His Own Show
A Partial History of Early Radio Sensation Phil Cook
I can tell you that Phil Cook was not his legal name. I think he was born in the late 1880s. He played an instrument called a tiple, a type of guitar native to Columbia. He spent the early 1920s writing songs and patter for various Broadway musical reviews, including Jack Benny’s first show.
In 1930 he was anointed The Quakerman, spearheading the first morning program ever offered on the three-year-old National Broadcasting Company network of 37 stations. At 7:30 AM a light will go on and the show will start. A play based on a topic ripped from yesterday’s headlines will begin, featuring seven different roles. Near the end of the fifteen-minute skit, one of the characters will break into an original song with live accompaniment.
“Blond, blue-eyed, six feet tall, broad-shouldered, he looked like an all-American halfback ready to entertain his classmates at a college smoker.”
Phil Cook did not attend college. He is the only performer in the show. Although he seldom speaks, his is the only voice that will be heard. Every word, every lyric is his. Should any of the instruments be called for, he will play them.
“I witnessed a phenomenon the like of which I have never seen. With each character he took, Phil completely changed his voice without a moment’s pause for transition, switching the quality back and forth in the dialogue like a juggler keeping several balls in the air at once… Though reading his material from a manuscript on the music stand, he succeeded in creating the illusion of improvising it on the spot. Through it all, he managed to keep an eye on the man at the mixing panel in the control room, separated from the studio by a window.” (John Lodge, Popular Science December 1930)
He will be doing this for the next twelve years, largely in the same timeslot and on the same stations. He is radio’s first big star. Despite this, not much has been written about Phil Cook. He was well thought of during his era. Other than to admit to being a control junkie and a workaholic—two aspects he could not hide—Cook seldom let slip with any personal information. Nor was he fond of focusing on his material. He would rather talk about his technique, his process.
Phil Cook is a success story--and I believe one with a happy ending. What it does not have are a lot of trappings or telling relics we can look to here in the present. There are no recordings of any of his broadcasts available. Although well executed, his material is problematic from a modern perspective. His face is on a million spoons listed on Ebay, along with Quaker dolls and a goofy signed picture. None of that tells the story.
To be generous, Phil Cook is the originator of the Morning Zoo format. It’s a type of wacky DJ act wherein the host brings in characters to comment on the day’s events. In most modern Zoos, these parts are usually performed by semi-pro fans or actors, brought in for teaser segments wedged between news, traffic, weather, and the smoky hits. Some Zoos rely on recorded non-sequiturs which the host reacts to on a spur of the moment basis. In Cook’s iteration, there are no recorded bits and no other actors. In effect, the entire program is packaged as a segment. Cook’s vocal characterizations are on a par with Mel Blanc, sans the mouth effects. The music is first rate, having come off the pen of one of Broadway’s more versatile composers. (If they minted gold records at the time, Cook would have had a half dozen of them before taking this gig.) It’s witty, goofy voices, waxing moronic about the day’s events, complete with occasional singing, fortified by a Quaker Crackels pitch before signing its merry way off. It’s fifteen minutes of well-produced material that the station can use as an audience draw with their local programming. All in all, a good deal for the affiliates.
To be less generous, at its base, it’s a minstrel act. Cook is a dialect comedian. His characterizations are more reinforced stereotypes than they are detailed personifications. Cook’s inventive routines are occasionally diluted with some very old gag construction. More often than prudent, Cook goes for the cheap laugh or the laugh at the expense of one of his minority-stand-in characters. It is majoritarian derision piled on all who are outside the WASP demographic. And the show does not evolve beyond this.
It’s a six day a week, fifteen-minute mini operetta about the news of the day. Regardless of the content or theme, producing a daily quality bit of musical theater is heck of a trick. Doing it largely solo, even more so. If there is a defense for the more odious material, there was a lot of similar work around at the time. Minstrel singer Al Jolson was the biggest recording artist of the day. The later Amos ‘n’ Andy would go onto become the most popular program of radio’s heyday. Cook is serving up something he knows sells. All of that said, none of his characters are defenseless or slow-witted; each is an equally capable member of the clown chorus. It’s more Marx Brothers than put-down comedy, with the absurdities of the day being the butt of most jokes.
