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, June 21, 2009

Budgets and Rivalries: The Way It Was, 21 June

With rival Earl Dixon opening up across the street, Andy (Charles Correll) thinks it's an excellent idea, charts and all, but Andy and Sylvester (possibly Freeman Gosden, who also plays Amos) also worry about Dixon's apparent interest in Ruby Taylor.

Writers: Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.


TOWN HALL TONIGHT WITH FRED ALLEN: CRISIS ON THE SHOWBOAT (NBC, 1939)---After pondering the summer playhouse action pending for Broadway actors, and reviewing the no-talents who hope to find summertime work, the Mighty Allen Art Players (Jack Smart, Minerva Pious, possibly Walter Tetley, possibly John Brown) unfurl a Mississippi River satire. With Portland Hoffa. Announcer: Harry Von Zell. Music: Peter van Steeden Orchestra. Writers: Fred Allen, Arnold Auerbach, Harry Turgend, Herman Wouk.

THE GREEN HORNET: WALK OUT FOR PROFIT (MUTUAL, 1941)---Lowry and Axford (Jack Petruzzi, Gil Shea) stumble upon professional strikers who have less interest in legitimate labour issues than in stirring up profitable industrial unrest . . . but Reid (Al Hodge) and Kato (Raymond Toyo) learn the hard way that the leader of the strike gangs kidnaps Lowry to back the Sentinel away from exposing him. Lenore Case: Lee Allman. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Possibly Mike Wallace. Writer: Fran Striker.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Poll Dancing: The Way It Was, 20 June

The good news: She's revealed as San Francisco's favourite old-time radio program detective, by way of a San Francisco Examiner listeners' poll. The bad news: Our heroine (Natlie 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.

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


THE JELL-O PROGRAM STARRING JACK BENNY: JACK'S MOVIE (NBC, 1937)---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. 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: Al Boasberg, Howard Snyder, possibly Hugh Wedlock, Jr.

INFORMATION, PLEASE: "THAT SURREALISTIC PAINTER" (NBC, 1939)---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. Remaining panelists: John F. Kieran, Franklin P. Adams, John Gunther. Host: Clifton Fadiman. Announcer: Milton Cross.


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.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Chaser, Chased: The Way It Was, 19 June

With Claudette Colbert taking Jean Arthur's 1936 film role, she's still in love with the husband (William Powell, reprising his film role) she drove to divorce because of her addiction to mysteries. But 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.

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


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.

Ma Perkins . . . was an audio milestone that spanned almost the entire lifetime of network radio drama. Typical of Hummert serials, Ma had tears, maniacs, and melodrama in her arsenal of cliffhangers. But she overcame this with long quiet spells, with deep conversations about the meaning of life against an unfolding panorama of family and personality conflicts . . .

In an incredible performance, Virginia Payne played Ma Perkins without missing a show in 27 years. Payne, just 23 when the show premiered, gave a convincing portrayal of a middle-aged battleaxe despite her youth. It was Payne who softened the character by degrees until the real Ma Perkins emerged. Unlike her fictitious counterpart, Payne had a college education and finally a master's degree; at $50,000 a year, she earned more than any other actress in the soaps.

---John Dunning, in On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998; pp. 440, 442.)

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.


VIC & SADE FIVE HUNDRED BIJOU TICKETS (NBC, 1944)---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. Russell: David Whitehouse. Announcer: Ed Roberts. Writer: Paul Rhymer.

FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: BIG DEAL WITH CARSTAIRS (NBC, 1945)---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. 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.)

THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR: CHARLIE HELPS WITH THE COWS (CBS, 1959)---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. 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.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Question Man: The Way It Was, 18 June

Radio's intended answer to "The Answer Man," of course, which figures . . . considering he's the critical entry on tonight's edition of the cantankerous comedian's nervy half-hour.

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


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 offered for the show's adaptation to television, because he will believe his age and actual physical image do not lend itself to the sleek superhero.

Not that Collyer will lack for a television life: in time, he'll 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 (which is saying something, considering how dour Miller himself often appeared), 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.

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 and, thus, owed his formal allegiance 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.


THE WHISTLER: BLUEPRINT FOR SUICIDE (CBS, 1945)---One of the finest acting exercises for the pair often considered to have been (while their marriage lasted, anyway) old-time radio's first couple: 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. The Whistler: Possibly Bill Forman. Announcer: Marvin Miller. Writer: Geraldine Merkin.


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.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More Than One Lesson: The Way It Was, 17 June

Here is one splendid example of just why devotees consider the lack of available surviving episodes of this "hardy perennial" (as historian John Dunning has called it, appropriately enough, in On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio) a major crime.

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.

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


1926: CHANGING PARTNERS---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.


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.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

His Piercing Blue Eyes: The Way It Was, 16 June

That's the feature for which someone compliments mild-mannered Vic (Art Van Harvey), much to the mild amusement of Sade (Bernadine Flynn) when he's too coy to disclose just who dropped the compliment upon him.

