Zelena (oversize), July 7, 1930 series 5box 3folder 2item 2.0
Aunt Zelena - Sheep & Lamb (oversize), July 16, 1930 series 5box 3folder 2item 3.0
Aunt Zelena (oversize), July 18, 1930 series 5box 3folder 2item 4.0
Music, July 7, 1930 series 5box 3folder 3
Vocal Melody - Anniversary Show (oversize), October 3, 1952 series 5box 3folder 3item 1.0
The Music Goes 'Round and Around (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 3item 2.0
There's a Home in Wyomin' (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 3item 3.0
The Old Spinning Wheel (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 3item 4.0
Music, June 30, 1930 series 5box 3folder 4
There Goes My Heart (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 4item 1.0
On the Wrong Side of the Fence (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 4item 2.0
Apple Sauce (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 4item 3.0
Good Mornin' (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 4item 4.0
If I Could Just Stop Dreaming (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 4item 5.0
Music, June 20, 1930 series 5box 3folder 5
Dear Diary (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 5item 1.0
I Lost Another Sweetheart (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 5item 2.0
Lawd, You Made the Night Too Long (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 5item 3.0
Choo Choo Train (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 5item 4.0
Throw Another Log on the Fire (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 5item 5.0
Music, June 9, 1930 series 5box 3folder 6
Songs My Father Taught Me (Not to Sing) (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 6item 1.0
Born to be Blue (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 6item 2.0
Moon Song (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 6item 3.0
I've Got a Job to do for Uncle Sam (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 6item 4.0
If I Could Tell You (oversize), undated series 5box 3folder 6item 5.0
Records - 78 rpms, 10", 1936, 1938, undated series 5box 4folder 1
Wake Up and Sing -- Life Saver Rendezvous, WJZ, 1936 series 5box 4folder 1item 1.0
Gypsy in My Soul -- Ford Program, WABC, 1938 series 5box 4folder 1item 2.0
Around the Clock -- Life Saver Rendezvous, WJZ, 1936 series 5box 4folder 1item 3.0
A Little Bit Independent, undated series 5box 4folder 1item 4.0
Records - 78 rpms, 10", 1941, undated series 5box 4folder 2
Feather in the Breeze, undated series 5box 4folder 2item 1.0
Berkeley Square, undated series 5box 4folder 2item 2.0
Froggy Went A 'Courtin' - Lanny Ross Program, WABC, 1941 series 5box 4folder 2item 3.0
Do I Worry -- Lanny Ross Program, WABC, 1941 series 5box 4folder 2item 4.0
Records - 78 rpms, 10", 1937, undated series 5box 4folder 3
I've Got a Job To Do for Uncle Sam, undated series 5box 4folder 3item 1.0
What Would I Do Without You?, undated series 5box 4folder 3item 2.0
Baby's Back To-Day, undated series 5box 4folder 3item 3.0
Swing Along, 1937 series 5box 4folder 3item 4.0
Records - 78 rpms, 10", 1940, undated series 5box 4folder 4
Interview with Irene Beasley, undated series 5box 4folder 4item 1.0
Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square - Musical Americana, 1940 series 5box 4folder 4item 2.0
Berkley Square - Lanny Ross Program, WABC, 1940 series 5box 4folder 4item 3.0
Records - 78 rpms, 10", 1925, 1935, 1936 series 5box 4folder 5
Dear Diary - WABC, 1936 series 5box 4folder 5item 1.0
I'm On a See Saw and in the Dark, 1935 series 5box 4folder 5item 2.0
Nuthin To Do But Love, 1925 series 5box 4folder 5item 3.0
I'm in the Mood for Love, 1935 series 5box 4folder 5item 4.0
Records - 78 rpms, 10", 1936, 1939, undated series 5box 4folder 6
WAAT, 1936 series 5box 4folder 6item 1.0
WJZ, undated series 5box 4folder 6item 2.0
Talk About Blankets, WABC, 1939 series 5box 4folder 6item 3.0
Nearness of You, undated series 5box 4folder 6item 4.0
Records - 78 rpms, 10", undated series 5box 4folder 7
Can I Depend on You -- Grand Slam, CBS, 1947 series 5box 4folder 7item 1.0
Atcheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe -- Grand Slam, undated series 5box 4folder 7item 2.0
Would I Love You -- Grand Slam, undated series 5box 4folder 7item 3.0
You Were Meant For Me -- Grand Slam, undated series 5box 4folder 7item 4.0
September in the Rain -- Grand Slam, undated series 5box 4folder 7item 5.0
Records - 78 rpms, 10", 1948, 1951, undated series 5box 4folder 8
Leather in the Breeze, undated series 5box 4folder 8item 1.0
Around the Clock, undated series 5box 4folder 8item 2.0
Blue Moon -- Grand Slam, 1948 series 5box 4folder 8item 3.0
Grand Slam -- of last five minutes -- CBS, 1951 series 5box 4folder 8item 4.0

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