After achieving success on Broadway and in vaudeville, “The Songbird of the South” made her radio debut in 1931. Even on Kate Smith’s first show, her theme song of “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain” and her opening and closing lines (“Hello, everybody” and “Thanks for listening”) were already in place.
Kate Smith was born May 1, 1907, in Greenville, Virginia, and was once described by Time as “The First Lady of Radio.”
During the 1930s, she became radio’s number one attraction, due not only to her evening show, but also to her appearances on Kate Smith Speaks, a popular weekday show where she offered homespun advice on current topics.
In 1938, she introduced Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” to the country, and it became known as her song. Smith made over 2,000 recordings—19 of which sold over a million copies. During WWII, her on-air appeals for war bonds topped $600 million.
The Kate Smith Hour featured music, but it also was a variety show introducing new talent, such as Abbott & Costello and a teenager named Henry, who became the star of The Aldrich Family. Smith’s final radio program aired on Mutual in 1958.
Kate Smith died on June 17, 1986.
She was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1999.