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


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 raciest rumour of late-1960s rock and roll---the rumour, believed to have been instigated by a Detroit radio station, possibly in retaliation for an old wisecrack, that Paul McCartney of the Beatles was dead.


THE GOLDBERGS: WALTER WANTS THE JOB AT THE MILL (CBS, 1942)---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. Sammy: Alfred Ryder. Announcer: Clayton (Bud) Collyer. Writer/director: Gertrude Berg.


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.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Slap on the Back: The Way It Was, 15 June

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.

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


MR. KEEN, TRACER OF LOST PERSONS: THE CASE OF THE WOMAN IN BLUE (CBS, 1944)---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). Clancy: Jim Kelly. Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: Possibly Lawrence Klee.

THE CLOCK: ISLAND PARADISE (ABC, 1947)---Role reversal of a sort for a prisoner and the man who captured him. Preston: Leon Biers. Regan: Don Crosby. Arch: Alan Trevor. The Clock: Hart McGuire. Additional cast: Max Ryan, Walter Sullivan. Writer: Lawrence Klee.


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.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Donne Deal: The Way It Was, 14 June

Hall's (Ronald Colman) gratitude runneth over when Victoria (Benita Hume Colman) surprises him with a first edition of John Donne. The real surprise, however, is when their shock runneth over . . . after learning the hard way just how the rare---and valuable---volume became available so readily, and for fifty cents at the campus book store, yet.

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


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.

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.


THE LIFE OF RILEY: JUNIOR WINS A SOAPBOX DERBY (NBC, 1947)---But, after seeming more interested in a girl than in the race before he decided to go in, Junior (Tommy Cook) wanted to build the racer himself, which creates more than a little rift between himself and Riley (William Bendix) . . . and on the day before Father's Day, of all times.

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


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.; Lux Radio Theater), 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.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Better Red-Headed than Dead-Headed? The Way It Was, 13 June

On a Sunday drive around the San Fernando Valley, 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.

Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: Ray Bufham.


1897: MAKE A JOYOUS BROADCAST NOISE UNTO THE LORD---Reuben Larson, the eventual co-founder (with Clarence Jones of the Salvation Army) of the World Radio Missionary Fellowship, is born. Based in Opa Locka, Florida since 1969, the fellowship 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, including 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.


LUM & ABNER: SQUIRE SPREADS RUMOURS ABOUT THE MATINEE (NBC, 1935)---All in a day's dirty work, if it involves discrediting our heroes' film venture beyond merely opening a rival movie house. Lum/Grandpappy: Chester Lauck. Abner/Squire: Norris Goff. Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

VIC & SADE: A PORCH COLLAPSES (NBC, 1939)---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). Sade: Bernadine Flynn. Vic: Art Van Harvey. Announcer: Ralph Edwards. Writer: Paul Rhymer.

SUSPENSE: TOO MANY SMITHS (CBS, 1946)---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. 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.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Mother and Child Reunion? The Way It Was, 12 June

A 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.

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.


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.


THE SHADOW: DEATH FROM THE DEEP (MUTUAL, 1938)---In one of old-time radio's best known, best loved dramatic episodes, Lamont (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, that this designer may be just 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. Margot: Agnes Moorehead. Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: Unknown.

BOX 13: THE DEAD MAN WALKS (MUTUAL, 1949)---A woman writes the box fearing her father is in some sort of trouble, and you could say he is---Dan (Alan Ladd) learns he's dead, then alive, only too suspiciously. Sheila: Lurene Tuttle. Suzy: Sylvia Packer. Kling: Edmund McDonald. Additional cast: Alan Reed, Luis van Rooten, Betty Lou Gerson, Frank Lovejoy. Writer: Russell Hughes.

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

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summertime Blues: The Way It Was, 11 June

Answering the question of where you can be sent for two weeks worth of sunstroke, the title institution has less to do with a hotel and an awful lot to do with a customer looking to book his wife a one-way cruise.

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


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.


THE JELL-O PROGRAM STARRING JACK BENNY: THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (NBC, 1939)---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. Additional cast: Don Wilson. Music: Phil Harris and His Orchestra. Writers: George Balzar, Milt Josefsberg, Sam Perrin, John Tackaberry.


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.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Father and Daughter, Rediscovered: The Way It Was, 10 June

(CBS, 1956)

In one of this series' most understatedly gripping installments, 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.

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


1924: 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's reputation as a quiet man bordering on reclusiveness notwithstanding, the GOP certainly picks the right man in terms of radio friendliness: he takes to radio and makes himself strikingly available to the new medium as well as the traditional press: before his term expires, Coolidge will be the first President whose inauguration is broadcast on radio; he will give over 529 press conferences; he will become the first President to give a political speech on the air; and, he will sign into law the federal legislation that creates the Federal Radio Commission.


LUM & ABNER: LOSING TO SQUIRE (NBC, 1935)---It turns out our heroes had very good reason to worry about Squire Skimp (Norris Goff) launching a rival movie theater. Lum/Grandpappy: Chester Lauck. Abner/Dick Huddleston: Norris Goff. Writers: Chester Lauck and Norris Goff.

