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.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Gracie, How's Your Information? The Way It Was, 20 June

1939: "THAT SURREALISTIC PAINTER"---OK, so she won't be asked, "Gracie, how's your information," but radio's favourite illogical logician will be introduced as "that surrealistic painter." (Allen did paint as a hobby, but the phrase could also have applied to her legendary grammatical inversions.)

And, she will hold her own very nicely, thank you, becoming anything but an extinguished panelist on tonight's edition of Information, Please. (NBC.)

Remaining panelists: John F. Kieran, Franklin P. Adams, John Gunther. Host: Clifton Fadiman. Announcer: Milton Cross.


1937: JACK'S MOVIE---A little Father's Day needling ("Hello, Daddy, and I don't mean 'sugar'") graduates to a lot of celluloid sarcasm, and only a week after Mary (Livingstone) gets a whack at a movie, on tonight's edition of The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Eddie (Rochester) Anderson, Kenny Baker, Andy Devine, Phil Harris, Don Wilson. Music: Phil Harris and His Orchestra, Kenny Baker. Announcer: Don Wilson. Writers: George Balzer, Al Boasberg, Sam Perrin.

1950: SYMPHONY OF DEATH---On the night she's revealed as San Francisco's favourite old-time radio program/detective, by way of a San Francisco Examiner listeners' poll, our heroine (Natalie Masters) gets a visit from the sister (Cilla Skelton) of a hit songwriter (John Rover) who fears her brother's pending symphony might become the soundtrack to his permanent demise, on tonight's edition of Candy Matson, YUkon 2-8209. (NBC.)

Watson: Jack Douglas. Mallard: Henry Leff. Announcer: Dudley Manlove. Writer: Monte Masters.


1890---Effie Palmer (actress: Lonely Woman; Scattergood Baines), Albany, New York.
1893---Edwin Wolfe (actor: Pepper Young's Family), unknown.
1897---Bob Howard (pianist/vocalist: Calsodent Presents Bob Howard; Sing It Again), West Newton, Massachussetts.
1899---Helen Traubel (vocalist: Metropolitan Opera; The Bell Telephone Hour; The Jimmy Durante Show), St. Louis.
1904---Matt Crowley (actor: Mark Trail; Buck Rogers), unknown.
1909---Errol Flynn (actor: Modern Adventures of Casanova; Lux Radio Theater), Hobart, Tasmania.
1924---Chet Atkins (as Chester Burton Atkins; guitarist/composer: Boone County Neighbours; Grand Ole Opry), Luttrell, Tennessee.Audie Murphy (World War II hero/actor: Cavalcade of America; The Big Show), Kingston, Texas.
1931---Martin Landau (actor: No Love Lost), Brooklyn.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"I Often Feel Like a Great Impostor": The Way It Was, 19 June

1910: "AMERICA'S MOTHER OF THE AIR"---Little do Mother and Dad Payne in Cincinnati know that the baby daughter born to them today, Virginia, will grow up to become known as precisely that, when she plays the title role of legendary old-time radio serial Ma Perkins from its inception until its finish . . . never once missing a performance, and never failing to apply matronly makeup and acoutrements for public appearances tied to the Frank and Anne Hummert serial.

Like other daytime heroines, Ma neither drinks, smokes, takes snuff or has affairs with men. Unlike Ma, Cincinnati-born Virginia Payne, 47, has never been married, downs an occasional whisky sour and makes up to $50,000 a year—more than any other actress in daytime broadcasting. Her present writer (she has had ten) lived on the Riviera for two years, now counts his money on Cape Cod. A devout Roman Catholic with an M.A. in literature (University of Cincinnati), Virginia sheds Ma's vocabulary of "ain'ts," "folks" and "Land o' Goshens" with ease, but insists on making personal appearances in wig, makeup, frumpy clothes and spectacles, "though I often feel like a great imposter." She is an accomplished pianist, lives alone in a posh East Side Manhattan apartment decorated with Duveen-collected oil paintings, accumulates antiques, and grows roses (two varieties have been named for her).

---Time, 1957.

This is our 7,065th broadcast, and I want to thank you all for being so loyal all these years . . . If you write to me, I'll try to answer all your letters. Goodbye and may God bless you.

---Virginia Payne, signing off on the final Ma Perkins broadcast, 25 November 1960. (Her message was interrupted only by the show's closing credits---also read by Payne herself on this occasion.)

As the trusting, warmhearted, widowed Ma, Payne would also become the only member of the cast to feature on the soap for that entire 7,065-episode broadcast life.

Payne's Ma Perkins will be one of six classic old-time radio soaps to sign off for the final time 25 November 1960, a date known to radio soap buffs as Black Friday. The others: The Right to Happiness, The Romance of Helen Trent, The Second Mrs. Burton, Young Doctor Malone, and Whispering Streets.


1939: THE EX-MRS. BRADFORD---She's (Claudette Colbert, in Jean Arthur's film role) still in love with the husband (William Powell, reprising his film role) she drove to divorce because of her addiction to mysteries, and while she chases him hoping to re-marry him, after a horse trainer ropes him into the suspicious death of a jockey, a group of hoods chase them, adapting the 1936 film for tonight's edition of Lux Radio Theater. (CBS.)

Nick Martell: John Archer. Mrs. Summer: Alice Eden. Based on the story and screenplay by James Edward Grant and Anthony Eiler.

1944: FIVE HUNDRED BIJOU TICKETS---They're a topic of gentle debate between Vic (Art Van Harvey) and Sade (Bernadine Flynn), who want to know whether Gumpock has the rightful title to the old tickets he found in someone else's garbage can but left with our friends, on tonight's edition of Vic & Sade. (NBC.)

Russell: David Whitehouse. Announcer: Ed Roberts. Writer: Paul Rhymer.

1945: BIG DEAL WITH CARSTAIRS---Fibber (Jim Jordan) is being a little too secretive about a big deal with the wealthy wheeler-dealer ("When you've got a better mouse trap, every big cheese wants to get into it"), amusing Molly (Marian Jordan) as he plays hard to get, on tonight's edition of Fibber McGee & Molly. (NBC.)

Alice Darling: Shirley Mitchell. Mrs. Carstairs: Bea Benaderet. Doc: Arthur Q. Bryan. Beulah: Marlin Hurt. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie. (Note: This broadcast concludes with a special presentation to the Jordans of the National Commander's Citation from the Catholic War Veterans.)

1959: CHARLIE HELPS WITH THE COWS---Under the gun to lose two runaway cows that ended up in his garage, our husband (Alan Bunce) isn't that much more thrilled to have obnoxious Charlie Beeman's (Don Briggs) help moving them, on today's edition of The Couple Next Door. (CBS.)

Writer, as well as The Mrs.: Peg Lynch.


1865---Dame Mae Whitty (as Mary Whitty; actress: Lux Radio Theater), Liverpool.
1901---Frederic Tozere (actor: Stella Dallas), unknown.
1902---Guy Lombardo (bandleader: The Sweetest Music This Side of Heaven; Lombardo USA), London, Ontario.
1908---Lou Gehrig (as Heinrich Ludwig Gehrig; Hall of Fame baseball player/guest actor: Lux Radio Theater), New York City; Mildred Natwick (actress: Starring Boris Karloff; Best Plays; Campbell Playhouse).
1912---Martin Gabel (actor: Big Sister; The Casebook of Gregory Hood), Philadelphia.
1915---Pat Buttram (actor: National Barn Dance), Addison, Alabama.
1919---Louis Jourdan (actor: Hallmark Playhouse; Screen Guild Theater), Marseilles, France.
1922---Gwen Davies (actress: The Adventures of Helen and Mary; Let's Pretend), New York City.
1928---Nancy Marchand (actress: Cavalcade of America; A Private Space), Buffalo, New York; Barry Took (writer/comedian: Round the Horne; We're In Business), London.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Two Vintages, One Birthday: The Way It Was, 18 June

1905, 1908---Two old-time radio mainstays share a birthday, if not a birth year.

Clayton Johnson Heermance, Jr. (New York City, 1908) will become the announcer---first, as Clayton Collyer, and then as the more familiar Bud Collyer (adopting his mother's maiden name)---for The Goldbergs and Cavalcade of America, not to mention the star of The Adventures of Superman, a role he will refuse when the show is adapted to television because he will believe his age and actual physical image do not lend itself to the sleek superhero.

Not that he will lack for a television life: in time, Collyer will become known as the host of two venerable game shows, Beat the Clock (where his habit of tucking his long-stemmed hand mike into his armpit before instructing a typically slapstick stage stunt becomes as familiar as the large Sylvania time clock) and To Tell the Truth.

And James Kern Kyser (Rocky Mount, North Carolina, 1905), who will come to resemble Glenn Miller's dour older sibling in adult life, though he himself will be anything but dour, will become a radio hit as Kay Kyser---and, in time, the husband of one of his band singers, Georgia Carroll---leading his big band through a kind of slapdash music, comedy, and musical quiz entry beginning on Mutual in 1938, Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge.

Kyser, too, will bequeath a television legacy---one of his band singers will become a major television star as the host of a genial afternoon blabberfest: Mike Douglas, who will also record one of the more embarrassingly saccharine hit records of the 1960s, the mostly monologic "The Men in My Little Girl's Life."


1945: HAW-HAW, SAID THE CROWN---William Joyce, the old-time radio propaganda broadcaster known better as the infamous Lord Haw-Haw, is charged formally with treason. Though an American citizen and a naturalised German, Joyce could be tried on this charge, the prosecution would argue successfully, because he lied about his nationality to gain a British passport and British voting rights he owed his allegiance thus to the Crown.

