Old Time Radio Revival Round-up
August 25, 2009 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Old-time radio (often abbreviated as "OTR," also known as the Golden Age of Radio) refers to a period of radio programming in the United States lasting from the proliferation of radio broadcasting in the early 1920s until television's replacement of radio as the dominant home entertainment medium in the 1950s, with some programs continuing into the early 1960s. The origin of radio dramas in the United States is hard to pin down, but there is evidence of a remote broadcast of a play in 1914 at Normal College (now California State University at San José), and the first serial radio drama was an adaptation of a play by Eugene Walter, entitled "The Wolf," which aired in September 1922. Given the age of the programs and the fact that home reel-to-reel recording started in the 1950s (followed by Philips "compact cassettes" in 1963), it might be surprising that quite a few of these old shows have survived. Thanks in part to original radio station-sourced recordings made on aluminum discs, acetates, and glass recordings and other unnamed sources, many radio dramas and newscasts from decades past are available online, and more are being digitized and restored to this day.

Though the term "old-time radio" may be focused on the United States, the history of radio recordings and radio dramas is international. England's first broadcast radio drama was 'Five Birds in a Cage' (Gertrude Jennings), a 1915 stage play, a social comedy, which was broadcast on November 29, 1923 in London. This play is also considered the first instance of 'gay' radio, for the the inclusion of a gay character. Canada's first national radio drama, broadcast in 1931, was Romance of Canada.

Savoy Hill hosts a history of British radio dramas and the British Radio Drama History Database, where you can sort by actors, players, playwrights, years, stations, and other details. The site also has guides on radio drama writing and production. Looking for more tips on radio production? Do-It-Yourself Radio Drama is a blog post from the modern drama creators at Decoder Ring Theater. The post has loads of links for further investigation.

If you're collecting radio dramas, you might find it hard to catalog recordings, as there is no accepted agreement on naming episodes that have no 'official' titles. The OTR Researchers Group’s Wiki has a section devoted to listing shows by one distinct characteristic: First lines of dialogue.

If you happen to find an old 16 inch transcription disk, playback isn't the same as modern vinyl, requiring a custom stylus, and the material is much more fragile than modern media, requiring special handling and care.

Old-time Radio Actors
Orson Wells' radio career was previously discussed. Fred Gwynne and E.G. Marshall were remembered in reference to their roles in CBS Radio Mystery Theater (episodes are available from Old Time Radio Fans, and Internet Archive). Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding were covered before for their 4+ decades of absurdist, satirical, dry, improvisational sketch comedy. Vic and Sade's radio program was also covered. Jack Benny's Christmas Show, previously.

Collections of Golden Era Radio
Internet Archive has a whole section devoted to Old Time Radio, and it's still growing. Currently, you can listen to over 125 episodes of The New Adventure of Sherlock Holmes (not to be confused with the other radio dramatizations), The Adventures of Superman, including his real-life fight against the KKK, as heard in "Clan of the Fiery Cross." On the lighter side, there's a growing list of recordings from The Les Paul Show and a couple clips from the Grand Ole Opry.

With the ever-growing collection, Internet Archive dwarfs other collections, but some other sites focus on areas overlooked (or maybe just buried) at Archive.org. Old Time Radio (OTR) - Radio Days: A Radio History (previously) is an ever-growing collection, including Radio News, Mystery, Private Eyes, Comedy, SciFi, and more. Old Time Radio Fans (Fans plural) has the usual assortment of programs, plus a selection of old radio commercials. Jezner.com - Old Time Radio is a blog focused on OTR, with background and commentary on the episodes posted every few days.

Old Time Radio Fan is limited to the weekly line-up, where they're online for 7 days, then try your luck with The Random Hopper.

Modern radio dramas
Decoder Ring Theatre (previously) is home to two original series (The Red Panda Adventures and Black Jack Justice), as well as the grab-bag of anthology stories that is Showcase.

Darker Projects (warning: auto-starting audio) (previously) has three original projects, along with Star Trek and Doctor Who interpretations.

