Archive for the 'early radio' Category

Curtis H. Springer for Acidine - Pgm 1

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Curtis H. Springer was a unique American character.  The self-described "last of the old-time medicine men", Springer got his start working with Billy Sunday's evangelical outfit and, in the 1930s, toured around the country and gave lectures, presenting himself as a member of the "National Academy", the "Springer School of Humanism", the American College of Doctors and Surgeons and other organizations, asking for donations.

Curtis Springer - Pgm 1 - label

Working out of Chicago, Springer appeared on radio hawking various patent medicines.  He applied for airtime on WGN and the station contacted the American Medical Association to check out his credentials.  The AMA was appalled and produced a journal article on Springer, calling him the "King of Quacks".

In this post, we hear Program 1 of a series Springer appeared in hawking Acidine, "Nature's Normalizer for Acid Stomachs", for United Remedies.  It's one of five discs of the series I picked up in an auction a few months ago.  In the shows, Springer takes questions from listeners that mix a homespun philosophies about religion and healthful living with colorful stories about his own life and the people he's met in his travels.  In the first program of the series, Springer advises a listener about mortgaging their house to pay for their son's college education.  Springer, of course, comes down on the side of experience and drive, rather than a college education, to get ahead in life.  The commercial announcer is identified in program 4 as Hal Dean.

I've found a couple of listings for what I think is this program in "Radio Guide" and "Broadcasting" magazines from 1934, so that's the likely time frame they were originally heard.

Springer would go on to found the Zzyzx health spa in the Mojave Desert of California in 1944, continuing his syndicated radio programs.  In 1974, Federal authorities shut down Springer's operation, convicting him of squatting on Federal lands and making false claims about the health foods and remedies he sold.

Our program was transferred from an original single-sided translucent blue celluloid Brunswick transcription, matrix number 9149.  The disc was pressed by Flexo, which was producing various promotion and radio-related plastic and celluloid discs.  Unfortunately, the transcription, like many Flexo pressings has distorted over time, so it was a little difficult to play - you'll hear some noise and "swoosh" sounds from the aging plastic surface.

The show was previously lost and uncirculated.  I'll post the other discs I found from the series later - from what I can tell, these are the only surviving broadcasts by the "King of Quacks".

Listen Now:


Resettlement Administration - Pgm 3

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

During the New Deal era, the Roosevelt administration used the new medium of radio to get the word out about new programs through syndicated shows.  Some, like programs featuring WPA musicians, was more subtle in their advertising approach.  Others were more direct in explaining New Deal programs to the public.

Resettlement Administration transcription label

Program 3 in the "Resettlement Administration" series presents a drama about the plight of tenant farmers, taking the listener through the development of tenant farming after slavery was abolished in the South after the Civil War, how tenant farmers wound up in perpetual debt and poverty, and how the Resettlement Administration could help them.

Conservatives, of course, were outraged at this type of radio "propaganda" - this is the type of program that the National Industrial Council (aka the National Association of Manufacturers) was combatting when they developed the radio serial "American Family Robinson".

What's curious about this particular show is that it features an Old Time Radio and classic Hollywood film voice you might recognize - Joseph Cotten.  The Resettlement Administration was only active in 1935-36, so the show probably from those years  and Cotten, at this point in his career, was appearing on-stage in New York with the Federal Theatre Project.  This is one of the earliest recording of Joseph Cotten on the air - the Goldin database lists a November 14, 1936 "Columbia Workshop" production of "Hamlet" with Cotten and he doesn't pop up on radio again until a September 1938 episode of CBS's "Mercury Theater".  Welles and others involved in the Federal Theatre Project, of course, picked up odd jobs on radio, most famously with Orson Welles appearing in "The Shadow" and "The March of Time".

