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.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Clubbing: The Way It Was, 31 July

1938---What was known: Jake Powell, a New York Yankees outfielder, instigated one of old-time radio's most embarrassing hours, when he was foolish enough to tell WGN sportscasting legend Bob Elson, on the air, that he kept in shape during the offseason as a Dayton, Ohio police officer "beat[ing] niggers over the head with my blackjack while on my beat."

Elson was compelled to apologise when an uproar erupted almost at once, saying Powell had offended him as deeply as he'd offended some of his friends. The Yankees planned to send Powell down to the minors (they were finally disgusted, it was said, with Powell's penchant for foul play and lack of sportsmanship), but then-Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis---perhaps duplicitously, considering his none-too-benign assent to baseball's colour line of the time---suspended him ten days.

What may not have been known, at least by many enough, until Powell's suicide in November 1948: Powell actually sought to make a kind of atonement for his blunt racism. And one of America's most virtuoso sportswriters happened to know about it.


There are probably a lot of stories that could be told about Jake Powell by people who knew him better. Here there is only one, which may help explain a couple of things. That is, it may furnish a little insight into the nature of a guy who never knew fear and never knew what was good for him, a guy who always acted on impulse and was wrong more often than not.

In the end, he was tragically wrong, of course. He killed himself. Jake Powell, who used to play the outfield for the Yankees and the Senators and any number of minor league clubs, got himself messed up the other day and gave up and shot himself. He didn't slip off and lock himself in a room and turn on the gas. He shot himself twice, once in the chest and then in the head, in a police station in Washington, D.C., with the cops looking on.

Now, as to that story. When Jake was playing ball in the American League a radio broadcaster grabbed him for one of those offhand, unrehearsed dugout interviews just before a game in Comiskey Park in Chicago. Answering questions without thinking, Powell made a thoughtless remark that offended thousands of Negroes.

A storm ensued. The American League office was flooded with protests. There was talk of a boycott against any park where Powell might be playing. Jake had been wrong as wrong could be.

Well, the next time Powell got to New York he went up to the top end of Harlem. He went alone, after dark. He worked down from north to south, stopping in every saloon he came across.

In each he introduced himself. He said he was Jake Powell and he said that he had made a foolish mistake and that he was sorry. Then he ordered drinks for the crowd and moved on to the next joint.

He did that by himself, on his own initiative, after dark, in a section where he had reason to believe feelings ran high against him.

That's one story about Jake Powell. The only one here.

---Red Smith, New York Herald-Tribune, 7 November 1948; republished in To Absent Friends from Red Smith. (New York: Atheneum, 1982.)

And, perhaps, the only story that needed to be told. Then, and now.


1854---Charles Goodell (The Shepherd of the Air; clergyman, Sabbath Reveries), Dudley, Massachussetts.
1892---Herbert W. Armstrong (preacher: Plain Truth; The World Tomorrow), Des Moines.
1894---Roy Bargy (conductor: The Jimmy Durante Show; Kraft Music Hall; Rexall Summer Theater), Newaygo, Michigan.
1900---Elmo Roper (pollster: America's Town Meeting of the Air; Word from the People), Hebron, Nebraska.
1902---Robert E. Griffin (actor: The Story of Holly Sloan; Bright Horizon), Hutchinson, Kansas.
1904---Brett Halliday (creator: Michael Shayne; host: Murder By Experts), Chicago; Billy (Trade) Hillpot (singer: The Smith Brothers: Trade and Mark; The Camel Pleasure Hour), Red Bank, New Jersey.
1908---W.F. (Bill) Shadel (newscaster, CBS: he reported the D-Day landings of June 1944, among other significant stories), Milton, Wisconsin.
1909---Roger Krupp (announcer: The Adventures of Ellery Queen; Famous Jury Trials), Minnesota.
1911---George Liberace (violinist: numerous remotes, the Orrin Tucker Band, the Anson Weeks Band; brother of the Liberace), Menasha, Wisconsin.
1912---Irv Kupcinet (sportscaster, WGN Chicago: Chicago Bears football), Chicago; Chester Stratton (actor: Pepper Young's Family; Hop Harrigan), Paterson, New Jersey.
1913---Brook Byron (actor: Top Secret; Suspense), Weakly County, Tennessee.
1915---Chet Forrest (composer/pianist: U.S. Treasury Star Parade), Brooklyn.
1916---Bill Todman (writer/producer/director: Treasury Salute; Winner Take All; Beat the Clock; Hit the Jackpot; Rate Your Mate; The Web), New York City.
1919---Norman Del Mar (conductor: Scottish Orchestra), Hempstad, U.K.; Curt Gowdy (sportscaster: Boston Red Sox baseball), Green River, Wyoming.
1921---Barbara Fuller (actress: One Man's Family; Stepmother), Nahant, Massachussetts.
1924---Garard Green (actor: Sherlock Holmes), Madras, India.
1927---Tony Thomas (announcer, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), Portsmouth, U.K.
1931---Kenny Burrell (jazz guitarist: Newport Jazz Festival; Jazz Alive), Detroit.
1936---David Halliwell (writer: Spongehenge; There's a Car Park in Whitherton), Brighthouse, U.K.

