George Leslie Goebel was born in Chicago on May 20, 1919. As a boy soprano, he frequently sang in church and this led to appearances on local radio. In November, 1932, George was hired for the NATIONAL BARN DANCE, a highly popular country music and comedy program emanating from station WLS. Billed as “Little Georgie Goebel,” the boy quickly became a popular part of the show, singing various “cowboy songs” and learning how to play the guitar. He ultimately appeared on many other radio shows in Chicago, and elsewhere, performing in both musical and dramatic broadcasts. He also worked around the Midwest with a musical trio.
In 1942, Goebel entered the Army Air Corps and wound up in Oklahoma teaching pilots to fly the B-26. (He had been an enthusiastic amateur pilot before the war.) He started entertaining fellow servicemen with his songs and was soon expanding his act with bits of comedy-- be it old jokes, material he made up, or funny stories he had picked up during his time at NATIONAL BARN DANCE. Soon, the humor began to crowd out the music.
After the war, he began to seriously pursue a career in comedy and gradually built a good reputation throughout the mid-west and beyond. (He also dropped a letter from his name, becoming George Gobel.) Eventually, he became a top attraction in corporate gigs, nightclubs, hotel rooms, etc., earning excellent money in venues like Chicago's Palmer House, the Los Angeles Statler, and New York's Hotel Pierre and Waldorf-Astoria.
As the 1950s dawned, Gobel broke into television and was awarded his own program in 1954. NBC's GEORGE GOBEL SHOW was an almost immediate success, zooming to the top of the ratings and prompting columnists to call him “consistently terrific,” “the sensation of the year,” and “TV's newest king of comedy.” The show lasted until 1960.
Gobel enjoyed a prosperous TV “afterlife,” guest starring over the following decades on innumerable programs and becoming a long-running regular on the game show HOLLYWOOD SQUARES. He also played occasional supporting roles in films. He died on February 24th, 1991.