The following are some of my favorite and most powerful research resources for the Golden Age of Radio:
Radio Goldindex: This was created by respected radio researcher and chronicler David Goldin. It recently was hosted at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which has helped ensure it’s always up.
You can search for programs by series title, by performer name, or by date. There are tens of thousands of programs included. Oftentimes entries are based on Goldin’s examination of actual transcription disks, so it’s helpful to settling questions about when programs aired. Unless there’s strong evidence to the contrary, I go with what’s in Goldin’s log. He’s also far better at recognizing a host of old time radio voices than I am. I also use this to help me find programs for extras I do for the app. featuring old time radio detectives in different roles or when I do a themed series on the Amazing World of Radio featuring a specific actor. I also used this when I did a special podcast gift to my mother featuring programs that aired on her birthdate a few years back.
The site does have its problems. The listings aren’t 100 percent accurate and the search by artist and search by programs aren’t perfectly synced. Also, entries have varying degrees of information on dramatic programs. Some will give just cast/crew information. Others will include plot details and even occasionally a mini-review.
Still, it’s incredibly useful and its flaws are due to the fact the Index began as a one-man labor of love.
On the Air is John Dunning’s massive encyclopedia of Old Time Radio. I bought the Kindle edition several years ago, but a listener was moving and sent me their hardback edition and it is nice to have this big physical book filled with Old Time Radio shows.
It’s an incredibly useful book. It’s particularly helpful when I’m researching obscure programs. The length of each entry varies, and the popularity of the program may determine that in part as people are going to be more interested in reading about Fibber McGee and Molly rather than pages about some obscuring singing program. It’s particularly useful in determining how long a series ran.
The book was released in 1998 and there has been additional research since then and there have been some programs discovered that aren’t listed in Dunning’s massive tome. Still, it’s an incredibly useful starting place to get basic information on a series’ stars, how long a series ran, and what networks it was on as well as a lot of little tidbits.
Wikipedia has some information on old time radio programs, but Wikipedia is always best as a starting point for research rather than as an end. Some topics are well-researched and edited, with detailed radio logs. Others have partial logs, no log at all, or has information included that’s wrong or just an urban legend. As a rule of thumb, the more obscure the program, the less likely you are to find a good article on it here.
Google Books has been a lifesaver in helping with obscure topics and programs because it searches and indexes so many different old time radio books and books on various actors that it comes up with information that’s just not available searching the Internet. I’ve gotten on some interesting rabbit trails. And this resource has also led to a few Interlibrary loans and purchases.
Digitial Deli FTP, is not as updated as often as it used to be but it also has a lot of good information and articles on various radio programs. The site not only includes logs but it tends to show which old newspapers it got information from as well as often reprinting or quoting articles on a particular source. Digital Deli FTP can be a bit uncharitable with the perceived failings and disagreements of others within the Golden Age of Radio community and also can get a little political. However, despite those issues, it’s got a lot of great information on it.
Old Time Radio Program logs is a great listing of Old Time Radio episode logs by Frank Passages, Stewart Wright, and other notable researchers. The logs not only contain information about when episodes aired, but also the show’s overall production. Their log of O’Hara was invaluable in understanding how to best discuss the two circulating episodes recorded five years apart with two different stars. There are a few of them that are a bit older and maybe not as up to date, but the site is still an incredible resource.
Jerry’s Vintage Radio Logs: This is from the site of Old Time Radio pillar Jerry Haendiges. The logs are designed to feature his high-quality old time radio recordings which are available on CD and MP3. He has some program logs here that are just not available anywhere else. While some are quite old, you can tell which ones are more out of date as he always notes the last updated date. His logs for Sherlock Holmes and the Australian run of the Fat Man have been invaluable. He’s also got a lot of other great resources on his site.
Old Time Radio Star Interviews: Years after the golden age of radio ended, many starts continued to talk about their experiences. The OTRR library has full interviews with several radio stars conducted by John Dunning and Chuck Schaeden. If you don’t want to listen to full interviews, the Breaking the Walls podcast does a great job incorporating selected excerpts that highlight interesting tidbits about radio history.
Old Time Radio Newsletters:
The Old Time Radio Researchers puts out the Old Time Radio Times every two months in pdf.
The Metropolitan Old Time Radio offers its Radio Recall newsletter to its members and has samples on its website.