THE INNER SANCTUM MYSTERIES: DEATH IS A JOKER (BLUE NETWORK; REBROADCAST: ARMED FORCES RADIO NETWORK, 1944)---Peter Lorre has a field night narrating and playing a murder defendant pleading to his jury about the surreal circumstances leading to the crime in question. Host: Raymond Edward Johnson. Writer: Possibly Himan Brown.


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.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Between Business and Pleasure: The Way It Was, 9 June

Andy (Charles Correll) continues wrestling with the Fresh Air Taxi Company's banking problems, and forcing one creditor to come clean, but Amos (Freeman Gosden) has a far more profound anxiety of his own: seeing Ruby (Elinor Harriot) again.

Writers: Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.


1993: STAMP ACTS---Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, Clyde McPhatter (with and without Billy Ward and the Dominoes and, then, the original Drifters), Elvis Presley, Otis Redding, Ritchie Valens, and Dinah Washington began their hitmaking lives in the tail end of the old-time radio era. (Redding's first single, "These Arms of Mine," was issued in fact during the final months of the era in 1962.) Today, they're struck on postage stamps when the U.S. Postal Service rolls out "Legends of American Music, Rock and Roll-Rhythm and Blues."


FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: POT ROAST (NBC, 1942)---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. 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.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Quietly Yours: The Way It Was, 8 June

If The Twilight Zone has a genuine old-time radio father---in terms of subtle turns, intelligent writing, and an airy but unmistakeable, quiet, psychologically poetic 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.

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 . . .

---The opening of "Nothing Behind the Door," episode one of Quiet, Please.

[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.)

. . . unsung and little heard in its day, but a few good-sounding episodes among the dozens surviving on tape in poor quality give evidence of a potent series bristling with rich imagination . . .

With Quiet, Please, Cooper was returning to his radio roots. His characters walked in a fuzzy dream world where the element of menace was ripe and ever-present. In Cooper's hands, a field of lilies could be deadly; a grove of trees touched with sinister implication. Little was explained or justified; the impact was the thing, and at its best Quiet, Please packed a terrifying punch.

---John Dunning, in On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.)

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.

But the show will have its moments in the popular imagination, especially when "Twelve to Five"---about a disc jockey visited by a dead colleague during an overnight request program---provokes listeners to jam the Mutual switchboard with music requests . . . thanks to Cooper's script calling for a background of popular music of the day.


AMOS 'N' ANDY: THEY MAY LOSE THE FRESH AIR TAXI COMPANY (NBC, 1929)---That's if Andy (Charles Correll) can't make the next installment to the furniture company. Amos: Freeman Gosden. Writers: Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.

THE CLOCK: COMING EVENTS (ABC, 1947)---They prove rather intriguing in 1912, spinning forth from between a circus fortune teller and a winning sweepstakes ticket. 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 Thearer), 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.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Farmer's Son: The Way It Was, 7 June

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 life's work doesn't square with his son's (Conrad Binyon) apparent agricultural passion.

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


And, in one case, completely pre-empting a popular soap opera, as The CBS News Roundup pre-empts Young Doctor Malone. However, four other popular CBS 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.

GEORGE HICKS: ABOARD THE USS ANCON (BLUE NETWORK)---The veteran reporter delivers a magnificent report in the wake of the initial landings success for ABC-to-be.


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 the all but official kapellmeister 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.


THE MOLLE MYSTERY THEATER: FEMALE OF THE SPECIES (NBC; REBROADCAST: ARMED FORCES RADIO SERVICE, 1946)---A beautician (Lizbeth Scott) tries explaining to her prospective attorney a murder she only contemplated but didn't commit. Additional cast: Unknown. Writer: Irene Winslow.

THE LIFE OF RILEY: COURTING AT SUMMER CAMP (NBC, 1947)---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. Digger: John Brown. Writers: Reuben Ship, Alan Lipscott.

GUNSMOKE: BUFFALO KILLERS (often mislabled BUFFALO HUNTERS; CBS, 1952)---Chester (Parley Baer) and Matt (William Conrad) fear Arapaho tribesmen have stirred 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, leading Matt to suspect the killers weren't Indians. 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.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Great Crusade: The Way It Was, 6 June

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


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

FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY: D-DAY BROADCAST (NBC)---The first couple of Wistful Vista turns their regular half-hour over to patriotic music, with almost no encumbrance from themselves.

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

PRES. FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT (NBC)---FDR offers an address and a prayer.

ALL NETWORKS: FURTHER 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.


THE GEORGE BURNS AND GRACIE ALLEN SHOW: KANSAS CITY'S FAVOURITE SINGER (CBS, 1944)---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. 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.

THE FRED ALLEN SHOW: QUIZ PROGRAM AND SOAP OPERA (NBC, 1948)---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. With Portland Hoffa. 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 . . .