Jeff Kallman's excellent The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio
is a wonderful place to spend hours on end, rediscovering the Golden Age of Radio
as it's meant to be discovered and celebrated. Article after article
is filled with a wonderful new vignette about Golden Age Radio History.
---The Digital Deli Online.

[I]n his matchless on-this-day approach to chronicling “yesteryear,”
he easily aces out a less organized mind like mine,
which promptly lapsed into a more idiosyncratic mode of relating the past.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Launching a Flagship: The Way It Was, 20 February

1922---What begins as a promotion for the Bamberger's department store's sale of the brand-new wireless radio becomes an institution of old-time radio and beyond: WOR takes the air for the first time, beginning regular programming two days later. In due course, the station will become the flagship of the Mutual Broadcasting System and the home station for two legendary programs, the early freewheeling comedy efforts of Henry Morgan (in the early 1940s) and the long-running Rambling with Gambling (hosted by three generations of John Gamblings).

The station today is a talk radio station owned by Buckley Broadcasting.


1949: A HALF-PINT STAR IS BORN---In a decade he will become one of the nation's top teenage singing stars, bearing, as it turns out, something a few of his teen-idol peers often lacked: genuine music talent, never mind a ready-made platform known as his parents' hit television show.

Tonight, however, Ricky Nelson begins to do what Henry Blair had done since 1944: play himself, "the irrepressible and irreverent Ricky" (in Gerald Nachman's phrase) on his parents' hit radio show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, in an episode called "Invitations to Dinner." (CBS).

Elder brother David also joined the cast, succeeding Joel Davis in playing himself and, essentially, playing straight man to little brother's barbs.

The Nelson boys messed around on the set, jealous of their performing counterparts. The idea of having them play themselves on the show came about by accident when Bing Crosby and his son Lindsay appeared on a Nelson show on which the real David and Ricky first played themselves and proved to be naturals. In exchange, Ozzie and his real sons did the Crosby show. The Nelson clan was suddenly in demand for guest shots on superstar shows with Jack Benny, Fred Allen, and Eddie Cantor, where they seemed a fresh breeze from suburbia.

The boys turned pro fast, questioning lines that didn't sound like them, and Ozzie became facile at working their lives into scripts. The real Ricky was a hit with his brash comebacks, which got out of hand when he began ad-libbing. Ozzie took him aside and scotched that idea, saying, Ozzie-like, "Son, there is no such thing as a child comedian." Yet he once cannily observed, "It's a cruel hard fact that a punch line delivered by a little guy of eight will get a much bigger laugh than the same line delivered by a boy of twelve." Ricky became the program's half-pint star, so much so that Harriet said, "It'll be a wonder if David doesn't murder Ricky in his bed some night."

---Gerald Nachman, Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)


1939: STAGE DOOR---A society girl (Ginger Rogers, reprising her film role) tries to make it on Broadway without her family connections and finds herself knitting into the lives of the fellow hopefuls with whom she rooms, unaware of her father's pending backstage machinations, on tonight's edition of Lux Radio Theater. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Adolph Menjou (as Tony Powell), Rosalind Russell (as Terry Randall; Katharine Hepburn played the role in the film), Eve Arden (as Linda Shaw; Gail Patrick---who did Lux twelve weeks earlier, in "Interference"---played the role on film).

1949: THE FROG---Tiring of competing with his favourite lab frog, resolute Connie (Eve Arden) decides Boynton (Jeff Chandler) should mate him with a lady, on tonight's edition of Our Miss Brooks. (CBS.)

Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Conklin: Gale Gordon. Writer: Al Lewis.
1958: WAITING OUTSIDE THE DEPARTMENT STORE---It gets half our couple (Alan Bunce) in a momentary jam with a somewhat zealous police officer, when he has to double park waiting for his lady (Peg Lynch) to arrive at five and his friendship with the station lieutenant means three things (jack, diddley, and squat) to the cop, on today's edition of The Couple Next Door. (CBS.)

Writer: Peg Lynch.


1900---Graham Spry (activist/lobbyist: considered the father of Canadian public broadcasting), St. Thomas, Ontario.
1906---Gale Gordon (announcer: The Wonder Show with Jack Haley; actor: Fibber McGee & Molly, The Whistler, My Favourite Husband, Our Miss Brooks, The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show), New York City; Richard Himber (bandleader: Your Hit Parade), Newark, New Jersey.
1907---Nadine Conner (singer: Kraft Music Hall, The Bell Telephone Hour), Compton, California
1913---Tommy (Ol' Reliable) Henrich (baseball player turned sportscaster: The Tommy Henrich Show), Massilon, Ohio.
1914---John Daly (newscaster: CBS; host, CBS Was There, Columbia Workshop), Johannesburg, South Africa.
1919---Dick Wesson (announcer: Space Patrol), Idaho.
1929---Amanda Blake (actress: Lux Radio Theater, Escape), Buffalo, New York.


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