ZBS Foundation produces shows for purchase, but their podcasts are free of charge (previously).

ZBS Foundation was discussed previously-er as a set of links to current radio drama. Though all the links died, Archive.org remembers Seeing Ear Theater and Virtually American. Sci-Fi's Seeing Ear Theater is also on CD in 3 volumes. Not included in those volumes: Neil Gaiman's Snow Glass Apples.
posted by filthy light thief (53 comments total) 112 users marked this as a favorite
This is exactly why I love Metafilter.
posted by broken wheelchair at 1:00 PM on August 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

holy shit.
posted by shmegegge at 1:02 PM on August 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

Is there any site that tries to rate and recommend OTR episodes? Frankly, nostalgic affection aside, much of the radio from that era was pretty hackneyed and cliché.
posted by anthill at 1:03 PM on August 25, 2009

radio.macinmind.com has a fantastic 24/7/52 stream of OTR in very high quality (mostly), from Antioch IL. This guy is devoted - he tries to play shows on the calander date on which they originally aired a half-century ago or more. Some great filler music between shows, too!
posted by DandyRandy at 1:03 PM on August 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

I was going to make this a FPP today, but I believe I've been humbled.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 1:04 PM on August 25, 2009

Wow. Awesome post. I have a real soft spot for old radio.
Just to add to the fun, I don't think any talk of radio is complete without mentioning the last, huge gasp of major network programming...NBC Monitor Radio, which began as TV was displacing radio and ran through 1975. Featuring the coolest (or, at least, spaciest) theme music ever.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:05 PM on August 25, 2009

If you're in the DC area from 7-11pm on Sunday nights, tune into The Big Broadcast with Ed Walker on WAMU 88.5. Lots of Gunsmoke, Dragnet, and Johnny Dollar.
posted by djb at 1:10 PM on August 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

Also try listening to When Radio Was. I listen to it every chance I get on 91.7 WVXU, 9 PM weekdays. It can be a miss (old time comedies are sometimes too cheesy to bear), but the suspense shows are usually very entertaining.
posted by glaucon at 1:10 PM on August 25, 2009

I could curl up in this post. I love me some good radio drama.
posted by Decimask at 1:15 PM on August 25, 2009

Whoa! What a post...I'll be exploring this for a while.

The Big Broadcast is awesome and non-locals can listen online. Shows are posted after they are broadcast and left up until the following week. Word of warning: somehow the dramas hold up better than the comedies. Like "Baby Snooks". *shudder*

Also, anyone complaining about violence in "today's media" really needs to listen to "Gunsmoke".
posted by JoanArkham at 1:16 PM on August 25, 2009

Can this post marry me?
posted by festivemanb at 1:17 PM on August 25, 2009

anthill - Jezner might be what you're looking for. Not really consistent in the blog posts (sometimes little more than a one-liner about a random episode, other times more backstory), but it's a continuing feed of reviews. Radio Days has an IRC channel, if you'd like to ask people for suggestions (though I haven't checked to see how lively it is). Otherwise, the huge collection at Internet Archive has a couple good sidebars on this page: most downloaded last week, most downloaded in general, and Staff Picks (no handy link, and it's the bottom section on the side).

I really like Internet Archive's style: you can download single episodes or segments, download the lot, or even stream the whole series. I spent a few hours on Sunday listening to Superman and Batman vs. The Voice of Doom. Fact: Superman doesn't seem that inclined to fly, when he has the chance to be driven around by Batman.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:21 PM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Frankly, nostalgic affection aside, much of the radio from that era was pretty hackneyed and cliché.

I'm just speaking for myself, but the reason I love 'em is because they're so hokey.

Also, there's some good stuff on the BBC iPlayer but they're oddly time-limited and only available for stream, not download.
posted by juv3nal at 1:24 PM on August 25, 2009

Great post! It's nice to see all of these radio shows being preserved.
posted by elder18 at 1:24 PM on August 25, 2009

I'm a big fan of X Minus One...great post btw
posted by GavinR at 1:26 PM on August 25, 2009

Yes! Awesome! Yes!!
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:26 PM on August 25, 2009

There is also the Theatre of the New Ear thing in case anyone missed it.
posted by juv3nal at 1:27 PM on August 25, 2009

This, now this is good. This is a damn fine repository of resources and, speaking as an OTR fan and historian, more comprehensive than I ever expected. Brilliant job all around.

Sure hate to do a self-link horn-blowing thing, but if you wanna talk new/old time radio, well..

I am part of The Post-Meridian Radio Players, a modern audio drama group in Massachusetts which has been putting on live audio drama shows, complete with live sound effects, for the past few years (as well as producing original podcast material that's to be released Real Soon Now.) We've played church basements, we've played science-fiction conventions, and we've played the Orpheum.

For the past few years we have put on a Halloween live show featuring re-creations of classic shows. Each show follows a three-act formula: First a comedy, like Fibber McGee & Molly or Our Miss Brooks, then an atmospheric thriller, such as an adaptation of The Maid's Bell or Carmilla and then a real scary story, such as The Monkey's Paw or The Tell-Tale Heart. I love looking out over the audience during a show and seeing how many people are taking in the mental scene with their eyes closed. It's one of the few times you want to see your audience members closing their eyes.

Our Halloween show this year diverges from the formula slightly. It's a Boston adaptation of War of the Worlds, with a comedy/variety opener. This is our largest production so far, talking place at a venerable Davis Square theater (hooray for the Somerville!) and involving a full-on band and vocalists and Martian sounds and all sortsa neat stuff.

Anyway, that's all I have to say in this self-promotional set of paragraphs. But this is an awesome FPP and I'm loving the comments and suggestions in the thread (I so need more episodes of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. And if anyone's got some Chicken Man, do let me know...)
posted by Spatch at 1:29 PM on August 25, 2009

Who knows what old time radio lurks in the heart of the internet?...

... filthy light thief knows... bha ha ha ha ha ha .
posted by fuq at 1:29 PM on August 25, 2009

"now California State University at San José"

Actually, now San Jose State University. It was originally a teacher's college at the time of the broadcast, but became the first university in the CSU system.
posted by markkraft at 1:29 PM on August 25, 2009

A note to the audophines and others who look at bitrates: many of these recordings are very low bitrates, which didn't necessarily harm my listening to Superman for hours, but I was sad when listening to Les Paul's amazing music.

More OTR collection sites: Free Old Time Radio Shows - one long list of shows, no break-down by genre; and Old Radio World: usual program categories, plus "music" and "miscellaneous" categories. I think I'm missing a few more from my searches in the past few days.

Also, I should have linked to the Old Time Radio Researchers Group program list instead of Wikipedia's, as this list is really solid and clarifies the gaps and questionable areas.

markkraft - thanks for the clarification. I sourced that from a radio researcher.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:38 PM on August 25, 2009

Oooh, yes...another vote for Johnny Dollar.

the reason I love 'em is because they're so hokey

If anyone can find the Christmas episode of "Challenge of the Yukon" (which I always thought was called "Sergeant Preston of the Yukon") it is, I swear, the most hilarious thing I've ever heard. It's like... legendarily hokey and amazing.
posted by JoanArkham at 1:38 PM on August 25, 2009

I loves me some Jack Benny.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:39 PM on August 25, 2009

Wow. Three steps beyond "epic post". I'll be chewing on the links from this for months, I bet. Thank you SO much.

I used to stay up late at night and listen to old-time radio broadcasts via AM on Sunday nights, often getting in trouble from my parents for being up too late. Fibber McGee and Molly, the Jack Benny program, Jimmy Durante (who had the most fantastic cast of characters anywhere), even the old radio version of You Bet Your Life (Groucho rules!!!) all pretty much dominated my developing mind.

Needless to say, my peers in grade / middle school thought I was a bit of an odd duck. (They still do, I think.)
posted by hippybear at 1:39 PM on August 25, 2009

Sweet roundup. Thanks!

