Don Ameche & Frances Langford

The Bickersons

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This long-player revisits one of America's most beloved radio caricatures as well as the world's most cantankerous couple -- John & Blanche Bickerson. The pair, who were portrayed by Don Ameche & Frances Langford, initially were incorporated as recurring characters on The Chase & Sanborn Hour. The program was hosted by Edgar Bergen, and featured Ameche among its collectively brilliant ensemble. By the mid-'40s, Ameche had branched out to his own half-hour variety show for NBC Radio, where the Bickersons became more frequent "guests." In fact, the pair became so popular that by the early '50s John & Blanche easily made one of the earliest and most successful media transitions from radio to television on The Francis Langford-Don Ameche Show -- which was oddly enough an hourlong daytime broadcast that ran on ABC. By the time they reunited in the early '60s for a series of long-players -- of which this is the first -- the Bickersons had already garnered several generations of listeners and viewers. The modern consumer will immediately be struck by the somewhat intrusive canned laugh track accompanying the one-liners and putdowns that our heroes disgorge at an almost disturbingly frantic pace. Although thoroughly scripted, the performances are exceedingly well-crafted and executed with acute realism. The album is divided between four scenes that are not only correlated thematically, they likewise draw upon characters who had been developed in the preceding decades -- such as Gloria Gooseby or any number of Blanche's relatives. It is here that listeners find themselves most engaged as the Bickersons become the unwitting brunt of Cousin Eunice's honeymoon cruise -- aboard a fishing trolley no less -- on "The Bickersons at Sea." Back at home, the pair celebrate (in the loosest sense of the term) their "Wedding Anniversary," with John "working late," on a fifth of bourbon that is, while Blanche entertains guests. The constant stream of one-liners and jabs from both parties fly in the face of the political correctness that has crept into mainstream comedy. However, the 21st century consumer will inevitably find the relationship humor to be ageless. In 2003, Collectors' Choice Music issued a single-CD release corralling this album as well as the follow-up long-player, The Bickersons Fight Back (1963).

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