Jack Sterling & Bud Walker

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Jack Sterling & Bud Walker

Here's some e-mail correspondence from Orland "Bud" Walker, a visitor to our website:

In 1934, Jack Sexton who later became Jack Sterling traveled with the Norma Ginnivan Dramatic Company, a tent show that traveled a circuit through south central Michigan and N.W. Ohio. Its winter quarters was in Fayette, Ohio. It went out in May and came back in September. The troupe put on a 3-act play and in between the acts, did vaudeville. It brought entertainment to the small towns.

My parents traveled with that show and I grew up on it. In 1934 I was 4 years old and Jack worked me into a comedy act with him being the straight man and they dressed me as a tramp and I did the punch lines. It became one of the features of the show. I don't know how many years Jack was with Norma.

My Mother recognized Jack when he was doing "The Big Top" show and wrote to him. I have the letter that he returned to her and that was 1951. I heard him on the radio once. He ended his program by saying " This is Jack Sterling coming to you from inside Family Circle."

Jack Sexton... was young, talented and loved show business. He took a 4 year old boy, (and) worked with him and developed a comedy act that became a feature for a number of years. He ...applied some grease paint and taught him (the boy) how to deliver a punch line. This act was mentioned in Billboard Magazine a couple times in 1934. I was that boy. He was a great guy.

Jack Sterling was the ringmaster on "The Big Top" television show originating out of WCAU-TV in Philadelphia and broadcast live nationally on CBS-TV.

The story goes that when Charlie Vanda of WCAU-TV, Channel 10 in Philadelphia, pitched CBS on the idea of "The Big Top" show, he had in mind that local Channel 10 announcer Ed McMahon would be the ringmaster. However, Sterling whose real name was Jack Sexton, was under contract with CBS.

Sterling did morning drive on WCBS Radio in New York City (replacing Arthur Godfrey) and he wanted to break into television. He pushed CBS execs into expanding him into TV by possibly threatening to move his successful radio program to another station. CBS wanted to keep him under contract and promised him some television exposure.

When CBS-TV okayed "The Big Top" deal, they told WCAU-TV that Sterling would have to host it. McMahon became a clown on the show along with Bill Hart.

Sterling kept the radio gig throughout the fifties (and into the sixties). After finishing the morning show on Fridays, he left New York City and caught the train to Philadelphia to prepare for "The Big Top" show. After its airing on Saturday, he headed back to NYC.

From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Photos originally donated by Orland "Bud" Walker
Text researched and compiled by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
© 2002, All Rights Reserved

The e-mail address of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia is pioneers@broadcastpioneers.com