The show was transferred from an original one-sided shellac Radio and Film Methods Corporation transcription, matrix number 288-A.  The label notes "Dyer Process Recording", "Use Filmmatic Needles" and address of company as 101 Park Avenue, New York City, CAledonia 5-7530-1.  The company probably also produced 16" transcription discs for use with filmstrips.  The show appears to be previously lost.

Listen Now:


Eno Crime Clues - March 28, 1934 - Pt 1

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

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

"Eno Crime Clues" is a rare 1930s radio series heard on the NBC Blue Network from 1933 to 1936.  The program had different incarnations, heard on Columbia in the early 1930s and later on Mutual as "Crime Clues", with the series connected to detective and mystery novels put out by publishers like Doubleday.

Emo Crime Clues label

Goldin only lists eight programs existing in the Blue Network series, so this is a nice find.  What we have in this post is part 1 of the broadcast of March 28, 1934, Episode 2 of the story "The Talking Skull", a murder mystery that takes place on an island, with the detective grilling the assembled group of suspects to come to a solution to the crime.  The program is sponsored by Emo Effervescent Salts.

Each story was broadcast in two half-hour installments, so we're hearing only 15 minutes of the second half of the story.  Even without the solution to the mystery, it's a nice example of this early type of radio drama.

The show was transferred from an original one-sided Victrolac transcription pressed by RCA, matrix number 82259-1.  The advertising agency is N.W. Ayer and Son, New York.

This show appears to be previously lost.  Anyone have the other disc containing the other half of the show in their attic?

Listen Now:


Boulevard of Make Believe - Pgm 12

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Here's the only other episode in my collection of "Boulevard of Make Believe", a syndicated serial drama about Hollywood stars featuring Anna Q. Nelson and Viola Dana.  In program 12, Wally talks to the police about how he might be mixed up in the kidnapping of his wife.

boulevard-of-make-bel_12.jpg

The end theme plays through and we hear a male vocalist crooning the lyrics to "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" - he sounds a bit like Bing Crosby.  Anyone have an idea who it might be?  It wasn't uncommon for these early 30s syndicated shows to use cues from commercial records, so it might be from a commercially released 78.

Dave Goldin, by the way, lists program 1 in the series in his database, a show which ran in my blog a few months ago.  He conjectures that one of the performers playing a Mexican sounds like Bela Lugosi.  What do you think?

The show was digitized direct from an original shellac Radio Release Productions transcription disc, matrix number A-1055.  Radio Release Productions, you might recall, also produced the "Police Reporter" series I ran on the blog awhile back.

I wish I could run into the full run of the series, which I'm guessing was just 13 or 26 episodes - this sounds like a fun serial.

My special thanks to the Old Time Radio Researchers Group for adding this disc to my collection!

Weird Tales - Program 2, Part 2 - The Curse of Nagana

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

In this post, a real rarity.  "Weird Tales" was a series (or perhaps a proposed series) recorded in Hollywood in 1932 and based on stories in the famous horror anthology magazine.  So far, discs from the series haven't turned up - until now.

weird-tales_nagana-p2.jpg

I obtained this disc from Jim Blackson and would like to thank him for the transfer you're listening to here - the disc is almost 17" across and just too large for my transcription player.  Jim had two of these discs, both with blank Columbia labels like this and both part 2 of "The Curse of Nagana".  However, they seem to be different takes.  He saved a copy of both so we could compare the discs.

I'd also like to send a shout-out to Stephen Haffner for help with this post.  Haffner is the proprieter of the Haffner Press, a publisher of mystery fiction that was offering a limited edition set of stories by a "Weird Tales" author - the set included, as a bonus, a reproduction of the flyer sent to radio stations promoting the series.  He was generous enough to forward a digital copy of the flyer to give some background on what you're hearing.