Since the dawn of podcasting I've been hoping it would somehow evolve into a refreshed version of what OTR offered. Serialized drama, live music, comedy, variety. It hasn't happened yet but here's hoping.
posted by quarterframer at 1:42 PM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Since the dawn of podcasting I've been hoping it would somehow evolve into a refreshed version of what OTR offered. Serialized drama, live music, comedy, variety. It hasn't happened yet but here's hoping.

Though I'd imagine it would be easier to create a realistic/engaging radio drama than a TV broadcast, the listenership vs TV and movie viewership probably faces the same skew in podcasts vs. webisodes. No one wants to think they have "a face for radio," so they aim high and make videos.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:50 PM on August 25, 2009

Every time our family went on a road trip, we would bring along a few tapes of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes ("with Basil Rathbone! and Nigel Bruce!") from the library.

We loved it just as much for the artifacts of the original format as for the stories. At the beginning of every episode, a Petri Wine executive (voiced by Harry Bartell) stopped by Watson's home (he retired to Napa Valley, apparently) to hear a new adventure from the casebooks - and, at judicious intervals, to interject a little praise for Petri's new muscatel. "I've got a case a case of my own I'd like to get into, doctor!"

Thank you very much for this, filthy light thief.
posted by Iridic at 1:52 PM on August 25, 2009

Frankly, nostalgic affection aside, much of the radio from that era was pretty hackneyed and cliché.

And just how do you think Everyone Loves Raymond will be considered 75 years from now?
posted by Thorzdad at 1:55 PM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

The BBC radio 7 has a mix of new and old shows available.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:00 PM on August 25, 2009

75 years from now? It's already hackneyed and cliché.
posted by hippybear at 2:02 PM on August 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

But it still won't be half as hateful as Life With Luigi.
posted by Iridic at 2:04 PM on August 25, 2009

If you're a Old Time Radio buff, scroll down for Chuckle of the Week. If not, you'll have to do some research, or just smirk at the punny wordplay. The site seems to have stalled sometime in 2000.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:16 PM on August 25, 2009

Now that I've got the link post out of the way, let me express my fondness for old radio. I grew up in a variety of places, but one of these was on a ranch far away from television signals. After reading everything there (including a pile of 20 year old newspapers), all I had for entertainment (beyond music channels) was a radio station that rebroadcast old radio shows. It was thrilling to listen to and shaped my skills in imagination and communication. When you had no face to inflect comedy, everything had to be carried by voice - or pausing in the case of Jack Benny. The words and voice had to convey personality. Hell, in the case of Charlie McCarthy you actually had a freaking ventriloquist on the radio - and it didn't matter.
Because of this influence I grew up with a history 20 years older than I am. Because of this influence I can close my eyes and see worlds that others would never dream of.
Do they wear well? I would say it is a matter of learning to appreciate the subtleties of an arcane art rather than whether they are stale and dated. Beneath the surface of what seems like antiquated mores is a joyous and even radical culture. Rochester is unfairly remembered as a Stepin Fetchit. He was constantly subverting Jack Benny, who in his stinginess was treating him as a virtual slave. I could go on. But, instead, I'll close my eyes and put my headphones on.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:18 PM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's scripts for some 150 radio series.
posted by Iridic at 2:29 PM on August 25, 2009

Frankly, nostalgic affection aside, much of the radio from that era was pretty hackneyed and cliché.

True, but don't underestimate the power of nostalgic affection. My father grew up in the 30s listening to the radio every night. For his 75th birthday, I downloaded a bunch of shows from the Internet Archive and burned them to CD for him. I tried to listen to some of them before I burned the CDs, but I couldn't stand it for more than five minutes. Still, I wound up staying with him for a couple of hours just for the joy of seeing him laugh like a little kid at Jack Benny telling lame jokes, or the way his eyes lit up every time the intro to The Shadow came on.
posted by fuzz at 2:42 PM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Another DC-er who loves The Big Broadcast (longest-running program on WAMU), and listening at 8:00 p.m. every Sunday evening to Gunsmoke with William Conrad as Matt Dillon. Great writing, pacing, acting, directing, music, sound effects. You can listen live via the internet. Add to that the intelligent commentary of Ed Walker, who was just inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. Likewise in the DC area, you can visit the Radio and Television Museum in Bowie, MD.

Great thread, thanks!
posted by apartment dweller at 2:45 PM on August 25, 2009

Gunsmoke, I have heard, is the height of OTR - combination of literary intelligence and thrilling narrative, sort of The Wire of OTR.

Nice to see Internet Archive recognized, the OTR collection is just one of many gems that has formed there. Internet Archive is a non-profit and relies in part on user support, keep them in mind when your thinking about donations.
posted by stbalbach at 3:00 PM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Rochester is unfairly remembered as a Stepin Fetchit. He was constantly subverting Jack Benny, who in his stinginess was treating him as a virtual slave. I could go on.

Yeah, I agree with you. Rochester is a difficult character to interpret these days, but the key thing to remember is that Jack considered him very much a part of his close radio family, and he was written as an excellent comic to Benny's foil. Every now and then when I have to go over old scripts to find one to direct, I purposefully (and with considerable chagrin) put the Jack Benny stuff aside because it is just not worth trying to either adapt Rochester to some new character achetype and lose the original, or play him up as he was and await the inevitable complaints of intolerance. We won't get into the difficulty of casting him, either.

There were stereotypical jokes aimed at Rochester (his brother September was super lazy, if memory serves) but if he was pulling one over on Jack it was okay, since Benny's character was set up to be the butt of most jokes. Still didn't stop Southern listeners from writing in to complain vociferously any time Rochester referred to Jack as "Jack" and not "Mr. Benny", or if he stood up for himself in any capacity. One of the more famous blowups involved Rochester actually throwing a punch at Jack in the show. The Old South warn't gonna stand for it, and the complaints were loud. I believe some stations dropped the show entirely, but don't quote me on that part.

But for every letter that condemned the show for treating "that Negro" as an "equal to the White Man" there was another letter that attacked the show for perpetuating unfair black stereotypes. To Jack's credit, he defended his man on both fronts. Still, that's a lotta fights to address. It's almost as if you just couldn't win with Rochester, which is a shame because Eddie Anderson was very, very funny with great comic timing. Benny could've had a white manservant, and the character would probably have been the same schemer type but much different in attitude. He wouldn't have come close to Rochester, though.
posted by Spatch at 3:05 PM on August 25, 2009

So this is a post on... *squints* old time radio? It's just not clear. Not enough links.

Ah, this is going to devour a lot of time. Most excellent, thanks!
posted by Smedleyman at 3:44 PM on August 25, 2009

Benny also payed Eddie Anderson (who played Rochester) very well (and not by the unspoken black actor "very well" standard either). It's funny, how the collective memory of these shows tends to simplify them*; The closet shenanigans on Fibber McGee and Molly are much rarer than you'd think from their modern summaries - although I think I enjoyed Jim and Marion Jordan on Suspense even more than their landmark comedy.

I too find Life with Luigi too offensive to listen to. I think they finally dropped it from XM's Radio Classics channel, much to my relief. I mean, I'm not interested in most westerns, and I just don't like Life with Riley or Duffy's Tavern or Baby Snooks, but Life with Luigi made me itch from the first sentence every time. Let me put a vote in for Burns and Allen, The Jack Benny Show, and Our Miss Brooks, which are built around comedy geniuses (Gracie Allen, Benny, and Eve Arden) who can - especially in the last case - elevate wonderfully above the material. I also love The Shadow, The Great Gildersleeve, Boston Blackie, and (Yours Truly,) Johnny Dollar. And of course Freberg, who was one of the last gasps in the 60s.

