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.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Cash for the Cabbie: The Way It Is, 31 August

Mothers-in-law have been mother's milk to comedians from time immemorial, practically . . . at least, until the mother-in-law of comedian Sunda Croonquist sued over mother-in-law gags in her stage routines. As if to say Ms. Croonquist has been getting the milk for free for too long, and letting it spoil in the bargain.

But neither could your extinguished editor resist, likewise, a genteel poke at a certain popular television game program . . .

And, on tonight's old-time radio selection, we turn to the man with the action-packed expense account, about which more below . . .

Announcer/"Cash for the Cabbie" contestant: Patty Price. Engineer: Jon Lindquist. Writer/producer/director: Jeff Kallman.


YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR: THE VIRGINIA BEACH MATTER (CBS, 1950)---In which our hero (Edmond O'Brien) agrees, with just a hint of weariness over women who fall for criminals, to become a protector for a frightened insurance client (Virginia Gregg) (Virginia Gregg) whose hoodlum fiance, imprisoned five years, is due for release and threatened to kill her when she broke their engagement six months earlier. Maid: Jean Bates. Additional cast: Hy Averback, Howard McNear. Announcer: Dan Cubberly. Music: Leith Stevens. Writer: Gil Doud.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Just Whistling Dixie: The Way It Was, 30 August

Ordinarily harmless, bundle-of-nerves rancher Jim Stanley (John Dehner) is awakened by Dillon (William Conrad) to find himself under arrest, for stealing chips from a roulette table and throwing a bottle at its shady operator Mango (Paul Dubov) when all he did was gesture and fling the bottle out of frustration . . . and try returning the chips he actually saw others at the table steal.

But Dillon's frustrated equally over the operator's comparably shady girl friend, a devious dance hall girl named Dixie (Michael Ann Barrett) whom the operator believes his personal property; the witnesses the operator's lined up to railroad Stanley merely for taking even a passing fancy in Dixie, witnesses against whose technicalities Dillon may have to fight with a few of his own; and, a missing, very nervous Stanley, who seems to have escaped Dillon's jail cell . . . with a little help from Dixie, prompting a potentially deadly race to find the frightened man.

Brandy: Vivi Janiss. Saginaw: Phil Lally. Chester: Parley Baer. Announcer: Roy Rowan. Music: Rex Khoury. Sound: Ray Kemper, Tom Hanley. Director: Norman Macdonnell. Writer: Herb Purdum.


LUM & ABNER: A LYNCH MOB (NBC BLUE, 1935)---Having learned Worthington's a fraud brought in by Squire to stir stock sales in the silver mine scam, the "stockholders" want a meeting which Lum (Chester Lauck, who also plays Cedric) doesn't know about until Abner (Norris Goff, who also plays Dick Huddleston) tells him . . . though there may have been one very good reason why the "stockholders" wanted to keep Lum mum. Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE: THE FISHING TRIP (NBC, 1942)---A medical exam at Hooker's (Earle Ross) urging urges Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) to a little R and R for the sake of his rising blood pressure, not to mention the sake of Marjorie's (Lurene Tuttle) heartbreak over her indecisive boyfriend. Leroy: Walter Tetley. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Music: Billy Mills. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Writer: John Whedon.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Spy, Counterspy: The Way It Was, 29 August

Amidst a group of seven Austrian scientists girding for the Nazi Anschluss and determined to stop it if possible, mild-mannered Viennese biologist Hans Minkler---hopeful of new grants for significant cell research, known as the gentlest of men "who couldn't harm a fly," and hoping the uncle of his fiancee will finance his coming work---achieves his financing goal.

The trouble begins when Minkler, with a friend and former research associate who also has eyes for his fiancee, attends a second meeting of the scientists at which plans to root out and kill suspected Nazi collaborators are agreed . . . and at which Minkler is chosen to kill the first target on their list---his research benefactor and future uncle-in-law, who is known among Austrian authorities as an active anti-Nazi but among other authorities as an active Nazi spy . . . and whom his future nephew-in-law wants to hustle out of the country rather than carry out the scientists' demand.

Cast: Possibly John Brown, Hans Conreid, Cathy Lewis, John McIntire, Donald Woods. The Whistler: Joseph Kearns. Sound: Berne Surrey. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Writer: J. Donald Wilson.


LUM & ABNER: SELLING THE MINE---Now that Lum's (Chester Lauck) solved his mine office problem without compromise his part in the rolling store, he and Abner (Norris Goff) ponder building a factory to manufacture silver products . . . and selling the mine, for which there's already a million-dollar offer on the table, to build it. Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE: VACATION AT GRASS LAKE (NBC, 1943)---Two months after he's jilted at the altar by not-so-widowed Leila Ransom, and hounded at a lakeside resort retreat by a flock of too-eager women, heartbroken Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) discovers it's as complicated to end a vacation early as it is to avoid the too-eager women trying to land him. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Leroy: Walter Tetley. Hooked: Earle Ross. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Peavey: Richard LeGrand. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: Billy Mills. Writers: John Whedon, Sam Moore.

BOX 13: INSURANCE FRAUD (MUTUAL, 1948)---A walk in the park in search of an idea turns up less than Holliday (Alan Ladd) could have imagined, especially when a letter to the box launches him into a slightly labyrinthine insurance fraud case in which he's engaged to find a curious corpse. Suzy: Sylvia Picker. Kling: Edmund McDonald. Additional cast: Possibly including John Beal, Frank Lovejoy, Alan Reed, Lurene Tuttle, Luis van Rooten. Music: Rudy Schrager. Writer/director: Ted Henniger.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Beauty is Only Under Their Skin: The Way It Was, 28 August

With Seymour (Arnold Stang) and his sister Birdie (possibly Florence Halop) well enough entrenched, spending every day at the Goldberg home,trying to settle their dispute over Seymour's interest in Rosalie (Roslyn Siber), oblivious to the world around them, even within the square footage of the Goldberg home, no wonder Jake (John R. Waters) is just about ready to declare the home a no-trespass area.

The fact that Birdie rather nonchalantly ate Jake's lunch is a mere footnote.

And he may or may not be the only one beginning to feel that way, now that Bertie is dropping another contentious idea upon the Fingerhoods' hosts---buying a trailer in which to set up a rolling beauty parlour (almost as though they'd been listening to reruns of Lum & Abner), in the middle of which Molly (Gertrude Berg) tries persuading Rosalie it's no one else's concern, then fields yet another distressing call from Jake at the office, asking Molly to usher one and all not named Goldberg out of the house before he can sit down to his chosen dinner in peace.

Writer/director: Gertrude Berg.


LUM & ABNER: LUM DECIDES TO BUY A TRAILER FOR AN OFFICE (NBC BLUE, 1935)---After all, the big cheese (Chester Lauck) of a major silver mine just can't be caught encamped in the rear end of a blacksmith shop or a rolling grocery and general store, can he? Even if his ultimate aim might be to sell the mine? Abner: Norris Goff. Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

THE SHADOW: THE TOMB OF TERROR (MUTUAL, 1938)---Having discovered something other than the eyes of the mummy as the likely killer of three who arranged the visit of an Egyptian pharaoh's tomb, Margot (Agnes Moorehead) and Lamont (Orson Welles) can't convince others tied to the tomb that it wasn't a curse but murder. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Arthur Whiteside. Director: Martin Gabel. Writers: Edith Meiser, possibly Harry Engman Charlot, possibly Jerry Devine and Sidney Slon.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Derailing the Rail Robber: The Way It Was, 27 August

A train robber---who has earned an undeserved reputation as "the Robin Hood of the West," and whose criminal history goes back to a gang into which he fell, that switched to train robberies after a stagecoach holdup yielded nothing---plans and executes a meticulous Union Pacific holdup in which nothing can possibly fail, in one of the only two or three installments known to survive of this legendary old-time radio Western.

Nothing can fail, that is, until one of the gang loses his bandana mask while they make their escape, forcing them to split into pairs and disperse around the West, swearing oaths of silence overheard by a storekeeper who reports the plans, resulting in three of the gang dead when the law catches up to them.

And the key to bringing down the leader becomes a farmer who aids him until the farmer himself is arrested as an accessory, compelling him to offer the Texas Rangers aid in bringing down the leader, from the inside . . . an offer that isn't exactly accepted with confidence.

Cast: Unknown, but likely including Edwin Bruce, Frank Butler, Geoffrey Bryant, Milton Herman. The Old Ranger: Jack MacBryde. Announcer: Dresser Dahlstead. Music: Joseph Bonime. Bugler: Harry Glantz. Writers: Ruth Cornwall Woodman, Ruth Adams Knight.