The series (or proposed series) was produced by Hollywood Radio Attractions, 4376 Sunset Drive, Hollywood.  In a promotional flyer for the program, they advertise three episodes that had been produced - the company was planning to record a total of 52 half-hour shows.  Similar to "The Witch's Tale", the show was created in such a way that they could be played as one half-hour program each week or split into two fifteen minute shows, completing one story each week.  So, what you're hearing is part two of "The Mystery of Nagara", which, if run on-air, could be run as a self-contained fifteen minute show, likely with an introduction and commercial by a local announcer.

This disc, along with the other take of part 2 of this episode, seem to be the only discs that survive from the series.  The other shows would have been a fascinating listen - they got some top Hollywood acting talent for the programs.  Here's a rundown of the episodes listed as being available in the flyer:

  • Program 1 - "The Living Dead", based on Kirk Mashburn's Novellete, "De Brignac's Lady" with Jason Robards, William Farnum, Viola Dana, Richard Tucker, John Ince, Wally Reid, Jr. and featuring music by the "Mata Hari Orchestra direct from Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, California"
  • Program 2 - "The Curse of Nagana", from Hugh B. Cave's short story "The Ghoul Gallery" with Richard Carle, Johnny Harron, Florence Britton, Cyrill Delavante, John Ince, Pierre White, Lucille Amaya with music by an "Arabian Orchestra".
  • Program 3 - "The Three from the Tomb", from a novel by Edmund Hamilton with William Farnum, Bert Roach, Prisicilla Dean, Pat O'Malley, John Ince, Frank Glendon and Robert Hoover.

The actors on the shows were experienced in Hollywood films.  Jason Robards, featured on the first program, is actually Jason Robards, Sr., the father of the actor you might be more familiar with.  The elder Robards appeared in silent and sound films and television through the 1950s.  Richard Carle and the other actors featured in "Nagana" were all experienced character actors in films.

All of the shows were adapted by Oliver Drake and produced by Irving Fogel, a producer and recording executive that had a long career in Los Angeles.  Fogel, according to Christopher Sterling's "Encyclopedia of Radio", acted as a producer on some early Armed Forces Radio programming.  Drake was a writer and director in Hollywood, primarily with Westerns, from the silent era through the 1950s and worked on television shows such as "The Adventures of Superman", "Laramie" and "Lassie".

Scholars looking at the history of "Weird Tales" magazine have heard about the series for years, but no recordings of the shows themselves or much detail about the series have surfaced.  After considerable searching through Google and subscription newspaper databases, I can't any reference to the series or these particular shows actually being broadcast.  My guess is that the three shows were recorded and promoted to stations, but that it just didn't sell.

Horror was a bit of a tough genre to sell to sponsors.  At a time when sponsors were identified closely with the programs they advertised on, it would be difficult to find a local or regional advertiser that was a good fit.  Combine that with some likely belt-tightening with the Depression going full-swing and the glut of transcription programming available and it likely doomed the project.  The other programs in the series probably weren't produced and, with no or few airings of the three shows that were made, that would explain why discs from the series just haven't turned up.

Again, I would like to thank Jim Blackson and Stephen Haffner for their help with this post.

The mp3 you're hearing was transferred directly from the Columbia one-sided laminated shellac transcription, matrix number I-1511 with notations of "IA" and "HRA2".  The disc features a blank Columbia Sound-on-Disc Division label, so it is likely a test pressing.

If you have any additional info or thoughts on the "Weird Tales" series, please leave a comment or drop me a line.

Listen Now:


Sunkist Musical Cocktail - March 15, 1931 (excerpt)

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

It wasn't until the mid-1930s that instantaneous lacquers took off as a way to preserve live radio shows.  So recordings of radio's earliest years are quite rare.  "Sunkist Musical Cocktail" was a musical variety program that featured Hollywood stars as guests.  The sponsor, taking advantage of the Hollywood glamor, had some excerpts from the series recorded and released them as promotional items giving us a glimpse at this early radio effort.

record label

In this mp3, we hear an excerpt from the broadcast of March 15, 1931, originally broadcast on CBS.  Guest Ann Harding discusses her career with Louella Parsons, including references to a screen test arranged by Rudolph Valentino and Harding's stage work.  According to Elizabeth Mcleod, the recording was originally made by Hollywood Film Laboratories.

