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Godfrey served in the United States Navy from 1920 to 1924 as a radio operator on naval destroyers, but returned home to care for the family after his father's death.Additional radio training came during Godfrey's service in the Coast Guard from 1927 to 1930.On leaving the Coast Guard, Godfrey became a radio announcer for the Baltimore station WFBR (now WJZ (AM)) and moved to Washington, D. to become a staff announcer for NBC-owned station WRC the same year and remained there until 1934.Recovering from a near-fatal automobile accident en route to a flying lesson in 1931 (he was already an avid flyer), he decided to listen closely to the radio and realized that the stiff, formal style then used by announcers could not connect with the average radio listener.In this CBS publicity photo of Arthur Godfrey Time, vocalist Patti Clayton is seen at the far right and Godfrey sits in the foreground.Clayton, the original 1944 voice of Chiquita Banana, was married to Godfrey's director, Saul Ochs.In 1937, he was a host on Professor Quiz, radio's first successful quiz program. He would participate in exercises around the Washington area.One surviving broadcast from 1939 has Godfrey unexpectedly turning on his microphone to harmonize with The Foursome's recording of "There'll Be Some Changes Made." Godfrey was anxious to remain connected with the Navy, but found his hip injuries rendered him unsuitable for military service. Roosevelt, who listened to his Washington program, and through Roosevelt's intercession, he received a commission in the U. Godfrey eventually moved his base to the CBS station in New York City, then known as WABC (now WCBS), and was heard on both WJSV and WABC for a time.
One of the medium's early master commercial pitchmen, he was strongly identified with many of his sponsors, especially Chesterfield cigarettes and Lipton Tea.In the autumn of 1942, he also became the announcer for Fred Allen's Texaco Star Theater show on the CBS network, but a personality conflict between Allen and Godfrey led to his early release from the show after only six weeks.Godfrey became nationally known in April 1945 when, as CBS's morning-radio man in Washington, he took the microphone for a live, firsthand account of President Roosevelt's funeral procession. Unlike the tight-lipped news reporters and commentators of the day, who delivered news in an earnest, businesslike manner, Godfrey's tone was sympathetic and neighborly, lending immediacy and intimacy to his words. Truman's car in the procession, Godfrey fervently said, in a choked voice, "God bless him, President Truman." Godfrey broke down in tears and cued the listeners back to the studio.He passed a stringent qualifying examination and was admitted to the prestigious Radio Materiel School at the Naval Research Laboratory, graduating in 1929.
It was during a Coast Guard stint in Baltimore that on October 5 of that year he appeared on a local talent show and became popular enough to land his own brief weekly program.
Godfrey was the station's morning disc jockey, playing records, delivering commercials (often with tongue in cheek; a classic example had him referring to Bayer Aspirin as "bare ass prin"), interviewing guests, and even reading news reports during his three-hour shift.