Category: Golden Age Article

Old Time Country Music

Last week, I took a look at the available jazz old time radio out there. Now, for old time country and Western fans, this post is for you.

1) Hank Williams

Hank Williams, Sr. had two seperate radio shows. The first was his “Health and Happiness Show” from 1949, of which there are four episodes available on the Internet Archive, and his Mother’s Best Flour Show which ran in 1950-51, which the Old Time Radio Researchers has released as a certified set with 67 episodes.

2) Gene Autry

The singing cowboy has a wide variety of his Melody Ranch Recordings available at the Internet Archive.

3) Johnny Cash

The one recording of the Johnny Cash show available provides an interesting glimpse of an American legend in the making. The recording comes from 1954, the year before Cash’s first record hit the market. A 22-year old Cash was hosting his very broadcast and sounded quite a bit nervous. It’s a very different Johnny Cash who would sing songs like “Ring of Fire” and “Boy Named Sue” with such gusto and confidence. Worth a listen for a different look at the man in Black.

4) Grand Ole Opry

If you think of country music, the first place you think of is the Grand Ole Opry.  The archive has 30 recordings with such stars as Minnie Pearl, Roy Acuff, and Red Foley. Speaking of Foley, eight episodes of his show are available as well.

5) Pat O’Daniel and His Hillbilly Boys

The OTRR has a good collection this interesting 1930s radio show from Texas. It also includes a fascinating story of how Pat O’Daniel used the radio show to build a political career that include  stints as Governor of Texas and U.S. Senator.

6) Pinto Pete and His Ranch Hands:

Anothers 1930s show featuring 15 minutes of Cowboy music.

7) Armed Forces Radio Programs

Just like with jazz, Soldiers who loved country music were entertained with some of their favorites. First was Melody Roundup which was hosted by many stars that would be fans of country and cowboy and music such as Lum and Abner, Roy Rogers, and Bill Boyd (best known for playing Hopalong Cassidy on the radio). A later show sponsored by the Navy and Airforce was Country Music Time.

8) 10-2-4 Ranch

Sponsored by Dr. Pepper which urged people to Dr. Pepper at 10, 2, and 4 to help with energy sags in the middle of the day, this 15 minute show featured good country music.

In our third part, we’ll look at some of the shows that featured music as a matter of course, along with some classical music, and other miscellaneous music shows.

All that Jazz

As I’ve listened to old time radio, I’ve acquired a taste for classic Jazz, particularly the instrumentals.

However, old time radio music can be hard to find unless you know what you’re looking for.  Over the next three weeks, we’ll be sharing some great sources for finding classic music, and we’ll start with some Jazzy Stuff.

The Big Band Remotes:

The Internet Archive features two seperate sets of Big Band Remotes featuring greats such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Louie Armstrong, and much more. This is a treasure trove of great Jazz:

Band Remotes

Bind Band Remotes

AFRS Jive:

When Americans went overseas to fight World War II, the Armed Forces Radio Services played a critical role in maintaining morale, as they shared radio programs and music programs from back home. The Jazz program for the AFRS was, “GI Jive.” A nice collection of these recordings is available here along with other AFRS programs such as, “Mail Call.”  Two smaller but slightly better quality versions of twenty GI Jive are available here and here.

1920s Jazz Collection:

Not actually old time rado, but rather some very early Jazz 78 records.  Still, this collection of truly Golden oldies aged to 80-95 years old is worth a listen, thought not all of the 120 + songs would be qualified as jazz.

Bing Crosby:

Bing Crosby was an American institution for decades, and he made a lot of radio appearances and hosted many radio show. The Internet Archive has two Bing Crosby collections. The first is an eclectic selection of Crosby radio shows from the 30s, 40s, and 50s.  Many of these are of lower 24kbps quality, but there are some good recordings in there as well.  The second collection is the Old Time Radio Researchers set of the Bing Crosby-Rosemany Clooney show that ran from 1960-62 . Between these two collection, there’s more than 400 episodes of Bing Crosby radio available.

Al Jolson:

Jolson was one of the most noted entertainers in Vaudeville and early films, including the classic, The Jazz Singer. The Al Jolson collection includes guest appearances on Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Eddie Cantor’s show, along with episodes he hosted for the Kraft Music Hall and the Shell Chateau.

Next week, we’ll take a look at some great country and folk music available. If you’ve got a program you’d like to share, let me know about it in the comments.