During the initial eighteen-month contract for Quaker, Cook was giving three performances, performing two separate shows per day. His morning program was repeated live an hour later to service stations in the middle and western portions of the country. Then he came back on the air for a fifteen-minute dinner performance with an entirely different show. It was claimed that he worked nineteen hours a day. (1)
Not much is known about Cook’s earlier career on Broadway. He worked for the varieties, burlesque houses, and vaudeville. Some of these were set theatrical productions, with fixed scripts and musical numbers, and others were showcases for a rotating cast of headliners. Cook gives conflicting accounts about his own efforts as a performer. His stage career was brief and infrequent, although adequate enough to provide him with theatrical connections. His niche became writing music for others. Much of this is hard to track. He isn’t a Tin Pan Alley song salesman. His music isn’t published. Rather, he composes for performers or presents his work to performers for their acceptance. His work goes from pen to stage.
Except if it gets popular. At some point a sheet music firm should print it. For unknown reasons, Cook’s works don’t leave much of a paper trail until they are recorded.
In June of 1924 two of Cook’s compositions are issued as records for retail sale. There is no information as to which show either of these works originated. All we can go on is the reputation of the recording artists. Plain Jane was released from Victor by Ace Brigode and His Fourteen Virginians. Brigode is a dance music performer working the Collegiate Hot style. It’s sort of an up-tempo ragtime, at the peak of popularity at the time. He generally adapts compositions from the mainstream to fit this fad. Brigode toured widely and may have heard Plain Jane while in New York. Don’t Take Your Troubles to Bed was released from OKeh by International Novelty Orchestra. This is OKeh’s house band. They record top selling sheet music. All of this indicates that the two tunes had reached a level of popularity not normally enjoyed by variety show fare.
Cook’s It Don’t Do Nothing But Rain was released on record by three different artists in March of 1926. This indicates something of a rush, however the reasons for such are lost to the mists of time. Again, the show this tune was involved with is unknown. Art Gillham and the combo of Bob Thomas and Billy West both released for Columbia. Al Bernard’s recording was issued by Vocalion. Of the initial three artists, the most important is radio pioneer Gillham, who recorded over 300 of his own compositions. The song had legs and was further recorded by Harry Hudson’s Melody Men, Lew Childre, and Milly Mayerl. It became an international hit, recorded in England by Al Starita and the Piccadilly Players.
There are numerous stories of how songwriters are often screwed out of their royalties. For various reasons, I do not believe that this is the case with Phil Cook. I’m not sure what an international hit at this time nets, but I am confident that Cook got whatever he was entitled to. While it may or may not have made him wealthy, It Don’t Do Nothing But Rain opened all sorts of doors for Phil Cook. If he had been obscure, he was obscure no longer.
In November of 1926 Cook released the first of his comedy recordings on Victor, Ridin’ the Subway and Oh! Doctor.
In 1927 he started a collaboration with fellow vocalist and comedian Vic Fleming, doing a musical mistral act variously billed as Phil Cook and Vic Fleming (for Victor) and Two Dark Knights (for Edison) which eventually morphed into a radio program for Sealy Mattress billed as Cotton and Morpheus, who recorded for Brunswick. Titles in the series include In Jail and Love Affairs (released simultaneously by Victor and Edison, but billed differently), and Motoring, Pullman Porters, Mule Mileage, and All at Sea for Edison. The Two Dark Knights had at least four additional releases on Edison in 1928. I am not sure how much Cook had to do with the later Cotton and Morpheus recordings, since he is only listed as a composer on two of their eighteen records. (2)
Cook had other things to move onto. In 1927 and 1928 Cook also released two additional series as a solo artist and embarked on his first major broadcasting venture.
Billed as Phil and Jerry, Cook produced at least four records in The Ventriloquist and His Dummy series for Edison. As the name implies, this is a recording of a ventriloquist act. Cook was not a ventriloquist, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him. After all, it’s a recording and no one will see if his lips move. (An idea which occurred to Edgar Bergen later.) Cook eventually folded the character of Jerry into his core routine, making the dummy-less dummy the only one of his many fictional voices to actually be presented as a phony entity—the only voice other than Cook’s attributable to Cook.
Cook’s other series picked up from the original comedy efforts of 1926. This includes a 1929 rerelease of Oh! Doctor and at least four other recordings. These recordings best reflect the crux of what became Cook’s act. It is the mix of the multiple voice patter and original compositions which makes the act unique. It’s a virtuoso riff done in a concentrated blast. The whole routine wraps up before it can overstay its welcome. As with the other series, this is one fine formula for producing novelty records. It’s aces on radio.