The disc includes an introduction with a brief sponsorship message for Sunkist recorded especially for this release of the recording.  Our mp3 was transferred from an original 6" Flexo pink celluloid plastic 78 disc, matrix numbers 6-59 and 6-60.

record reverse

I've put a fade out/in between side changes since I'm not sure if the sides are a continuous segment of the program.  It sounds a tad slow to me, but I double-checked the turntable speed with a strobe on this one; it may have been recorded slightly off speed.

Flexo may have recorded and released other interview excerpts in this series that aren't circulating.  I've seen references to recordings in existence of broadcasts of April 8, 1931 (Louella Parsons and Ruth Chatterton) and March 25, 1931 (Louella Parsons and Norma Shearer, matrix number 6-81/6-81).

Flexo, by the way, tried to promote their unusual new plastic records for a variety of purposes.  According to one online discography, they even released some 16" radio transcriptions pressed on green celluloid.  Anyone ever see one or have a label photo?

Listen Now:


Cocoanut Grove Ambassadors - Series C Pgm 3A

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

"The Cocoanut Grove Ambassadors" is one of those well-produced little shows from Transco that were making the rounds in the 1930s.  This particular series featured bands that performed at the famous Hollywood nightspot.

transcription label

Radio Archives has released a series of discs with shows from the series and, in this post, we highlight a program in the series that hasn't been released by them on cd so far.  Series C Program 3A features Jimmie Grier and his Orcheastra.  Songs include "September" with a vocal by the Three Ambassadors, "Time on My Hands" with a vocal by Dick Webster, and "Now's the Time to Fall in Love".  The show was recorded in 1932.

The program was dubbed direct from an original shellack Transco transcription.

Listen Now:


Skinner’s Romancers - Pgm 3

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

A couple of weeks back, we heard program 2 in this series of "hot jazz" done by an unidentified band and vocalists.  Sponsored by William Skinner & Sonds, a textile company specializing in silks, the show appears to have been syndicated around 1931.

transcription label

A astute listener noted in the comments for the show that two of the recordings featured on that program were actually commercial Columbia releases by Ben Selvin featuring Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey.  So this was one of those shows assembled for a sponsor - a way to play records on the radio without actually saying they were "pho-no-graph re-cords", as per FCC instructions.

Program 3 of the series includes "You Got to Bend Down Sister" from the movie "Palmy Days", "Penny for Your Thoughts", and "You Call It Madness (But I Call It Love)".  And, as usual, our mellow-toned early 30's announcer tells us all about the advantages of making your own clothing with Skinner fabrics.

The show was transferred from original single-sided Columbia Sound-on-Disc Division shellac transcription, matrix number 305130.  There's a "W" in circle just before matrix number, probably indicating that it was recorded on Western Electric equipment.

Listen Now:


Skinner’s Romancers - Pgm 2

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

As my last post this week, I'd like to offer a selection that will have your toes tapping - a bit of "hot jazz" to get your weekend started.

I recently obtained two discs from the now-forgotten series "Skinner's Romancers", a music program sponsored by William Skinner & Sons.  Program 2 in the series includes "My Bluebird's Back Again", "As Time Goes By", "She Gives All Her Attention to Me" and "My Sweet Tooth Says I Wanna (But My Wisdom Tooth Says No)" (or, at least, I think those are the titles of the tunes).  The band isn't identified, but they're quite good - any jazz experts out there have a clue on who these guys might actually be?

transcription label

Skinner was a company specializing in silks, so we hear little short commercials in between the tunes encouraging women to make their own clothes with Skinner fabrics.  You can read a history of Skinner and see some photos of the factories at this online exhibit and also check out a vintage 1920s ad for their wares.

