While the bespectacled Dave Garroway appeared on a number of early network programs, he gained a national following as the host of the early morning "Today Show," which premiered on Jan. 14, 1952. Garroway remained with the show until May 1961.
At the time of the program's inception, the early morning hours were considered a wasteland by broadcasters. Program executive Sylvester J. Weaver convinced his superiors at the National Broadcasting Co. that a mixture of news, chatter and interviews could attract a new audience.
Weaver was said to have remarked to Garroway that, "You will wake America, wash it, dress it, give it breakfast and send it to work."
Garroway was joined on the program, which was performed live in a former showroom in Rockefeller Center in New York, by a cast that included Frank Blair reading the news, Jack Lescoulie and Betsy Palmer. Another regular was a trained chimpanzee named J. Fred Muggs, whose antics were credited with helping the program attract an audience.
Although the opening shows received terrible reviews, within a year the program had become a hit in the ratings. Garroway's affable humor and owlish appearance soon became a fixture in millions of homes. He closed each program by raising a palm and wishing his viewers "peace."
A television critic later wrote that Garroway was "the coolest, the least grating, the most seemingly trustworthy and one of the most assuring intruders ever to enter millions of American homes. He was tutor, guide, inquisitor, philosopher, maestro and companion. He was born to television."
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