Monday, July 28, 2008

"Heigh-Ho, Everybody!": The Way It Was, 28 July

1901---Future "cheerleading, flapper-chasing, raccoon coat-wearing Yalie" Rudy Vallee is born in Island Pond, Vermont, destined to reach fame as a megaphone-whispering crooner and, arguably, the first genuine old-time radio variety megastar, after he establishes himself as a host-impresario first with The Eveready Hour (born in 1923) and, especially, with The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour, which will premiere two days after the stock market crash of 1929.

Vallee was the first Ed Sullivan, whose power and influence in the 1930s equaled that of the real Sullivan on TV and Florenz Ziegfeld on Broadway. He was a Sol Hurok of the air responsible for launching as many major radio careers as anybody in show business. By the early 1930s, his show had replaced the Palace Theater as the prestige booking of vaudeville. It was the first show to revolve around a single host. With his curiously appealing pinched voice, Valle parlayed a mediocre house band at the Heigh Ho Club (hence his famous opening) into a dominant position as a star and pop hitmaker . . .

Because NBC, Vallee's network, was then the only coast-to-coast hookup, virtually any new song he performed on his show became an instant hit . . . When Vallee introduced a new singer, like Alice Faye, people listened seriously. He first brought Johnny Mercer's name to the airwaves with a rendition of "Lazybones" sung with black inflections . . .

A notorious ladies' man, Vallee would pluck girls out of a chorus line and give them a chance. He spotted Alice Faye in the chorus of George White's Scandals . . . Needing a girl singer, Vallee had an affair with Alice Faye that ended his marriage and then hired her, although he'd only heard her perform solo at a cast party, where he was smitten by her imitation of Maurice Chevalier singing "Mimi" . . .

Rudy Vallee was merely the most resourceful of the big bandleaders who took to radio in the 1930s. Most were content simply to set up shop and play.

---Gerald Nachman, in "For Your Listening and Dancing Pleasure," in Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon, 1998.)

To name a few, Vallee will give the first old-time radio exposure to these lights among others, either making them stars or giving them the early cred upon which to build what leads to their own eventual stardom: Larry Adler, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Milton Berle, Victor Borge, Fanny Brice (whose Baby Snooks first turned up on the Vallee show), Burns and Allen, Eddie Cantor, Noel Coward, Ed Gardner, Dolores Grey, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Mel Torme, and Orson Welles.


2004: FAREWELL, JACKSON---Veteran old-time radio and cartoon voice actor Jackson Beck---he who first hollered, "It's a bird! It's a plane!" as part of the introduction to the original radio serial, The Adventures of Superman, dies at age 92.

Cartoon fans remember him as the voice of Bluto during the Paramount/Famous Studios editions of Popeye, the Sailor, but Jackson Beck's old-time radio cred included Brownstone Theater; Casey, Crime Photographer; The Cisco Kid (the title role); Dimension X; The FBI in Peace and War; Hop Harrigan; Joe and Ethel Turp; The Man Behind the Gun; March of Time; Mark Trail; The Milton Berle Show; Myrt & Marge; The Mysterious Traveler; Philo Vance (also the title role); and, The Timid Soul . . . to name a few.

Beck was also known to do voices for children's recordings of the late 1950s and early 1960s, including such stories as "The Little Red Caboose" (narrating), "Little Toot" (portraying the plucky little tugboat's father), and "The Little Engine That Could" (portraying a diesel engine) on an album (for Diplomat Records) named after the third of those stories.


