Sunday History Photo / Person

Submitted: Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 08:36
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Bob Dies was born 22 May 1909 in Trousdale County, Tennessee, who took the stage name of Bob Dyer, an American-born vaudeville entertainer, radio personality, and radio and television quiz show host who made his name in Australia. Bob Dyer is best known for the long-running radio and then television quiz show, Pick a Box. At the height of his radio career, Dyer and his friend and rival, Jack Davey, were regarded as Australia's top quiz comperes.
Bob and his wife, Dolly, were probably, after Sir Robert and Dame Pattie Menzies, the most recognised double act in Australia in the 1960s. Bob and Dolly's main interest besides performing was big-game fishing and, between them, they broke some 200 world and Australian fishing records.

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Bob left school at 12 and worked as "a dish-washer, cab driver, ice man, carpenter, milk-bar attendant and railway freight hand" before taking up theatre work involving touring the United States vaudeville circuits. He first came to Australia in 1936, touring with Jim Davidson's ABC Dance Band. He returned to Sydney in 1937 as a member of the Marcus Show, doing a hillbilly and ukulele act on the Tivoli circuit, combining comedy with singing. Australian radio personality, Harry Griffiths, was a child at the time but met Bob through his musician father who played first trombone for the Marcus shows.
Bob then travelled to England, where he appeared on television in its early era, before returning to Australia in 1940, using the billing "the last of the hillbillies". He created, at the request of radio station 3DB, 26 episodes of a radio program titled The Last of the Hill Billies. In 1940, when performing at Sydney's Tivoli Theatre, he met Dolly Mack (stage name for Thelma Phoebe McLean, born 1920), who was a Tivoli chorus girl. He proposed nine days after their meeting, and nine days after that they were married at St John's Church, Darlinghurst. The reception was held between shows on the last day of the The Crazy Show. The next day the show went to Brisbane and they spent their honeymoon in Surfers Paradise in a borrowed car.

Bob and Dolly entertained Australian and American troops during World War II, performing in war zones in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

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In the 1940s and 1950s, Bob Dyer established himself as a radio star, moving onto television in the late 1950s. Dyer's early radio shows were "stunt shows... that were different from the other vaudeville shows on radio at the time for, instead of a comedian or a group of people getting up in front of an audience and telling jokes, the Dyer shows depended for their fun on members of the audience themselves, The shows included Can You Take it? and It Pays to be Funny. The idea for these shows came from the United States of America. Dyer was given permission by the American radio and television star, Art Linkletter, to use and adapt his scripts and stunts in Australia. People enjoyed the stunts, apparently enjoying seeing "their fellows put into funny and sometimes embarrassing situations ... but few 'victims' came out of the stunt shows with hard feelings; Bob Dyer was always genial and good-humoured and the prizes for doing ridiculous things were substantial.

Bob's shows were sponsored by Solvol, Atlantic Union Oil (for which he used the greeting "Happy motoring, customers") and Colgate-Palmolive (with the greeting "Happy lathering, customers").
Some well known Australian actors, such as Bud Tingwell and John Ewart, worked as assistant comperes on Dyer's radio programs. As Tingwell describes it, the role of the assistant compere was to "do the big, posh Colgate Palmolive commercials during the show as well as... the introductions" of Bob himself and the contestants.Tingwell describes this period of his life as "an extraordinarily generous period, working with a very, very good professional noting that Dyer would release him for his film work and use a temporary assistant until he returned.
In 1948, when he was also compering Winner Take All and Cop The Lot, Dyer launched the quiz show Pick a Box on radio. He toned down his hillbilly twang and "replaced his yellow boots and loud checks with a respectable suit, tie and glasses, In 1957, Pick a Box made its television debut. It was first sponsored by Colgate-Palmolive and later by BP, and was the first big quiz show on national television. Dyer's catch-cry on the show, "the money or the box", was a familiar phrase in Australia decades after the show ended. "Howdy, customers, howdy" and "Tell them Bob sent you" were other well-known Dyer catch-cries.

In 1969 Dyer believed that show was losing its popularity and two years later, in 1971, he and Dolly decided to retire. In June 1971, a few weeks before the last Pick a Box was screened, Bob and Dolly both appeared in the Queen's Birthday Honours list. Bob, still a US citizen, was made an honorary OBE, while Dolly received an MBE. At the ceremony, the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Roden Cutler, who was "not generally known for his humour, asked Bob if he wanted to take the medal or the box it was in. Dyer also won two Gold Logie awards, one in 1960 and, in 1971, a special Gold Logie to him and Dolly to mark their contribution to the industry over 15 years.

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On retirement Bob and Dolly moved to the Isle of Capri in Queensland's Gold Coast and took up seriously what had previously been a hobby, big-game fishing for such fish as marlin. Between them, they broke 50 world and 150 Australian records.
In the late 1970s, Bob and Dolly sold their house and moved to a high-rise apartment. Bob developed Alzheimer's disease and became reclusive until his death in 1984. Dolly died twenty years later, on Christmas Day 2004.

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Reply By: prado-wolf - Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 10:24

Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 10:24
Thank you for posting this article , i really enjoyed reading it.
AnswerID: 443518

Reply By: Member - Dennis P (Scotland) - Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 10:58

Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 10:58
Great clip from Youtube,

Bob Dyer

Another good'un, Doug.


AnswerID: 443520

Reply By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 14:19

Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 14:19
Thank you Doug,

Brings back a lot of memories around the radio and then in front of the telly.

I remember seeing some of Bob's home movies, on the telly of course, of their fishing expeditions where they would catch a big fish, Marlin or whatever, and seeing the sharks that would follow the boat back to port. They towed the Fish, they were that big, back to port and very often would arrive with only the head left. The sharks having a meal on the way home.

Good work mate and thanks again.
Regards, Bruce.
At home and at ease on a track that I know not and
restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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