And radio is where Cook is heading. Per an interview with Cook in 1940, he had been appearing on radio regularly since 1923. While this is entirely possible, there is nothing regular about radio in 1923. It was still largely a hobbyist medium. What money there was in radio was in selling transmitters. The airwaves were a bleating chaos with thousands of low powered (and some not-so-low-powered) broadcast outlets, none of which had set frequencies. Theaters, department stores, and hardware stores were the usual entities behind these stations. Their programming might consist of anything. Better funded entities featured live music performances from their studios. The less well-endowed might play records (until the musician’s union cracked down on that) or simply spew unending promotions for the entity which owned the station. (3) The 1920s experience of fishing for entertainment on one’s crystal set was not consistently rewarding. Instead, 1920s home entertainment was dominated by the phonograph. It wasn’t until the focus shifted to selling radio receivers that the airwaves started to straighten out. Even after the federally mandated massacre of 99.9% of the radio stations, and the assignment of actual frequencies, the commercial viability of radio as a medium was unknown. It isn’t a mainstay of the American media landscape until the early 1930s. Cook would be instrumental in proving radio’s appeal as an advertising vehicle.
There is a third leg to Cook’s stool of talents which I have not touched on. Although he is a composer of Broadway hits and a comedian, what he is not, is a gypsy. Mister Cook does not tour. He does not play clubs. He does not give performances to live crowds. He turned down a vaudeville circuit contract at the age of 14. At 16, he walked into an advertising agency, attempting to get freelance work in the art department. On top of everything else, Cook was a gifted illustrator and painter. He was hired on as an office boy and within two years was made a partner at the firm. This is his core gig. He is a Madison Avenue advertising executive. It is from this perch, perhaps for as many as fifteen years, that Cook starts dabbling in Broadway entertainment ventures. (4)
And fifteen years later It Don’t Do Nothing But Rain is raining money as an international hit. Within a year of that he has established himself as a recording artist in his own right. He’s on a roll, but he’s hardly an overnight success. And then it’s off to pioneer the world of radio syndication.
1927 is a little early to be trying to launch a show on multiple stations. The only actual network, NBC, is less than a year old. From this point on, Cook’s discography becomes disjointed. Some of his output are novelty recordings meant for personal purchase, others are transcriptions meant for airplay. They are physically identical to each other, both emblazoned with the Victor stamp. (RCA Victor is the parent company of NBC.) Their distinction is in legalisms and use. The transcriptions have a commercial embedded in them and the station has been paid to play them. (5)
How many stations Cook’s first transcribed show The Aunt Jemima Man appeared on has been lost to history. It was a coast-to-coast effort. Whether Cook had backing from RCA or to what degree they were helping him out is also unclear. The show itself was a five-minute concentrated version of Cook’s Two Dark Knights routine. It’s hideously racist—a minstrel selling the virtues of a phony negro’s prefab pancake glop.
Only two episodes of The Aunt Jemima Man in recorded form are known to exist. How many were produced or played is unknown. This touches on the overall downside of transcription syndication. While technology made it possible for an idea to go from notes scratched on the back of an envelope in the morning to pressed recordings out the door by 5:00 PM, the process then heads sideways. After you have carefully packed your fragile 78 RPM recordings, you hand them off to the post office, which then probably delivers them whenever, only to have the thing uncarted by whatever passes for the radio station’s office help. Assuming it gets to the hands of the manager, he will then find a check and a contract attached to the record’s sleave. If the manager cashes the check, he has promised to play the show at a certain time a certain number of times per week. That’s a lot of moving parts. All the advertiser can verify, circa 1927, is how many records were pressed, how many were sent out to stations, and how many of the checks from Mister Cook’s advertising firm were cashed. After that, the advertiser has to watch his sales and hope for the best. It’s hard to gauge, compared to running coupons in the newspaper.
At least as a proof of concept, it seems to have been successful. Cook followed up with The Radio Chef, which I have unfortunately not heard. This is a more typical radio program, similar to Cook’s solo comedy recordings and what would become the format for all of his other programs. Here the topic is cooking and home economics, in fifteen-minute slices. Unlike The Aunt Jemima Man, this transcription comes without a contract or a check. It can be played at any time in the schedule, assuming that the station finds it has merit. Whereas a normal recording would cost the station a royalty fee to the artist, the transcription is free to play as long as the imbedded commercial is not occluded. This became the model for most transcription syndicated programs, especially soap operas. Most stations earned their money by selling commercial time before or after the transcribed program. Other stations ran transcriptions in low demand time slots.