LUM & ABNER: LUM BECOMES THE PROUD OWNER OF THE SILVER MINE (NBC BLUE, 1935)---Lum (Chester Lauck) is only too impressed with himself, now that the mine shareholders dumped Squire and gave the majority to him, but he'll learn the hard way what that kind of self-impression doesn't do for your future prospects . . . or your immediate needs. Abner: Norris Goff. Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

VIC & SADE: VIC TO WRITE ARTICLES (CBS, 1943)---Happy as he is to be home, and happy thought he was on this particular business jaunt around the midwest, Vic (Art Van Harvey) is at once delighted and wary about suggestions he write newspaper articles about the jaunt. Sade: Bernadine Flynn. Russell: David Whitehouse. Writer/director: Paul Rhymer.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Sober Side of the Misery Game: The Way It Was, 25 August

It probably depends upon whom you ask, if you're of a mind to ask, but one of the most controversial trends of the old-time radio era was the quiz or game show whose theme was (to their producers) uplift or (to their critics, and there were many) exploitation.

These shows, perhaps paceset by Queen for a Day (if you are my age, you probably have at least one memory of the television version and host Jack Bailey, who migrated from the show's radio origin, signing off with his peculiarly trimphant bellow, "I'd like to make every woman queen . . . for every single day!"), have in common contestants---whether they apply themselves, or whether friends or family members apply for them---who seem at times to be competing to present the most heart-wrenching stories of personal horror imaginable.

There are those who believe this style of quiz or game is a grotesquely natural offspring of the soap opera. Even in 1998, historian Gerald Nachman, in Raised on Radio, would write, "If soap operas had made homemakers into domestic divas, game shows dragged them onstage to take part in gimmick-laden shows that---in the tear-drenched instances of Queen for a Day and Strike it Rich---tapped into the misery vein where Stella Dallas and Backstage Wife had for so long dwelt."

Needless to say, these shows become easy enough satire targets, perhaps represented best by what Fred Allen and Jack Benny---in a convenient peak to their legendary mock on-the-air feud---did to Queen for a Day on The Fred Allen Show in 1946. In at least one instance, they will become targets of a welfare commissioner, of all people---in New York, where such a commissioner will haul Strike it Rich into court, charged with unlicenced fundraising . . . a charge on which the show ("a weepy hybrid of Stop the Music and Queen for a Day, using the surprise phone call to reward misery via 'The Heart Line' from do-gooder listeners, who donated money or prizes of their own"---Nachman) was in fact convicted.

Perhaps the most sober of these shows---not at all lacking for laughter in the face of disaster, but neither is it angling overtly to exploit so much as to empathise, by way of its calm atmosphere---is this early-to-mid-1950s offering, which almost gives the back of its hand to the shows whose business was the unapologetic wringing of every last drop of suffering from its contestants, and the equally unapologetic wringing of every last drop of ghoulish curiosity from its listeners. (Nachman will describe Queen for a Day's popularity as "People listen[ing] to the show the way motorists gape at five-car pileups.")

Second Chance doesn't use the contestant's story as the end-to-end focus but, rather, allows the contestant to tell his or her story calmly, without once being prodded to wring it out all the way the better to raise the Kleenex index. Once told, he or she sets it aside to play a quick question-and-answer game---the "second chance" here is in three win-or-lose questions, with the contestant allowed two chances to bypass a question---in which the monetary prize (much like those on You Bet Your Life) isn't anywhere near the kind of big-money pots beginning to take hold on radio and television (and soon to reach their glittering---and, in the end, scandalous---apogee with The $64,000 Question and Twenty-One) but the idea is to play for a second chance at least symbolically equal to the second chance the contestant succeeded in seizing in his or her own life.

Today's contestants: A former American soldier, an emigre from India, who spent eighteen months in prison . . . on a somewhat trumped-up bigamy charge, stemming from his first wife's implicitly deliberate neglect in filing for the divorce she wanted after leaving him and taking their children, which ends up putting his second marriage into the deep freeze and himself behind bars; and, in perhaps a slightly daring tale to tell on early-1950s network radio, a Negro woman (no apology necessary for using the vernacular of the era), who is able to and did pass for white, to obtain necessary employment to help her husband raise their daughter, but discovered that her ruse blocked her from forging friendships among both races . . . and nearly ended her marriage, when her husband offered to step aside if it meant easing her pain.

These proceedings, as throughout the entire life of the show, are hosted empathetically but soberly, and with no hint at wringing every last teardrop out of every last listener or studio audience member, by Johnny Olsen---the same Johnny Olsen who will become ubiquitous on television, albeit in voice for the most part, as the announcer for The Price is Right, What's My Line, The Match Game, I've Got a Secret, and numerous other game shows . . . not to mention The Jackie Gleason Show. What will be forgotten too readily is that Olsen has already enjoyed a respectable old-time radio career (Ladies Be Seated, Johnny Olsen's Luncheon Club, and Break the Bank) before hosting this show.

Announcer: Fred Collins.


THE GOLDBERGS: SEYMOUR LOVES ROSALIE (CBS, 1941)---Bad enough: Jake (John R. Waters) is uncomfortable with "everyone . . . comfortable in my house except me." Worse: Seymour's (Arnold Stang) mother and sister make him uncomfortable with a visit, and what a surprise: they're hell bent on preventing him from making the kind of mistake they think has rent her family before . . . even if the mistake is falling for Rosalie (Roslyn Siber). Molly: Gertrude Berg. Mrs. Fingerhood: Possibly Florence Halop. Sammy: Alfred Ryder. Additional cast: Unknown. Writer/director: Gertrude Berg.

21st PRECINCT: THE BOOKKEEPER (CBS, 1953)---Following a Lion's Club luncheon at which he spoke of juvenile delinquency, and after visiting a First Avenue movie house currently bedeviled by that very problem, making its owner nervous enough to ask for extra police attention, Kennelly (Everett Sloane) checks into an optical company's payroll holdup, a first for the company . . . and discovers the company's bookkeeper (Elsa Barick) hasn't told police everything about her apparent doings around the time of the holdup. Waters: Harold Stone. King: Ken Lynch. Additional cast: Wendell Hall, Bill Smith. Announcer: Art Hanna. Writer/director: Stanley Niss.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Let's Go To Press: The Way It Is, 24 August

In which your extinguished editor channels Walter Winchell for a little mad fun with a little mad news . . . ruminates (if that is the correct word) on a particularly whacky job ad out of Chicago (the ad is real enough, which can be good or bad, depending upon your point of view) . . . and presents otherwise his customary brew of bluesy jazz and straight up blues.

Not to mention presenting, as his evening's old-time radio selection, in his customary manner of sharing it on its original date of airing and staying out of your way otherwise, The CBS Radio Workshop: The Billion-Dollar Failure of Figger Fallup, reviewed earlier today.

Announcer/co-banterer: Patty Price. Engineer: Jon Lindquist. Writer/producer/director: Yours, truly.

What the Hell! The Way It Was, 24 August

The devil is very much in the details when you live and die by the polls . . . and try applying them to eternal questions of good versus evil.

Pollster Figger Fallup (Joseph Julian)---famous for molding as well as recalling and analysing public opinion and racing results alike, with astonishing accuracy, crystalising trends and futures alike, making new consumption out of old and often entrenched habit and new fortunes for staggering businesses or bettors, and disguising his actual identity from even his closest aides---takes on a new client (Bob Dryden) willing to pay an unfathomable fee.

A client calling himself Mr. Lucifer.

He wants a simple way to plan Hell's future population and, thus, operations. But both pollster and client learn the hard way that human fallibility can't always be narrowed down by contemporary surveying methods---certainly, not without exacting a painful price---after Mr. Lucifer reviews the initial report and finds the prospects' good far enough outweighs their bad.

Miss Shekel: Elaine Ross. Announcer: Bob Hite. Music: Possibly Amerigo Moreno. Director: Paul Roberts. Writer: Henry E. Fritch.


THE GENERAL TIRE PROGRAM STARRING JACK BENNY: THE HOUSE OF ROTHCHILD (NBC, 1934; COMMERCIALS AND MUSIC SELECTIONS EDITED OUT)---Freshly returned from Atlantic City, Jack (Benny) and company perform the title sketch . . . or, at least, they would, as soon as they can seat an audience who actually has the right tickets to the right program. Cast: Mary Livingstone, Don Wilson (also announcer), Frank Parker, and Gracie Allen in a brief cameo. Music: Don Bestor. Writers: Harry Conn, Al Boasberg.

SWING SCHOOL: SWEET VERSUS HOT (CBS, 1937)---It's not that the King of Swing is one of the world's great microphone repartee men (as a banterer, Benny Goodman was a virtuoso clarinetist and bandleader), but you'll get to hear Benny Goodman blow a clever solo clarinet kickoff to his longtime theme, "Let's Dance," before launching into his musical "debate" as to whether sweet and hot music can swing equally. The highlight "arguments" include an early Benny Goodman Quartet version of the Goodman band standard "Stompin' at the Savoy," considerably shorter than the near-show stopping version the foursome (Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa) would unsheath at the Goodman band's landmark Carnegie Hall concert two years later. Additional cast: Pat O'Malley. Announcer: Bill Goodwin. Chorus Director: Meyer Alexander.

