In 1932 Texaco introduced its "Fire Chief" gasoline to the public, so named because its octane rating was 66, higher than the United States government's requirements for fire engines. To advertise its new premium grade fuel, Texaco approached vaudeville comic Ed Wynn to star in a radio show titled Fire Chief. Wynn played the fire chief in front of an audience of 700 and the show was aired live over the NBC Red Network, beginning April 24, 1932. It immediately proved popular, with over two million regular listeners and a Co-Operative Analysis of Broadcasting (CAB) Rating of 44.8%.
Upon seeing the success of Wynn's Fire Chief, the dissolved Standard Oil companies of New Jersey, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, and the Colonial Beacon Oil Company decided to sponsor their own radio program to promote Esso Gasoline and Essolube Motor Oil. They turned to the advertising agency McCann Erickson, which developed Five-Star Theater, a variety series that offered a different show each night of the week. Groucho and Chico Marx, one half of the popular vaudeville and film stars The Marx Brothers, were approached to appear in a comedy show. Harpo and Zeppo were not required, as their trademark shticks of mute and straight man did not work well on radio.
Nat Perrin and Arthur Sheekman, who had contributed to the scripts of the Marx Brothers' films Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers (1932), were enlisted to write the comedy show. It was titled Beagle, Shyster, and Beagle, and its premise involved an unethical lawyer/private detective and his bungling assistant.[n 1]
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