Mary Holliday

Decades before American Idol made stars out of wannabes, Waco had its own hit-maker, Mary Holliday.

Holliday (1901-1969), believed to be the first female radio announcer in Texas, broadcast a thirty-minute youth talent show each Saturday for more than thirty years. She started in radio in 1925, working as a studio pianist at WJAD-AM, which became WACO-AM in 1927. The show launched shortly thereafter.

But the program — known as the "Jones' Fine Bread Kiddie Matinee Show" — proved so popular it was moved in 1932 to the Waco Theatre. It was broadcast there weekly until 1956.

In the show's heyday, Holliday would invite youngsters ages 5 to 14 who could sing, play an instrument or act to come two weeks in advance to audition for the show. Successful performers were given a slot in the program. If an act wasn't up to par, the ever-gracious Holliday would not dash the auditionee's hopes but rather suggest that they go home and practice some more.

One of the most famous alumni of Holliday's show is Hank Thompson, a Country Music Hall-of-Famer whose career has spanned six decades and who has sold more than sixty million records worldwide.

The young performers received free admission to Holliday's show, while audience members paid a quarter a head to get in. The children competed for humble cash prizes of fifty cents to two dollars.

Besides the variety show, Holliday was known for the talk show What's Doing Around Waco, which began as a fifteen-minute filler in 1938 and had expanded to an hour long show by 1950.

Holliday also was much in demand as a public speaker because of her many adventures overseas. 

"She took her radio audiences to France, England, Italy, Germany and other faraway places with her tape recorder," Holliday's July 7, 1969, Tribune-Herald obituary noted.

Images

Beloved Broadcaster

Beloved Broadcaster

Mary Holliday's charming voice and lively on-air presence earned her a devoted local fan base. Pictured here on the left, Holliday is likely hosting a segment of What's Doing Around Waco, a radio show that began as a fifteen-minute filler in 1938 and proved to be so popular by 1950 that it was granted an hour-long timeslot. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Supporting Young Talent

Supporting Young Talent

Holliday's popular Jones' Fine Bread Kiddie Matinee Show allowed young entertainers to perform upon the Waco Theatre stage from 1932 until 1956. One of the most famous alumni of Holliday's show is Hank Thompson, a Country Music Hall-of-Famer. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Terri Jo Ryan, “Mary Holliday,” Waco History, accessed May 30, 2017, http://wacohistory.org/items/show/67.

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