THE JUDY CANOVA SHOW: A DATE WITH MICKEY ROONEY (CBS, 1943)---That's the reason Judy (Canova) isn't in a big hurry to bolt back home to Rancho Canova, and it's also the reason she's driving everyone just a little nuts after getting an apparent note from the film star to meet her that night. Music selections include "Just Because." Geranium: Ruby Dandridge. Sylvester/Pedro: Mel Blanc. Singing Song Plugger: Eddie Dean. Floorwalker: Possibly Joseph Kearns. Muscular Customer: Gerald Mohr. Announcer: Ken Niles. Music: Opie Cates. Director: Joe Rines. Writers: Fred Fox, Henry Hoople.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Good Gildersleeve? The Way It Was, 23 August

In which the now-former Great Gildersleeve strikes on his own, after what historian Gerald Nachman called "outsmarting himself and los[ing] the role of a lifetime" to his soundalike old friend and fellow radio actor, Willard Waterman---who'd once been spurned for roles on Fibber McGee and Molly, from whence Gildersleeve first emerged, because he sounded that much like Harold Peary.

The skinny depends upon which version you care to believe, perhaps. Did he merely hold out for more money? Or, did he want to own the show?

This much is known: Peary, perhaps on the advice of his management at MCA, who also handled Jack Benny and shepherded his jump from NBC to CBS a year earlier, had prodded sponsor Kraft to grant him a piece of ownership in The Great Gildersleeve, and not without reason: it was Peary who defined the role, from its origin as the blowhard next-door nemesis of Fibber McGee to its successful spinoff (the first known such of its kind in American broadcast history) as a long-running radio hit, even if he was becoming bored with a role that didn't seem to allow his versatility (he was a passable singer, and one of the best dialect and impressionistic voice men in the medium) full breadth.

CBS was apparently anxious to have Peary if he was willing to make the move, but Kraft wasn't that anxious to leave the NBC fold with Gildersleeve, which it owned. Nor was it inclined to share in the ownership . . . not even with the man who made the role before the cheese company had even been involved. (Often forgotten: the Gildersleeve audition program had been sponsored by Fibber McGee & Molly's sponsor, presented as The Johnson Wax Program With Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve.)

[Peary's] agent, MCA, was so sure [Kraft] wouldn't continue the show without him that they sold him on the idea he was irreplaceable. Even though he'd worked with him before, Hal forgot Willard Waterman was waiting in the wings.

Paul West, a Gildersleeve (and other radio comedies) writer, cited in Nachman, Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)

With a new CBS contract for himself but no Great Gildersleeve in the package, both Peary and his new network are anxious to get their money's worth, with Peary co-creating this show, about a small-town radio host whose program involved two-thirds homemaking hints and one third music, in Peary's passably mellifluous voice, a host who still lived with his mother and still emerged an often hapless bachelor.

The major problem---no matter the quality of the show, and it often showed a remarkable, high quality---will be that The Harold Peary Show, often called Honest Harold (which is what the fictitious Harold Hemp's show was called), holds too many references to Gildersleeve traits, merely beginning with Peary's too-distinctive speech and famed "dirty laugh," to build an audience. By the time the show begins to show some of its own life and substance---the writing (which will be led by Peary himself) it will be too late to save it, even while Waterman's Gildersleeve has made (at first, anyway) a near-seamless transition from its former star.

The raw promise is in the show's audition, however, in which Harold loses his radio gig when his rejection of a sponsor product he and enough of his listeners find very lacking rankles the obsequious nephew (possibly Olan Soule) of the station's owner . . . who fires him when he refuses to reinstate the product, to his later regret.

Mother Hemp: Jane Morgan. Marvin: Sammy Ogg. Gloria: Gloria Holliday. Doc Yak-Yak: Joseph Kearns. Twins: Anne Whitfield, Norma Jean Nilsson. Additional cast: Sharon Douglas, Lois Corbett. Announcer: Bob LeMond. Music: Jack Meakin. Director: Norman Macdonnell. Writers: Harold Peary, Bill Danch.


THE GREEN HORNET: THE UNEXPECTED MEETING (BLUE NETWORK, 1945)---After dodging a warehouse robbery tip that turned out to be a police trap for the Green Hornet, Britt (Bob Hall) and Kato (Rollon Parker) break up an attack . . . and come away with a briefcase holding significant, secret diplomatic papers, a briefcase Britt would be only too glad to turn over---if he could do it without being arrested. Axford: Gil Shea. Lenore Case: Lee Allman. Announcer: Possibly Hal Neal. Director: Charles Livingstone. Writer: Fran Striker.

GUNSMOKE: SHAKESPEARE (CBS, 1952)---Out in the particularly heavy desert heat, Matt (William Conrad), Doc (Howard McNear), and Chester (Parley Baer), riding back to Dodge, revive a slender, well-dressed, traveling Shakespearean actor (Hans Conreid), whose speech is as poetic as is suspicious his lack of knowledge . . . as to why Sam Matchit is found dead in the back of his broken-down travel wagon. Mrs. Cullen: Mary Lansing. Announcer: Roy Rowan. Music: Rex Khoury. Director: Norman Macdonnell. Sound: Tom Hanley, Ray Kemper, Bill James. Writer: Anthony Ellis.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"A Love Story, or An Adventure . . . or Both": The Way It Was, 22 August

Well, this is great---rain, rain, rain . . . I bet even the ducks wouldn't come out in weather like this. But me, I'm an idiot. I gotta go and take up a profession like being a writer. I couldn't take up something easy---ooooh, no, not me, I gotta be a writer so I can go out on nice, cold, wet nights, beating my brains out looking for an idea . . . idea . . . deadline . . . oh, sure, mustn't forget that ever-lovin' deadline. Hmph. What a way to make a living. I could have stayed a reporter at the Star-Times and have nights of something . . . like listening to political speeches . . . or covering the opening of a new manhole. Oh, no--not me. I have to write fiction. Do it the hard way . . . Well, I might as well take the usual hands, open the usual doors, to the usual place, hear the usual cons . . .

Thus the first words heard from disillusioned former newspaper reporter Dan Holliday (Alan Ladd), who's surrendered the journalist's life for the life of a novelist, and falls upon a somewhat unique way to find subjects about which to write: a continuous ad---known only to his scatterbrained secretary (Sylvia Picker)---in the newspaper which formerly employed him full time, asking for "adventure" . . . and often as not finding more than even he can handle, sometimes.

And the first letter to fall into Box 13 promises Holliday the adventure he seeks. A promise he almost hopes isn't kept, when he visits his correspondent, Carla Williams (possibly Lurene Tuttle), and receives only a sultry but stern instruction through her apartment building intercom to meet her at a restaurant.

Which he does, hearing her say she's being blackmailed, she's uncertain whether her tormentor's promised end really will be the end, and she's very reluctant to go to the police . . . until they find her alleged blackmailer dead, a gun with a single bullet nearby, and she calls the police after all . . . naming Holliday as an apparent suspect.

Lt. Kling: Edmund MacDonald. Additional cast: Probably Betty Lou Gerson, Alan Reed, Luis Van Rooten, John Beal. Music: Rudy Schrager. Writer/director: Ted Hediger.


LUM & ABNER: DICK IS LOSING CUSTOMERS TO THE ROLLING STORE (NBC BLUE, 1935)---It took a week but the boys (Chester Lauck, also Grandpappy; and, Norris Goff, also Dick) have their new rolling store on the road and well in business, which worries Dick when his customers begin calling him asking when the rolling store will visit them next. Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

THE WHISTLER: DEATH HAS A THIRST (CBS, 1942)---Donna Jackson's (possibly Lurene Tuttle) flip suggestion of an ocean sail to revive her heavily-drinking, verbally abusive, husband (possibly Wally Maher)---who fears hereditary insanity---becomes a fatal actuality when his doctor suggests it might be just what he needs, and they're joined by his old college friend, in whom she's taken to confiding her despair---and with whom her husband fears she's fallen in love. Additional cast: Unknown, but possibly including Wally Maher, John Brown, Cathy Lewis, Frank Lovejoy. The Whistler: Joseph Kearns. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Whistling theme: Dorothy Roberts. Sound: Berne Surrey. Writer: J. Donald Wilson.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Oh, How They Didn't Dance: The Way It Was, 21 August

A year after her first eventful weekend with Boynton (Jeff Chandler) at Conklin's (Gale Gordon) lakeside retreat, Connie (Eve Arden) is stunned to receive another invitation to indulge a romantic weekend retreat with her indifferent paramour---from Conklin's wife (Vivi Janiss), who wants the couple to share the romance with herself and her husband on their wedding anniversary.

The problem is, Conklin---who rescinded a similar invitation, when he bumped into Connie at the malt shop across from Madison High, fearing she and Boynton have more than a friendly relationship, contravening his stricture against faculty fraternisation---doesn't know his wife a) is onto his own planned anniversary surprise at Crystal Lake, and b) invited Connie and Boynton to join them as a second surprise.

Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Announcer: Bob Lamond. Writer/director: Al Lewis.


THE GOLDBERGS: SEYMOUR INVITES ROSALIE TO A MOVIE (CBS, 1941)---The Goldbergs (Gertrude Berg, John R. Waters, Alfred Ryder, Roslyn Siber) and Seymour Fingerhood (Arnold Stang) see the newlywed Allysons off on their honeymoon, leaving Molly (Berg) and Sammy (Ryder) reflecting wistfully over the renewed family togetherness, Jake (Waters), and Seymour looking at Rosalie (Siber) in a new way. Announcer: James Fleming. Writer/director: Gertrude Berg.

BOB & RAY PRESENT THE CBS RADIO NETWORK: VINCENT PRICE (WE'RE STUMPED, 1959)---The droll duo fret over preparations for the fall season, endure haircuts, try to find a nightclub for the bird act the barber's daughter does, preview network radio mysteries, and ponder Vincent Price as a political candidate. Reputed writers: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

So Danco Samba: The Way It Was, 20 August

Disappointed that Atterbury (Gale Gordon) is bringing over a new bank director (unknown, but sounding rather like Hugh Beaumont), on a night she'd hoped George (Richard Denning) would take her dancing at the Starlight Roof, Liz (Lucille Ball)---who doesn't have much patience for the man's boring stories and overtold jokes---stumbles into a way to get on his good side: teaching his shy son Wally (?!?) to samba . . . which may make his father's stories and jokes seem child's play to her.

Especially when Wally (Richard Crenna) can't keep his eyes off her hips . . . until she suggests the awkward kid try dancing with her ("George, Wally dances the samba like a kangaroo with hot coals in his pouch!") . . . an experience she isn't (and her feet aren't) anxious to repeat for a followup lesson, even it means a possible promotion for George from Wally's grateful father, and especially after the kid asks her for help with a particularly knotty problem of the heart.

Katie: Ruth Perrott. Announcer: Unknown. Music: Marlon Skiles, Wilbur Hatch. Writers: Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.


HARRY JAMES AND HIS MUSIC MAKERS: REMOTE FROM CASINO GARDENS (NBC, 1944)---This performance from Ocean Park, California, shows the perhaps too-well expanded James band---complete with a full string section---launching with vocalist Buddy DeVito's somewhat saccharine reading of "Come Out, Whoever You Are," a performance of just the kind of music that has caused critics, and hardcore jazz listeners, to dismiss James as the credible jazzman as which he'd established himself with Benny Goodman and his earlier, pre-1941 band.

That, however, is followed by future solo singing star Kitty Kallen singing "I'll Walk Alone," with a little more swing and a little less sweetener; "The Feet Draggin' Blues," which features a curiously restrained (and effective) trumpet solo by James to open (the ensemble here betrays an influence that becomes more overt in James's music, by the early-to-mid 1950s, after the hits dry up, and his media profile becomes smaller: Count Basie, whom James admired deeply); and, "Moten's Swing," a number James got to play at times in his days with Benny Goodman, this time using the string section much the way Tommy Dorsey had done earlier (on such hits as the impeccable, bristling "Opus One"), as a gliding counterpoint to the fat brass and reed emsemble passages, while it lays back for a few spry piano interjections.

Announcer: Unknown.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

An Unneglected Anniversary: The Way It Was, 19 August

In one of the few complete surviving broadcasts of the series, the episode title is NBC's own way to refer to the eighth anniversary of the groundbreaking serial comedy-drama's advent on network radio.

And tonight's show only begins with NBC president Bennett R. Lord reading a special commemorative greeting to the duo, before getting to the business at hand; and, Walter Huston offering tribute following the actual episode, a tribute that includes a brief recap of the show's history.

As for the episode: Vacationing Amos and Andy (Freeman Gosden, Charles Correll), who drove their taxi out to the Left Coast, run out of gas near Lake Arrowhead in the southern California mountains, which only compounds Amos's frustration---they're already lost as it is---until a surprise stranger offers them a free can of gas, a sandwich, and an intriguing story.

Announcer: Bill Hay. Music: Gaylord Carter. Writers: Freeman Gosden, Charles Correll.


THE GOLDBERGS: ALLYSON HEARS ABOUT LEAH (CBS, 1941)---With Sylvia aboard a train for home, Allyson---who knows nothing of either Sylvia's departure or Leah's stroke---is now married to Esther, but his joy is about to be compromised by the news the Goldbergs (in order of appearance today: Roslyn Siber, Alfred Ryder, Gertrude Berg, John R. Waters) can no longer keep from him, before which Sammy (Ryder) admits to Rosalie (Siber) his own failure in the aborted romance with Sylvia. Announcer: James Fleming. Writer/Director: Gertrude Berg.

FORT LARAMIE: GOODBYE, WILLA (CBS, 1956)---After an exhaustive six-week campaign, with one soldier griping about the frustrations of absentee marriage, and Daggett (Jack Moyles) among the regiment husbands looking forward to returning to domestic bliss, Quince (Raymond Burr) and Daggett lead their exhausted and homesick men back to Laramie, where bachelor Quince's mixed feelings about domesticity may cost a price he's now unwilling to pay, in his way. Miss Willa: Virginia Gregg. Sieberts: Harry Bartell. Gorce: John Dehner. Additional cast: Paul Dubov, Parley Baer. Announcer: Dan Cubberly. Music: Amerigo Marino. Director: Norman Macdonnell. Writer: Kathleen Hite.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Beginnings for All? The Way It Was, 18 August

With Molly and Jake escorting Allyson and Esther to the justice of the peace, and her sister Leah in the immediate aftermath of a devastating stroke, Dr. Cater (unknown)---citing the rare opportunity for new beginnings for all her family, and barely having convinced her that she and he can never be a couple---talks wistful Sylvia (Zena Provendie) into going home at last, appealing to her nascent new maturity as he drives her to the railroad station and escorts her onto the train personally, where she gives in to one last, longing, loving thought as the train pulls away.

The psychiatrist has the easy part, however, compared to the Goldbergs continuing to keep Leah's stroke a secret from the about-to-be-newlywed elder Allysons until after they're pronounced husband and wife.

Announcer: James Fleming. Writer/Director: Gertrude Berg.


VIC & SADE: CLEANING THE ATTIC (NBC, 1942)---Dark and stuffy and miserable and hot and dusty though it might be, Sade (Bernadine Flynn) and Rush (Bill Idelson) tackle the job, anyway, once Rush forces a window open, but only because Sade gets tired of procrastinating on the long-overdue cleaning . . . unless she first tires of Rush's distractions from friends passing by on the street below. Vic: Art Van Harvey.

BOB & RAY PRESENT THE CBS RADIO NETWORK: THE GREAT TIGHTROPE WALKER (YOU DON'T NEED ME TO TELL YOU, 1959)---A brief debate over the actual time of their daily surrealities is punctuated by a cleaning crew member; Biff Burns interviews a midwestern football coach; and, Senor Miguel Honduras, a tightrope walker who plans to give a try on . . . a slackrope. Alleged writers: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Jail for Yawning: The Way It Is, 17 August

In which your extinguished editor has anything but a yawn over an Illinois judge who actually sentenced a courtroom spectator to (originally) six months in the freezer for . . . yawning.

He also premieres a new semi-serial, hooked around a couple canned from their jobs as college professors---for marrying each other---and now hitting the Vegas pavement in search of . . . but finding . . .

And, he includes his usual old-time radio selection, the new-time way---on the date it aired originally, back in the year, but canning the nostalgia in favour of letting it breathe as art, a show he'll describe below in his customary manner.

Helen/Announcer: Patty Price. "Helen and Troy" Announcer: Jon Lindquist. Writer/Producer/Director: Yours, truly.


THE JACK PAAR PROGRAM: LITTLE-KNOWN PEOPLE WHO MEAN NOTHING (NBC, 1947)---That's the secondary highlight of the evening, compared to Paar's guest---Jack Benny, who was also his benefactor (having discovered him on Guadalcanal in 1945, when Benny was entertaining troops and Paar was attached to a military entertainment unit; and, having mentored him and, in fact, pushed Paar as his 1947 summer replacement), and who appears here in one of his periodic running gags as a guest star---entering a talent competition as a violinist. Additional cast: Trudy Irwin, Elvia Allman, possibly Florence Halop, possibly Lionel Stander. Announcer: Hy Averback. Music: Jerry Fielding Orchestra. Writers: Larry Gelbart, Seaman Jacobs, Larry Marks, Arthur Stander.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Not in His Town: The Way It Was, 16 August

It's too late to stop Billy Saxon from swinging on a lynch rope to cover for another killer.