The Best of Box 13

After 52 episodes, the last Podcast of Box 13 will be released. It’s been a good run with some of the best writing and acting in radio. While there were a few clunkers such as, “Actor’s Alibi” this was the exception rather than rule.

Holiday’s plan to find mystery plots by receiving letters sent to Box 13 at the Star Times has paid off. It’s attracted all kinds: damsels in distress, criminals looking for unwitting accomplices, and people who were just plain crazy. Below are five of my favorites:

5) Book of Poems

A great mystery where Dan tries to find out what a disabled young man who can’t talk meant by sending him a book of poems by Sir Walter Raleigh. Features Ladd’s fantastic reading voice.

4) Hare and Hounds

This is a very tense and suspenseful story as Holiday finds himself framed for murder, with the local police hunting for him, along with the real killer. His job is to stay alive. It’s one of Holiday’s cleverest adventures.

3) The Philanthropist

Dan Holiday answers a letter from a homeless man, and goes undercover as an indigent as he tries to find out who’s behind the disappearance of several homeless men. The answer is shocking.

2) Find Me, Find Death

Dan Holiday got plenty of crazy letters, but this one took the cake. The letter writer informed Holiday that he would kill him in 4 days and that if he went to the police, he’d kill Holiday sooner.  Holiday’s challenge is to find the madman–without finding death.

1) The Treasure of Hang Li

Dan Holidays follows the instructions in a letter to purchase “the Hang Li” piece. The shop owner gives it to Holiday and insists he not pay for it.  It’s a very surprising story, and perhaps the most profound of the series.

And there are many other great episodes, all of which are available on our Box 13 page.

Green Acres on the Radio

PlayPlay

Green Acres

If you mention Green Acres, people think of the 1965-71 Sitcom starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor. But fifteen years before Green Acres came to TV,  it came to radio.

CBS broadcast Granby’s Green Acres as a Summer replacement series. Granby’s Green Acres told the story of John Granby, a Banker who got fed up with city life and took his wife and family to relocate to a farm.

Sound familiar?

The radio Green Acres were written by a 33-year old writer, who would go on to write 150 of the 170 TV episodes of Green Acres.

There were quite a few similarities between the radio and TV versions of Green Acres. Both featured a scatter-brained Mr. Kimball (although the radio Mr. Kimball ran the county store rather than being the County Agent.) Granby also had a farm hand named Eb. The radio show had some good bits that Sommers would dust off for early TV episodes.

An early Green Acres TV episode where Oliver can’t decide what to plant has its basis in the radio episode, “Mr. Granby Plants a Crop.”

And this great little bit of dialogue also came from the radio show originally:

Oliver: I’d take a seed, a tiny little seed, I’d plant it in the ground, I’d put some dirt on it, I’d water it, and pretty soon, do you know what I would have?
Lisa: A dirty little wet seed.

At the end of the radio run. John Granby (Gale Gordon) told listeners to send letters in to their local CBS station with their thoughts on Granby’s Green Acres.  The show never returned to the air.

There were many reasons the show didn’t make it in 1950. One big one might be that Granby’s Green Acres was not a show that audiences were ready for. Americans had migrated in large numbers to cities like New York and Los Angeles in search of economic opportunities. Granby’s desire to move to the country seemed absurd. When Green Acres appeared on TV, it was a very different world with violence and unrest, crime on the rise, and social unrest. Moving to Hooterville sounded a lot less crazy and made us more sympathetic with Mr. Douglas.

The biggest problem with Granby’s Green Acres may have been that it just wasn’t ready for prime time. Granby is too much of a cantankerous blowhard.  The radio version gives you an appreciation of the talent with which Eddie Albert played the role of Oliver Wendell Douglas, as a complex mix of bombast, idealism, practicality, and romance that made the character a joy to watch.

In the radio version, Sommers only had given real airtime to Mr. Kimball from the store, and a know it all County Agent who always ate Granby’s supper.  Pretty thin gruel.

Not continuing Granby’s Green Acres was a smart decision. Even with great comics like Burns and Allen leaving radio for television, radio comedy was still undergoing a golden age and Sommers creation simply was not in the same league as shows like Our Miss Brooks,  Life of Riley, and Life with Luigi. 

It also had a nice aftermath. Sommers continued to develop as a writer and work the world of television, writing on such shows as Amos and Andy, Dennis the Menace, and Petticoat Junction.  When Green Acres came back, it became one of television’s best sitcoms.