The Radio Chef gained enough traction that it was slated for prototype networking. One to many networking was the idea behind radio networks. (6) An outgrowth of the remoting tactic, the intention was to facilitate long distance communication and assure program quality. In networking each station was connected to the central studio by a dedicated phone line. The programming originated in the central studio could then be instantly broadcast by each of the connected stations. At this stage in radio’s development, the emphasis was on selling radio receivers. The thinking at NBC/RCA was that providing national coverage of the news was enough of a draw to make radio an essential media institution. (7) Not much thought was given to revenue streams for the now pruned down stations themselves. It was assumed that most stations would remain as not for profit appendages for other businesses or institutions. RCA was unique in its position as the owner of many of its large market stations. Unless it intended to perpetually sell radios, it needed to come up with an income stream for NBC. Assuming public interest hurtles could be spanned, advertising looked like the best bet. Networking had its advantages to advertisers, assuring both quality content and proof of delivery. It was, however, exceptionally expensive. (8)
In walks Quaker Oats with a product launch for a ready to eat cold cereal called Quaker Crackels. It’s a spare no expenses effort. They want as many stations as the network can reach. NBC takes this as its cue to scale up one of their prototypes. Phil Cook The Radio Chef becomes Phil Cook The Quakerman. (9)
Per the December 1930 issue of Popular Science, “Cook’s salary is said to be $50,000 a year. And he has the satisfaction of knowing that his shows are broadcast over the largest network used for any “single” act—thirty-five stations in the morning and thirty-seven in the evening. Then, too, many listeners write him letters, telling him how much they enjoy his work. In August, he received more than 10,000 letters, the record mail for any solo performer on the air.”
The eighteen-month period which the Quakerman program ran was the apex of Cook’s career in radio. His was one of a trickle of entertainment programs originating from NBC, which was still in the process of building out. The ball was now rolling. The next sound you hear will be the golden age of radio.
While the Quakerman was successful in spreading the word of network advertising, as well as spoons with Cook’s face on it and Quaker dolls from coast to coast, it came to an abrupt and dubious end. The issue had nothing to do with Cook. To be blunt, Quaker Crackels sucked. (10) Although many were prompted to try Crackels, few who did came back for more. It was a gigantic flop.
Thankfully, Cook wasn’t tarred with it. With the reach of network advertising now proven, a two-fold power struggle commences. First, the advertisers don’t want to buy their programming from NBC. The advertisers want to produce the programming themselves, controlling the casting and scripts. Second, the moment radio starts to smell like money, Hollywood descends, kicking Broadway to the curb. Big time radio shall henceforth be scripted, orchestrated, lavished with sound effects, and populated by visitors from the silver screen. One-man bands like Cook are rendered instantly obsolete, relegated to positions on local stations as versatile staff announcers, reading the hardware store pitch after the NBC bells have tolled on the network show signing off. Sort of.
As for Phil Cook, he isn’t going anywhere. There is some virtue in being first at something. And there aren’t too many A-Listers willing to contest Cook for his 7:45 in the morning slot. It’s his fifteen minutes for as long as he wants it. The program became known as Phil Cook’s Almanac but was normally listed simply as Phil Cook. The golden age of radio will proceed to happen around him. Per an interview in 1940, he was still going at it, with very little variation to his act. His fifteen-minute encapsulated format and early morning timeframe made his spot easy to accommodate.
There is something unique about all of the long-running radio shows. None of them were press-stamp affairs. By the time Cook started, no one was doing a fifteen-minute topical vaudeville act with music on the radio. And no one copied him. It was similar to the position Paul Harvey was in. No one can really be you.
Cook was more of a curiosity than an influence. I say that with some caveats. Without the novelty of knowing that one person is doing all of the voices, is the show any good? Again, no copies of the show exist. All I can go by are his records. Cook’s a topflight composer, an excellent musician, has impeccable comedic timing—and a pleasant, professional singing voice. Check out the Cotton and Morpheus recordings and you will hear his singing. He’s the goods. The show was probably wonderful.
