BBC documentary features rare footage from Waring archives

September 16, 2008

University Park, Pa. — Producers of a three-part series about the history of the guitar are using several excerpts from a historical film owned by Fred Waring's America, part of the Penn State Special Collections Library. The BBC series with working title "The Story of the Guitar" will air in Britain in September and October.

Producer Roger Parsons is using several excerpts from "Chesterfield Pleasure Time," a short promotional film made in 1940 highlighting one of the most popular daily radio programs of the time. The excerpts from this Waring Collection film are being used in the second part of the series, in conjunction with a Les Paul interview. Paul performed with Waring and the Pennsylvanians in the late 1930s on the Chesterfield Pleasure Time Radio Show.

Parsons contacted the Waring Collection looking for photographs, recordings and film footage that documented the time the Les Paul Trio worked for Waring. After viewing the film made about the Chesterfield show, he said, "The rather brilliant and evocative film on The Chesterfield Hour in the Fred Waring Collection at Penn State University has helped us tell, and vividly illustrate, this story with contemporary footage."

Waring and his orchestra produced dozens of Top 10 hits during the 1930s and 1940s and hosted a series of nationally broadcast radio shows. His group was considered the premiere radio band of the day. Waring and The Pennsylvanians made their debut on radio in 1933 with a weekly CBS show. Starting in June 1939 they went on the air with the Chesterfield Pleasure Time Show five nights a week, for the next six years.

Paul, a country musician from Waukesha, Wis., and his band-mates Ernie Newton and Jimmy Atkins were hired by Waring in 1939 as featured performers for the Chesterfield Pleasure Time Show. The Chesterfield broadcasts were the best testing ground for the relatively new instrument played by Paul, the electric guitar. Waring noticed that Paul received a lot of mail about his electric guitar playing and realized the audience was responding to this new and exciting instrument with a unique sound.

Fred Waring's America, part of the Special Collections Library of the University Libraries, is housed in the Pattee and Paterno Library at Penn State and is accessible during regular business hours. Information about the collection also can be found at or by calling (814) 863-2911. Research inquires are encouraged, and many materials are available for use by music educators, researchers and community groups.

  • Les Paul Trio

    IMAGE: Fred Waring Collection at Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2010