It featured Pat Buttram turning in the role Mr. Haney who was always trying to sell Mr. Douglas something, Eva Gabor as the sweet but often confusing Hungarian Princess Lisa Douglas,  and the Ziffels who treat their pig like he’s their son, and much more.

While the radio show didn’t have these elements, it serves as a rough draft of Green Acres, which makes it an interesting listen.

Related:

IMDB has the first five season of Green Acres available for instant watch.

50 Years of Yabba Dabba Do

It’s rare for a TV show that turns 50 years old to be remembered, yet alone to make the front page on Google, but that’s what happened to the Flinstones.

The show began in 1960 on ABC and has spawned numerous TV spinoffs, movies, and one-shot TV specials. Some of these efforts have been of dubious quality, but what keeps the remakes and spinoffs coming is that the show has so many fans that anything with the Flinstones in it will have an instant appeal.

The 1960-66 original TV run remains the bedrock (pun intended) for the Flinstones franchise. The show is in the same style of other classic “everyman” sitcoms such as The Life of Riley and The Honeymooners.  The show was lead by veteran radio and cartoon actors Alan Reed and Mel Blanc. It was strengthened by good writing that took advantage of the show’s fantastic setting and the opportunities presented by cartoon physics.

What has made the show so popular for so long?

The first key is animation. Parents introduce their kids to cartoons such as Looney Tunes and Disney’s gigantic cartoon collection.  They’re the type of shows that parents have no problem introducing their kids to. And the grown up nature of the Flintstones helps to keep kids fans after they’ve grown up, even if they don’t advertise it. They just buy the DVDs for the kids.

The second thing is the fantastic stone age setting. With pet dinosaurs instead of pet dogs, cars that move by the passengers and driver running, stone-age Television, and all the conveniences of living in Bedrock make the setting timeless, and help make the show as enjoyable and accessible today as when it first aired.

The Jetsons, which launched two years after the Flintstones, has endured, but with far fewer spin-offs and less prominence. The reason The Jetsons has enjoyed a lesser success is that it’s set in the future and its vision of the future often seems dated. After all,  2062 is only 50 years away and its unlikely to be the world the creators of the Jetsons imagined.

The other advantage that The Flintstones has is the relationship between the Rubbles and the Flintstones. The friendship and love between the classic characters makes the show speak to every generation.   

Shows about the present and the future become dated far more easily than shows about a fantastic past, and shows that feature great friendships will last the longest of all.

Links:

Watch the Flinstones at AOL Video.

The Overlooked Mrs. North

In the discussion of great female detectives of the golden radio era, one name is invariably left out of the discussion: Pamela North.

Part of the challenge may be that Mrs. North was a part of a detective team and a husband-wife team at that. There are at least four Couple Detective teams with a substantial number of episodes surviving including the Thin Man, the Abbots, It’s a Crime, Mr. Collins, and of course, the Norths. In most of the shows, the wife is the sidekick to the husband. In all three other shows, the husband is a licensed private investigator.

Pamela North is different. She and her husband, Jerry are both amateurs in the field of detection. Pam is a housewife and Jerry is a successful publisher. To stumble into one murder would be improbable, to stumble into 500 as they did in the era of Alice Frost and Joseph Curtain requires a suspension of disbelief to say the least.

On the radio, the Norths were often equally matched . Jerry was most helpful when there was obviously foul play afoot. If they were kidnapped by two mugs, this was right up Jerry North’s alley. However, cases that required more use of intuition and outside the box thinking were ones were Pam North thrived. Given the dearth of female detectives in radio, it’s hard to ignore Mrs. North.

The show hit the radio in 1943 with Joseph Curtain and Alice Frost in the title roles. Richard Denning and Barbara Britton from the TV version would take over on the radio in June, 1953 and stay with the show until April, 1955. The series began as a blend of comedy and mystery. A great many of the exemplars surviving from the war years are from the Armed Forces Radio Service’s Mystery Playhouse, which brought one mystery show a week to America’s servicemen around the world. The number of appearances by the Norths attest to their appeal to American servicemen. The charming Norths with their light mysteries and cute romance were good medicine for men thousands of miles from home and missing their own loved ones.

The show evolved over the time. In the middle-40s, it became a so more serious mystery show and towards the end of its run, it took what I view as an unfortunate turn towards crime melodrama. The vast majority of the episodes featured overacting by guest actors behaving badly for the great majority of the show, and Pamela and Jerry North showing up for a few minutes to solve a painfully obvious mystery.