There were other men of a thousand voices plying careers on old time radio. Mel Blanc is the one that most comes to modern minds. For the most part, Blanc was a bit player in radio, his highest profile role was as Jack Benny’s car. His belated fame came from his involvement with animation. Blanc’s own show on radio lasted one season. Many of the other voice guys worked in children’s broadcasting or, weirdly, in horror. A few had syndicated programs, but none long-lasting. And I don’t think Cook had any influence on any of them.
I do think that Cook had some influence on several performers. Cook goes into high windage mode when discussing microphone technique in interviews. Much of what Cook said in 1930, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll (Amos ‘n’ Andy) nearly repeat in an interview in 1942. The much later Arthur Godfrey gave several dissertations detailing this same method. All of them claim to have invented it. Obviously, the dominos start somewhere. We can eliminate the pretentious Godfrey, whose act seems more than a little influenced by Cook’s, straight down to the ukulele. Ditto Fred Allen’s Allen’s Alley routine, which is Cook’s act without music. (11)
Whether Cook had any influence on the wacky DJs of the 1950s is hard to say. His show just barely scraped into 1951 as a weekly transcription, probably intended for evening play. What finally dislodged Cook was that his slot became valuable. Although radios in cars and rush hours would eventually lead to the rise of DJs with acts similar to Cook’s, that did not happen in earnest until the middle 1950s. Cook’s show instead became a casualty of war coverage. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, people were tuning into the news first thing in the morning. That news coverage is coming out of the same studios that Cook is broadcasting from, and over the same lines. He’s being preempted. Also, with a war on, doing silly songs about the day’s news seems out of place.
But I cannot be sure of what prompted the rapid changes in his program. The above is a guess. At some point, round about Pearl Harbor, Cook’s show flipped to transcription syndication, changed its focus from topical news to history and jumped networks from NBC to CBS. The network change is nothing ominous. NBC and CBS raided each other routinely. The transcription flip is probably a war-time measure, assuring that the show isn’t cancelled utterly due to breaking news. This means that Cook cannot be yesterday’s headlines topical anymore. Probably after some flailing around and dusting off the Radio Chef material, he settles on riffing this day in history. Post war, the show is cut to once-a-week transcription.
Phil Cook was a Jazz Age composer and novelty records star who extended the life of his act by twenty years through radio. Some people need fame. Some performers need an audience. Most people in show business will do whatever it takes to increase their star power or just hold onto it for one second further. Everything I found on Phil Cook indicates that this was not the case with him. Radio was just a profitable outlet for his talents, of which he had many. In the last interview I can find, he is depicted as putting the finishing strokes on an illustration at his advertising agency. The war, the flash depression after the war, and the rise of television sucked the money out of radio. The new wacky DJs of the 1950s weren’t making $50,000 dollars—or near whatever Cook’s last CBS contract was. As the money left radio, Cook scaled back his involvement with it.
WE DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING! AND SOME OF THE THINGS I’VE SAID ARE PROBABLY DEAD WRONG. YOUR COMMENTS ARE ACTIVELY ENCOURAGED.
Like all of our postings, this is a living document and is open to revision.
(1) With all due respect, I don’t believe about half of what Cook or his PR people say. I think Cook would tell us he’s the green man from the moon if he credibly thought it would buy him another column inch of publicity. I have no doubt that Cook is in charge of his show, but the claim that he writes all of the material for each of the twelve productions he puts on weekly is massively improbable. Moreover, similar claims by other people with daily deadlines have turned out to be universally untrue.
(2) Phil Cook is Morpheus or plays the part of Morpheus on all eighteen of the recordings. The show appears to have been transcribed and weekly. The other minstrel is John Mitchel, who may also be Vic Fleming. Neither are credited as performers on the recordings.
The one thing Phil Cook can’t do on his own is harmony. And vocal harmony is the point of the various Dark Knights acts. For the first two shows, Cook seems to be the chief cook and bottle washer of this affair. After the third program, other composers and writers are brought in, probably by the sponsor. I am not sure how this set with Cook, other than his name is not on any of the following recordings. It also marks the end of the Dark Knights act. From this point forward, Cook works alone and performs only his own material. It should also be noted that the probable broadcast dates of this show nearly overlap with the start of the Quakerman broadcasts. It is either the last thing he did before taking the network gig, or he is working both shows early on.
Conversely, Cook could have been the producer of this program from start to finish. In that case, his scaling back on further radio productions may have been motivated by purely economic considerations.
