Ted Mack, born as William Edward Maguiness, was the host of Ted Mack and the Original Amateur Hour on radio and television.
In the late 1920s clarinetist Mack formed a dance band, under his real name. A nightclub owner didn’t like how “Edward Maguiness” looked on his marquee, so he impulsively changed the bandleader’s name to the shorter and snappier “Ted Mack.” The name stuck. The Original Amateur Hour began on radio in 1934 as Major Bowes’ Amateur Hour, and ran until 1946 when Major Bowes, the creator, died. Mack, a talent scout who had directed the show under Bowes, revived it in 1948 for ABC Radio and the DuMont Television Network.
It lasted on radio until 1952 and until 1970 on television, where it ran on all four major networks, ending as a Sunday afternoon CBS staple. A success in the early days of television, the program set the stage for numerous programs seeking talented stars, from The Gong Show to Star Search to American Idol to America’s Got Talent.
Auditions for the show were generally held in New York’s Radio City Music Hall. Those who passed the initial screening were invited to compete on the program, featuring amateurs whose performance were judged by viewers, voting via letters and phone calls. Contestants who won three times earned cash prizes, scholarships or participation in a traveling stage show associated with the program.