One of four broadcasters thought to have been Lord Haw-Haw, Joyce---who replaced one of those, Wolf Mitler, on the notorious Germany Calling broadcasts in 1939---will be hanged seven months after the formal charge of treason is lodged.


1945: BLUEPRINT FOR SUICIDE---Torn between his patient wife (Cathy Lewis) and his secretary, a popular but tortured stage comedian (Elliott Lewis) inadvertently---and fatally---thwarts his wife's thought of killing him, on tonight's edition of The Whistler. (CBS.)

The Whistler: Possibly Bill Forman. Announcer: Marvin Miller. Writer: Geraldine Merkin.

1947: THE QUESTION MAN---Radio's intended answer to "The Answer Man," of course, which figures . . . considering he's the critical entry on tonight's edition of The Henry Morgan Show. (ABC.)

Cast: Arnold Stang, Florence Halop, Madaline Lee, Art Carney. Music: Bernie Green and His Orchestra. Writers: Henry Morgan, Aaron Ruben, Joseph Stein.


1885---Ernie Adams (actor: Lux Radio Theater), San Francisco.
1897---Henry Wadsworth (actor: Jane Arden), Maysville, Kentucky.
1898---Carleton Hobbs (actor: Saturday Night Theater; The Children's Hour), Farnborough, U.K.; Francis (Dink) Trout (actor: The Life of Riley; A Day in the Life of Dennis Day), Beardstown, Illinois.
1902---Tom Breneman (host: Breakfast at Sardi's; My Secret Ambition), Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.
1903---Jeanette MacDonald (singer/actress: Nobody's Children; Vicks Open House; Campbell Playhouse), Philadelphia.
1904---Keye Luke (actor: Lux Radio Theater; Image Minorities), Canton, China.
1908---Elmore Vincent (actor: Lum & Abner), unknown.
1910---Dick Foran (The Singing Cowboy; singer: The Burns & Allen Show), Flemington, New Jersey; Russ ("The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!") Hodges (sportscaster: New York Giants baseball), Dayton, Tennessee; E.G. Marshall (actor/narrator: The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), Owatonna, Minnesota.
1913---Sammy Cahn (lyricist: You Bet Your Life; NBC Monitor), New York City.
1917---Richard Boone (actor: Dragnet), Los Angeles.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Changing Partners: The Way It Was, 17 June

1926---Control of WDBO in Orlando, Florida, born two years earlier as a Rollins College station, goes to Col. George Johnston and E.G. Hauselt, who take it over from Justice Lee and Maxwell Green.

Just shy of four years later, the station will become a CBS affiliate, as part of a Southern chain that also includes WTOC (Savannah, Georgie), WIS (Columbia, South Carolina), WDAE (Tampa), and WQAM (Miami).

But WDBO almost passes to public ownership halfway between the Johnston-Hauselt takeover and the affiliation to CBS: Johnston and Orlando Chamber of Commerce representatie H.M. Voorhis propose to the city council that the city buy the station, after Johnston and Voorhis fear the Federal Radio Commission asked for changes not to Johnston's taste. The council puts it to the voters in 1928 but the voters turn it down.


1938: THE BURRO THAT HAD NO NAME---Walter Scott Smith and Olin Martin discover an unwanted white burro who follows the team they did purchase teaches them more than one lesson in dignity on a brutal trek westward, on tonight's edition of Death Valley Days. (NBC Blue.)

The Old Ranger: Jack McBryde. Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: Ruth Cornwall Woodman.

1947: SHOW AT THE MARKET---"The cost of living is so high now it's cheaper to drop dead," laments Mel (Blanc) when Betty (Mary Jane Croft) dreams (again) of marriage and children . . . until he suggests Mr. Colby (Joseph Kearns) put on a show outside his market to draw customers away from the new rival, on tonight's edition of The Mel Blanc Show. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Hans Conreid, Jim Backus, Jill Walker. Music: Victor Miller and His Orchestra, the Sports Men. Writer: Mac Benoff.

1949: TELEVISION---Iris (Bea Benaderet) thinks an evening watching the football game with Rudolph (Gale Gordon) might change George's (Richard Denning) mind about buying the television set for which Liz (Lucille Ball) is hankering only too heavily, on tonight's edition of My Favourite Husband. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Hans Conreid, Jay Novello. Writers: Bob Carroll, Jr., Madelyn Pugh, Jess Oppenheimer.


1866---Charles Coburn (actor: Roses and Drums; Song of Liberty), Savannah, Georgia.
1904---Ralph Bellamy (actor: These Are Our Men), Chicago.
1910---Red Foley (singer: National Barn Dance; Grand Ole Opry; The Red Foley Show), Blue Lick, Kentucky.
1919---Beryl Reid (actress: Educating Archie), Hereford, U.K.
1921---Ben Morris (actor: Pat Novak For Hire), Oklahoma City.
1922---Jerry Fielding (bandleader: The Hardy Family; The Jack Paar Show; You Bet Your Life), Pittsburgh.

Monday, June 16, 2008

He's Also Modest: The Way It Was, 16 June

1962: BOB-A-LOO BOWS---The old-time radio era may have slipped into its final weeks but one of WABC's legendary "All-Americans" disc jockeys bows with the station---Bob Lewis, who premieres in the 12 midnight-6:00 a.m. slot . . . following Bruce (Cousin Brucie) Morrow and preceding Herb Oscar Anderson.

Bob-a-Loo (as he calls himself in these years) will hold the midnight show Monday through Saturday until August 1963, when he's moved to a pair of Sunday/Monday gigs, the Sunday noon-to-five show preceding Scott Muni and the early Monday 4 a.m. show preceding Anderson. (Also running WABC in these years is old-time radio morning favourite The Breakfast Club with Don McNeil.)

Lewis will hold these Sunday/Monday gigs for the rest of his eight years total at WABC (moving to 10 a.m. Sunday in 1968, during which time the station becomes New York's top-rated AM rock station.

Lewis in due course will join WPLJ-FM (originally WABC-FM), a pioneer of what came to be known as album-oriented rock radio.

Bob, Bob-a-Loo Lewis is singin', he's swingin', he's hip, he's happenin' on 77 WABC . . . ---Lewis's frequent identification catch phrase during the WABC years.

Surviving airchecks of Lewis in the WABC years also include a rather pungent debunking of the late-1960s rumours that Paul McCartney of the Beatles was dead.


1942: WALTER WANTS THE JOB AT THE MILL---Cut off by his wealthy family for loving Rosalie (Roslyn Silber), Walter Jerome (Edward Trevor) is willing to accept Jake's (James R. Waters) offer of a job at the mill, but Rosalie wants Walter to prove himself independently . . . and seems to want Molly (Gertrude Berg) to help her convince Jake to let him do just that, on today's edition of The Goldbergs. (CBS.)

Sammy: Alfred Ryder. Announcer: Clayton (Bud) Collyer. Writer/director: Gertrude Berg.

1944: PIERCING BLUE EYES---That's what someone compliments mild-mannered Vic (Art Van Harvey) for having, much to the mild amusement of Sade (Bernadine Flynn) when he's too coy to disclose just who dropped the compliment upon him, on tonight's edition of Vic & Sade. (NBC.)

Uncle Fletcher: Clarence Hartzell. Announcer: Ed Roberts. Writer/director: Paul Rhymer.


1885---Tom Howard (comedian: It Pays to Be Ignorant), County Tyrone, Ireland.
1903---Ona Munson (actress: Big Town), Portland, Oregon.
1907---Jack Albertson (actor: The Milton Berle Show; The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show; The Henry Morgan Show; Cavalcade of America), Malden, Massachussetts.
1912---Ilona Massey (actress: Top Secret; Screen Guild Theater), Budapest.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Relax, Dads: The Way It Is, 15 June

YOU CAN'T MAKE HISTORY EVERY DAY . . . not even on Father's Day. So maybe the best thing to do is to light up, take a long sip, lean back, relax, and listen, Dads . . .


1944: THE CASE OF THE WOMAN IN BLUE---A nervous, heartbroken Army Air Force lieutenant's romantic encounter at a masquerade disappeared---two days before they supposedly met, according to her maid, prompting the lieutenant to engage Keen (Bennett Kilpack) and Suzy (Florence Malone), on tonight's edition of Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons. (CBS.)

Clancy: Jim Kelly. Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: Possibly Lawrence Klee.

1947: ISLAND PARADISE---Role reversal of a sort for a prisoner and the man who captured him, on tonight's edition of The Clock. (ABC.)

Preston: Leon Biers. Regan: Don Crosby. Arch: Alan Trevor. The Clock: Hart McGuire. Additional cast: Max Ryan, Walter Sullivan. Writer: Lawrence Klee.

1949: FATHER'S DAY---Eddie (Eddie Green) discovers the roof is leaking just as Archie's (Ed Gardner) fixing up the dive for the day in question ("The one day of the year fathers get a slap on the back instead of a kick in the pants") and lamenting his own lack of children---until he fixes on marrying a jukebox singer he's yet to meet, on tonight's edition of Duffy's Tavern. (NBC.)

Guest Star: Bob Crosby. Miss Duffy: Sandra Gould. Finnegan: Charles Cantor. Writers: Ed Gardner, Larry Marks, possibly Manny Sachs.


