Gene Carroll: A local talent legend

Home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Playhouse Square, and Lebron James; Cleveland is no stranger to talent. Many notable entertainers, athletes, and professionals have found success in Cleveland, and Gene Carroll is no exception. Best known for his television program, “The Gene Carroll Show,” this talented performer was a household name throughout the 1950-70’s but very few people know his full story. Keep reading to learn more!

Carroll was born on April 13, 1897 in Chicago, IL. It seemed like Carroll was drawn to the stage and public eye at a young age, as he first started acting when he was a mere 5 years old in a production of “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.” This seemed to spark a deep desire to perform, and resulted in Carroll dropping out of high school to pursue a career in variety shows. After a few brief stints, Carroll ended up working at a radio station, where he met the man who would become his business partner– Glenn Rowell. Carroll and Rowell, along with Ford Rush, built a very successful radio show. However, Rush left the show in 1929, which was when Carroll and Rowell (then dubbed Gene and Glenn) relocated to Cleveland after receiving an offer to triple their salary.

 

Gene Carroll
Carroll next to his creative partner, Glenn Rowell

 

Working at WTAM in Cleveland, Gene and Glenn garnered a huge audience, and were often featured on the NBC Radio Network. It’s reported that the two received upwards of 40,000 pieces of fan mail a day, and broke several box office records at the Palace Theater in Cleveland. The two had their fair share of success at a few other national radio stations before Rowell decided to leave in 1943 in order to assist in the efforts of World War II.

It was after Rowell decided to leave the act that Carroll accepted the role of “Lena, the maid” on the “Fibber McGee and Molly” program on NBC. After playing this role for a few years, Carroll decided to move back to Cleveland and start a talent school. This talent school was the building block for the show that would eventually give Gene Carroll his major source of fame: The Gene Carroll Show. Carroll’s talent school became very popular, and Carroll eventually began to showcase some of his students on his show “Giant Tiger Amateur Hour”– later renamed “The Gene Carroll Show.” Airing on Sunday afternoons, the show became an instant hit, featuring several national and local stars.

Carroll passed away in March, 1972. Be is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, OH. Carroll is a testimony to the talent Cleveland has nurtured and produced throughout the years, and his dedication to the influence of music and the arts on young people is truly admirable.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

 

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