1892---Joe E. Brown (comedian/host: Ceiling Unlimited; The Joe E. Brown Show; Stop or Go), Holgate, Ohio.
1910---Frank Loesser (composer: Cavalcade for Victory; The Abe Burrows Show; Heartbeat of Broadway), New York City.
1911---Ann Doran (actress: Lux Radio Theater), Amarillo, Texas.
1912---George Cisar (actor: Tina and Tim), Illinois.
1914---Carmen Dragon (conductor: Maxwell House Coffee Time; The Baby Snooks Show; The Railroad Hour), Antioch, California.
1915---Frankie Yankovic (bandleader: Frankie Yankovic and His Yanks; Guest Star Time), unknown.
1916---Laird Cregar (actor: Hello, Americans; Suspense), Philadelphia.
1931---Darryl Hickman (actor: Family Theater), Hollywood.
1937---Peter Duchin (pianist/conductor: Stars for Defense), New York City.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Of a Son and His Father: The Way It Was, 27 July

1916---When vaudeville clown and future old-time radio legend Ed Wynn (b. Isaiah Edwin Leopold) becomes the father of Keenan today, he little knows just how devoted his new son will prove to become when he is at the absolute depth of his career.

For it will be Keenan Wynn---himself to become a distinguished character actor in his own right (including a few appearances on old-time radio's Lux Radio Theater, but probably remembered best as the second and final Digger Barnes on the 1980s television soap Dallas)---who finds his father a new set of bootstraps by which the old man will pick himself up, following the collapse (hardly his fault) of his fourth-network experiment (the Amalgamated Broadcasting System), the end of his radio stardom, a nasty public divorce in the wake of the collapse, and a soul-wrenching mental breakdown.

With the help of his son Keenan, Ed Wynn gradually re-emerged from seclusion in the early 1940s, venturing first onto the stage and then back into radio in 1944 for one of the most unusual series ever broadcast. Entitled "King Bubbles of Happyland," the new show presented Wynn as the monarch of a fairytale kingdom in which he traveled about helping his subjects with their problems. The show was fully-staged for its live audience, with elaborate sets and costumes for Wynn and his entire cast, and sponsor Borden's Dairies had high hopes when the series premiered in September 1944 . . .

It was at the instigation of son Keenan that Ed Wynn turned to straight acting in the late fifties. The senior Wynn knew that comedy had changed, that his style was outmoded and old-fashioned -- but he still wanted to work. Keenan had been cast in a "Playhouse 90" television drama by Rod Serling, a compelling story of the seamy world of small-time boxing entitled Requiem For A Heavyweight. The play contained a key role for a trainer -- a wistful, elderly man named "Army" who represented the faint voice of decency in an otherwise corrupt business. In a suggestion that might have seemed bizarre, Keenan approached producer Martin Manulis and reccomended his father for the role -- and Manulis took the idea to Serling, who against his better judgment, agreed. Ed Wynn himself was terrified, certain he would fail and ruin the show -- but at Keenan's prodding, he reluctantly took the part.

Requiem For A Heavyweight aired live on October 11, 1956---and was one of the true high points of the Golden Age Of Television. Keenan Wynn played Maish, a corrupt fight manager ruthlessly manipulating the career of the simple-minded boxer Mountain McClintock, played by Jack Palance. And Ed Wynn, as Army, surprised everyone----critics and author alike----by turning in an extraordinary, searing performance in his first real dramatic role.

Over the next decade, Wynn would appear in twenty films---sometimes in comedy relief roles as gently-batty old men, and sometimes in touchingly-dramatic parts. His work as the gentle Mr. Dussell in the 1959 film adaptation of The Diary Of Anne Frank earned him an Academy Award nomination in the category of Best Supporting Actor. Two years later, he returned to the Disney Studios for a part in the Fred MacMurray family comedy The Absent Minded Professor, and his role in this film was an inside joke for old-time radio fans---he appeared as a dithery small-town Fire Chief. Somewhere, Graham McNamee was smiling.

Few fathers were ever so loved and tended by their sons.


