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Entries Tagged as 'Depression-era'

Ma Perkins - Pgm 424

September 3rd, 2009 · Comments

A few months ago, I posted episode 423 of "Ma Perkins", a rare early entry in this long-running radio soap opera.  The program was transferred from an uncoated aluminum disc.

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In this post, the flip side - program 424, where Ma continues to fret about Faye, who wants to go to the big city to seek her fortune.  She turns to her friends at the lumber yard for advice - will Ma let her go or encourage her daughter to stay?  Goldin dates the previous episode to August 1935, so this one comes from the same time period.

The transfer is from an uncoated aluminum transcription by Mercury Recording Studios in Chicago.  You can check the previous "Ma Perkins" post for some conjecture on my part that the disc might have been created for extension spotting the series to Canadian radio stations.

Unfortunately, the original sound levels in the recording are a little low, so it's difficult to understand the dialogue sometimes through the distinctive aluminum disc hiss.  However, I'm posting it since it appears to be a previously lost episode of the series.  I tried five different styli on the disc - ranging from a 2.0 mil to a 4.0 mil and, oddly, the 2.0 mil produced the least amount of surface noise and best tracking.  Usually, uncoated aluminum discs take a larger stylus.

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Tags: drama · Depression-era · women's issues · Ma Perkins

Pick and Pat - May 31, 1937

August 27th, 2009 · Comments

Note:  This program contains racial stereotyping themes that may be offensive to some listeners.

This week, I'm starting a series of posts of "Pick and Pat", a rare variety show featuring two blackface performers.  These programs, unheard since they were originally broadcast, come from a series of aircheck lacquers I recently obtained.  Except for one program, the shows are incomplete.  I'm still working on transferring and restoring the discs, so I'm not sure how many I will be able to offer here since the discs are in bad shape and starting to deteriorate.

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The episode of May 31, 1937 includes routines where Pat plays the harmonica and the pair do a sketch playing Indians selling the island of Manhattan.  The latter includes some jokes about the stock market crash and Depression and, with two Irish vaudeville comedians in Blackface playing Native Americans, considerable cognitive dissonance about race that might make your head explode if you try to analyze it too much.  The show features music by vocalist Edward Roecker and an orchestra led by Benny Krueger, including "That Old Gang of Mine" with a recitation.  The series was sponsored by the U.S. Tobacco Company to promote Model and Dill's Best pipe tobaccos.

According to Dunning's "Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio", Pick Padgett and Pat Malone were Irishmen who teamed up in 1929 as Molasses and January and worked regularly under that name on the "Maxell House Show Boat" program.  They were heard on radio in their own series on NBC from 1934-35, CBS from 1935-39, Mutual in 1944 and ABC in 1945.  You can see a picture of Pick and Pat and read an interview with Pick Padget from the St. Petersburg, Florida Evening Independent of June 16, 1933.

These discs were made for the producer of the program, Frank MacMahon, and each show was recorded on 16" lacquers in three parts.  In the case of this particular episode, the second disc is missing, so you'll hear a fade-out in the middle of the show before we continue with the third part.  The discs also preserved a bit of the shows on the air that evening before and after "Pick and Pat"; this set includes the last minute or so of the "Ted Weems" show, a special announcement by the WABC announcer on how to get tickets for the program, and, at the end, the WABC station id and opening of "Lux Radio Theater".

The show was transferred directly from an original WABC lacquer aircheck made by the National Recording Company, New York.  The file has been run through click reduction software to improve the sound.  Note that the sound levels vary during the show.

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Tags: comedy · variety · Depression-era · African-Americans · Native Americans · Pick and Pat

American Family Robinson, Pgm 55

October 3rd, 2008 · Comments

I just finished transferring to digital several discs in this series that have been obtained by the Old Time Radio Researchers Group.  As a special treat, they've given me permission to share this program on the blog.  Many thanks!

With the recent troubles on Wall Street and the "bailout" or "rescue" package for the financial industry working its way through Congress, along with some major bank failures, it seems like a good time to delve into some of the public debate going on about the economy during a previous economic crisis.

"American Family Robinson" is an unusual program.  It's a continuing drama produced as part of a propaganda campaign by the National Industrial Council.  The Council, made of up large business interests, hoped to combat public support for Roosevelt's liberal New Deal policies.  So, the programs are an interesting mix of family drama and little conversations about things like the evils of socialism and high taxes on business.

Sound familiar?

The show centers around a "typical" American family; Luke Robinson is the head of household and owns a newspaper; his daughter has just married a young reporter at the paper.  There's also a crazy aunt and uncle that provide comic relief as the aunt opens up her own department store and the uncle gets involved in "get rich quick" schemes.

In program 55, a serious problem has developed for the family.  Luke has learned that the newspaper is in debt and is loosing money and it looks like the shareholders are going to close down the paper.  Mrs. Robinson and the daughter prepare dinner and know that something's up, but are unsure what's going on; they take time to have a little talk about the role that housewives play in the economy as Luke heads home to break the bad news about the paper.

"American Family Robinson" was extremely popular, running on about 300 radio stations and sponsored locally by small business or a local Chamber of Commerce.  Despite the popularity of the show, very few episodes survive.

This show was transferred directly from a World Broadcasting transcription, matrix number 9090-4V.  The disc itself is quite unusual, made of some type of "floppy" plastic that isn't vinyl and appears to be easily damaged.  That may be why more episodes of the series aren't in circulation.