But with Kitty (Georgia Ellis) implying he's to blame for it happening at all, Dillon (William Conrad)---who was at Fort Dodge and unable to stop the lynching, but arrived back in time to find Saxon dead and hanging and to arrange his burial---hopes it isn't too late to bring two men to trial: the lyncher, Cam Powell (Paul Duval), whose brother was the original murder victim; and, former gunfighter turned cook Hank Ashford (possibly Tom Tully), who's just a little too skilled with guns still . . . especially Saxon's.

Chester: Parley Baer. Stewart: John Dehner. Additional cast: Joan Danton, Ross Moody, Lee Millar. Announcer: Roy Rowan. Director: Norman McDonnell. Music: Rex Khoury. Writer: John Meston.


QUIET, PLEASE: PRESTO, CHANGE-O, I'M SURE (MUTUAL, 1948)---Making a joke about making an elephant disappear is no laughing matter for a man (Ernest Chappell, who narrates) who actually made an elephant disappear, once upon a time . . . along with a few other creatures and people to whom he may come to regret pulling the trick. Bernard: Ed Latimer. Professor: Edgar Stehli. Genevieve: Peggy Stanley. Dog, gorilla: Brad Barker. Music: Albert Buhrman. Writer/director: Wyllis Cooper.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

From M-J to V-J: The Way It Was, 15 August

Imagine what it must be, to be in Gene Krupa's position on V-J Day. (You will hear a brief excerpt from a news report covering V-J Day celebrations in England prior to the broadcast, by the way.)

Two years earlier---having figured out that there didn't need to be a drum solo on every other selection in his band book and tightened his first post-Benny Goodman big band (several members of which had gravitated to the new Krupa outfit, by the way, including saxophone reliable Vido Musso and arranger Fletcher Henderson) into a seamless if not exactly forward-looking organisation---Krupa had been arrested on a trumped-up marijuana-based charge and looked like a badly ruined man.

He pleaded guilty (on his attorney's advice) to contributing to the delinquency of a minor, serving ninety days in jail, but was convicted on a followup federal charge of using a minor to transport marijuana, a conviction thrown out when the minor in question, Krupa's thought-to-be-teenaged drum tech John Pateakos, admitted in 1944 (to a grand jury probing charges that Krupa's legal team had paid him off to keep him out of sight) that he'd never brought Krupa any such thing and was coached heavily by federal narcotics agents.

The case forced the likeable Krupa to break up his band (he'd formed it after leaving Goodman acrimoniously in 1938, not long after the Goodman band's seminal Carnegie Hall concert) and spend his entire life's savings, such as they were; the entire business sank him into a soul-deep depression and a fear that his music career (he would reveal later that jail officials allowed him to continue studying music while he was incarcerated) was over.

But Benny Goodman, with whom he'd reconciled not long after forming his first band in 1938, invited Krupa back to the bandstand and, while the two men may never again have worked together regularly, it helped Krupa out of his depression and sent him toward forming his second big band and a major comeback. It is this band---highlighted by vocal star (and fellow Goodman alumnus) Anita O'Day, tenor saxophonist Charlie Ventura, and passable but forgettable vocalist Buddy Stewart---Krupa leads to Times Square for this hotel appearance and this broadcast.

The selections: O'Day's sultry reading of "I'd Do It All Over Again," Ventura's Coleman Hawkins-influenced but very bebop reading of "These Foolish Things" (Krupa is one of the big band leaders who appreciates the new style and finds ways of integrating it into his own unit without compromising its core); Stewart's vocal on "I'm Gonna Love That Gal"; and, a rather exuberant re-arrangement---don't think you'll miss Krupa's infamous heavy-footed bass pedaling, which never really leaves his style even if he's adapted a little bop to his polyrhythms---of a Goodman perennial, "Stompin' at the Savoy" . . . with a brief but no less characteristic drum solo.

Announcer: Bob Martin.


LUM & ABNER: INSPECTING THE NEW ROLLING GROCERY STORE (NBC BLUE, 1935)---The boys (Chester Lauck, who also plays Grandpappy; Norris Goff, who also plays Dick) get the good news: their new mobile grocery is finished and ready for their inspection, but the Weehunts who have converted Abner's old car to the new store duck out for dinner before the boys arrive, worrying and annoying Abner. Announcer: Carlton Brickert. Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

THE GOLDBERGS: LEAH'S STROKE (CBS, 1941)---Molly's (Gertrude Berg) success in bringing Allyson and Esther (Joan Vitez) together has a good side (the couple are about to be married) and a bad side---the bad side being other daughter, Leah, who wasn't crazy about her father's marriage to begin with . . . and who's suffered a stroke Molly can't bring herself to reveal until after the wedding, while jilted Sylvia (Zena Provendie) presses Sammy (Alfred Ryder) for answers about her sister. Jake: John R. Waters. Rosalie: Roslyn Siber. Sylvia: Zena Provendie. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Clayton (Bud) Collyer. Writer/director: Gertrude Berg.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Depends on Your Definition of Unique: The Way It Was, 14 August

In an AFRS rebroadcast first aired in June, finals week for Madison High isn't exactly a snap for Connie (Eve Arden), who's just laboured over preparing her classes' exams and who has a too-early breakfast visitor---Conklin (Gale Gordon), who wants her to consult on picking a student winner for a prize recognising "unique" English ability but won't let her get in a word edgewise or otherwise.

Which may be child's play compared to Walter's (Richard Crenna) concurrent visit, since he wants Connie to make a student barbeque party at which he's arranged for her to get closer to indifferent Boynton (Jeff Chandler) by way of a pair of exotic lovebirds. The kicker: It's Stretch's (Leonard Smith) party, but his father won't sanction it unless his barely literate son wins the English prize.

Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Music: Lud Luskin. Director: Larry Burns. Writers: Arthur Alsberg, Al Lewis.


LUM & ABNER: SQUIRE WANTS A THIRD INTEREST IN THE MOBILE STORE (NBC Blue, 1935)---That's the bad news, which kind of dampens the good news that---now that Lum (Chester Lauck, who also plays Grandpappy) and Abner (Norris Goff, who also plays Squire) have solidified their new mobile store venture, which has already set them back just a tad getting it built on the chassis of Abner's old car--Snake's willing to sell the Jot 'Em Down Store back to the boys. Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

VIC & SADE: BACON SANDWICHES (NBC, 1940)---Sade's (Bernadine Flynn) quiet midday embroidering in Vic's (Art Van Harvey) easy chair is shifted pleasantly when Rush (Bill Idelson) invites her to shift to the porch swing, but the pleasantry isn't destined to last without at least a few quiet wrinkles that only begin with the dulling paint on the swing and continue with news of Rooster Davis's unusual new restaurant idea. Writer/director: Paul Rhymer.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul, RIP: Shoemaker, Stick To Your Last

Les Paul, whose penchant for binding music and electric and electronic experimenting, died today of complications from pneumonia. His aural visions revolutionised the way music is recorded and played; he was in his own right a brilliant guitarist with a flair for melodious improvisation and an ability to swing even the unswingable; and, he bequeathed an instrument and a love of the art that was contagious even if all you knew of him was his own recordings or the guitar that bears his name.

He also had an old-time radio presence in his own right, for a brief period in the 1950s, and while you'd love to think that everything he touched turned to breathless illumination, on his radio show it was truest of the music, a point I tried to forge in the following essay, tied to the date of the show's audition installment. I republish it in his memory, hoping my critique of his radio effort does nothing to tarnish the gifts he left us.

As an old-time radio performer, Les Paul was a musical visionary. Leave it there.

The virtuoso guitarist and recording technologist auditions what proves to be a short-lived---musically memorable, otherwise often-enough lacking---fifteen-minute radio program featuring himself, his then-wife Mary Ford (vocals), and their collaborator Eddie Stapleton (percussion, occasional bass). With a factual correction here and there, what follows is a review of the show I wrote in late 2006:


LES PAUL: Hello, hello everyone, this is Les Paul speaking, and with me I have mawife Mary—--
PAUL: —--and my git-tar. Uhhh . . . for the benefit of any new listeners who may have just tuned in, I’d like to mention that this program comes from our home, and that I have a room here just loaded with electronic gadgets—--amplifiers, echo chambers, transformers, six L-6s—--
FORD: Let me tell ‘em, Les, you’re a genius.
PAUL: Aw, don’t say that—
FORD: Oh, yes, you are—
PAUL: You’re embarrassing me—--a
FORD: Anyone who can take one guitar and make it sound like six is a genius.
PAUL: Any guy can do the same thing.

---The Les Paul Show, 11 July 1950, NBC.

Never mind whether the couple was scripted or winging it, and the chances were pretty good that it was half and half.

FORD: Oh, no one else can even play like you, much less make it sound like six people.
PAUL: Well, I—--all I like to do is get on the floor with a screwdriver and some tools and tinker around.
FORD: Aww, but you’re really a genius.
PAUL: No, I’m just a big tinker.
FORD: O-K, you’re just a big tinker.
PAUL: Oh. (Pause.) I shoulda quit when I was ahead.