Barbara BritonWhile the radio show was declining, CBS was bringing the North’s to Television with Richard Denning and Barbara Britton in the title roles. This version of the North’s would be quite different. In the premiere episode, The Weekend Murder, Pam solves the murder case while Jerry is sleeping. This was an indicator of how the series would go. Jerry North was the sidekick.

 Jerry had always been the more level-headed of the two, but on television, he was completely incurious and practical. 90% of the time, he either just wants to relax or is obsessing about the latest manuscript to come across his desk. Pam’s curiosity pulls the Norths into mystery after mystery and proceeds to solve them. In the episodes I’ve seen, Pam can also hold her own in a fight with another woman, though Jerry will usually rush in to save Pam when a dangerous man is about to kill her.

Pam North prepares to jump into action.

Britton’s portrayal combined this curiosity, quick thinking, and toughness with sweetness, feminity, and charm that made the TV version of Mrs. North a joy to watch. The TV episodes succeeded in recapturing the fun and charm of the original radio series.

CBS had a good idea in bringing Denning and Britton to radio to replace Curtain and Frost, as having the same actors on TV and Radio promotes both versions. But the quality of the radio show didn’t improve as the Norths continued through a series of dreary crime melodramas that Denning and Britton could only do so much with.

Mr. and Mrs. North was one of four shows that CBS tried as a five-day-a-week serial before opting to do Yours Truly Johnny Dollar, but the serial version only lasted for a few weeks in 195

Married Couples detective shows made comebacks in the 1970s and 80s with McMillan and Wife and Hart to Hart, however the subgenre seems to have waned in popular media in the 21st century. This may be the result of changes in society and society’s view of marriage. However, to the fan of good mysteries, there’s no question of the values of Mrs. North on television as well as in the 1940s radio version.

Additional resources:

Public Domain TV episodes of Mr. and Mrs. North

Old Time Radio Mr. and Mrs. North

It’s Another Case for Nick Carter or Nick Carter and the Case of the Missing Serials

There were few radio detectives with more endurance than Nick Carter as played by Lon Clark. It’s first airing was April 11, 1943 in the middle of World War II and it went off the air on September 25, 1955, 5 days after Dragnet aired its last episode. Clark made more than 722 appearances as Nick Carter, a detective character who predated Sherlock Holmes by 1 year.

Nick Carter’s radio adventures are usually some of the most cleverly written detective stories on the radio, with excitement, thrills, and taut cleverly written mysteries.

Carter, like many other radio detectives has a lot of lost episodes. However, unlike the Rathbone-Bruce Sherlock Holmes episodes, missing Nick Carter stories aren’t mostly or entirely from the World War II era. Given the rare World War II episodes of Sherlock Holmes, The Thin Man, and Mr. and Mrs. North, Nick Carter has to have done well during World War II. About 50 World War II episodes of Nick Carter are floating about. These generally feature one of radio’s most distinctive openings:

(Pounding on the Door)

Woman: What is it? What is it?

Man: It’s another case for Nick Carter, Master Detective.

There are some missing war episodes and among the most curious are those from a 20-week period where Nick Carter went to a five day a week 15-minute serial format from April to September 1944. Outside of the 56 Yours Truly Johnny Dollar serials, the only intact radio detective serial stories are a 1936 Charlie Chan story and a 1954 Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Person story. The rest exist only in fragment and none of the Carter serials are in circulation.

However, it’s the post World War II shows that are in much shorter supply.  Particularly those shows after 1948. After episode 366, “A Clue Called X”, 354 of the next 356 episodes are missing including the last 312, with no Carter episode from the 1950s in circulation.

The number of Carter radio plays is circulation is somewhere between 85 and 135 episodes depending on whose set you’re looking at. There are a lot of duplicates and mislabeled shows, so it’s tough to say for sure. This is why Lon Clark as Nick Carter didn’t make my 100 club list  as I haven’t verified the episodes and there hasn’t been a clear independent audit of the Carter shows. That leaves near to 600 episodes missing from general circulation. The good news of this?

Many of these episodes may not be lost forever, but may only be out of circulation. The Radio Goldindex of radio shows usually tracks pretty closely to what’s in circulation, but on Nick Carter, Goldin has far more Carter episodes than are currently circulation. He catalogs 358 episodes or nearly triple what’s in circulation. Among the episodes Goldin lists are several of the Nick Carter serials which are either complete or complete enough to listen to. In addition there are more than 100 episodes from 1949-50 that Goldin has listed that aren’t in general circulation. This gives hope that the shows exist within collecting circles and will eventually become available to fans of the master detective.