1861---Ernestine Schumann-Heink (vocalist: Enna Jettick Melodies; Hoover Sentinels Serenade), Prague.
1894---Robert Russell Bennett (composer: Project Twenty), Kansas City; Leo Cleary (actor: His Honour, The Barber), Massachussetts.
1905---James Robertson Justice (actor: Star Bill), Wigtown, Scotland.
1909---Joseph DeSantis (actor: Under Arrest), New York City.
1910---David Rose (composer/conductor: The Red Skelton Show; Bold Venture), London.
1918---Richard Derr (actor: Crime Does Not Pay), Norristown, Pennsylvania.
1921---Erroll Garner (pianist/composer: Jubilee; Command Performance; Arthur Godfrey Time), Pittsburgh.
1929---Lucille Norman (vocalist: The Time, The Place, and the Tune; The Railroad Hour), Lincoln, Nebraska.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Oh, Say, Can You Hear? The Way It Was, 14 June

1923---His successor will earn a real reputation as a radio-friendly President, but Warren G. Harding isn't exactly oblivious to the new medium himself: today, the President uses old-time radio to bring the message home when a memorial to "The Star Spangled Banner's" author, Francis Scott Key, is dedicated in Baltimore.

It will be one of the few chances Americans actually have to hear the voice of the 29th President, whose reputation for a commanding speaking style may be equaled by a reputation for such verbal and grammatical gaffes that, when he dies just under two months following the Key dedication, e.e. cummings will note, "The only man, woman or child who wrote a simple declarative sentence with seven grammatical errors is dead."

That will be nothing compared to the description of the scandal-plagued Harding from the Sage of Baltimore.

He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.

---H.L. Mencken.


1891---Perhaps the second of the great old-time radio soap opera masterminds (between Frank and Anne Hummert and Irna Phillips) is born Elaine Sterne today, in New York City.

Elaine Carrington . . . had sold many short stories to women's magazines in the nineteen-twenties. They dealt with the frustrations, heartbreaks, kindliness, nastiness, cruelties, and tragedies of the middle class. She created little men, cold women, and thankless children to the taste of various editors. Her dialogue was frequent and facile. She felt that radio might be more profitable than magazine writing in the depression years, and in 1932 she decided to take a crack at it. Her first program, Red Adams, was put on by NBC, as a half-hour nighttime show, once a week. It was broadcast on a sustaining basis; that is, it had no sponsor and the network paid the production costs. Mrs. Carrington got seventy-five dollars a script. At the end of three months, the Beech-Nut Company decided to sponsor Red Adams, as a daytime serial. They agreed to pay Mrs. Carrington a hundred dollars apiece for three scripts a week. They also wanted the title changed. Adams is the name of a Beech-Nut rival celebrated for the singing commercial that begins, "I like Chiclets candy-coated chewing gum." Mrs. Carrington changed the name to Red Davis. In 1936, Procter & Gamble offered Mrs. Carrington twice as much money per script for five scripts a week. She accepted, and the name was changed again, this time to Pepper Young's Family. Under the aegis of Procter & Gamble, Mrs. Carrington prospered and proliferated. Pepper Young's Family is still going, and she is now responsible for Rosemary and When A Girl Marries, too.

Mrs. Carrington's original radio income of seventy-five dollars a week has grown to an estimated forty-five hundred. Unlike the majority of serial authors, who are merely hired to write soap operas and are known disparagingly as "dialoguers," Mrs. Carrington was wise and firm enough to retain the ownership of her literary properties. She leases broadcasting rights to sponsors. Most dialoguers get credit on the air only once a week, but Mrs. Carrington's name is mentioned before and after each of her shows. Today she lives in a penthouse apartment in the West Fifties and a country place in Bridgehampton. Aided only by a few notes on a sheet of memo paper, she dictates her scripts into a dictaphone, usually standing. Her working hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with time out for a long lunch. She never bothers about hearing a playback . . . Mrs. Carrington rarely listens to one of her soap operas---she prefers to call them daytime serials---and has never heard a broadcast of any of her colleagues' serials. She is known as the Member in Mink to the other members of the Radio Writers' Guild, which she helped to found and on whose committees she has frequently served.

---James Thurber, in "Soapland: O Pioneers!", The New Yorker, 1947-48; republished in The Beast in Me and Other Animals: A New Collection of Pieces and Drawings About Human Beings and Less Alarming Creatures. (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1948.)

She will marry George Dart Carrington in 1920; the marriage will produce two children, Patricia and Robert, and will end only upon her husband's death in 1945; she will never re-marry.

She had been a short story writer but was interested in theater, so if she saw a young actor on Broadway she liked, she'd write in a part for him . . . Pepper Young's Family wasn't very different from other soaps. You were doing shit day after day, so literature it wasn't, but there were no demands on you and it was interesting work . . . A lot of actors tap-danced their way through, but you couldn't really phone it in. You couldn't have contempt for the material. I really enjoyed it. There was such variety.

---Mason Adams (later the managing editor on television's Lou Grant and the voice of those Smucker's preserves spots), who played the title role in Pepper Young's Family from 1945 until the show ended its run in 1959, to Gerald Nachman, for "The Soap Factory," in Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)

A high-spirited, buxom, silver-haired Jewish woman, [Carrington] had a fondness for risque jokes and liked to sneak double-entendres into her scripts. Carrington had a more sexual approach than the Hummerts. According to historian Jim Harmon: "Hers was a revered, harmless, and no doubt beneficial pornography---the make-believe fantasy of women about how marriage and sex might be and perhaps should be, but seldom is after many years."


If they aren't a highfalutin' form of art, they frequently contain profound wisdom expressed in universal terms.

---Elaine Carrington on the radio soaps, as cited by Nachman.


1947: JUNIOR WINS A SOAPBOX DERBY---But Junior (Tommy Cook)---who first seemed more interested in a girl than the race before deciding to go in---wanted to build the racer himself, creating a little rift between himself and Riley (William Bendix) the day before Father's Day, of all times, on tonight's edition of The Life of Riley. (NBC.)

Peg: Paula Winslowe. Babs: Barbara Eiler. Digger O'Dell: John Brown. Writers: Alan Lipscott, Ruben Ship.

1950: THE STOLEN FIRST EDITION---Hall's (Ronald Colman) gratitude runneth over when Victoria (Benita Hume Colman) surprises him with a first edition of John Donne, but their shock runneth over when they learn the hard way just how the rare---and valuable---book became available for fifty cents at the campus book store in the first place, on tonight's edition of The Halls of Ivy. (NBC.)

Merriweather: Willard Waterman. Wellman: Herbert Butterfield. Additional cast: Rolfe Sedan, Sidney Miller, William Tracy. Writers: Don Quinn, Barbara and Milton Merlin.


1893---Joe Forte (actor: Our Miss Brooks; Life with Luigi), U.K.
1895---Cliff (Ukulele Ike) Edwards (singer: Fun and Fancy Free; Cliff Edwards, Ukulele Ike), Hannibal, Missouri.
1908---John Scott Trotter (conductor: Kraft Music Hall; Philco Radio Time), Charlotte, North Carolina.
1909---Burl Ives (singer/actor: Columbia Country Journal; Radio Reader's Digest), Hunt Township, Illinois.
1914---Nat Polen (actor: Indictment; The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), New York City.
1915---Kay Sutton (actress: Lux Radio Theater), Irvington, New Jersey.
1917---Paul Monash (writer: Molle Mystery Theater), New York City.
1918---Dorothy McGuire (actress: Big Sister; Joyce Jordan, M.D.), Omaha.
1919---Gene Barry (actor: Lux Radio Theater), New York City; Sam Wanamaker (actor: Variety Playhouse; Pocket Theater; The Guiding Light; Lone Journey), Chicago.
1929---Cy Coleman (pianist/composer: Cy Coleman at the Piano; Voices of Vista), New York City.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Make a Joyous Broadcast Noise Unto the Lord: The Way It Was, 13 June

1897---Reuben Larson, the eventual co-founder (with Clarence Jones of the Salvation Army) of the World Radio Missionary Fellowship, is born. The fellowship, based in Opa Locka, Florida since 1969, will make its first broadcast (under the call letters HCJB, still in use today) 12 December 1931.


1946: FAREWELL, MAJOR---Edward Bowes, whose weekly amateur talent show becomes perhaps the best-remembered old-time radio show of its kind, dies at home in Rumson, New Jersey---72 years to the day after he was born in San Francisco.

The show continues with Bowes's talent coordinator, Ted Mack, as its host, and it will be Mack who shepherds the show to television nineteen months after Bowes's death. The show remains Major Bowes's Original Amateur Hour until 1951, when it will drop Bowes's name from the title, a year before leaving radio at last but remaining a television fixture for nearly two decades more, as Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour as of 1955.

Despite the formal title of the show, it was actually an hourlong program only once in its long broadcasting life, on ABC television from March 1956 through June 1957.

But for all that it's remembered, only a very few performers who ever appeared on the show went on to become major stars: jazz-pop titan Frank Sinatra; opera stars Lily Pons, Robert Merrill, and Beverly Sills; comedian Jack Carter; and, pop star turned jazz stylist Teresa Brewer.


1935: SQUIRE SPREADS RUMOURS ABOUT THE MATINEE---All in a day's dirty work, if it involves discrediting our heroes' film venture beyond merely opening a rival movie house, on today's edition of Lum & Abner. (NBC.)

Lum/Grandpappy: Chester Lauck. Abner/Squire: Norris Goff. Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

1939: A PORCH COLLAPSES---It happened on Center Street and Rotten Davis---who blasted in and out of the Gook house earlier in search of his old suitcase---takes the blame, in the translation of buddy Rush (Bill Idelson), on today's edition of Vic & Sade. (NBC.)

