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Did you Know? with Lindie

How many of you remember listening to those old radio shows? And did you know that two of the biggest voices in radio hailed from Livingston?


Wendell and Ken Niles, both from Livingston, were the first two brothers to each receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their work in radio. The Niles family moved here from Minnesota. Their father, Edmund, was a lawyer in Livingston, until he retired in 1926. The family lived at 415 South 5th Street in Livingston.


Wendell became one of the great announcers of the American Golden Age of Radio. He was an announcer on such shows as—The Colgate Comedy Hour, the Bob Hope Show, the Burns & Allen Show, the Milton Berle Show, and the Tennessee Ernie Ford Show. After leaving Livingston, Wendell toured with the Dorsey Brothers and Bix Beiderbecke. He moved to Los Angeles in 1935 to join George Burns and Gracie Allen. Wendell, along with his brother Ken, developed one of the first radio dramas, which became “Theatre of the Mind.” Milton Berle said that Wendell had one of the best voices the radio has ever seen.


In 1936, while working for Los Angeles radio station KFWB, Wendell made the Hollywood & Vine Streets famous. He started a man-on-the-street program simply bringing a microphone to the street corner and talking to people. His popularization of the corner was copied by newspaper reporters and even led to the 1945 feature film, “Hollywood & Vine.”


Wendell toured with Bob Hope during World War II and narrated a 1936 Academy Award winning short film on the life of tennis great Bill Tilden. He was also the original announcer for “Let’s Make A Deal,” back in 1963.


Wendell’s brother Ken was not only in radio but also in film. His most notable role was the murdered lawyer in the film, “Out of the Past” (1947), with Robert Mitchum. Ken was the commercial announcer for the “Abbott and Costello Show,” and “Take It or Leave It,” and “The Danny Kaye Show.”


Grace Niles, the brothers’ older sister, graduated from Park High in 1916. Her graduation photo appears in the very first yearbook of Park High School. Grace became a stenographer in her father’s law office here in Livingston. She married in 1921, but later divorced. Grace’s 1916 yearbook and graduating class are featured in the exhibition “1916,” at the Yellowstone Gateway Museum in Livingston. Stop over and have a look.


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