Archive for the 'AFRS' Category

AFRS VE-Day Program

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

May 8th marks the anniversary of VE Day (or Victory in Europe Day) when the Allies accepted the surrender of the armed forces of Germany.  Obviously, Armed Forces Radio had to prepare for various stages of the War and the eventual victory, so this was a special celebratory program prepared in advance of the actual end of the War in Europe.

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To commemorate the event, AFRS assembled a cast of stars for song and reflection about the War and the battles still to come to end the War in the Pacific.  Heard in the show are Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, The Ken Darby Singers, Frances Langford, Dinah Shore, Ginny Simms, Johnny Mercer, Judy Garland, Loretta Young, Charles Boyer, Lin Yutang, Herbert Marshall, and Bishop Fulton Sheen.  Highlights of the show include Francis Langford singing "This is the Army", Bing crooning "Praise the Lord (And Pass the Ammunition)" and Judy Garland with a bizarre medley of songs including "We're Off to See the Wizard" with the lyrics altered to disparage Hitler(!).

The show was transferred to mp3 format from one of the more unusual AFRS discs I've seen.  The show is part of their "Basic Information Library, and is marked as Program No. 5 in the BIL and "Information Special #2".  The disc is also marked to indicate that it is "to be retained by station after original broadcast as part of Basic Information Library".  I'm not sure how they would have reused the show unless individual stations could use extracts from it in later programming about the War.

Stay tuned to the blog for a special AFRS program commemorating VJ Day in August.

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Command Performance, Pgm 162

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

We continue our look at the work of Bing Crosby this week with what may be the most famous program on AFRS that he appeared in.  It's program 162 in the series "Command Performance", the comic strip operetta, "Dick Tracy in B Flat".

The once-in-a-lifetime cast includes Bing Crosby, Dinah Shore, Jimmy Durante, Judy Garland, Cass Daley, Frank Sinatra, Frank Morgan, Bob Hope, Jerry Colonna, the Andrews Sisters and announcer Harry Von Zell.

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There are several unusual aspects to this episode of "Command Performance".  The show was usually a half-hour and it's not clear why they expanded it to an hour for this show that was distributed at that particular time.  In fact, if you listen closely, it sounds like it may have been originally recorded as a "two-parter", since there's a break in the middle telling you to tune in next week.  This reference falls a couple of minutes into side three of the transcription set, so I don't think it's there to give the local stations flexibility in programming it on their schedule.

I'd also like to know how the show originated - who came up with the idea and if it was the work primarly of one or more writers on the "Command Peformance" staff.

Our digital file was recorded directly from an original vinyl AFRS transcription set.  This may be an upgrade for your collection, since at least one popular version of the recording that's floating around in mp3 format sounds as though it was transferred from a second generation tape and was dubbed too slow, making the cast sound like they have a bad cold.

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GI Journal - Pgm 12

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

"GI Journal" was one of several shows, like "Command Performance", recorded especially for our fighting troops during World War II.  There's the usual mix of fast paced comedy and music, but "GI Journal" loosely uses the format of the host editing a newspaper.

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Program 12 in the series from October 9, 1943 features host Bing Crosby with announcer Harry Mitchell, Ish Kabibble offering poems and Arthur Q. Bryan with advice to the lovelorn, along with comedy Jerry Collonna, songs from Georgia Carroll, and John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra.  Bing kicks off the show with "Thank Your Lucky Stars".  Mel Blanc plays a GI trying out for a position as a Supply Sergeant and the Mad Russian and Bing do a routine about a salvage operation.

Our mp3 was dubbed directly from an original AFRS vinyl transcription.

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Kate Smith - Pgm 21

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

Originally heard on the CBS network, we offer in this post a special Christmas edition of the "Kate Smith Hour" as broadcast on AFRS, December 25, 1944.

In the show, Kate sings "When My Ship Comes In" and then we hear a sketch by the cast of "The Aldrich Family".  A highlight of the show is a stand-up routine by up and coming comic Jackie Gleason, who impersonates personalities such as Charles Laughton, Petter Lorre and Jimmy Durante and does a routine about falling in love with a jukebox.  Kate wraps things up with "Ave Maria".

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Goldin lists this as "possibly" an assembled show.  AFRS distributed programs to their stations on vinyl discs that had to be prepared weeks in advance, so this show may have been a mix of material from other Kate Smith programs or a previous Christmas program in the series or some type of rehearsal.

The show was transferred directly from an original AFRS vinyl transcription.

By the way, do you recognize our Santa Claus on the label?  He turns up on other AFRS Christmas issues and, more recently, on the label of one of the Uncle Remus discs featured in the blog last week.  It's an early example of "clip art", I suppose.

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My Son Jeep - Pgm 2

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

Continuing our look at the rare early 50s sitcom, "My Son Jeep", we offer in this post episode 2 of the series as broadcast on AFRTS, probably originally heard on NBC on February 1, 1953.  Jeep has the measles and plots a way he can still play with his friends while being cooped up in the house.  The show stars Donald Cook and Martin Houston.