Sade: Bernadine Flynn. Vic: Art Van Harvey. Announcer: Ralph Edwards. Writer: Paul Rhymer.

1946: RED-HEADED STRANGER---Driving around the San Fernando Valley one Sunday, Rogue (Dick Powell) calls on a friend with a property in the area and discovers him dead, right before he's knocked out cold himself, on tonight's edition of Rogue's Gallery. (Mutual.)

Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: Ray Bufham.

1946: TOO MANY SMITHS---A janitor (Hume Cronyn) finding a memo with the name of a toothpaste contest winner from Boston ponders a piece of the $25,000 pot but finds a deadly surprise when he hunts the winner, on tonight's edition of Suspense. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: Unknown.


1873---Jean Adair (actress: Radio Guild; Theater Guild on the Air), Hamilton, Ontario.
1890---Elmer Davis (news reporter/commentator, CBS, U.S. Office of War Information, NBC: Elmer Davis and the News), Aurora, Indiana.
1892---Basil Rathbone (actor: Sherlock Holmes; Scotland Yard's Inspector Burke), Johannesburg.
1894---Mark Van Doren (poet: NBC University Theater; Invitation to Learning), Hope, Illinois.
1900---Ian Hunter (actor: Hollywood Hotel), Kenilworth, South Africa.
1903---Jack Fulton (singer: Paul Whiteman's Painters Show), Philipsburg, Pennsylvania.
1913---Bob Bailey (actor: Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar; Let George Do It), Toledo, Ohio; Ralph Edwards (announcer/host: Vic & Sade; Truth or Consequences), Merino, Colorado.
1916---Mary Wickes (actress: Meet Corliss Archer; Lorenzo Jones), St. Louis.
1920---Ben Johnson (actor: Francis Burke for Attorney General), Pawnee, Oklahoma.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Death From The Deep: The Way It Was, 12 June

1938---One of the best-known and loved old-time radio dramatic episodes hit the air exactly seventy years ago this evening.

Lamont Cranston (Orson Welles) fears a brilliant but disgraced Navy designer just may be the designer of a weapon responsible for a series of heretofore-unsolved and deadly shipping disasters . . . and he just may be remorseful enough---and, frightened enough of the man who hired and then betrayed him---to help the master mentalist blow up the plan before it blows anything else up on the high or low seas, on tonight's edition of The Shadow. (Mutual.)

Margot Lane: Agnes Moorehead. Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: Unknown.


1851: THE AETHER ZONE---Oliver Joseph Lodge---the British physicist who will address light-bearing aether as the wave-bearing medium filling all space and toward the radio transmission he produces between those of Tesla and Marconi, improving Branly's coherer radio wave detector with a kind of trembler dislodging clumped filings and restoring its sensitivity (Wikipedia)---is born in Stoke-on-Trent.

1936: FIFTY GRAND---The first known fifty thousand watt radio station begins its experiments in Pittsburgh.


1939: THE WHITE BANNERS---Tasteful adaptation of the 1938 film about a homeless woman (Fay Bainter, reprising her film role) taken in by a kindly family who doesn't know their teenage neighbour (Jackie Cooper, also reprising his film role) is the son she surrendered for adoption after his out-of-wedlock birth, on tonight's edition of Lux Radio Theater. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Lewis Stone, Jean Hainey, Elizabeth Wilbur, Richard LeGrand, Lou Merrill, Ross Forrester, Mary Lansing, Conway P. Coe. Host: Cecil B. DeMille. Writers: Lenore Coffee, Abem Finkel, Cameron Rogers, based on the book by Lloyd C. Douglas.

1949: THE DEAD MAN WALKS---A woman writes the box fearing her father is in some sort of trouble, but Holliday (Alan Ladd) learns he's dead . . . and then alive, only too suspiciously, on tonight's edition of Box 13. (Mutual.)

Sheila: Lurene Tuttle. Suzy: Sylvia Packer. Kling: Edmund McDonald. Additional cast: Alan Reed, Luis van Rooten, Betty Lou Gerson, Frank Lovejoy. Writer: Russell Hughes.

1954: THE COVER-UP---It begins with Barnaby Hoffer wanting to shoot Art Long, usually a man of peace, on sight, which puzzles Matt (William Conrad) before he's cut in a brief scuffle with the man, on tonight's edition of Gunsmoke. (CBS.)

Chester: Parley Baer. Kitty: Georgia Ellis. Doc: Howard McNear. Additional cast: Joseph Kearns, Helen Klee, Paul Savage, Clayton Fuller. Writer: John Meston.


1884---William Austin (actor: Jack Oakie's College), Georgetown, British Guiana.
1890---Junius Matthews (actor: David Harum; Gasoline Alley), Chicago.
1893---Evelyn Varden (actress: Easy Aces; This Is Nora Drake; Young Dr. Malone; mr. ace and JANE), Adair, Oklahoma.
1909---Archie Bleyer (bandleader: Arthur Godfrey Time; Arthur Godfrey and His Friends; Casey, Crime Photographer), Corona, New York.
1914---Herbert C. Kenny (singer, with the Ink Spots: The Four Ink Spots; Let's Go Nightclubbing), unknown.
1915---Priscilla Lane (singer: The Fred Waring Show), Indianola, Iowa.
1919---Uta Hagen (actress: The Big Show), Gottingen, Germany.
1924---Dave Parker (actor: The Lone Ranger; The Green Hornet; Challenge of the Yukon), Fresno, California.
1928---Vic Damone (as Vito Rocco Farinola; singer: Saturday Night Serenade; Stars in Khaki 'n' Blue), Brooklyn.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Soft Machine: The Way It Was, 11 June

1985---Once a Blue Network/ABC affiliate which featured Metropolitan Opera broadcast performances, and soon became an early incubator of what became rock and roll, thanks to the success of Alan Freed (1951-1954), Cleveland's WJW---an all-news station since 1965---changes its call letters to WRMR, becomes a pop standards station, and later integrates a wide variety of soft music before becoming sports-dominated WKNR.


1939: THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES---The conclusion of a classic satire, previewed the previous week, with a bored Holmes (Jack Benny) and indifferent Watson (Kenny Baker) thrown into the case of Philip Baskerville's fiancee, Lady Barrow (Mary Livingstone), who fears he's the next marked for death and fears the howling of a dog (Andy Devine) will be the signal that said death is due, on tonight's edition of The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Don Wilson. Music: Phil Harris and His Orchestra. Writers: George Balzar, Milt Josefsberg, Sam Perrin, John Tackaberry.

1947: MORGAN'S SUMMER RESORT HOTEL---Answering the question of where you can be sent for two weeks worth of sunstroke, the title institution has nothing to do with a hotel but an awful lot to do with a customer looking to book his wife a one-way cruise, on tonight's edition of The Henry Morgan Show. (ABC.)

Cast: Arnold Stang, Florence Halop, Madaline Lee, Art Carney. Music: Bernie Green and His Orchestra. Writers: Henry Morgan, Aaron Ruben, Joseph Stein.


1889---Wesley Ruggles (director: Screen Guild Theater), Los Angeles.
1900---Lawrence Spivak (moderator/panelist: Meet the Press), Brooklyn.
1913---Rise Stevens (vocalist: The Rise Stevens Show; Palmolive Beauty Box Theater; Texaco Star Theater with Fred Allen), New York City.
1914---Dudley Manlove (announcer: Candy Matson), unknown; Gerald Mohr (actor: The Adventures of Philip Marlow; Our Miss Brooks), New York City.
1919---Richard Todd (singer: Rinso-Spry Vaudeville Theater; Your Hit Parade), Dublin.
1920---Hazel Scott (singer/pianist: Free World Theater; A New World A-Coming), Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Elephantine Radio: The Way It Was, 10 June

1924: MEET NOT-SO-SILENT CAL---The old-time radio era strikes a milestone when the Republican National Convention, which nominates incumbent President Calvin Coolidge to be their candidate (and would see him be elected to a full term in his own right, after he succeeded the late Warren G. Harding), is broadcast.

Coolidge has a reputation as a quiet man bordering on reclusiveness, but the GOP certainly picks the right man in terms of radio friendliness: Coolidge takes to radio and makes himself strikingly available to the new medium as well as the traditional press. Coolidge will be the first President whose inauguration is broadcast on radio; before his term expires, Coolidge will give over 529 press conferences, become the first President to give a political speech on the air, and sign the federal law that creates the Federal Radio Commission.


1935: LOSING TO SQUIRE---It turns out our heroes had very good reason to worry about Squire Skimp (Norris Goff, who also plays Abner) launching a rival movie theater, on today's edition of Lum & Abner. (NBC.)

Lum, Grandpappy: Chester Lauck. Abner, Dick Huddleston: Norris Goff. Writers: Chester Lauck and Norris Goff.

1944: DEATH IS A JOKER---Peter Lorre narrates and plays a murder defendant pleading to his jury about the surreal circumstances leading to the crime in question, on tonight's edition of The Inner Sanctum Mysteries. (Original: Blue Network; Rebroadcast: Armed Forces Radio Service.)

Host: Raymond Edward Johnson. Writer: Possibly Himan Brown.

1956: DADDY-O---Kitty (Georgia Ellis) learns she's due for a slightly unnerving visitor---the father (John McIntire) who hasn't seen her since she was eight months old, on tonight's edition of Gunsmoke. (CBS.)