There were dozens, if not hundreds, of these little syndicated shows floating around in the early 1930s.  Everyone wanted to advertise on radio and syndicating shows to individual stations was a good way for a regional or second-tier national advertiser to promote their products.  This show sounds similar to some other 1931-era syndicated programs linked at otrcats (see the lower right sidebar), so I wonder if some of the same people worked on them.  The label of this disc notes that the "program was prepared by Lucia Hackley, New York City" - anyone know who Hackley was?

The show was transferred from an original single-sided Columbia Sound-on-Disc Division shellac transcription, matrix number 305130.  There's a "W" in a circle just before matrix number, probably indicating it was recorded on Western Electric equipment

Listen Now:


National Radio Advertising Company Transcriptions

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

From my collection of rare Old Time Radio lps, here's a selection of parts from very rare syndicated programs from the late 1920s.

The National Radio Advertising Company was one of several syndication companies that popped up during the early years of radio, sending out discs to radio stations.  In the early days, one show would be packaged on several 12" 78 rpm discs, since many stations didn't yet have the equipment to play the new 16" discs.

This file includes parts of several programs from the company.  In the file, you'll hear:

  • "Heat" with Red Nichols, Part 3 of Program I - "Ballin' the Jack/Walkin' the Dog Medley", recorded in New York, 25 August 1930, matrix number XE 34058
  • "Heat" with Red Nichols, Part 3 of Program 3 - "Call of the Freaks", recorded in New York, 1 August 1930, matrix number XE 33549
  • "Sunny Meadows" with Ray Miller and his Orchestra, Part 2 of Program D - "You're the Cream in My Coffee" and "I Ain't Got Nobody", recorded in Chicago, 18 January 1929, matrix number XC 2826-A
  • "Sunny Meadows" with Ray Miller and his Orchestra, Part 2 of Program E - "I'll Never Ask for More" and "He, She, and Me", recorded in Chicago, 25 January 1929, matrix number XC 2862
  • "Sunny Meadows" with Ray Miller and his Orchestra, Part 6 of Program E - "Tell Me Who" and show closing, matrix number XC 2866
  • "Maytag Frolics" with Coon-Sanders Orchestra, Part 6 of program - "Kansas City Kitty", "What a Girl, What a Night", and show closing, recorded in Chicago, 1 March 1929, matrix number XC 3025

The Red Nichols sides, by the way, feature  Glenn Miller, Adrian Rollini, Gene Krupa and either Bud Freeman or Benny Goodman.

Besides the music, the excerpts are interesting as a glimpse into how shows of the early radio days were structured and announced.  The original syndication discs are extremely rare - I've only seen one disc from a NRAC program turn up on ebay at auction over the past few years.  Goldin lists a handful of programs from three series - "Maytag Frolics", "Heat", and a minstrel program - but the company issued programs in a wide range of genres, from classical music to drama.  Excerpts turn up like this on occasion in mp3 format, but without the helpful dating and discographical information you find on this lp.

There must have been some big money in radio syndication at the time - I'll bet getting these sets of discs recorded, pressed and shipped wasn't cheap.  The Pittsburgh Press ran an article in their January 13, 1929 edition about these syndicated shows from NRAC, noting that a special ruling from the FCC was required before they could be broadcast.  The company, interestingly enough, was acquired by Warner Brothers in May, 1930, according to a NY Times piece.

The excerpts were taken from the lp "Radio Rarities", released on the Broadway-Intermission Records label in Brighton, Michigan; the catalog number is BR-101.  All the information on the tracks are from the extensive liner notes of the album by Edward F. Polic.  The disc also includes excerpts of 1930s band remotes by the Benny Goodman Orchestra, Hal Kemp, and Mitchell Ayers and His Fashions in Music.

Broadway-Intermission released several albums in the 1970s and 80s of rare twenties and thirties jazz, focusing on performers like Red Nichols and Bing Crosby.

Listen Now: