At war’s end, Garroway returned to the mainland, was reunited with his wife, and met his daughter Paris, then two, for the first time. The Garroways settled back into life in Chicago, and Dave went back to work. But Dave’s return to the mainland coincided with his first big battle with depression. He sought treatment for what was wrong, but the depths of his depression eventually cost him his marriage.
In Chicago, Dave rented a large apartment on the waterfront and decorated it in a Hawaiian style. He enjoyed the warmth of people in Chicago, and remembered the atmosphere at WMAQ under manager Jules Herbuveaux as “a happy family…[Jules] exerted a fatherly influence over everybody, kept the talent happy, and kept the moguls in New York off their backs.”
As the only announcer with a car, and thus not tied to the end of train service each night, Garroway drew the midnight-to-1 shift on WMAQ. Here Dave took what had worked for him at KGU and adapted it to the Chicago audience. Borrowing the name of a popular record of the moment, he named his program The 11:60 Club. His personal style, his habit of addressing a listener as “Old Tiger” or “honeybee” or the like, the unusual words he used to describe a singer or a piece of music, soon gained a devoted following among Chicago listeners. Still a champion of jazz, he organized concerts and put together a “jazz circuit” of local clubs.
Voted the number one disc jockey by both his listeners and his peers, it didn’t take long for Garroway to get offers to do shows on NBC. One that found particular fame was Dial Dave Garroway, a 15-minute program on weekday mornings featuring Garroway, a pair of singers and a small band, a resident comedian, and others. The program cemented his partnership with writer Charlie Andrews, who had begun providing Garroway with material during the ascent of The 11:60 Club, and would remain a trusted Garroway associate for years to come.
In 1949 Garroway took his act to television when WMAQ premiered Garroway at Large. A free-form music and variety program, Garroway at Large is still hailed as a prime example of the “Chicago School,” with its love of improvisation and conceptual experiences. It often broke the “fourth wall,” as viewers watched Garroway wander from one part of the set to another, talk to crewmembers, or work the equipment into a routine (such as the time Garroway persuaded a boom microphone to take part in a number).
Though the “Chicago School” days were halcyon, they were not to last. And, as it happened, Garroway was about to find an opportunity beyond all others.
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