Shell Chateau was a musical variety series that began on June 29, 1935, with Al Jolson serving as its host. Some sources even mention that the program was developed around Jolson and his talents. However, Jolson left the series briefly in the fall of 1935 due to a movie commitment. Wallace Beery, one of the country’s most popular film stars of the period took over the host position following a one week stint by radio newsman, Walter Winchell. Jolson returned in January of 1936, but didn’t hang around for long and departed permanently in April 1936.
Based on a recommendation by the program’s music director, Victor Young, Smith Ballew was installed as the new host and remained with the program for the remainder of 1936. Smith Ballew had
previously worked extensively on records with Victor Young; they had been friends since 1926. The Shell Chateau program appears to be one of Ballew’s last gig’s as a big band musican and he
started carving out a name for himself as an actor, when Sol Lesser invited Ballew to do a series of 'B' Westerns for Twentieth Century Fox as a singing cowboy.
In 1937, the program was reorganized around the Legendary Broadway comic Joe Cook. The essential format remained the same until the series ended in June 1937.
Jolson on radio faired better, at the time of the Shell Chateau broadcasts, than in the movies. Though Jolson ushered in the sound era in movies with the landmark 1927 film, “Jazz Singer” for Warner Brothers. Critics generally viewed his screen appearances as a pale ghost of the stage Jolson. On film, with a few exceptions, Jolson come across as stiff and wooden.