Matt: William Conrad. Chester: Parley Baer. Doc: Howard McNear. Sam: Lawrence Dobkin. Announcer: George Fenneman. Writer: John Meston.


1889---Sessue Hayakawa (actor, with NHK), Tokyo.
1891---Al Dubin (lyricist: Mutual-Don Lee Dedicatory Program), Zurich.
1895---Hattie McDaniel (comedienne/actress: Beulah; Maxwell House Showboat), Wichita, Kansas.
1897---Boris Kroyt (violinist, Budapest String Quartet: The Library of Congress Concert), unknown.
1898---Norman Brokenshire (announcer: Music That Satisfies; Theater Guild On the Air), Murcheson, Ontario.
1903---Ernest Chappell (actor/announcer: The Fabulous Dr. Tweedy; Quiet, Please; The Big Story), Syracuse, New York.
1909---Larry LeSueur (correspondent, CBS News: This Week in Europe; The World Today), unknown.
1920---Anne Burr (actress: Mary Noble, Backstage Wife; Wendy Warren and the News), Boston.
1922---Judy Garland (as Frances Ethel Gumm; singer/actress: The Hardy Family; Good News of 1938; Lux Radio Theater), Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
1926---June Haver (as Beverly Jane Stovenour; singer: Hollywood Hotel), Rock Island, Illinois.
1931---Harlan Stone, Jr. (also known as Hal Stone; actor: Archie Andrews), Whitestone, New York.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Stamped Into History: The Way It Was, 9 June

1993---Trailblazing hitmakers who began making their hits in the final decade-plus of the old-time radio era---Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, Clyde McPhatter (with and without Billy Ward and the Dominoes and, then, the original Drifters), Elvis Presley, Otis Redding (his first single, "These Arms of Mine," was issued during the final months of the old-time radio era in 1962), Ritchie Valens, Dinah Washington---are struck on postage stamps when the U.S. Postal Service rolls out "Legends of American Music, Rock and Roll-Rhythm and Blues."


1929: MISS RUBY TAYLOR ARRIVES---While Andy (Charles Correll) continues wrestling with the Fresh Air Taxi Company banking problems, and forcing one creditor to come clean, Amos (Freeman Gosden) is anxious over seeing Ruby (Elinor Harriot) again, on tonight's edition of Amos 'n' Andy. (NBC.)

Writers: Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.

1942: POT ROAST---It's Fibber's (Jim Jordan) favourite dish, it's Molly's (Marian Jordan) pleasure to make for him, and it's ruined by interruptions---and wheedling for dinner invitations---that only begin with La Trivia's (Gale Gordon) poll taking, on tonight's edition of Fibber McGee & Molly. (NBC.)

The Old-Timer: Bill Thompson. Harlow Wilcox: Himself. Mrs. Uppington: Isabel Randolph. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie.


1890---Leslie Banks (actress: Theater of Romance), West Derby, U.K.
1900---Fred Waring (bandleader: Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians; Pleasure Time/Victory Tunes), Tyrone, Pennsylvania.
1905---Martha Boswell (singer, with the Boswell Sisters: The Boswell Sisters; The Woodbury Soap Show), Kansas City.
1908---Bob Cummings (actor: Those We Love; Cavalcade of America, The Big Show), Joplin, Missouri.
1910---George Bryan (announcer: Helen Hayes Theater; Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts), New York City; Joseph Julian (actor: Lorenzo Jones; The Adventures of Nero Wolfe), St. Marys, Pennsylvania.
1915---Les Paul (as Lester William Polsfuss; guitarist/composer: The Fred Waring Show; The Bing Crosby Show; The Drene Show; The Les Paul Show), Waukesha, Wisconsin.
1922---George Axelrod (writer: Midnight in Manhattan; Grand Ole Opry), New York City.
1926---Mona Freeman (actress: Lux Radio Theater; Suspense), Baltimore.
1933---Dick Orkin (comedian: Chickenman; The Tooth Fairy), Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

"A More Literate Fright-Fest": The Way It Was, 8 June

1947: "---If The Twilight Zone has a genuine old-time radio father, in terms of subtle turns, intelligent writing, and an airy but unmistakeable, psychologically poetic and quiet horror, it is probably the poetically psychological suspense anthology created by the mastermind behind Lights Out, with narration and lead character portraiture by the tastefully arresting, "quietly yours," Ernest Chappell, that premieres today.

[A] more literate fright-fest . . . Quiet, Please, which went in for surreal psychological horror stories.

---Gerald Nachman, in "Radio Noir---Cops and Grave Robbers," from Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)

NETWORK ANNOUNCER: The Mutual Broadcasting System presents the first of a series of new and unusual dramatic programs, written and directed by Wyllis Cooper and featuring Ernest Chappell.
MUSIC: Extract from Franck, Symphony in D Minor; fade in and up.
NARRATOR: Quiet, please . . .(pause; music up, then under). . . Quiet, please . . .
MUSIC: (fade)
NARRATOR: About 5800 feet above sea level---a little house, maybe twenty feet long, fifteen feet wide. It's made of corrugated iron sheets with a high peaked roof, sort of hangs over the edge of the mountain top, with nothing but the spikes of pine trees stretching all the way down to Pasadena, better than a mile below you.
MUSIC: (Up and out.)
NARRATOR: You ever get out to California? Well, if you do, get up there sometime and take a look at that little house . . .

From there, our speaker (Chappell) recalls the night he and two accomplices decided that observatory would be just the place to hide the loot from a bank robbery they pulled, on this premiere edition of Quiet, Please.

A reasonable, simple peer of Suspense and Lights Out for perhaps the most cleverly memorable thriller/horror offering in old-time radio history, Quiet, Please may been just a little too advanced to enjoy a long air life: the show will live barely past a second anniversary overall and well short of a year following its move from Mutual to ABC.

Additional premiere cast--Aldo: Martin Lawrence. Hugh: J. Pat O'Malley. Astronomer: James Van Dyke.


1929: THEY MAY LOSE THE FRESH AIR TAXI COMPANY---That's if Andy (Charles Correll) can't make the next installment to the furniture company, on tonight's episode of Amos 'n' Andy. (NBC.)

Amos: Freeman Gosden. Writers: Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.

1947: COMING EVENTS---They prove rather intriguing in 1912, spinning forth from between a circus fortune teller and a winning sweepstakes ticket, on tonight's edition of The Clock. (ABC.)

Alvin Sweet: Don Crosby. The Clock: Hart McGuire.Additional cast: Amanda Dodd, Sheila Sorou, Rip Becknell, Len Taylor. Writer: Lawrence Klee.


1918---Robert Preston (actor: Lux Radio Theater; Eternal Light; Medicine USA; Silver Theater), Newton Highlands, Massachussetts.
1921---Alexis Smith (as Gladys Smith; actress: Lux Radio Theater; Stars in the Air; Screen Guild Theater), Penticton, British Columbia.
1927---Jerry Stiller (comedian/actor: The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), New York City.
1931---Dana Wynter (as Dagmar Wynter; actress: The Black Museum; The Lives of Harry Lime), Berlin.
1937---Joan Rivers (as Joan Alexandra Molinsky; comedienne: The Voices of Vista), Brooklyn.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Great Crusade, Continued: The Way It Was, 7 June

1944: D-DAY COVERAGE CONTINUES---And, in one case, completely pre-empts a popular soap opera, as The CBS News Roundup pre-empts Young Doctor Malone.

However, four popular soaps broadcast as usual, with the periodic reference to or quick word from the fighting: Big Sister, The Romance of Helen Trent, Portia Faces Life, and Joyce Jordan, M.D. (formerly Joyce Jordan, Girl Intern), not to mention the semi-serial mystery, The New Adventures of Perry Mason. (All CBS.)

Meanwhile, George Hicks of the Blue Network (the ABC-to-be) delivers a magnificent report in the wake of the D-Day landings success, from the USS Ancon.


1917: AIN'T THAT A KICK IN THE HEAD---He does not ask for another belt when getting that first slap; neither does his obstetrician start him crying with a certain foot movement that would provoke him to croon, "Ain't that a kick in the head" . . . but a Steubenville, Ohio baby born today will grow up to play the crooning straight man to a certain madcap partner in nightclubs, films, and old-time radio (1949-1953), before graduating to fame as a more polished singer, actor, and fifth of the second and best-known edition of the Hollywood Rat Pack.

He will grow up as a high-school dropout, a bootleg booze deliverer, an amateur boxer, and a speakeasy and underground casino dealer, before getting his first singing break with the Ernie McKay Orchestra, using a style derived from Bing Crosby and the Mills Brothers, and in due course joining Sammy Watkins---who encourages him to adopt the name under which he becomes famous, especially when he meets a young comedian named Jerry Lewis at New York's Glass Hat: Dean Martin.


1946: FEMALE OF THE SPECIES---A beautician (Lizbeth Scott) tries explaining to her prospective attorney a murder she only contemplated but didn't commit, on tonight's edition of The Molle Mystery Theater. (Original: NBC; rebroadcast: Armed Forces Radio Service.)

Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: Irene Winslow.

1947: COURTING AT SUMMER CAMP---Junior's (Scotty Beckett) vacation plans, possibly interrupted when Riley (William Bendix) needs to borrow a fin from him, provoke Peg (Paula Winslowe) to remember the summer he courted her while working at a camp, on tonight's edition of The Life of Riley. (NBC.)

Digger: John Brown. Writers: Ruben Ship, Alan Lipscott.