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Tags: drama · Depression-era · American Family Robinson

Works Progress Administration Presents - 1938 Series, Pgm 46

September 18th, 2008 · Comments

Here's the last transcription I'll be posting for now in the series "The Works Progress Administration Presents", a program featuring musical ensembles of the Federal Music Project and information about programs and services of the WPA to help communities with the Depression.

In program 46 of the 1938 series, we hear the Commonwealth Symphony and State Chorus of Boston, conducted by A. Buckingham Simpson, performing excerpts of Bizet's "Carmen".  The program was transferred directly from an original RCA Victrolac pressing, matrix MS 013478.

I have one more program in the series, featuring a Federal Music Project group performing folk music of Mexico, but it's badly pressed and doesn't have the best sound - if someone is interested, I can post it on the blog at a later time.

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Tags: classical music · Depression-era · WPA

Works Progress Administration Presents - 1937 Series, Pgm 6

September 12th, 2008 · Comments

I had someone write who enjoyed hearing the classical music program "The Works Progress Administration Presents" a few weeks ago, so here's another episode.  The program featured WPA-sponsored musical ensembles from the Federal Music Project performing contemporary and classical works and has a few words about WPA programs in your area.

Program six of the 1937 series features the Federal Music Project Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Samuel Gardner, with works by Hayden and Mozart.

The program was transferred from RCA Victrolac pressing, matrix MS 04978.

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Tags: classical music · Depression-era · WPA

The Works Progress Administration Presents - 1938 Series, Pgm 53

August 20th, 2008 · Comments

Continuing from our previous post on the series "The Works Progress Administration Presents", we have another rare recording of a lesser known composer.

Program 53 of the 1938 series features the Forum String Quartet of Boston performing the Lento from the String Quartet, Opus 96 by Dvorak and the Allegretto movement from the Creole Quartet by Harry Newton Redman.  This appears to be the only known recording of a work by Redman, who was a member of the New England Conservatory of Music.

Directly transferred from RCA Victrolac pressing, matrix number MS 013489.

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Tags: classical music · Depression-era · WPA

The Works Progress Administration Presents - 1937 Series, Pgm 10

August 20th, 2008 · Comments

Here's a little something for you classical music buffs out there.

"The Works Progress Administration Presents" was a series syndicated from 1936 to 1938 featuring WPA sponsored orchestral, vocal and chamber groups performing contemporary and standard classical works. The program was part of the Federal Music Project, directed by Nikolai Sokoloff, a Russian-American conductor and violinist. Each quarter hour program includes a commercial promoting some aspect of the WPA's work in local communities or programs that unemployed workers could take advantage of.

In program 10 of the 1937 series, we hear the Los Angeles Grand Opera Group performing selections from the first and third act of the opera, "Fernando del Nonsensico" by composer Felix Borowski. The piece is a satire of grand opera that references "Lucia", "Aida", "Carmen", and other popular works.

The Federal Music Project in Los Angeles produced the opera in February, 1936 and this was the radio premiere of the work. Borowski was newspaper critic at the Chicago Sun and professor of theory and counterpoint at the Chicago Musical College. This is the only known recording of "Fernando del Nonsensico".

I recently obtained five programs from this series and would like to hear more - though the groups mostly tackle standard repertoire, they occasionally work in lesser known compositions from contemporary composers.

The program was directly transferred from RCA Victrolac pressing, matrix number PMS 09299. (Note that the disc has a slight warp.)

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Tags: classical music · Depression-era · WPA

The Townsend Plan - Pgm 2 (filmstrip soundtrack)

April 20th, 2008 · Comments

In this post, an unusual 16" record that isn't a radio show, as I initially thought when I saw the disc.  This is a soundtrack record that originally accompanied a filmstrip to promote "The Townsend Plan" and is number 2 in an apparent series of these presentations.

The program is a bit dull in the first ten minutes where they go through many economic facts and figures, but picks up when the plan is actually explained and they address questions about the plan from everyday folks.  The dry, authoritative style would be something that comedians like the Firesign Theater would poke fun at in later years.  "A flag will wave on high only so long as the people beneath it are provided for!"

The Townsend Plan was a proposal by a physician, Dr. Francis Everett Townsend, that guaranteed a monthly pension of $200 per person (over $3,000 in 2007 dollars) with the stipulation that the money be spent by the recipients within a month.  The plan would have been paid for by a 2% tax on all business transactions.  The basic idea was to stimulate the economy by placing more money in circulation and end the Depression.

Townsend clubs sprang up all around the country and the Plan gained considerable attention, leading to the enactment of Social Security Act in 1935.  Townsend continued to lobby for the plan, since he still opposed Social Security and many other aspects of the administration's handling of economic policy.

This disc would appear to date from the late 1930's since it discusses the disadvantages of the Social Security Act and how the Roosevelt administration is using preparations for war as a means to lift the economy - it might have been produced as part of Townsend's push about the plan that lead to amendments to the Social Security Act in 1939.  The filmstrip and disc were likely used as informational programming by Townsend clubs to recruit new members or to motivate members to lobby their representatives.

You can read more about the Townsend Plan at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Townsend_plan .

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Tags: historical · World Broadcasting · Depression-era