A word of caution about Cotton and Morpheus. If The Aunt Jemima Man takes the overt racism up to 9, Cotton and Morpheus takes it to 11. The premise of the show is that Cotton and Morpheus are a pair of hobos who move about the country, seeking work at various Sealy mattress factories. But of course, they cannot obtain these positions, because they are filthy negros. At some point in their dejected quest, they turn on a magic radio they lug around with them called Hector, which produces the vaunted Sealy Air Weavers orchestra to accompany their closing song.
It’s very well produced by the standards of the day and showcases Cook’s abilities as a musician and vocalist. That so much effort should be expended on this, and that this would be considered mainstream entertainment, makes the whole affair that much more horrific.
(3) RCA/NBC and the other broadcasters felt that musicians would be paid through increased record sales spurred by on the air exposure. The other record companies and the musician’s union believed that the artists and composers should be paid live scale for each playing. The broadcasters lost this round and for the next fifteen years it was actually cheaper for stations to have a house band than it was to play commercially available recordings.
(4) If I have this wrong, it’s entirely Cook’s fault. This is taken from his authorized publicity. We are to believe that Cook’s parents aren’t willing to let him run off to vaudeville, but an advertising agency is fine. What I do believe is that Cook didn’t trust show business to provide him with a steady income. An early source indicates he left the advertising agency and went off to vaudeville. A later primary source has Cook back at the agency, or his own agency, as of 1940. It is likely that he stayed in advertising during most of his career in radio.
I have my own suspicions, based on conjecture. The percentage of non-Columbians who play the tiple is zero. Buying the instrument in this country would be difficult. Everyone as gifted with multiple instruments as Cook is, played professionally as children. I believe Cook was part of a musical family act from Columbia, probably making their living touring burlesque houses. If the folks don’t want him to leave for vaudeville, it’s because they don’t want to break up the family act. By 16, he’s sick of the vagabond lifestyle and heads to the world of advertising.
As I paint it, Cook’s entire quest in life is for a normal existence, or at least a grounded one. He does not want to be an impoverished trained seal, shlepping from one miserable hotel and theater venue after another. In 1930 it is reported that Cook’s “Family, wife and baby daughter” live in swanky NYC exurb Avon-by-the-Sea. That can be read two ways. Either the entire family clan is now mooching off of him and his young wife—or—at the tender age of forty-something, Cook has achieved one of his life-norming objectives. From this point on, Cook never professionally leaves New York and all of his performances are given over electronic mediums. This points to a rather normal and noble set of priorities.
(5) And just to make life more confusing, sometimes commercial recordings are made from broadcast material, as is the case with the Cotton and Morpheus records released by Brunswick. Eventually transcriptions become their own format; etched on metal, sixteen inches across with four center anchor holes and requiring a special turntable to play them. This new format started in the 1930s and is intended to survive mailing.
(6) The idea was to save on production costs and assumed that the entertainers only had to be paid for one live performance, no matter how many stations broadcasted the show. Tactics like this kept RCA/NBC in court constantly.
(7) This effort was massively successful. By the middle 1930s half of the nation’s newspapers and magazines had been put out of business.
(8) RCA/NBC did not own Ma Bell. Early on, AT&T charged RCA/NBC $1,700.00 a minute to maintain its network.
(9) It would be interesting to know who sold this account. It certainly would make for a better story if Phil Cook brought in this deal himself. Cook is a good on-air pitch man and certainly savvy enough to handle the business end of his own affairs. And all advertising executives are essentially salesmen. That said, Cook is far too busy to put a deal like this together. Although he is an owner of an advertising agency, he is a lead creative in the print department and not a prospector. In all probability, this deal came directly to NBC. The network had something new and powerful and Quaker Oats was willing to roll the dice on it.
(10) Breakfast foods have long and expensive development cycles. This was one of Quaker’s first swings in the cold breakfast category. The pictures indicate that Crackels are highly similar to Captain Crunch. If there is a difference, it is that Captain Crunch is encapsulated by a sugar glaze to keep it from getting soggy. This encapsulation technology is what Captain Crunch is meant to take advantage of. Per available sources, the biscuit itself was recycled from a previous product—which I think is Crackels.
(11) In defense of Allen, they probably both stole the idea from someone else. Both Cook and Allen treated vaudeville material as if it were a vast public domain pile of old clothing. You put on what fits you best. There is no pride of authorship, other than what you do with it. In Cook’s case, he works the bit into a silly song. In Allen’s case, it is a springboard for ad-libbing.