1950: PHILIP WEATHERBEE---Victoria (Benita Hume Colman) awakens Hall (Ronald Colman) from a pleasant Saturday morning dream to face a law student's father---a farmer (Bill Scott) whose disillusion about his farming life doesn't square with his son's (Conrad Binyon) apparent agricultural passion, on tonight's edition of The Halls of Ivy. (NBC.)

Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Writer: Carmine Blake, Don Quinn.

1952: BUFFALO KILLERS (often mislabled "Buffalo Hunters")---Chester (Parley Baer) and Matt (William Conrad) fear Arapaho tribesmen stir uncharacteristic trouble, after Chester finds two dead from among one man's buffalo hunting crew---but their horses and guns are left behind, and a prize albino buffalo is missing, lead Matt to suspect the killers weren't Indians, on tonight's edition of Gunsmoke. (CBS.)

Mr. Biggs: Stan Waxman. Additional cast: John Dehner, Larry Dopkin, Sam Edwards, Julian Byatt, Tom Holland, Mary Lansing. Announcer: Roy Royan. Writer: Joel Murcott.


1891---Alois Havrilla (annoucner: The Campbell Soup Orchestra), Pressov, Hungary.
1896---Hope Summer (actress: Girl Alone), Mattoon, Illinois.
1897---George Szell (conductor: NBC Symphony Orchestra; New York Philharmonic), Budapest.
1903---Glen Gray (bandleader, with the Casa Loma Orchestra: Camel Caravan), Metamora, Illinois; Joseph Kahn (pianist: The Voice of Firestone; The Story of Mary Marlin), New York City.
1908---Boris Goldovsky (commentator: Metropolitan Opera), Moscow; Clarence Straight (actor: Those We Love), unknown.
1909---Jessica Tandy (as Jessie Alice Tandy; actress: The Marriage), London.
1911---Stanley Unwin (actor/sound/commentator: Beyond Our Ken), Pretoria.
1913---Tom Collins (actor: Chandu the Magician; One Man's Family), Chicago.
1919---Ray Scherer (NBC News: News of the World), Fort Wayne, Indiana.
1924---Dolores Gray (singer/actress: The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street; The Jack Smith Show), Chicago.
1926---Dick Williams (singer, with the Williams Brothers: The Bing Crosby Show), Wall Lake, Iowa.

Friday, June 06, 2008

"You Are About to Embark on a Great Crusade": The Way It Was, 6 June

1944---So said Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower the night before, to the forces about to launch D-Day. And a nation, if not a world, hangs onto those and numerous more words as old-time radio listens in with great hope . . . and, more than a few prayers.

KATE SMITH---The ample songstress offers a prayer for the forces.

FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY---The first couple of Wistful Vista turns their regular half-hour NBC slot over to patriotic music.

VALIANT LADY and THE ROMANCE OF HELEN TRENT---The popular soap operas include D-Day references and war bonds notices.

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT---offers an address and a prayer.

THE NEWS---The major radio networks carry near-continuous coverage of the massive invasion.


1955: HALEY'S COMET---It took over a year to happen and needed a big boost, perhaps, from a film called The Blackboard Jungle, but Bill Haley and the Comets, who have been recording for quite a few years and have already cut a small handful of classic smaller-label singles (including "Rock this Joint"---said to have been the record that moved Alan Freed to call the music rock and roll---and "Crazy, Man, Crazy," among others), finally hit number one in old-time radio play with "Rock Around the Clock," written mostly by Max C. Freedman, whose previous best known composition was 1946's "Sioux City Sue."

In the interim between their original issue of "Rock Around the Clock" and its hitting the summit at last, Haley and company have already enjoyed a million selling hit, their spry cover of Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll." But when The Blackboard Jungle becomes a film hit, "Rock Around the Clock" takes a jaunty ride on its coattails, including eight weeks at number one on the best-seller charts, when Decca Records reissues the single . . . and it becomes the second best-selling international hit of the year, behind another Decca release: Bing Crosby's "White Christmas."

I would like to be remembered as the father of rock and roll . . . "

---Bill Haley, in one of his last known broadcast interviews.

Bill Haley is the neglected hero of early rock & roll. Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly are ensconced in the heavens, transformed into veritable constellations in the rock music firmament, their music respected by writers and scholars as well as the record-buying public, virtually every note of music they ever recorded theoretically eligible for release. And among the living rock & roll pioneers, Chuck Berry is given his due in the music marketplace and by the history books, and Bo Diddley is acknowledged appropriately in the latter*, even if his music doesn't sell the way it should. Yet Bill Haley---who was there before any of them, playing rock & roll before it even had a name, and selling it in sufficient quantities out of a small Pennsylvania label to attract attention from the major labels before Presley was even recording in Memphis---is barely represented by more than a dozen of his early singles, and recognized by the average listener for exactly two songs among the hundreds that he recorded; and he's often treated as little more than a glorified footnote, an anomaly that came and went very quickly, in most histories of the music. The truth is, Bill Haley came along a lot earlier than most people realize and the histories usually acknowledge, and he went on making good music for years longer than is usually recognized.

. . .During his final years, Haley developed severe psychological problems that left him delusional at least part of the time. By the time of his death in 1981, the process of reducing his role in the history of rock & roll had already begun, partly a result of ignorance on the part of the writers handling the histories by then, and also, to a degree, as a result of political correctness; he was white, and was perceived as having exploited R&B, and there were enough people like that in the early history who had to be written about but were easier to cast as "rebels."

. . . Haley's own reputation has increased somewhat, particularly in the wake of Bear Family Records' release of two boxes covering his career from 1954 through 1969, and Roller Coaster Records' issuing of Haley's Essex Records sides. True, there are perhaps 45 songs on those 12 CDs of material that Haley should not have bothered recording, but there are hundreds more in those same collections, some of it dazzling and all of it constituting a serious body of solid, often inspired rock & roll, interspersed here and there with some good country sides. Perhaps little of the post-1957 stuff could set the whole world on fire, but Haley had already been there and done that, and still had a lot of good music to play.

---Bruce Eder, in All-Music Guide.


1944: KANSAS CITY'S FAVOURITE SINGER---Discouraged George (Burns), who thinks he's just a miserable, broken-down flop, gets a letter intended for Dinah Shore by mistake---and Gracie (Allen) uses it to help cheer him up, unaware that an official decree naming Shore Kansas City's favourite singer is also going to the Burns home by mistake, on tonight's edition of The George Burns & Gracie Allen Show. (CBS.)

Dinah Shore: Herself. The Happy Postman: Mel Blanc. Tootsie Stagwell: Elvia Allman. Additional cast: Jimmy Cash, Hans Conreid, Bill Goodwin, Lawrence Nash. Music: Felix Mills Orchestra. Writers: George Burns, Hal Block, Aaron Ruben, possibly Helen Gould Harvey.

1948: QUIZ PROGRAM AND SOAP OPERA---After the Alley demimonde turns over the question of who's spending more this year than last, celebrity interviewer Jack Eigen buttonholes Fred (Allen) at the Copa . . . and lets himself get talked into trying his hand at a quiz show called Take It, Or We'll Sue, and a soap opera abstract, on tonight's edition of The Fred Allen Show. (NBC.)

Claghorn: Kenny Delmar. Titus: Parker Fennelly. Mrs. Nussbaum: Minerva Pious. Ajax Cassidy: Peter Donald. Writers: Fred Allen, Bob Weiskopf.


1898---Walter Abel (actor: Columbia Presents Shakespeare; Magic Key; Voice of the Army), St. Paul, Minnesota.
1900---Arthur Askey (comedian: Band Wagon; Music Hall; Does The Team Think?), Liverpool.
1917---Maria Montez (actress: Lux Radio Theater), Barahona, Dominican Republic.
1918---Peter Donald (comedian: The Fred Allen Show; host: Can You Top This?), Bristol, U.K.
1932---Billie Whitelaw (actress: All That Fall), Coventry, Warwickshire, U.K.

*---Bo Diddley, alas, died at his Florida home this week at age 79, of heart failure, ten months after suffering a prior heart attack. In the age of old-time radio's slow death and television's steady rise, Diddley stamped himself an individualist when he defied Ed Sullivan's order to play a cover song and, rather, hammered out the song that put him on the map: "Bo Diddley." The beat goes ever onward and upward . . .

Thursday, June 05, 2008

"A Harsh Time of Change in England": The Way It Was, 5 June

1944: "THIS TEMPESTUOUS STORY OF THE EMOTIONS"---"Charlotte Bronte wrote this novel over a century ago. Yet, in a world at war, this tempestuous story of the emotions is a bigger success than ever, for several new editions of the novel have appeared in the last few months." So says host/producer Cecil B. DeMille, introducing one of old-time radio's most impeccable translations of Jane Eyre.

This one, adapted from the 1944 film hit, the seventh time Jane Eyre was adapted to film, puts a pair of genuine screen giants---Orson Welles (reprising his film role) and Loretta Young (in the title role, played in the film by Joan Fontaine)---before the mikes, in the story of the often-abused orphan girl hired as the governess to the young ward of a mysterious manor house lord with whom she falls in love . . . and with whom she's finally on the threshold of marriage when his and his home's secret, the cause of several unsettling events, is about to be revealed fatefully.

My name is Jane Eyre. I was born in 1820, a harsh time of change in England. Money and position were all that mattered. Charity was a cold and disagreeable word and religion, too often merely a mask to cover bigotry and meanness . . .

---The title character's opening narration, as delivered by Loretta Young.

Thus merely begins tonight's edition of Lux Radio Theater. (CBS.)

Mrs. Reed: Possibly Agnes Moorehead, recreating her film role. Additional cast: Unknown. Adapted from the John Houseman screenplay, based on the novel by Charlotte Bronte.


1939: Y.Y. FLIRCH TRIES TO CALL---With Sade (Bernadine Flynn) off on a day trip to Pontiac, preoccupied Rush (Bill Idelson) tells Vic (Art Van Harvey) his old lodge brother wants to talk, which seems as puzzling as exciting to Vic, on today's edition of Vic & Sade. (NBC.)

Announcer: Ralph Edwards. Writer: Paul Rhymer.

1949: DESIGN FOR DANGER---A former convict (possibly Frank Lovejoy) returning to Watertown has revenge killing on his mind---and his old flame (possibly Lurene Tuttle) wants Holliday (Alan Ladd) to prevent more victims, including a potential surprise one, on tonight's edition of Box 13. (Mutual.)

Suzy: Sylvia Picker. Kling: Edmund MacDonald. Writer: Bob Mitchell.

1949: SCHOOL KEY---There's only one thing wrong on the day Madison High is supposed to receive a district attendance award---thanks to absentminded Mrs. Davis (Jane Morgan), in whose custody it was left for the morning, the key to the school is missing, and nobody can get in or answer its phones, on tonight's edition of Our Miss Brooks. (CBS.)

Connie: Eve Arden. Walter: Richard Crenna. Conklin: Gale Gordon. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Writer: Al Lewis.

1949: THE TONSILLECTOMY---That oftentimes-first childhood trauma is on the schedule for one member of the Harris household . . . and the traumatised soul's (Phil Harris) getting the business from the usual suspects who only begin with his wife (Alice Faye) and his obnoxious brother-in-law (Robert North), on tonight's edition of The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. (NBC.)

Little Alice: Jeanine Roos. Phyllis: Ann Whitfield. Remley: Elliott Lewis. Julius: Walter Tetley. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.


1910---Herb Vigran (actor: Sad Sack; Father Knows Best; The Jack Benny Program), Fort Wayne, Indiana.
1916---John Raby (actor: A Brighter Day; Our Gal Sunday), New York City.
1920---Cornelius Ryan (correspondent, World War II), Dublin.
1925---Bill Hayes (singer/actor: Arthur Godfrey Time), Harvey, Illinois.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

"Mr. King and Jean": The Way It Was, 4 June

1948: THAT IS NO LADY, THAT IS MY WIFE---First, I want to say that the two principal characters in this story are not fictitious. Very often, I wish to heaven that I were. And any similarity to persons alive or on transcription is purely intentional. So laments (Goodman) Ace, launching one of old-time radio's funniest self-satires.

Our harried ad man is under pressure from an automobile advertiser to convince a retired husband-and-wife comedy team to return to radio---a team who gave it up because, well, nobody believed a harried husband and his scatterbrained, malapropping wife were believable.

At least, they don't until they come to spend one evening of dinner and conversation at the home of a certain ad man and his scatterbrained, malapropping wife (Jane Ace)---who begins the proceedings by throwing one of her typical curves, having gotten a little pre-briefing from her radio announcer neighbour on just what radio folk talk about, no tricks.

And, almost, no treat, and no deal, until . . .

Uh-uh-uhhhhh. You'll have to settle for finding out on tonight's edition of mr. ace and JANE. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Eric Dressler, Ken Roberts, possibly Everett Sloan and Beatrice Lawrence. Writer: Goodman Ace.


1940: THE BIG SPAGHETTI DINNER---Leave it to Fibber (Jim Jordan) to volunteer to cook and host one for a few of his cronies---enough to set the culinary arts back a few decades while the Old-Timer (Bill Thompson), for one, isn't exactly jumping to partake, on tonight's edition of Fibber McGee & Molly. (NBC.)

Molly: Marian Jordan. Gildersleeve: Harold Peary. Mrs. Uppington: Amanda Randolph. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie.

1942: MORGAN'S RECIPE FOR SUCCESS---It's not necessarily something you can slice, dice, chop, puree, or plop into the Mixmaster . . . or, is it, on tonight's edition of Here's Morgan. (Mutual.)

Writer: Henry Morgan.

1947: MORGAN'S AROUND-THE-WORLD LISTENING POST---Summer in a stuffy studio moves Morgan to want to get out like a globetrotting newscaster, but he's stuck doing the next best thing---his own globetrotting anti-news program, on tonight's anti-edition of The Henry Morgan Show. (ABC.)

Additional cast: Arnold Stang, Florence Halop, Madeline Lee, Ben Grauer. Music: Bernie Green and His Orchestra. Writers: Henry Morgan, Aaron Ruben, Joe Stein, Carroll Moore, Jr.

1955: JEALOUSY---Chester (Parley Baer) and Kitty (Georgia Ellis) aren't the only ones a little leery of new dealer Lonnie Pike when Matt (William Conrad) has to step in before a fuming player slices worse than his hand, but Matt only thinks all is well after he runs the player out of town and Pike leaves on his own accord---a calm lasting a month, before an old and newly married friend returns . . . and hires newly returned Pike and his otherwise unemployable right behind, on tonight's edition of Gunsmoke. (CBS.)

Doc: Howard McNear. Additional cast: Vic Perrin, Virginia Gregg, Harry Bartell. Writer: John Meston.


1881---Clara Blandick (actress: Campbell Playhouse; Lux Radio Theater), Hong Kong.
1891---Erno Rapee (conductor: Roxy's Gang; General Motors Concert), Budapest.
1900---Dan Golenpaul (producer: Information, Please), New York City.
1901---Carlton E. Morse (writer/producer/director: One Man's Family; I Love A Mystery), Jennings, Louisiana.
1906---Vinton Haworth (actor: Archie Andrews; Michael Shayne), Washington, D.C.; Richard Whorf (actor: Cavalcade of America; Screen Guild Theater; The Jack Benny Program), Winthrop, Massachussetts.
1917---Charles Collingwood (The Duke; reporter/commentator: CBS News), Three Rivers, Minnesota; Helen Wood (actress: Those We Love), Clarksville, Tennessee.
1918---Howard Culver (actor: Straight Arrow; Free Lance), Colorado.
1919---Robert Merrill (operatic baritone: An Evening with Romberg; The Robert Merrill Show; The Big Show), Brooklyn.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

"What Do Fellas On This Program Call You?": The Way It Was, 3 June

1941: BACK IN HOLLYWOOD WITH HUMPHREY BOGART---Says Humphrey Bogart, with a slight mockery of his own trademark sneer, "Just a minute, just a minute, Hope, my pals call me Bogie. What do fellas on this program call you?" Says Bob (Here's Looking At Anybody But You, Kid) Hope, after a pause so pregnant the birth would have been quadruplets: "There must be some way to answer that and still stay on the air."

Needless to say, there is. And Bogart goes forth to prove rather engaging in a comic turn, trying to show Skinnay Ennis how to handle a girl, before he and Hope have to ponder an unexpected jailbreak---their own, after they were detoured into the calaboose trying to spend a counterfeit dollar, on tonight's edition of The Pepsodent Show with Bob Hope. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Jerry Colonna, Bill Goodwin, Brenda and Cobina (Blanche Stewart, Elvia Allman). Music: Skinnay Ennis and His Orchestra, Six Hits and a Miss. Writers: Possibly Mort Lachman, Norman Panama, Al Schwartz, Sherwood Schwartz.


1935: TRYING TO NAME THE NEW THEATER---It almost figures that hiring Grandpap to be part of the operation would prove simpler than Lum (Chester Lauck) and Abner (Norris Goff) find naming their new movie theater to be, on today's edition of Lum & Abner. (.)

Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

1945: HAVING A WONDERFUL CRIME---Pat O'Brien compresses but still romps recreating his film tour-de-force as an attorney who gets mixed up---with a pair of newlyweds (June Duprey and Tom Conway, in the Carole Landis and George Murphy film roles) who've gotten him into enough real-life hot water---in a farcical mystery at their honeymoon resort, on tonight's edition of The Old Gold Comedy Theater. (NBC.)

Host/director: Harold Lloyd. Writers: Parke Levy, Howard J. Green, from their screenplay based on a story by Craig Rice.


1901---Maurice Evans (actor: Texaco Star Theater; Keep 'Em Rolling), Dorchester, U.K.
1904---Jan Peerce (operatic tenor: Music Hall of the Air; The A&P Gypsies; The Golden Treasury of Song; The Goldbergs; The Big Show), New York City.
1905---Paulette Goddard (actress: The Cresta Blanca Players), Whitestone Landing, New York.
1906---Josephine Baker (singer: The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour), St. Louis; Brooke Temple (actor: Red Ryder), Niagara Falls.
1911---Ellen Corby (actress: Bud's Bandwagon), Racine, Wisconsin.
1916---Jack Manning (actor: Young Doctor Malone), Cincinnati.
1917---Leo Gorcey (actor, one of the Dead End Kids: Texaco Star Playhouse; Blue Ribbon Town), New York City.
1925---Tony Curtis (as Bernard Schwartz; actor: Hollywood Star Playhouse; Suspense), New York City.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Are You Kiddin': The Way It Was, 2 June

1915: YOU'RE GONNA BE A BRIIIII-IIIIIGHT BOY, LEROY---His voice will be trapped forever as that of a borderline adolescent thanks to an unusual hormonal condition, but Mother and Father Tetzlaff little suspect the son who arrives today will become one of old-time radio's most enduring comic actors because of that condition---mostly, as The Great Gildersleeve's spunky nephew Leroy, and concurrently as obnoxious grocery boy Julius Abruzzio on The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show.

But even before those career-making roles, he will be familiar enough in various adolescent roles for Fred Allen's groundbreaking Town Hall Tonight and Sal Hepatica Revue hourlong shows of the 1930s.

And, until he is left wheelchair bound following a reported motorcycle accident in 1971, he will go on to become one of the most sought-after vocal artists for children's and adolescent's roles even though he will be in his forties by the time his old-time radio career winds down---most familiarly, as the voice of the nerdy pet son of a warped, time-traveling scientist beagle, in the famous Peabody's Improbable History segments of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show

I wondered what a radio show would be like if the audience could see the actors on stage. But then they couldn’t be allowed to read scripts. It would be like a movie. That wouldn’t be any good. Radio would then be the same as movies.

---From one of the only interviews he was known to have given.

This kid . . . steals our show every week!

---Phil Harris, to his studio audience, following a warmup routine before recording The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show each week.

Happy birthday, wherever you are, to the singular Walter Tetley.


27 DECEMBER 1939: DR. ALLEN'S CLINIC---After spoofing the opening of Gone With the Wind and "interviewing" humourist Robert Benchley, three from the audience host a roundtable chat with the master on whether spouses should vacation together after each year's living together; and, the Mighty Allen Art Players (John Brown, Charles Cantor, Minerva Pious, Walter Tetley) spoof the analyst's office, on tonight's edition of The Fred Allen Show (An Hour of Smiles). (NBC.)

With Portland Hoffa. Announcer: Harry Von Zell. Music: Peter Van Steeden Orchestra, Wynn Murray. Writers: Fred Allen, Arnold Auerbach, Herman Wouk.

27 DECEMBER 1942: LEROY MAKES NITRO---Leroy's (Walter Tetley) anxiety to experiment with his new Christmas present---a chemistry set---may just be enough to make Gildy (Harold Peary) explode, on tonight's edition of The Great Gildersleeve. (NBC.)

Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Hooker: Earle Ross. Peavey: Richard LeGrand. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.

23 JANUARY 1944: DOES LEROY NEED A MOTHER?---Six months after his wedding plans with Leila collapse, still hesitant about romancing randy nephew Leroy's principal Eve Goodwin (Shirley Mitchell), Uncle Mort (Harold Peary) wonders whether Leroy (Walter Tetley)---whose solicitousness of late seems a shade suspicious until he finally takes his report card out of its three-week hiding---isn't missing something without the maternal touch, on tonight's edition of The Great Gildersleeve. (NBC.)

Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.

3 FEBRUARY 1946: GILDY THE DIPLOMAT---After Leroy (Walter Tetley) falls out with his best friend and finds himself bored, Gildy (Harold Peary) suggests more of an interest in worldly affairs, among other ideas both may live to regret, on tonight's edition of The Great Gildersleeve. (NBC.)

Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Hooker: Earle Ross. Peavey: Richard LeGrand. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.

1 MAY 1949: CLEANING THE CHIMNEY---The attempt at which by Phil (Harris), Remley (Elliott Lewis), and Julius (Walter Tetley) leaves the Harris household one flue over the cuckoo's nest, on tonight's edition of The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. (NBC.)

Alice: Alice Faye. Little Alice: Jeanine Roos. Phyllis: Ann Whitfield. Willie: Robert North. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.

5 MARCH 1950: SAVING MARJORIE FROM HER LOVER---First, sponsor Scott (Gale Gordon) dresses down the clueless band (once again); then, he wants Phil (Harris), Alice (Faye), and Remley (Elliott Lewis) to pry his daughter (Louise Erickson) from the older man she's been dating. The fun begins when, somehow, obnoxious grocery boy Julius (Walter Tetley) attracts her attention---and affection, on tonight's edition of The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. (NBC.)

Little Alice: Jeanine Roos. Phyllis: Ann Whitfield. Willie: Robert North. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.

12 MARCH 1950: TRYING TO BREAK UP JULIUS AND MARJORIE---That's the mission of the hour when Julius (Walter Tetley), engaged to sponsor Scott's (Gale Gordon) niece (Louise Erickson), starts throwing his miniscule weight around to Phil (Harris), Alice (Faye), and Remley's (Elliott Lewis) annoyance, on tonight's edition of The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. (NBC.)

Willie: Robert North. Little Alice: Jeanine Roos. Phyllis: Anne Whitfield. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.


2 JUNE 1884: THE STRAIGHT SOAP---One-half of old-time radio's most prolific team of soap opera producers, Frank Hummert, is born in St. Louis, and will grow up to become a prominent enough Chicago advertising executive and---in partnership with his wife, the former Anne Ashenhurst (it was her second marriage; the marriage endured until his death)---the co-producer/co-head writer of numerous soaps (Just Plain Bill, The Romance of Helen Trent, Our Gal Sunday, Joyce Jordan, Girl Intern, Amanda of Honeymoon Hill, Mary Noble-Backstage Wife, the comic soap Lorenzo Jones, and far, far more) and a few other serials such as Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons . . . not to mention a children's classic (Terry and the Pirates) or two.

To fuel their repertoire of soap operas, the Hummerts employed a bank of sixteen to twenty writers, who worked from a brief outline supplied by the feisty, indefatigable, and high-strung Mrs. Hummert, though the Hummets were the only ones ever credited (" . . . created and written by Frank and Anne Hummert" became a familiar daytime radio chant). Her husband eventually ran the mystery-and-music program end of the business. The astonishingly prolific but remote Hummerts rang an amazing number of changes on the reliable theme of female unfulfillment, male unreliability, and general domestic knavery . . .

---Gerald Nachman, in "The Soap Factory," from Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)

They may be very successful in family life, or in the way they manage to help their neighbours and friends, they're everyday people---[with] stories that can be understood and appreciated on Park Avenue and on the prairie.

---Frank Hummert, describing the couple's basic, rarely-wavering soap formula, as cited by Nachman.

In 1927, Frank Hummert . . . became a vice president of Blackett & Sample, a Chicago advertising agency. The Messrs. Blackett and Sample wanted to round out their firm with a topflight idea man. Hummert was one of the best-paid men in advertising . . . He had been a reporter for awhile in his younger days, but his recessive temperament was not suited to that aggressive calling. He liked to work at home, and during his seven years as a copywriter he rarely showed up at the office. He had hit on the idea of writing advertising as if it were feature news, and the idea was successful. The one thing he enjoys remembering from the old advertising days is the work he did on behalf of the Brunswick New Hall of Fame, which brought new voices to the operatic and concert stages. Blackett & Sample became Blackett Sample Hummert, though the new man was not a partner. The change was made because it was felt that his name would lend a certain prestige to the agency, and he began to build up a unit of his own in the company for the production of radio programs.

Sample introduced Hummert, one day, to a small, smartly dressed young woman named Anne S. Ashenhurst, and later suggested to him that she might develop into a useful assistant. Hummert said he was skeptical, but he was persuaded to give the young woman a trial . . . Her lack of radio and advertising experience was offset by what proved to be a sound understanding of how to catch and hold the ear of the woman radio listener. Like Hummert, she had an inventive mind and could make up a story line and write nimble dialogue. Hummert and Mrs. Ashenhurst figured that the largely dallow daytime air of twenty years ago could be transformed into valuable advertising time.

---James Thurber, in "O Pioneers!" from "Soapland," republished in The Beast in Me and Other Animals: A New Collection of Pieces and Drawings About Human Beings and Less Alarming Creatures. (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1948.)

As might be expected often enough, not everyone will see the Hummerts' success in terms strictly glowing.

[W]hy, outside of the circle of media historians . . . are they largely forgotten today? [Jim] Cox [in Frank and Anne Hummert's Radio Factor; Jefferson, NC: McFarland Publishing] attributes it in part to “their preferred reclusive lifestyle” (p. 150)but also to their methodical, at times harsh, entrepreneurial approach to producing radio programming: “mass production, low costs, standardization, and specialization” (p. 36).

. . . [The Hummerts] are not warm and fuzzy characters. As Cox tells us, they would routinely conduct surreptitious auditions for their lead characters when they thought a change would add to the bottom line of their production empire. And their “assembly-line approach to producing drama” (p. 134) was nothing if not effective; Anne Hummert died in 1996 a multimillionaire.

2 JUNE 1959: OUT OF THE FRYING PAN?---Alan Freed opens for business on New York's WABC, not too long after WINS chose not to renew his contract in the wake of violence at a Boston rock and roll show he promoted and hosted which got him charged with inciting a riot. (The charges would be dropped in due course.)

Freed will be on the air at WABC for barely a few months when the station fires him, after he refuses to sign a statement saying he never took money to play certain records on the air. The payola scandal will destroy Freed's career as a radio big-timer.


1957: CROSSING PARIS---Cupidity and retribution are the order of the day in wartime, Nazi-occupied Paris, on tonight's edition of Suspense. (CBS.)

Cast: Hans Conreid, John Dehner. Writer: John Messner, adapting a story by Martell Heimay.


1879---Florence Edney (actress: Amanda of Honeymoon Hill), London.
1889---Martha Wentworth (actress: Cinnamon Bear; The Witch's Tale), New York City.
1902---Jimmie Lunceford (bandleader: numerous radio remote performances), Fulton, Missouri.
1908---Ben Grauer (annonucer: Information Please), Staten Island.
1914---Nicholas Saunders (actor: Martin Kane, Private Eye), Kiev.