Any guy could do the same thing assuming a) he could play a guitar in the first place (for the uninitiated: L-6s refers to the Gibson guitar Paul played and modified in 1950, before he and Gibson developed the model that has since borne his name), and b) he paid close enough attention after Les Paul showed any guy that you could make yourself a guitarchestra in the first place, never mind how to do it in the first place.

In broadcast terms, Les Paul and Mary Ford are probably remembered better for seven years’ worth of television’s Les Paul and Mary Ford at Home than one or two year’s worth of The Les Paul Show. A little prowling reveals the radio show ran two years with a decent share snaking around in mp3 files (and an episode or three included on the Capitol Records box anthology, The Legend and the Legacy). A little listening reveals a lot of gently off-the-wall fun and a passel of music that was futuristic at the time, remains intriguing even today, and often sounds years beyond its time still.

On the show transcribed above, it went from that homey little exchange to a Paulist take of “Sweet Georgia Brown.” Paul had created a system known puckishly as the Les Paulverizer, a recording machine that essentially multiplied what it was fed, enabling Paul to dub himself on the spot if he chose to do so, within reason. “Sweet Georgia Brown” got a multitracking treatment not dissimilar to the treatment through which his earlier version of “Lover” became a futuristic hit record, complete with recording acceleration pressing a pre-cut guitar harmony into a speed-of-light arpeggio flying counterpoint above the chorus, before a deceleration that had the feel of a roller coaster nudging the brakes gently rather than slamming them down from the final drop.

PAUL: Mary, I got a hunch that if I could take one guitar and make it sound like six guitars, I can make your voice—my wife—sound like six people.
FORD: That sounds like my husband—he eats like six people.
PAUL: But I’m your husband.
FORD: Which reminds me—if you don’t get a screwdriver and put that plug back in the electric stove . . . well, no cookin’.
PAUL: Oh, you don’t mean that all I’ve go—
FORD: I can’t give you anything but love.
PAUL: Well, that’s our cue for the next song.

From which point Paul would flip on the Paulverizer and turn Ford—--who bore an unsophisticated but pleasant voice, and could hold her own with any pop singer of the time--—into a harmony group. Here her take of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” was calmly affecting in front of her husband’s sympatico guitars. (The couple divorced in 1963; the apparent wedge was her wish to back away from work and his need to keep working.)

Paul in the 1940s had a tandem reputation as a clever country picker (he did morningtime country broadcasts as Red Hot Red early in the 1940s) and a fluid, bluesy jazz improvisor (he was brought in, last minute, to the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert, in 1944, and swapped solos nothin’-to-it-folks with the like of Illinois Jacquet) even before Bing Crosby put him on the air (supporting Crosby’s own show) and on shellac (that was Paul’s distinctive chord-and-run backing Der Bingle’s “It’s Been a Long, Long Time,” among others). His Les Paul Trio recordings of the era (recently remastered/reissued) stood up to any other guitarist’s, including Charlie Christian’s.

Remove his technological toying and all you would have left is a remarkable musician anyway. You can’t dismiss him as merely Mr. Wizard. Not even his most transdimensional experiments obscured Les Paul’s swing, whether he sent himself into outer space or fifty fathoms beneath the waves—--and his treatments often put him into both places at once. “Little Rock Getaway,” whether the version he cut as a Capitol single (with one alternate guitar line treated to resemble a staccato harpsichord) or the version he produced for the 26 May 1950 Les Paul Show (without the staccato-harpsichord treatment), only begins to illustrate the point.

Paul and Ford on the radio presented warmly enough, though their humour today seems of a place between cornpone quaint and clumsy off-guard stiff. But there's a humanness enough to it even when it resembles a kind of obligato in return for getting to deliver their futuristic music their way once a week on the air. (And, for Paul perhaps trying to make a case for "Nola" as one of his favourite songs---he led off the audition show and two regulation installments with the song. Good thing his rendition is so charming, though if I were going to choose a threepeater I'd have gone for his ripsnorting version of "The Carioca.")

Separate the songs from the banter and create a terrific Les Paul and Mary Ford album---you can treat the material into which they made hits as worthy alternate takes. Leave it all alone and have a pair (or trio, whenever percussionist/bassist Stapleton joined up) of guitarchestra-packing, warmhearted houseguests whose only lack is better comedy writers.

PAUL: Hi, folks.
SFX: (workshop sounds--tapping, hammering, etc.)
PAUL: Mary, would you hand me that pipe wrench?
SFX: (ringing clank)
FORD: Here.
PAUL: Uh, that's my wife, Mary.
FORD: Thanks.
PAUL: All right, stand back. I'm gonna turn it on.
SFX: (small whooshing gas jet)
FORD: That letter from the gas company sure started something . . . (SFX: continuing small hissing gas jet) . . . Of all the guitar players in the world, I had to pick someone who isn't satisfied with an electric guitar. He has to build the first gas guitar.
SFX: (continuing small hissing gas jet)
PAUL: Say, would you hand me the screwdriver?
FORD: Here's a screwdriver.
PAUL: Uh---oil rag?
FORD: Oil rag.
PAUL: Monkey wrench?
FORD: Monkey wrench.
PAUL: Match?
FORD: Death certificate.

Assuming they had regular writers, they must have had the night off.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Spare the Child? The Way It Was, 10 August

Constricted by the limit of the half-hour program but sobering nevertheless, here is an analysis of American child-rearing, in historical but seriocomic form, from colonial to contemporary times. A few strains in the prose and the dialogue but as good as it gets for its time and place.

Modern Mother: Katherine Anderson. Observer: Jackson Beck. Additional cast: Mary Patton, Ian Martin, Sarah Fussell, Joe Helgeson, Ed Prentiss, Lawson Serby, Nell Harrison, Ethel Owen, Ruth Tobin. Announcer: Gaylord Avery. Narrator: Joseph Julian. Music: Charles Paul. Director: Paul Roberts. Writer: Johanna Johnston.


CITIES SERVICE HIGHWAYS IN MELODY: DOROTHY KIRSTEN, GUEST SOLOIST (NBC, 1945)---The spinto soprano's charming performance of "I'll Follow My Secret Heart" highlights a typical lush half-hour for this version of the long-running Friday night music interlude. Musical director/conductor: Paul Lavalle. Announcer: Ford Bond.

LORENZO JONES: LORENZO IS ACCUSED OF ROBBERY (NBC, 1945)---While gullible Lorenzo hits New York trying to learn something of amnesiac Alice---who may actually be half of a husband-and-wife scam team---he's being held for questioning in the Big Apple . . . while Belle (Beth Johnson, standing in for Lucille Wall), trying to answer questions from the sheriff, learns the hard way that standing by her man isn't always a guarantee of security. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: George Putnam. Writers: Theodore and Mathilde Ferro.

QUIET, PLEASE: BRING ME TO LIFE (MUTUAL, 1947)---A scriptwriter (Ernest Chappell, who narrates) in search of a prime character, with his deadline only a short way away, gets a lot more than he asked when he sees a line on the sheet in his typewriter . . . a line he didn't write. Ruth: Helen Marcy. Attacker: Walter Black. Man on Telephone: Warren Bryan. Music: Gene Perrazo. Writer/director: Wyllis Cooper.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Here, Kitty? The Way It Was, 9 August

An oil-drilling crew chief (Ernest Chappell, who also narrates) is fascinated, then horrified, and finally slightly numbed by a peculiarly feline--and beguiling--creature that comes to the surface after the crew drills one of the deepest wells it's ever drilled and unearths it after turning up ancient rock.

Billy: Dan Sutter. Ted: J. Pat O'Malley. Additional cast: Cecil Roy. Music: Albert Buhrmann. Sound: Albert April. Writer/director: Wyllis Cooper.


ED WYNN, THE FIRE CHIEF: TRIAL BY JURY (NBC, 1932)---Ed wants the Agriculture Department to help with his geraniums; then, the breezy clown and his sideckick take a poke at the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.

With Graham McNamee. Announcer: Louis Witten. Music: Don Voorhees. Writers: Unknown.

LUM & ABNER: SNAKE WON'T SELL THE JOT 'EM DOWN STORE (MUTUAL, 1935)---Lum (Chester Lauck) talks to Dick (Norris Goff, who also plays Abner) about trying to re-purchase the store, after Abner has lost everything but his old car, but Snake won't take anything less than $1,500 in a slightly usurious deal, Lum hasn't got a lot to pitch in beyond his few commissions from shares in the silver mine, neither Lum nor Dick are confident of what Abner can get by selling the car, and Lum isn't anxious to try selling more stock without learning more of Squire's little property. Announcer: Carlton Brickert. Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

GUNSMOKE: THE KENTUCKY TOLMANS (CBS, 1952)---Company at the back door spells unease for Matt (William Conrad) and Chester (Parley Baer)---a feisty woman (Virginia Gregg), with no lack of confidence otherwise ("I may be a girl but I was barkin' squirrels while you was still tryin' to dent a tin can!"), who's in from Kentucky with her family, who wants to talk to Matt privately . . . and wants him to arrest her father for protection, after he survived an ambush on the way to Dodge. Additional cast: Joseph Kearns, Junius Mathews, Harry Bartell, Lou Krugman, Peter Leeds. Announcer: Roy Rowan. Music: Rex Koury. Director: Norman Macdonnel. Writer: Herb Burnham.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Dog Bites Cop: The Way It Was, 8 August

So much for man biting dog; or, even man (Alan Bunce) biting wife (Peg Lynch) over soft boiled eggs that are anything but---that's nothing compared to the family pooch taking a bite out of crimefighting.

Aunt Effie: Margaret Hamilton. Police officer: Frank N. Tuttle. Additional cast: Francie Myers, Madeline Pierce, Edith Hatwater. Writer: Peg Lynch.


LUM & ABNER: THE BOYS ARE TIRED OF HIGH SOCIETY (MUTUAL, 1935)---So much for once-skeptical Abner (Norris Goff) taking to the socialite way since selling the store, while Cedric wants Lum (Chester Lauck, in both roles) to tell him more about the silver mining business. Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

VIC & SADE: THE HONEYMOON COUPLE (MUTUAL, 1946)---Rush (Bill Idelson) suffering bruises in a baseball game is nothing compared to the couple in question coming for a brief visit, though just how brief is anybody's guess, considering Sade's (Bernadine Flynn) lack of overt anxiety and Vic's (Art Van Harvey) lack of overt enthusiasm. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Jack Fuller. Music: June Lyons. Writer: Paul Rhymer.


1885---Gene Buck (president, American Society of Composers and Publishers: World's Fair Concert), Detroit.
1887---Malcolm Keen (actor: Cavalcade of America), Bristol, U.K.
1889---J. Andrew White (sports broadcast executive/pioneer), unknown.
1895---Nat Pendleton (actor: Dr. Kildare), Davenport, Iowa.
1896---Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (novelist: Stars in the Air), Washington, D.C.
1900---James Pierce (actor: Tarzan), Freedom, Indiana; Victor Young (composer/conductor: Shell Chateau; The Old Gold Don Ameche Show), Chicago.
1904---Ray Buffum (writer/director: A Man Named Jordan; Rogue's Gallery), unknown.
1905---Ross Graham (baritone/bass: Cities Service Concert; Show Boat), Benton, Arkansas; Nino Martini (singer: Seven Star Revue), Verona, Italy.
1906---Richard Cunliffe (arranger, with Ted Weems and His Orchestra: numerous radio remotes), McKeesport, Pennsylvania; Joe DuVal (actor: Cinnamon Bear; Old Town), Wisconsin.
1907---Benny Carter (saxophonist/composer: The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street), New York City.
1909---Bob Davis (singer: Spotlight Bands; One Night Stand), Charleston, Mississippi.
1910---Sylvia Sidney (actress: Lux Radio Theater; Columbia Presents Corwin; Philip Morris Playhouse), Bronx, New York.
1912---Gail Henshaw (actress: Kitty Keene; The Woman in White), New York City.
1913---Axel Stordahl (arranger/conductor: Songs By Sinatra; The Frank Sinatra Show; Your Hit Parade; Coke Time), Staten Island.
1914---Pete King (conductor, with the Pete King Chorale: The Bing Crosby Show; The Doris Day Show), Greenville, Ohio.
1917---Ann Francine (singer: Hour of Charm), Philadelphia; Malvin Wald (writer: Suspense), Brooklyn.
1921---Webb Pierce (singer: Grand Ole Opry; Louisiana Hayride), West Monroe, Louisiana.
1922---Rory Calhoun (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Los Angeles; Esther Williams (actress: Lux Radio Theater; Tex and Jinx), Los Angeles.
1923---Jimmy Witherspoon (blues singer: Jubilee), Gurdon, Arkansas.
1926---Richard Anderson (actor: Suspense), Long Branch, New Jersey.
1927---Basil Kirchin (drummer, with the Harry Roy Orchestra: numerous radio remotes), Blackpool.
1930---Terry Nation (writer: The Goon Show), Cardiff, South Wales.
1937---Dustin Hoffman (actor: Soundstage), Los Angeles.
1945---Percy Granger (actor: The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), Norman, Oklahoma.

Friday, August 07, 2009

A Slight Change of Dinner Plans: The Way It Was, 7 August

"I was beginning to say there's something radically wrong about here," Russell (David Whitehouse) says, and he isn't kidding: Vic (Art Van Harvey) and Russell are stuck fixing their own dinner (which is what they refer to as lunch, folks), which they'll probably think is broken, because Sade (Bernadine Flynn) giddily got lost in the details of a new dress pattern and forgot to prepare it, and she can only hope her men can survive her lapse until she can make it up to them for the evening meal.

"Soup and sardines don't sound like such a hot meal," warbles Vic fatalistically . . .

Writer/director: Paul Rhymer.


1886---One of radio's most important inventions---the neutrodyne circuit, neutralising the noise rattling most radio receivers of the time, and proving an imperative step toward broadcast radio as we would come to know it---is introduced by Louis Alan Hazeltine.

Thirty-eight years later, Hazeltine will form the corporation bearing his name, selling it his neutrodyne patent for stock and cash, and by 1927 it will be believed that ten million radio receivers using the Hazeltine neutrodyne circuit are operating.

1942: IT MAY BE A QUIET DAY IN LAKE WOBEGON . . . when future Prairie Home Companion mastermind/humourist Garrison Keillor---whose program will evoke the spirit and, in many cases, the style of old-time radio, over the better portion of three decades---is born in Anoka, Minnesota.

1969: SORRY, CHARLIE---Charlie Greer performs his final show for WABC-AM, New York.

1974: KICKIN' COUSIN---Fed up at last with the station's notorious seven-song playlist (actual or alleged, and so much for the Top 40, right?), Bruce Morrow (that's Cousin Brucie to his listeners) performs his last show on WABC, before jumping to then-rival WNBC.


BOB & RAY PRESENT THE CBS RADIO NETWORK: WALLY BALLOU AND FAMILY (I CAN'T IMAGINE, 1959)---An empty Friday with no picnic equals that intrepid reporter bringing his family aboard. Writers: Alleged to be Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding.


1883---Reinald Werrenrath (baritone: Old Company Program), New York City.
1884---Billie Burke (comedienne: The Billie Burke Show; Gay Mrs. Featherstone), Washington, D.C.
1902---Charles Cornell (composer: Boston Blackie; A Date with Judy), Budapest.
1903---Hilda Hopkins Burke (soprano: WBAL, Baltimore), unknown.
1904---Ralph Bunche (political scientist/diplomat/Nobel laureate: The Big Show), Detroit; Herbert Colin Rice (creator/producer/writer: Bobby Benson), Guilford, U.K.
1906---Ernestine Wade (actress: Amos 'n' Andy), Mississippi.
1907---Alexander Turner (writer: Coat of Arms), London.
1908---Dave Bacal (organist: staff, CBS), New York City.
1909---Sheldon Stark (writer: Columbia Workshop; Straight Arrow), New York City.
1910---Freddie Slack (pianist/conductor: Kraft Music Hall), Westby, Wisconsin.
1913---George Van Eps (jazz guitarist, with the Freddy Martin, Benny Goodman, and Ray Noble orchestras, among others, and inventor of the seven-string guitar: numerous radio remotes), Plainfield, New Jersey.
1914---Clifford Thorsness (sound, including and especially The Closet: Fibber McGee and Molly; The Charlie McCarthy Show), unknown; June Travis (actress: Girl Alone; Arnold Grimm's Daughter), Chicago.
1920---Mel Diamond (writer: Kate Smith Sings; The Milton Berle Show; The Bob Hope Show), New York City.
1921---Poni Adams (as Jane Adams; co-hostess: Darts for Dough), San Antonio; Warren Covington (trombonist/conductor: CBS staff; numerous remotes as a member of the Les Brown and Tommy Dorsey orchestras), Philadelphia.
1926---Stan Freberg (comedian: That's Rich; The Stan Freberg Show), Los Angeles.
1927---Carl Switzer (Alfalfa; actor: Thirty Minutes in Hollywood), Paris, Illinois.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Shadowing St. Jude's

A live re-creation of a lost episode of old-time radio classic The Shadow will benefit St. Jude's Children's Hospital---itself the creation of an old-time radio presence (Danny Thomas, whose credits include brother Amos in The Bickersons)---when it's performed as part of the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention 27-29 August, in Aberdeen, Maryland.

"The Case of the Avenging Brain" aired originally 30 January 1944 but is considered a lost episode of the legendary crime drama, because o recording of the original episode is known to survive.

