"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
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
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
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.