1890---Judith Lowry (actress: Valiant Lady; Welcome Valley), Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
1905---Leo Durocher (baseball manager/personality: The Fred Allen Show; The Big Show), West Springfield, Massachussetts.
1918---Veola Vonn (actress: Blondie; Chandu the Magician), New York City.
1919---David Swift (writer: The Opie Cates Show), Minneapolis.
1920---Homer Haynes (as Henry Haynes; musician/comedian, Homer & Jethro: Town and Country Time; Grand Ole Opry), unknown.
1928---Barbara Eiler (actress: The Life of Riley; A Day in the Life of Dennis Day), Los Angeles.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"First in the Hair of Her Countrymen": The Way It Was, 26 July

1902 (?): DOWN WITH COMMON SENSE---George and Margaret Allen have no clue that the newborn daughter they will christen Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie (though no one---including her future husband---will seem to remember precisely when she arrives) is destined to become---via old-time radio, especially---the world's unchallenged queen of illogical logic, as the wife and zany partner of one Nathaniel Birnbaum, known better as George Burns.


8 MAY 1940: AUNT CLARA'S KANGAROO---The first of three classic episodes during the "Gracie for President" gag chosen for this tribute, a trip to the Surprise Party convention will have to wait at least long enough to retrieve the train tickets---because the Surprise Party's Presidential candidate (three guesses) gave the tickets to a stranger who wanted to be at the broadcast . . . not to mention assuring George (Burns) will tend Aunt Clara, on tonight's edition of The Hinds Honey & Almond Cream Program with Burns & Allen. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Frank Parker, Truman Bradley. Music: Ray Noble and His Orchestra. Writers: George Burns, William Burns, Sid Dorfman, Paul Henning.

15 MAY 1940: RAH-RAH IN OMAHA---George (Burns) and Gracie (Allen) and her presidential campaign arrive at Omaha's Exarbin Coliseum in advance of the Surprise Party convention, on this edition of The Hinds Honey & Almond Cream Show with George Burns and Gracie Allen. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Truman Bradley, Bubbles Kelly. Music: Ray Noble and the Union Pacific Band, Frank Parker. Writers: George Burns, William Burns, Sid Dorfman, Paul Henning.

29 MAY 1940: SWEEPING INTO OFFICE---Broadcasting from Treasure Island at the San Francisco World's Fair, George (Burns) thinks Gracie (Allen) will be a shoe-in for the White House if they can get a powerful Bay Area wheel behind her campaign---assuming he can shut her up about the man's sensitivity about his red beard, on this edition of The Hinds Honey & Almond Cream Program Starring Burns & Allen. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Frank Parker, Truman Bradley. Music: Ray Noble & His Orchestra. Writers: George Burns, William Burns, Sid Dorfman, Paul Henning.

15 FEBRUARY 1943: ARE HUSBANDS NECESSARY---In an adaptation of the 1942 Ray Milland-Betty Field film comedy, an aspiring but unlucky banker (Burns) sees his hopes of a vice presidency get compromised by the inadvertent meddling of his scattered wife (Allen), who doesn't realise she's abetting the overt corruption of a rival (Arthur Q. Bryan), on this edition of Lux Radio Theater. (CBS.)

Adapted from the screenplay by Frank Davis and Tess Slesinger, based on the novel, Mr. and Mrs. Cugat by Isabel Scott Rorick. (This may or may also have provided a seed for what would become radio's My Favourite Husband in due course.)

6 JUNE 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 Maxwell House Coffee Time with George Burns & Gracie Allen. (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.

17 MARCH 1949: GEORGE HAS A COLD---Not to mention a few headaches when Gracie gets Marlene Dietrich mixed up in her inimitable style, on a St. Patrick's Day edition of Maxwell House Coffee Time with Burns & Allen. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Bea Benaderet, Bill Goodwin, Harry Von Zell, Toby Reed. Music: Harry Goodwin Orchestra.

21 APRIL 1949: EDDIE CANTOR IS WORKING TOO HARD---Only the first hints involve how many dates he books in a day and how long it's been since he's kissed his wife, on this edition of Maxwell House Coffee Time with George Burns and Gracie Allen. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Bill Goodwin, Toby Reed, Bea Benaderet. Writers: Paul Henning, Keith Fowler, George Burns.