* issues of race complicate the collective memory, too. For an interesting overview of the history of Black Hollywood (to the 60s) that includes coverage of Eddie Anderson, let me recommend Eric Bogle's Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams: the Story of Black Hollywood. He tends to get bogged down in the glamorous side, and I wish he'd dealt more with some of the less glamorous, but interesting stars like Canada Lee, but it was still an interesting and informative book.
posted by julen at 3:46 PM on August 25, 2009

There are quite a few OTR shows available via podcast subscriptions. A particular favorite of mine is this guy's Jack Benny podcast that has morphed into something approaching an OTR history lesson. Not only does he play Jack Benny episodes but he gives a few minutes talk at the beginning of each podcast describing what was going on in the world and in the lives of the cast during that week. Frequently, episodes of other shows that Jack Benny cast members would appear are inserted chronologically into the playlist. You can listen to Jack's appearance on Fred Allen the week before enabling you to get the joke references to the earlier show.

There are a multitude of places to find raw OTR episodes but this is one of the few I am presently aware of that gives so much background and contextual information about the time period.
posted by well_balanced at 3:48 PM on August 25, 2009 [4 favorites]

This post is just absolutely great! Thank you.

I'm another DC-ite who would not have cared about this post were it not for The Big Broadcast. I don't always listen to it (I catch Hot Jazz Saturday Night much more regularly) but I love it when I do.
posted by OmieWise at 4:02 PM on August 25, 2009

Another "Big Broadcast" listener. I admire the "Gunsmoke" scripts of John Meston tremendously. The show was only a half hour, and there's never a wasted word or an extraneous character.

>Is there any site that tries to rate and recommend OTR episodes?

I don't know, but the book "On the Air" by John Dunning, gives details of practically everything, including an appraisal.
posted by acrasis at 4:26 PM on August 25, 2009

Hey, let's ask filthy light thief (our new hero), to rate 'em. flt, what individual shows would YOU recommend out of this trove of links?
posted by Faze at 4:33 PM on August 25, 2009

I was lucky enough to grow up in the DC area (or as I call it, "Maryland"), where WAMU used to broadcast not just the great Big Broadcast program on Sundays but radio drama on weeknights, too. There were two highly formative hours of radio drama on every school night, with one hour of classic OTR and one hour of modern radio drama (ZBS, Hitchhiker's Guide, NPR Playhouse, the NPR Star Wars serials, and more). I was also lucky as hell, even if I didn't always think so at the time, to have progressive parents that limited TV consumption in the family to an hour or so (tops) a day, which we had to pick out of the newspaper TV guide each Sunday, thus learning an important lesson in priorities.

I'd lay there on my bunk bed, with my gigantic old AKG headphones plugged into my radio, and bask in the stories, which were and remain more vivid, colorful, and cinematic than anything I've seen CGI do, and it shaped my character, and my strangely anachronistic world view. I grew up mixed up with media that was made from the thirties through the present, and I still revel in being a kid who really grew up immersed in several decades worth of history, rather than just being a child bound to the polyester years of my actual childhood era.

I hear people complain that old radio comedy's not funny, and I just don't get it—Jack Benny cracks me the f-ck up (and if you accept the queer theory reading of Benny and Rochester's relationship, which I do, it gets wilder, dirtier, and even more f-ing hilarious). Gildersleeve does it, Lum and Abner dun it, and Riley's revoltin' developments just knock me out. I'm sad that it doesn't work for so many people, because it's such a loss, all that wry, clever wordplay, sound effects work, and ensemble theater, and I do what I can to spread the word (hell, my ID on here and most places is "sonascope," which is a rough homage to my love of sound imagery).

It's hard to explain how much a story like the X-Minus-One episode "A Pail of Air" (mp3 link to archive.org) affected my head when I was eleven—maybe the science is off these days, and maybe the storytelling could be more refined, more detailed, or less "hokey," but there's just so much story there, contained in such a small, simple piece of theater, and such a lesson in what's possible. Without the radio, all those years ago, I might not have started (and pursued) writing, or become a musician, or had the diversity of interests to follow the crazy career path I've taken. I took a trip into Jack Benny's vault, followed the road less traveled, and it has indeed made all the difference.

