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.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Paul Harvey, RIP: Sonorous Bark, Melodious Burr

You noticed first, and retained without trying, the singular, sonorous voice, seemingly grafted from a third sportscaster, a third revivalist, and a third carnival barker, blended seamlessly into a sound that suggested the ease with which the sun began to set over an endless prairie, before sinking gently into the farthest ocean, with a promise to return the following morning, as indeed its owner did for more years than some sports franchises have been in business.

You noticed second, and retained somewhat, that there was always a hint of the tall tale, the stretcher, the tease, within even the items of news Paul Harvey chose to deliver straight, no chaser, never mind the kickers (as we, or at least the Associated Press, call them in the radio business) he chose to deliver with a genteel tension between sober reporter and snickering magician who finally couldn't resist a hearty laugh at the gullible's expense, including his own.

And, you noticed third, and retained always, that he lived and worked as much for the myth of the thing as the fact of the thing; that the former could serve the latter if it was seasoned correctly. If it meant a little less weariness across an exhausting plain over which contradictions ran as rampant as street gangs, base stealers, or establishmentarian misspeak or doublespeak, Harvey would play his own kind of misspeak in the guise of the plain speak, through a voice any man would have considered an honour with which to be blessed, letting his listeners think they'd put one over on the slickers they'd left laughing and steaming.

He was the backroad storekeep buffed and polished, spinning tales, treatises, and talismans of America the Wonderful; he was harmless when all was said and done in his periodic short steps, omissions, and stretchers. At his absolute best, Harvey was a human Old Farmer's Almanac as if edited by Paul Rhymer. At his absolute most human, he was secure enough to lash the indefencible when at last it showed itself a threat he could feel, never once apologising for exercising his inalienable right to change his mind.

And, in that sonorous bark and melodious burr, unafraid of the pause as if exhaling smoke comfortably from a long-worn, hand-carved pipe, Harvey was the last, it seemed, of the line of the old-time radio commentators* different as winter and summer but bound by an unspoken call to sort, sift, and serve the serious and the silly in the same fifteen-course meal. Delicious enough that you hated his being wrong mostly because you loved his being right.

* You may care to note: Paul Harvey and his son, Paul Harvey Aurandt, Jr. (the brains who created and wrote his father's famous, beloved The Rest of the Story series), are the only father-and-son members of the Radio Hall of Fame.


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