1896---Charles Butterworth (comedian: The Fred Astaire Show), South Bend, Indiana.
1899---Danton Walker (columnist/host: Forty-Five Minutes on Broadway; Twin Views of the News), Marietta, Georgia.
1903---Donald Voorhees (conductor: Cavalcade of America; The Bell Telephone Hour), Allentown, Pennsylvania.
1907---Galen Drake (news commentator), Kokomo, Indiana.
1911---Buddy Clark (singer: Your Hit Parade; The New Carnation Contented Hour), Dorchester, Massachussetts.
1918---Stacy Harris (actor: This Is Your FBI; Pepper Young's Family), Big Timber, Quebec.
,small>1922---Blake Edwards (writer: Lineup; Richard Diamond, Private Detective), Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Enter Gildersleeve: The Way It Was, 25 July

1905---Old-time radio's first bona-fide spinoff star, arguably, is born in San Leandro, California.

Harold Peary will make Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve first as the pompous (and married, so he often alluded) next-door nemesis of hapless Fibber McGee, then as the clumsily doting (and bachelor) uncle of an orphaned niece and nephew on The Great Gildersleeve.

While no one will ever seem to figure out just what does become of the alleged Mrs. Gildersleeve between Wistful Vista and Summerfield, what becomes of Peary's magic carpet ride is the biggest mistake of his career: Thinking The Great Gildersleeve would jump from NBC with him, when he succumbs to the legendary CBS talent raid of 1948-50, but hardly bargaining that sponsor Kraft will prefer to remain with NBC having the ownership of the show (a piece of which Peary had hoped to obtain, fruitlessly) to back it up.

Peary will create another comedy, The Harold Peary Show (often called Honest Harold, mistaking the fictitious show his new character hosted for the show itself), that lasts a single year on CBS because of an unmistakeable problem: Peary's singular, booming voice just couldn't shake the Gildersleeve image.

He will go on to a distinguished second career as a voice actor, but he will never again enjoy the major stardom that was his during the Gildersleeve years.


2005: GOODBYE TO A GOOD GUY---Joe O'Brien, the morning drive host amid the original WMCA "Good Guys" lineup of disc jockeys, is killed in an automobile accident.

Already a New York radio veteran (and once half of the Gallagher and O'Brien morning team), O'Brien became one of the linch pins of the new lineup---the idea is credited to Ruth Meyer, WMCA's production/program manager, who formed the original lineup, though they wouldn't be called the Good Guys for another three years---in 1960, one of a team that included Harry Harrison, Jack Spector, Don Davis, and Jim Harriot.

They were joined by Dandy Dan Daniel and Ed (The Big Bad) Baer in 1961 and, by 1965, the Good Guys included Dean Anthony, B. Mitchel Reed, Gary Stevens, Johnny Dark, Herb Oscar Anderson, Don Davis, and, occasionally, WABC veteran Scott Muni.

O'Brien held down the morning drive slot (6-10 a.m.) as the Good Guys became famous in New York for their team style, even down to matching clothes and hair styles and their frequent remote appearances. O'Brien became popular for his ability to reach any age group with wit, friendliness, and thorough credibility.

O'Brien left WMCA in 1969, when the station tried a brief and ultimately disastrous format shift that was abandoned swiftly enough in favour of a return to the Good Guys style.

He took WNBC's morning drive show for a time before moving to WHN for fill-in work and, in due course, signing on with Peekskill (New York) WHUD to become its morning drive personality, a slot he held for fourteen years until his retirement in 1986, though he continued doing a weekly Sunday morning show until his death.


1935: HIGH SOCIETY---THE FIRST FAMILIES OF PINE RIDGE---A New York voice teacher visiting Squire (Norris Goff, who also plays Abner) has been teaching Pine Ridge the finer things in life, but shifty Squire's enthusiasm---in hand with his insistence on hesitating to start the silver mine dig without first selling stock---is beginning to make Lum (Chester Lauck, who also plays Grandpap) just a little uneasy, on today's edition of Lum & Abner. (NBC.)

Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff, Jay Sommers.

1958: THE TROUBLE WITH HOUSEWORK---It isn't necessarily anything that much out of the ordinary trouble, notwithstanding that "trouble" and "ordinary" don't necessarily unite for this couple (Peg Lynch, Alan Bunce) in this household, on today's edition of The Couple Next Door. (CBS.)

Aunt Effie: Margaret Hamilton. Writer: Peg Lynch.