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The program, which appears to have been previously lost and not in circulation, was transferred directly from an AFRTS vinyl transcription.

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My Son Jeep - Pgm 1

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

"My Son Jeep" appears to be a "lost" series with perhaps only one episode floating around old time radio circles.  I hope to correct that with a half-dozen examples of the program in coming weeks.

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The show is a lighthearted family comedy in the vein of radio's "Father Knows Best" about a widow, Doctor Robert Allison or "Pop", his mischievous ten year old son, "Jeep", and his 13 year old daughter, Peggy.  The series was originally broadcast on NBC radio and television in 1953 as a half-hour sitcom; it would return to radio on CBS in 1955-56 in a 15 minute format.  Donald Cook plays "Pop" and Martin Houston stars as "Jeep".

This week, we present the first program of the series, originally broadcast January 25, 1953 on NBC.  In this episode, Jeep is smitten with a new substitute teacher at school, Mrs. Miller, eventually convincing Pop to hire her as an assistant in his office.  Of course, with Jeep things are never really that simple and Pop has to straighten out a mess before the happy ending.  The series is a good example of the 1950s trend towards more "Americana", "slice of life" comedy on radio and television and away from the "one liner" topical urban humor of shows like Jack Benny or Fred Allen.

One distinctive feature of this disc is the collection of music cues at the end.  Often, AFRS would use a specially recorded version of the series theme song to fill out time at then of the show since the commercials were deleted.  "My Son Jeep" seems to have used a collection of library music cues rather than a specially recorded music, so AFRS just edited the cues together to fill out the time.  (Trust me, if you listen to all six shows I'll be posting, you'll get very familiar with them.)

The show was transferred from a set of vinyl AFRS transcription in near mint condition.

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Suspense - Pgm 365 - The Rescue

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

Since Thanksgiving is coming up, I was trying to think of a way to connect this week's shows with a holiday theme.  I suppose the only way this one might fit is that it makes you thankful you're not on the window ledge of a high-rise building with a mad doctor trying to kill you.

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In this post, "Suspense", originally broadcast April 19, 1951 on CBS and presented as program 365 in the "Suspense" series on Armed Forces Radio.  Jimmy Stewart plays a businessman who is drawn into helping a young woman who says she is being pursued by a doctor that's trying to kill her.

The circulating copies of this show are missing the last ten minutes.  (This would lead me to believe that they're dubbed from a network copy of the show that was given to one of the staff or performers or done as an aircheck on 12" 78 rpm discs and that one of the discs is missing.)  This version of the show is complete - a real treat since this particular episode of "Suspense" has an ending that relies on sound effects and great acting to create a tense climax to the story.

The show was dubbed directly from an AFRS vinyl disc.  There's a couple of sections with pops in the disc, but the sound is quite good otherwise.

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Mystery Playhouse - Pgm 129

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Once again we offer up an episode of "Mystery Playhouse", a "catch-all" Armed Forces Radio series dedicated to mystery and detective shows that often includes some interesting uncirculated or rare material.   I love the AFRS openings of this series with a host that's a bit of a cross between the "Suspense" "Man in Black" and "Inner Sanctum"'s Raymond - "Hello creeps!"

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Program 129 is a rebroadcast of NBC's "Molle Mystery Theater" from October 5, 1945.  In this episode, "Angel Face", a murdering woman finds her latest victim returning from the grave.

The show was transferred directly from an original AFRS transcription.  Note that there's groove damage in the first half-minute or so of the disc, but the sound is quite good otherwise.

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Mystery Playhouse - Pgm 125

Monday, November 10th, 2008

In this post, "This is Your FBI", originally broadcast August 10, 1945 on ABC.  In this case, we're hearing by way of "Mystery Playhouse" a "catch-all" anthology mystery and detective series broadcast by the Armed Forces Radio Service.

This episode, "Robert Peary, Impersonator" is a story about your FBI tracking down a con artist and his mother.  The con artist, by the way, poses as a chicken inspector, proving that no crime is too strange to draw attention from federal investigators.

The show was transferred from an original AFRS transcription; it unfortunately has some groove wear in the opening moments of the program.

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Harlem Hospitality Club - AFRS Pgm 14

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Originally broadcast on Saturdays at 2:00 pm from the Savoy Ballroom in New York on the Mutual network, "Harlem Hospitality Club" featured live rhythm and blues performances and brief interviews with audience members.  This rare show was hosted by Willie Bryan with music backing by the Lou Mel Morgan Trio.

The guests for program number 14 as the series was broadcast by Armed Forces radio were pianist Kirby Walker and vocalist Kitty Dechavez.

Songs include "St. Louis Blues", "My Sugar's So Refined" and others.  Audience members from North Carolina, Virginia and New York are interviewed, including a woman who trains prize fighters and another who remembers "cake walk" competitions in church when she was young.

The program was transferred from original vinyl AFRS transcription.

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