Now that it's all freely-available, I can't help but hope that other kids like me have the opportunity to take that trip, too, and to spend the next thirty years of their lives quoting Digby O'Dell and having a private chuckle when everyone else just raises an eyebrow. There's more to life than the decade you're stuck in, and more beyond it, too, when your imagination gets that hefty steroidal kick from being forced to work, and to visualize a story your own way, and to employ and hone the skills that come from that place to make your life something more than just someone else's vision. I'm a romantic, to be sure, and am well aware of how that can be a burden without a little circumspection, but I'm never bored, either.

I'm just kitting out my new office in the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, a glorious 1911 marketing folly doing double duty as a somewhat absurd office building (now artist studio spaces), and it's probably a telling thing about me that the first two items I brought in are my big wooden Grundig table radio with an iPod input wired in and a 1928 black lacquer electric fan, to listen to Jack Benny and This American Life and Arch Oboler and more. Without radio, I doubt I'd have chased after a place there, managing a ridiculous iconic anachronism on the Baltimore skyline, and still reveling in the joyous mish-mash of colliding histories we can access so freely now.

There are worlds in those headphones, and lifetimes, too.

Glorious, all of it.
posted by sonascope at 4:39 PM on August 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

My favorite moment from Jack Benny's radio show: Dennis Day is going out of town to Palm Springs.

Mary: Palm Springs? How can you go there in the summer? It must be 120 degress in the shade!

Dennis: Oh, I'm smart. I'm not going to stand in the shade!
posted by hippybear at 4:45 PM on August 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

Degrees. degrees. degrees.
posted by hippybear at 4:46 PM on August 25, 2009

One example of the subversiveness of the Benny and Rochester relationship is when they co-owned, fifty-fifty, a horse that ran in the Kentucky Derby. (Which I believe happened in real life, also.) Rochester discovered on racing day that he owned the back end of the horse and would only win any money if it came in backwards. Which it did.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:25 PM on August 25, 2009

Dude. Nice post.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:22 PM on August 25, 2009

Here's a pretty good This American Life on the KKK/Superman bit.
posted by the dief at 8:27 PM on August 25, 2009

flt, what individual shows would YOU recommend out of this trove of links?

Give me a few months. I'm still wading through the decades of radio programming. Most of the collecting sites have some of their favorites listed.

Internet Archive staff recommend the New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes smorgasbord, The Les Paul Show, Father Knows Best (more available on Free OTR Shows), Melody Roundup AFRS (Air Force Recruiting Service? These shows were designed for the entertainment of servicemen and servicewomen overseas during the second world war), and Lum and Abner.

Radio Days has special sections set up for Captain Midnight, and Terry and the Pirates.

Old Time Radio Fans currently list CBS Radio Mystery Theater: The Secret Life of Bobby Deland and Sherlock Holmes - Todd Sweeney Demon Barber as favorite shows.

Old Time Radio Fan has a daily feature, and today it's an episode of Let George Do It, a freelance detective drama.

Also, I initially missed OTR.Network Library (previously) in the original post. The site now has over 12,000 shows. No favorites from them, though, and everything they have is archived in RealMedia.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:44 AM on August 26, 2009

Balls -- I'd been thinking of doing a post like this since I managed to grab the entire run of CBS Radio Mystery Theater in its from-the-air entirety from Pirates Bay. The fact that the 1300+ episodes had been taped, stored, digitized and then collected and organized in the modern era blew my mind. Its creator, Himan Brown (an unfortunate name to be sure) is still kicking around...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:25 PM on August 26, 2009

Thanks for the post! I grew up in Needles CA during the 50's. There was no TV and you could only get the local radio station. I grew up listening to Hop-Along Cassidy, Dragnet, and some other shows. When traveling we would listen to Jack Benny, Amos and Andy. I will spend some time and download some of the shows to take on some road trips. Thanks again!
posted by razzuli at 1:44 PM on August 26, 2009

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