1894---Walter Brennan (actor: You Can't Take It With You; Law West of the Pecos), Swampscott, Massachussetts.
1899---Ralph Dumke (actor: We, the Abbotts; Quality Twins), South Bend, Indiana.
1900---Al Pearce (comedian: Here Comes Elmer; The Al Pearce Show), San Francisco.
1901---Lila Lee (actress: The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour), Union Hill, New Jersey.
1906---Johnny Hodges (saxophonist, Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: The Esquire Jazz Concert; numerous radio remotes), Cambridge, Massachussetts.
1907---Jack Gilford (actor: The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), New York City.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pleasant Screams: The Way It Was, 24 July

1911---It will never really be known whether the proud parents will applaud his transformation from a bank teller, but neither did Raymond Edward Johnson respond to that first slap with a cheerily chilling, "Good evening, friends, this is Raymond, your host, welcoming you to The Inner Sanctum."

Perhaps Mother and Father Johnson were somewhat relieved to know their son will make his way through other old-time radio classics as well, including Mr. District Attorney; Roger Kilgore, Public Defender; Calling All Cars; Don Winslow of the Navy; Mandrake the Magician; Cavalcade of America; Gangbusters; The Goldbergs; and, Famous Jury Trials.


1941: ESTHER MILLER IS EXPECTED---Still feeling obliged to help the Allysons in the wake of the marriage disaster between Sammy (Alfred Ryder) and Sylvia (Zina Provendie), Molly (Gertrude Berg) prepares for the arrival of someone from Sylvia's past, on today's edition of The Goldbergs. (CBS.)

Rosalie: Roslyn Silber. Dr. Cater: Raymond Edward Johnson. Writer: Gertrude Berg.

1959: SMELLY DAVE IN PEORIA---But how does the big whale play there? Sorry, but you'll have to listen to today's edition of Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network. (We can't imagine . . . )

Writers: Two chocolate cookies with cream in the middle.


1853---William Gillette (actor: Sherlock Holmes), Hartford, Connecticut.
1890---Basil Ruysdael (announcer: Beggar's Bowl; Your Hit Parade; Cavalcade of America), Jersey City.
1901---Mabel Albertson (actress: The Phil Baker Show), Lynn, Massachussetts.
1904---Delmer Daves (writer/director: Lux Radio Theater; Screen Guild Theater), San Francisco.
1907---Glenn Riggs (announcer: Musical Varieties; Hop Harrigan; Boston Blackie), East McKeesport, Pennsylvania.
1911---Jane Hoffman (actress: The Author's Studio), Seattle.
1913---Hollace Shaw (as Vivien Shaw; singer: The Vic Damone and Hollace Shaw Show; Blue Velvet), Fresno, California.
1914---Frank Silvera (actor: X Minus One), Kingston, Jamaica.
1921---Billy Taylor (host: The Mildred Bailey Show; The Bing Crosby Show; The Genius of Duke), Greenville, South Carolina.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"More Smiles Than Tears": The Way It Was, 23 July

1908---He will prove something of an old-time radio jack of all trades in his way; his credits will include Cavalcade of America, The Chase, Columbia Presents Corwin, Columbia Workshop, The Inner Sanctum Mysteries, Joe Palooka, Lawyer Q, The March of Time, The Mercury Theatre on the Air, Our Gal Sunday, Portia Faces Life, Rich Man's Darling, So This Is Radio and This Is Your FBI. And, he will also play the title character when G.K. Chesterton's classic crime-solving Roman Catholic priest is adapted to radio as The Adventures of Father Brown.

But when Mother and Father Swenson become the proud parents of infant Karl today, they little suspect he will become remembered best for playing the title role in one of the classic comic soap operas of old-time radio.

ANNOUNCER:---And, now, smile awhile with Lorenzo Jones and his wife, Belle.
MUSIC: ("Funiculi, Funicula"; up and under)
ANNOUNCER: We all know couples like loveable, impractical Lorenzo Jones and his devoted wife, Belle. Lorenzo's inventions have made him a character to the town, but not to Belle, who loves him. Their struggle for security is anybody's story, but somehow, with Lorenzo, it has more smiles than tears.
MUSIC: ("Funiculi, Funicula," up and out)
ANNOUNCER: (reading spot for Bayer aspirin)
ANNOUNCER: And, now, Lorenzo Jones and his wife, Belle. Lorenzo has boarded up the workshop. His house gadgets are old fashioned, and has turned his attention to the world of tomorrow. Weather control, rockets to the moon, and splitting the atom, etcetera. He's also written a letter to the paper, describing a model town which science could produce immediately, if the people demanded it, and has received an enthusiastic response. A batch of letters has come in agreeing with him. Then, yesterday, the mayor called Lorenzo and made an appointment with him for this afternoon. And, now, in the Jones's living room, we find Lorenzo and the little woman . . .

