Texaco Star Theater was an American comedy-variety show, broadcast on radio from 1938 to 1949 and aired on television from 1948 to 1956. It was one of the first successful examples of American television broadcasting, remembered as the show that gave host Milton Berle the nickname "Mr. Television".
The classic 1940–44 version of the program, hosted by radio's Fred Allen, was followed by a radio series on ABC (the former NBC Blue) in the spring of 1948. When Texaco (now Chevron Corporation) first took it to television on NBC on June 8, 1948, the show was an instant hit and subsequently had a huge cultural impact.
On television, continuing a practice long established in radio, Texaco included its brand name in the show title. When the television version launched on June 8, 1948, Texaco also made sure its employees were featured prominently throughout the hour, usually appearing as smiling "guardian angels" performing good deeds of one or another kind, and a quartet of Texaco singers opened each week's show with the following theme song:
"Oh, we're the men of Texaco
We work from Maine to Mexico
There's nothing like this Texaco of ours!
Our show is very powerful
We'll wow you with an hour full
Of howls from a shower full of stars.
We're the merry Texaco men
Tonight we may be showmen
Tomorrow we'll be servicing your cars!
We wipe your pipe
We pump your gas
We jack your back
We scrub your glass
So join the ranks of those who know
And fill your tanks with Texaco
Fire Chief, fill up with Fire Chief, You will smile at the pile of new miles you will add
Sky Chief, fill up with Sky Chief
You'll find that Texaco's the finest friend your car has ever had
...And now, ladies and gentlemen... America's number one television star... MILTON BERLE!...
They didn't settle on Berle—who hosted a freshly revived radio version in spring 1948—as the permanent host right away; he hosted the first television Texaco Star Theater in June 1948 but was originally part of a rotation of hosts (Berle himself had only a four-week contract), until he was named the permanent host that fall.
Texaco dropped its sponsorship of the show and Buick became the new sponsor in 1953, prompting the show's name change to The Buick-Berle Show. Two years later, it became, simply, The Milton Berle Show, its title until its run ended at last in June 1956. By then, Berle and his audience had probably burned out on each other, and Buick had even dropped sponsorship of the show at the beginning of the 1955–1956 season (opting to sponsor Jackie Gleason's half-hour filmed edition of The Honeymooners), after ratings fell dramatically during the 1954–1955 as well (the higher ratings of his 1955–56 competition, The Phil Silvers Show on CBS, didn't help Berle, either); though Berle would remain one of the nation's beloved entertainers, overall, the show that made him a superstar was clearly spent for steam and fresh ideas, and two subsequent attempts at television comebacks hosting his own show lasted barely a year each. (Berle did, however, contribute his part to the making of a rock and roll legend: in his final season, he opened his stage to Elvis Presley amid the beginning of his international popularity.)