Synopsis: Although this legend has been applied to Uncle Don and nearly everyone else who ever hosted a children’s radio program between the 1920s and the 1960s (and even to some television hosts as well), it is perhaps the greatest apocryphal “manufactured memory” in American popular culture. Despite the claims made by untold thousands of people who swear they were listening to the radio that fateful night when the words “little bastards” slipped off Uncle Don’s tongue, the legend antedates his career as a children’s host (and the careers of nearly everyone else to whom the legend has been ascribed over the years).
Origins: The recollections of long-time broadcasters from radio’s early days indicate that this legend was circulating as far back as the mid- to late-1920s, attached to the names of a variety of kiddie show hosts, with the earliest known printed reference to this legend appearing in 1928. As Uncle Don grew in popularity throughout the 1930s (his show was said to have the largest listening audience in the New York metropolitan area) to become the most famous of all the children’s radio hosts, the legend naturally came to be associated with his name above all others (although it continued to be applied to other radio and television hosts on up through the 1960s). The legend (and in particular its association with Uncle Don’s name) was perpetuated beyond the end of the radio era by its inclusion in a series of Bloopers books and records compiled by Kermit Schafer. The “actual recording” of the incident that appeared on one of Schafer’s Bloopers albums was a fabrication, however: a “re-creation” of an event that never occurred.
Please take a look at the article below for detailed information about the origins and history of this most infamous of broadcast legends:
|History of the “little bastards” legend|
Sightings: An episode of the popular television series, The Simpsons (“Krusty Gets Kancelled,” original air date 13 May 1993), makes use of this legend. Believing the camera has been turned off, Gabbo, the dummy for ventriloquist Arthur Crandall, says, “That ought to hold the little S.O.B.s.”
Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Mexican Pet.
New York: W. W. Norton, 1986. ISBN 0-393-30542-2 (p. 185).
Boemer, Marilyn Lawrence. Radio Programming for Children (1929-56).
Metochen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1989.
Buxton, Frank and Bill Owen. The Big Broadcast 1920-1950.
New York: Avon Books, 1972. ISBN 0-380-01058-5 (pp. 143-144).
Cook, Alton. “Uncle Don’s Contribution.”
The New York World Telegram. 2 March 1935.
Dunning, John. On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio.
New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-507678-8 (pp. 688-689).
Gross, Ben. I Looked and I Listened: Informal Recollections of Radio and TV.
New York: Random House, 1954.
MacDonald, J Fred. Don’t Touch That Dial!
Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1979.
Miller, Llewellyn. “Radio’s Own Life Story.”
Radio and Television Mirror. February 1950.
Morgan, Hal and Kerry Tucker. Rumor!
New York: Penguin Books, 1984. ISBN 0-14-007036-2 (pp. 92-94).
Skolsky, Sidney. “Hollywood Is My Beat.”
24 July 1957 [syndicated column].
St. John, Robert. The Men Behind the Microphone.
Milwaukee: Cathedral Square, 1967.
Taylor, Glenhall. Before Television.
Cranbury, NJ: A.S. Barnes, 1979.
Treadwell, Bill. Head, Heart and Heel.
New York: Mayfair Books, 1958.
The New York Times. “Don Carney Dies; Radio’s Uncle Don.”
16 January 1954 (p. 17).
Time. “Snork, Punk.”
9 October 1939.
Variety. “His Error!”
23 April 1930 (p. 71).