---From "Lorenzo Plans a Model Town," Lorenzo Jones, 21 September 1948.

Lorenzo Jones will premiere on NBC in 1937 and will endure as its comic self (written by Theodore and Mathilde Ferro) until, for whatever reason, Frank and Anne Hummert, who produced the show, decided to throw it more into the semi-standard soap mode of crime and disaster (one particular, memorably absurd storyline will involve Lorenzo as a kidnapped amnesiac and Belle on murder charges), destroying the show's singularity and life.


1935: SELLING SHARES IN AN ARIZONA SILVER MINE---Having parted with Abner (Norris Goff) and thrown in with Squire (also Goff), Lum (Chester Lauck)learns just what kind of business he's joined with the shifty swindler while Abner tries to talk Grandpap (also Lauck) into joining him, on today's edition of Lum & Abner. (NBC.)

Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff, Jay Sommers.

1943: THE LODGE ROBE NEEDS ALTERATION---Vic's (Art Van Harvey) and Rush's (Johnny Coons) repose on the porch is interrupted when he reads Uncle Fletcher (Clarence Hartzell) a letter from the lodge, at least when he can get a word in edgewise through Fletcher's usual diversionary talk, on today's edition of Vic & Sade. (NBC.)

Sade: Bernadine Flynn. Writer: Paul Rhymer.


1894---Arthur Treacher (actor: Philco Radio Playhouse; Philip Morris Playhouse on Broadway; The Jack Carson Show; The Fred Allen Show; Duffy's Tavern), Brighton, U.K.
1901---Maurice Brachhausen (chief of sound effects, American Broadcasting Company), unknown.
1910---Gale Page (actress: The Story of Holly Sloan; Masquerade), Spokane, Washington.
1912---Jackson Beck (actor: Philo Vance; The Casebook of Gregory Hood; March of Time; announcer: The Adventures of Superman), New York City.
1915---Frances Chaney (actress: Terry and the Pirates), Odessa, Ukraine.
1916---Sandra Gould (actress: Sad Sack; Duffy's Tavern), Brooklyn.
1920---Christopher Lynch (singer: The Voice of Firestone), County Limerick, Ireland.
1925---Gloria de Haven (actress: NBC Radio Theater; Lux Radio Theater), Los Angeles.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Relax: The Way It Is, 22 July

There still seem to be those summer days on which nothing of major import/impact upon classic radio occurred. The only thing you can do on such days? Relax. Listen. That's the beauty of old-time radio. It'll never leave you dangling on even the worst of hot days.


1959: TOUR OF A ROAD SIGN---A change of plans for the monthly fish fry, the status of the Great Bird, a road sign company tour, and "Lawrence Fechtenburger, Interstellar Officer Candidate" arrive at Planet Polaris, provoking the usual cheerful insanity on today's edition of Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network. (Gee, I dunno . . . )

Writers: Bob Elliot, Ray Goulding.


1913---Licia Albanese (singer: The Treasure Hour of Song), Bari, Italy.
1917---Lou McGarity (trombonist: Eddie Condon's Jazz Concert; Arthur Godfrey Time), Athens, Georgia.
1922---Jason Robards, Jr. (actor: Pepper Young's Family), Chicago.
1924---Margaret Whiting (singer: Philip Morris Frolics; The Barry Wood Show; The Bob Hope Show), Detroit.
1928---Orson Bean (as Dallas Frederick Burroughs; actor: The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street; Sez Who?), Burlington, Vermont.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Approaching a Centenary: The Way It Is, 21 July

1910: FROM THE PRINCESS TO THE MYSTERY THEATER---He is now a mere two years shy of his centenary. He has merely been responsible for some of the best, or at least the most memorable, that old-time radio and even new-time radio has had to offer, from the first known CBS daytime soap (The Little French Princess) to The CBS Radio Mystery Theater, while making a few stops in between . . . such stops as The Adventures of the Thin Man, Bulldog Drummond, Flash Gordon, Grand Central Station, and (especially) The Inner Sanctum Mysteries, to name a mere few.

And to think it all began when the Cleveland native stepped in front of a City College of New York microphone to read poetry over the radio.

