OVERVIEW OF THE COLLECTION
Title: Thomas Currier Vaudeville Collection
Collection Dates: 1928-1986
Extent and Forms of Material: .5 cubic feet, including photographs and film, (2 boxes)
Creator: Thomas C. Currier
Abstract: Thomas Currier (1906-1986) and his partner Max Zides (1904-1975) formed the radio, vaudeville, night club and television song and patter duo known as Hum (Zides) and Strum (Currier). The collection documents the career of Currier and Zides as Hum and Strum.
Collection Number: AC1120
Processing Note: Processed by Franklin A. Robinson, Jr., November, 2007; supervised by Vanessa Broussard Simmons, archivist.
INFORMATION FOR USERS OF THE COLLECTION
Conditions Governing Access: This collection is open for research use.
Physical Access: Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with cotton gloves: Researchers must use reference copies of audio-visual materials. When no reference copy exists, the Archives Center staff will produce reference copies on an “as needed” basis, as resources allow.
Technical Access: Viewing film portion of the collection requires special appointment, please inquire.
Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use: Collection items are available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Reproduction permission from Archives Center: fees for commercial use.
Preferred Citation: Thomas Currier Vaudeville Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, box number X, folder number XX, digital file number XXXXXXXX
IN-DEPTH INFORMATION ABOUT THE COLLECTION
Administrative/Biographical History: Thomas C. Currier was born July 27, 1906, in Boston, Massachusetts. He attended the High School of Commerce in Boston. Currier reportedly met Max Zides in a music publisher’s office. They formed their act, Hum and Strum, in 1924 singing standards and comedy songs while playing ukulele and piano. They performed on the radio, initially WGI in Medford Hillside, Massachusetts, and later WBZ in Boston. By 1928 they were one of the acts featured in the catalogue of the White Entertainment Bureau billed as The Hum and Strum Boys. In a 1929 listeners’ poll they were rated third behind radio personalities Rudy Vallee and Amos ‘n Andy. They were featured with Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians, Glenn Miller’s Orchestra and others.
Currier and Zides moved into vaudeville performing on the bill at the Boston Lowe’s State Theater, The Orpheum and eventually the famed Palace Theater on Time’s Square in New York City. In 1928 they toured the RKO vaudeville circuit through the United States and Canada with Mildred Hunt, star of Roxie’s Gang. The act continued working in radio, both in Boston and nationally, over the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) network. They were credited as the first team to use a public address system. They are cited as having mentored George Burns and Gracie Allen and comedian Phil Silvers and they have been credited as the inventors of the “jingle” or singing commercial. They performed radio commercials for such varied products as Marshmallow Fluff and Sieberling Tires. The duo occasionally appeared as the Oxiton Twins, Oxi and Ton, twin clowns promoting Oxiton, a patent medicine for sore gums and mouth.
Currier and Zides moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 1933-1934 and continued their radio career on station WATM. During World War II, they entertained troops overseas with the United Service Organization (USO). They performed many benefits and charity functions during their career. In 1947, the duo began their work in television with the DuMont network in New York City. They also appeared on WBZ-TV in Boston. By 1955 they were doing eight television shows a week on WJAR-TV in Providence, Rhode Island. They had their own music show and appeared on Breakfast at the Sheraton, Tip Top Circus, and Weekend in New England. The act lasted thirty-five years until 1958. They reunited briefly in 1959 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where both had moved their families to retire. Zides then returned to Brookline, Massachusetts, ending their career for good. Currier continued performing as a solo act.
Currier was Roman Catholic and Max Zides was Jewish, and when asked about their pairing in 1955, Currier replied, “We believe that racial and religious hatreds are the dark glasses of the soul that blot a man’s vision and make him unable to see character and vision in others.”
Currier married Helen Mary Egan and had two children: Thomas C. Currier and Terrence P. Currier. His son Terrence became a professional actor. Currier lived in both the Hough’s Neck and Merrymount areas of Quincy and later in Braintree, Massachusetts. The elder Currier moved to Ft. Lauderdale during his retirement and later moved to Reston, Virginia to be near family. Max Zides died in Boston in February 1975. Thomas Currier died on July 2, 1986 in Fairfax, Virginia, and was buried in Braintree, Massachusetts.
Scope and Content: This collection of memorabilia documents the career of Thomas C. Currier, known as Strum in the radio duo Hum and Strum. The collection is arranged chronologically and is comprised predominately of publicity photographs, news clippings, radio programs, and minimal correspondence (three items). There are autographed photographs of vaudeville performers including one of a young Irene Noblette Ryan who in her later career appeared as Granny on the CBS television program, The Beverly Hillbillies. There is an autographed photograph of former Speaker of the House of Representatives, United States Congress, Tip O’Neill. A scrapbook documenting Currier’s career, started and kept by his wife Helen, includes news clippings, ticket stubs, and one photograph. There is a script of the radio drama Hitler’s Children (1943); it is autographed by Bonita Granville and H.B. Warner on the reverse of page twenty-two. A theatre program from the Maine Civic Theatre is autographed by actor Michael Whalen. There are two magazines: Radio and Television Mirror, and TV Radio Mirror. There is one reel of 16mm film featuring Hum and Strum. There are a few news articles featuring Thomas’s sons, Tommy and Terrance.
System of Arrangement: The collection is arranged into one series.
Acquisition Information: This collection was donated by Thomas C. Currier’s son, Terrence P. Currier, 2007.