The synopsis: A series of thefts---and a bizarre attempt on Lamont's life by Margot herself---lead Lamont to a scientist keeping alive the brain of an executed criminal via an artificial heart . . . which enabled the brain to mastermind the actual and attempted crimes, to finance surgeries that would transplant it to a younger body, and to lure Lamont into a trap---the brain knows the Shadow's true identity---but allow him to perform a turnabout, tricking the brain into destroying its host . . . and, its new master.

Written by Robert Arthur and David Kogan (The Mysterious Traveler), the episode is considered a lost episode because no known recording of the original broadcast is known to exist, but the script has been bought, copied, and cleared for copyright to deliver the performance.

Participants are expected to include several with old-time radio credits, including Celeste Holm (Lux Radio Theater), Patty McCormack (Suspense), Bob Hastings (The Shadow, as it happens), and Rosemary Rice (Suspense, X Minus One, Archie Andrews); and, television veterans John Whitaker (Family Affair), Lee Meriwether (Barnaby Jones), and James Best (The Dukes of Hazzard).

Special thanks to Martin Grams, Jr., who provided much of the foregoing information, and whose books about classic radio include Inner Sanctum Mysteries: Behind the Creaking Door; Suspense: Twenty Years of Thrills and Chills; Information, Please; and, The I Love a Mystery Companion.)

Greasy Paint: The Way It Was, 6 August

George (Richard Denning) almost doesn't want to know why Liz (Lucille Ball, whose 37th birthday coincides with this airing) is coming to breakfast in a slinky evening gown into which she needs Katie (Ruth Perrot) to paint her . . . appropriately enough, considering she's engaged a portrait artist (possibly Jeff Chandler) to paint them, an engagement she plans rather conveniently to tell him over breakfast, the better to keep up with an upwardly mobile couple.

The Atterburys: Gale Gordon, Bea Benaderet. Music: Wilbur Hatch. Director: Jess Oppenheimer. Writers: Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll, Jr.


1923: HELLO, WORLD!---We doubt the future mainstay of New York WNEW-AM said precisely his famous sign-on phrase, when the first slap came across the bottom of William Breitbert . . . born today in Babylon, New York but due to become beloved as future Radio Hall of Fame disc jockey William B. Williams.

1945: "MY GOD . . . "---That is said to have been the only journal entry in the co-pilot's log, when the Boeing B-29 Enola Gay drops history's first in-combat atomic bomb on Hiroshima.


BREAK-INS: APPROACHING THE END (MUTUAL, 1945)---Mutual Broadcasting System delivers several break-ins into a music program to report news from Tokyo via San Francisco that Japan would accept the Potsdam proclamation "soon," in the immediate wake of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.


ROMANCE: PAGOSA (CBS, 1951)---Considered a second precursor to what became Gunsmoke (a 1950 installment of Escape, "Wild Jack Rhett," is considered the other), rancher and former peace officer Jeff Spain (future Gunsmoke star William Conrad) rides into Pagosa hoping to file a land claim but finding himself the target of a district attorney's (Will Wright) unwanted offer to become the town's new sheriff . . . and, reluctantly, of the stable's proprietor (future Gunsmoke cast member Georgia Ellis), who blocks his land claim unless he accepts the job. Additional cast: Tony Barrett, Lamont Johnson, Tom Holland, Herb Ellis, Junius Mathews. Narrator: Bill Johnstone. Music: Alexander Courage. Announcer: Roy Rowan. Director: Norman Macdonnell. Writer: John Meston.


1881---Leo Carrillo (actor: Grapevine Rancho; Four Frightened People), Los Angeles; Louella Parsons (as Louella Rose Oettinger; commentator: Hollywood Hotel; Louella Parsons; Texaco Star Theater), Freeport, Illinois.
1886---Billie Burke (as Mary William Ethelbert Appleton Burke; comedienne: The Billie Burke Show; The Gay Mrs. Featherstone), Washington, D.C.
1892---Victor Rodman (actor: Those We Love), Arkansas.
1894---Jack Kirkwood (actor: Saunders of the Circle X; Hawthorne House), Scotland.
1911---Lucille Ball (comedienne: The Wonder Show with Jack Haley; Pabst Blue Ribbon Town; The Abbott and Costello Show; My Favourite Husband), Jamestown, New York.
1915---Jim Ameche (actor: Jack Armstrong; Silver Eagle), Kenosha, Wisconsin.
1917---Robert Mitchum (actor: Family Theater), Bridgeport, Connecticut.
1921---Ella Raines (actress: Lux Radio Theater), Snoqualmie, Washington.
1922---Jackie Kelk (actor: The Adventures of Superman; The Aldrich Family), Brooklyn.
1925---Barbara Bates (writer: Just Plain Bill; Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons), Denver.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Fear and Loathing: The Way It Was, 5 August

Finding a Shoshone encampment surprisingly quiet and unsuspicious, for a tribe preparing to move home unsanctioned, Quince (Raymond Burr) promises their chief (John Dehner), with whom he's personally friendly, a safe escort home to Wind River, a promise the chief fears will be broken when a nighttime coyote howl---that the chief takes as a warning---triggers him to make the move alone.

It's a decision Quince accepts reluctantly, a reluctance justified soon and gravely enough, after he and his men see another cavalry company on the horizon as they travel ahead of the tribe---a half-frenzied company, led by a firebrand major (possibly Lawrence Dobkin) who fires them up with brimstone preaching . . . and "half a dozen scalps" on his belt.

Harrison: Vic Perrin. Sieberts: Harry Bartell. Daggett: Jack Moyle. Music: Amerigo Marino. Sound: Bill James, Tom Henley. Director: Norman Macdonnell. Writer: Kathleen Hite.


1920: IT'S A LONG WAY TO NIGHT COURT---The baby girl born in Montreal, but raised in Brooklyn, will grow up to make her comedic bones as a published humourist in The New Yorker and, then, an old-time radio comedy writing protege of titans Ed Gardner and Goodman Ace, for whom she will work, respectively, on Duffy's Tavern and The Big Show . . . before becoming a television writer (and, it will be believed, the partial inspiration for man-hungry comedy writer Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show) and the author of the cheerfully tart Nose Jobs for Peace.

But Selma Diamond will probably be remembered best, alas, as the first lady bailiff on television's Night Court---where she will come to share a grave Duffy's Tavern connection decades after that radio classic leaves the air: she and her Night Court successor, Florence Halop (the second Miss Duffy, and also a member of Henry Morgan's and numerous other old-time radio casts), will die within a year of each other. Both of cancer.

1921: PLAY BALL!---The first known broadcast of a major league baseball game goes on the air over KDKA-AM, Pittsburgh, featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates versus the Philadelphia Phillies and Harold W. Arlin doing the play-by-play of the game.

The Phillies win, 8-0, as heard over the station that becomes in due course the flagship station for the Pirates' radio network.


LUM & ABNER: ABNER BECOMES THE BIGGEST SOCIETY MAN (NBC BLUE, 1935)---Once-reluctant Abner (Norris Goff) has a discomfiting change of heart regarding the wave of high society style and mannerism sweeping Pine Ridge. Lum/Snake/Grandpappy: Chester Lauck. Dick/Squire: Also Norris Goff. Announcer: Carlton Brickert. Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff.

THE GOLDBERGS: CATER FINDS A REAL CLUE (CBS, 1942)---The family bustles while psychiatrist Cater (unknown) thinks he has a breakthrough in trying to help Ann (also unknown), which is the reason Molly (Gertrude Berg) enlisted him in the first place. Rosalie: Roslyn Siber. Jake: John R. Waters. Sammy: Alfred Ryder. Writer/director: Gertrude Berg.


1887---Reginald Owen (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Wheathampton, U.K.
1890---Al Goodman (pianist/bandleader: Town Hall Tonight; The Sal Hepatica Revue/Hour of Smiles; Texaco Star Theater; The Fred Allen Show), Nikopol, Russia.
1906---John Huston (actor: Lux Radio Theater), Nevada, Missouri.
1908---Wilbur Evans (singer: Vicks Open House; Stars from the Blue), Philadelphia.
1911---Robert Taylor (actor: Good News of 1938; Lux Radio Theater; Plays for Americans), Filley, Nebraska.
1912---Lew Valentine (host: Mennen Jury Trials; Dr. IQ, the Mental Banker)
1914---David Brian (actor: Mr. District Attorney), New York City; Parley Baer (actor: Gunsmoke; Rogers of the Gazette), Salt Lake City; Anita Colby (actress: Radio Hall of Fame), Washington, D.C.
1915---Peter Lisagor (journalist: Meet the Press), Keystone, West Virginia.
1917---Don Stanley (announcer: Adventures of Nero Wolfe; Out of the Deep; The Saint), Stoughton, Wisconsin.
1918---Tom Drake (actor: Old Gold Comedy Theater; Lux Radio Theater; So Proudly We Hail), Brooklyn.