[O]f all of [his] many successes, his most enduring creation remains Inner Sanctum, as much for its squeaky opening door as for the shows themselves . . . Even in its heyday, however, it was a little over the top . . . with its frequent hideous screams in the night. The shows now sound more campy than scary---not unlike the schlocky spook shows that now drift onto the tube late Saturday nights. They were intended to be nothing more or less than campfire ghost stories featuring the best ghouls [his] money could buy---Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Claude Rains, Raymond Massey, Paul Lukas, etc.

---Gerald Nachman, in "Radio Noir," from Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon, 1998.)

I didn't have Leonard Bernstein and two hundred musicians doing Ride of the Valkyries. All I used was a creaking door. There are only two sounds in radio that are trademarked---the creaking door and the NBC chimes.

---Our birthday boy himself.

His credits also included Joyce Jordan, Girl Intern, The Gumps, The NBC Radio Theater, The Fat Man, and Little Italy. His influence outlived even his best productions. And, he probably still believes as always that radio as done in his heyday could still be done today, if the medium wouldn't mind accepting that it's so.

Not too shabby for a man whose first network radio experience had actually been playing Jake on The Rise of the Goldbergs. For that kind of launch and his kind of attitude, too, we say happy 98th birthday to Himan Brown.


1980: ONE MORE TIME---Four of the station's famous Good Guys disc jockeys---Dan Daniels, Harry Harrison, Joe O'Brien, B. Mitchel Reed, and Jack Spector---are the guests of honour when New York WMCA hosts a Good Guys reunion, highlighted by talk host Barry Gray's interviews with the old jocks, including what's believed the last known interview of Reed.

The reunion occurs almost ten years after WMCA signed off as a rock and soul outlet, becoming a talk station until 1989 when it converted to mostly religious programming.


12 OCTOBER 1963: B. MITCHEL REED---Including one of his once-familiar "Reed Reactivated Mashback" oldies plays.

22 APRIL 1963: "DANDY" DAN DANIEL---Considered a classic of Daniel's seamless drive-time style.

20 MARCH 1965: B. MITCHEL REED'S FINAL HOUR---On WMCA, at least, before the rapid-fire jock returned to Los Angeles KFWB. He counts down the most voted-for songs by listeners and promos his successor, Gary Stevens.

1965: JACK SPECTOR---Undated, specifically, but a classic extract of Spector's enthusiastic midday style.

21 SEPTEMBER 1968: HARRY HARRISON'S FAREWELL---"The Morning Mayor" does his final WMCA gig---including a play and backsell of the Beatles' "Hey, Jude"---before moving to WABC and, in due course, WCBS-FM, to hold the same morning office.


1947: PIANO LESSONS FOR JUNIOR---It figures that Irma (Marie Wilson), determined to better herself, enrolls for piano lessons . . . after Jane (Cathy Lewis) returns the piano they were renting to cut back on household expenses, on tonight's edition of My Friend Irma. (CBS.)

Al: John Brown. Richard: Leif Erickson. Professor Kropotkin: Hans Conreid. Mrs. O'Reilly: Jane Morgan. Writers: Parke Levy, Stanley Adams, Roland MacLane.

1959: BARRY CAMPBELL'S RECORD---To get there, however, you have to ponder a switch in opening theme, performed by Mary McGoon, Webley Webster, Wally Ballou, and Tex Blaisdale, on today's edition of Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network. (Surely you jest . . . )

Writers, after a fashion: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.


1863---C. Aubrey Smith (actor: Lux Radio Theater), London.
1895---Ken Maynard (actor: The Ken Maynard Show), Vevey, Indiana.
1901---Allyn Joslyn (actor: Island Boat Club; Page of Romance; Show Boat), Milford, Pennsylvania.
1902---Elsie Hitz (actress: The Story of Ellen Randolph; Dangerous Paradise), Cleveland.
1915---Floyd McDaniel (singer/guitarist, with the Ink Spots: The Four Ink Spots; Let's Go Nightclubbing), Athens, Alabama.
1920---Isaac Stern (violinist: The Jack Benny Program; The New York Philharmonic Program), Kreminiecz, Ukraine.
1921---Barbara Fuller (actress: One Man's Family; Stepmother), Nahant, Massachussetts; Jean Shepherd (writer/host: The Jean Shepherd Show), Chicago.
1924---Don Knotts (actor/comedian: Bobby Benson's Adventures), Morgantown, West Virginia.