I love Old Time Radio
Back in 2008 I bought a new car that I still have and one of the things it came with was a year’s subscription to satellite radio. I was always one of those people who said I would never pay for radio. It was bad enough that I have to pay for television to watch anything worth watching especially my beloved St. Louis Cardinals. Nevertheless, I took advantage of my free subscription and trolled the dial for commercial free tunes to listen too on long commutes to work. After all, I live in Los Angeles and everywhere is a long commute. Then one day I came upon Radio Classics. I was intrigued so I listened for a while and I discovered that it broadcast programs from the Golden Age of Radio, that age where stories were told over the radio before the mass marketing of and certain popularity of television. It didn’t take long before I was hooked on Fibber McGee and Molly, Gunsmoke, Richard Diamond Private Detective and the Shadow.
These Old Time Radio programs hearken back to a more innocent time in our history but are remarkably current in their content. There is an honesty about the issues they address and naiveté in which they address them. Regardless, I have become an OTR addict. Not only do I still have satellite radio in my car, I have it at work and at home through my computer, all of which I pay for. I never would have thought I would pay for radio but I look forward to tuning into Radio Classics every day and hearing Greg Bell and his blurbs on the history of the shows and the actors who appear in them. I went so far as to purchase several books on the subject such as On the Air and Tune in Yesterday by John Dunning and Radio’s First 75 Years by B. Eric Rhodes and scoured the internet for sources on my favorite shows. I find the whole genre fascinating.
One of the things that I find most interesting about OTR is how often the most famous names in movie making appeared either on their own programs or in guest appearances in others. Many recreated shortened versions of movies they appeared in. It was not uncommon to tune in and hear Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Jimmy Stewart, Betty Davis and others recreate movie rolls or appearing on programs like Suspense and the Lux Radio Theater hosted by Academy Award winning producer/director Cecil B. DeMille. Oscar winners Jimmy Stewart, Bogey and Bacall, and Ronald Coleman among others had their own weekly programs. This is something you definitely don’t see today. There is rarely an occasion when “movie stars” appear on television. That certainly wasn’t the case in the Golden Age of Radio. Everyone could tune in weekly to hear their favorite stars without having to pay the cost of a ticket to the cinema. Money was tight during the Depression and the subsequent war years so not everyone had the disposable income that allowed them to splurge and go to see a movie with the family and the next best thing was the radio and the stars did not disappoint.
OTR programs like the television shows of today consist of comedies, dramas, private investigators, and police, science fiction, and game shows. These programs, unlike television, spur the imagination in the same way that books do. They allow you free reign to visualize the characters from your point-of-view and feed your memory so you can draw from it for other imaginative experiences. OTR is all about your thoughts and perceptions as you listen to the program’s dialogue and the actor’s inflection of the words. OTR is a true listening experience that you cannot get anywhere else.
So, here I am all these years later still driving that same car and listening to Greg Bell introduce Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, Escape, Sam Spade, and Our Miss Brooks. I have learned that there are many websites and YouTube that provide free listening to OTR shows. Take a few minutes and listen to one of these classic radio shows. I am sure that you will become an addict too.
Here are a few OTR programs for your enjoyment: