To the confidential tones of “Whispering” comes the melancholy voice of Art Gillham, one of the most famous of radio stars and the “Master of Pessimism.” He sighs and moans and pleads with everyone not to smile. His theory is that a good cry makes most folks happy.
He really excites pity when he describes himself as a bald old man weighing 375 pounds. But like his Syncopated Pessimism which may paint the world dark but leaves the cloud’s silver lining always ashining, this Art Gillham, instead of weighing 375 pounds, weighs about 170, he is six feet tall and very erect - not bald headed, for he has a wealth of dark hair and he is always in a hurry but he needs to be - for besides drinking about 15 cups of coffee daily, Art broadcasts the “Afternoon Variety” program on WIL from three to four, the “As You Like It” program nightly from 11:30 to 12:30, and the famous “Syncopated Pessimism” programs on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 7:45 p.m. Besides, Art has charge of WIL’s Artist Bureau.
Gillham graduated from the old Central High School here in St. Louis. After much persuasion he decided with the family that he would study medicine and so entered St. Louis University Medical School. Two weeks passed and a traveling orchestra came to town; one performance and Art’s resolution took flight and so did Art. He traveled to the Pacific coast with the orchestra and became its leader. It was while traveling with the orchestra that he and two of the boys collaborated in writing the words and music of “The Hesitation Blues,” which was an instant hit and four million copies were sold.
In December 1922 Art became an accompanist on Station WDAP, the Drake Hotel in Chicago. One night the boys dared him to sing over the radio, he took the dare, and since then, Art has whispered his way up the ladder of radio success. He was one of the first troubadours of the air and has sung over three hundred stations. He participated in the first national hookup program in the United States. In 1924 he became and exclusive Columbia Recording Artist and has made over 170 records for them. He has written over 30 popular song hits. February 1930 he signed up as an exclusive Columbia Broadcasting System Artist.
Last July, when Art’s mother was injured in an accident, he dropped his work and came to St. Louis to be with her. When he realized that her recovery would be slow he decided to remain in St. Louis.
(Originally published in Radio and Entertainment 12/5/1931)