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Commercials on Yiddish Radio
1 Commercials on Yiddish radio
2 Mitchell Levitsky: The Advertising King
3 "Joe and Paul"
4 Index of Commercials
NPR Documentary
Commercials on Yiddish Radio, the documentary about the jingles, stores, and ad-men that time forgot. (12:14 min.)  

Joe and Paul clothiers and the people who made it famous.  

"Joe and Paul" Commercial, Paul Kofsky (vocals) and Sholom Secunda (piano), 1936.

"Joe and Paul" Parody, Part I, The Barton Brothers, 1949.

"Joe and Paul" Parody, Part II, The Barton Brothers, 1949.

"Joe and Paul," Pupi Campo (arr. by Tito Puente), 1950.


"Joe and Paul"

Paul Kofsky opened his first clothing store in Brooklyn in 1912. He called it Joe and Paul – inventing an imaginary cohort, Joe, because he thought people would trust him more if they thought he had a partner. By the early '30s, Kofsky, a dapper man with a penchant for paper neckties, held sway over a successful chain, with new locations in Manhattan and the Bronx. Sartorial success aside, Kofsky had a greater ambition: to rub shoulders with the Yiddish stars of the day.

He made his dream come true in 1936 by walking into WLTH's studio and hiring the station's musical director, Yiddish theater composer Sholom Secunda, to write a song advertising his store. As for the singing, Kofsky would handle that himself.

For the next decade, Kofsky spent most of his days shuttling between stations to perform his jingle live on the air and to talk theater shop with his fellow performers. The ad became more than ubiquitous; to many listeners, "Joe and Paul" was Yiddish radio.

So it happened that a young comedian named Aaron Chwatt (who later became Red Buttons) used "Joe and Paul" as the basis for an extended Borscht Belt parody of Yiddish radio. His routine centered on the fictitious station WBVD, whose programming consisted of commercials interrupted by more commercials, each sillier than the last. For listeners of Yiddish radio, the send-up hit home.

Called to service in World War Two, Red Buttons left the hugely successful skit in the Catskills, where the Barton Brothers comedy team picked it up from hotel staff who had learned it by heart. The Bartons recorded the bit in 1947 for the fledgling Apollo label and soon found themselves proud progenitors of the biggest Yiddish party record ever. According to Eddie Barton, three-quarters of a million records were sold in a span of a few months. The song was so popular it spawned a Latin cover arranged by Tito Puente.

Ironically, most people who bought the Barton Brothers' 78 rpm never heard the original "Joe and Paul" jingle, which had always been confined to the range of New York City radio waves. Kofsky, it can be assumed, did not mind the additional exposure.

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