Entries Tagged as 'early radio'
January 18th, 2017 ·
With the swearing in of a new President (apparently) happening this week, I thought we’d get a little political on the blog with some different transcriptions in my collection dealing with various facets of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.
First up, an episode of a government radio series that appears to be previously lost promoting the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA was established as part of the National Housing Act of 1934; I’m guessing this show dates from 1934 or ’35 as the agency was trying to first promote their services. This was typical of the type of promotional radio work done by FDR’s New Deal agencies; many of the individual shows and series were simply discarded since they served a temporary purpose and don’t survive today.
The FHA has seen many changes over the years. The original idea of commercial banks making loans in their own community, with the loans being backed by the Federal government, was, in my opinion, a sound idea. The breakdown of regulations over commercial banking led to the 2007 sub-prime mortgage crisis, with banks taking on loans from unqualified borrowers, buying and selling these “junk” loans on the open market, and sticking the Federal taxpayer with the bill.
Wikipedia notes that, “The share of home purchases financed with FHA mortgages went from 2 percent to over one-third of mortgages in the United States, as conventional mortgage lending dried up in the credit crunch. Without the subprime market, many of the riskiest borrowers ended up borrowing from the Federal Housing Administration, and the FHA could suffer substantial losses. Joshua Zumbrun and Maurna Desmond of Forbes have written that eventual government losses from the FHA could reach $100 billion. … By November 2012, the FHA was essentially bankrupt.”
Despite this mix of Federal backing for loans by private local commercial banks to support affordable home ownership and stable home markets, the Republicans opposed the FHA, like many other of FDR’s New Deal programs. They got their wish to dismantle the FHA by simply passing de-regulation of banks over the years that ensured the agency would collapse with a tidy profit being earned by private commercial banks.
Our FHA radio show features the United States Marine Band, Captain Taylor Branson, conducting. They perform “The Gate City March” by Weldon, as well as works by Wagner and others. We also hear a little sketch about a family needing to do some updating to their home for a long-term family visitor. They discover how a loan through their local bank, guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration, can help them. I have another FHA transcription I’ll post later that includes short dramatized sketches about young couples buying their first home and other common situations for taking out home loans.
There are no credits on the show, but the announcer sounds like the same guy who did the announcing work on 1930s episodes of “Jungle Jim”. He shows the same dramatic enthusiasm, whether he’s talking about the Marine Band and the FHA or the latest perils of Jungle Jim.
The mp3 was transferred directly from a 16” one-sided shellac transcription from Radio and Film Methods Corporation, 101 Park Avenue, New York, matrix number 206A. As far as I can tell, no other episodes of this series survives.
Tags: Depression-era · early radio · New Deal related
January 18th, 2017 ·
First up in the blog this week, our next episode of the early 1930s radio comedy serial, “Louie’s Hungry Five”.
The show looks at the misadventures of the “Little German Band” and was developed by WGN after the success of “Amos n’ Andy”. The series features Henry “Hank” Moeller as the group’s leader, Herr Louie Hasenpfeffer, Harold “Hal” J. Giles as his sidekick, the Weasel and unknown actors portraying Emil, Yohannis and Fritz. You can see my first post about the show for more information about the series.
In program 301, originally broadcast September 30, 1931, the boys are preparing an auction to fund their trip to South America. However, they haven’t told their girlfriends and have to figure out how to hide the auction from them. As they say, complications ensue.
You can see the original cue sheet used by the local announcer for this episode by downloading this jpeg file.
This show was transferred from two 12” 78 rpm Columbia Sound-On-Disc shellac transcriptions, matrix numbers 233255 and 233256. I have a total of about twenty consecutive episodes of the series I’ll be posting over the coming weeks.
Tags: early radio · Louie's Hungry Five
January 12th, 2017 ·
Finally this week, we kick off a series of about twenty consecutive episodes of a previously uncirculated early radio series, “Louie’s Hungry Five”.
The series is a continuing comedy series, similar to “Amos n’ Andy”, about a “Little German Band”. After Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll left WGN because they wanted to syndicate “Sam and Henry” on records to stations and had such a success with their newly titled “Amos n’ Andy” series, WGN developed this program to jump on the lucrative syndication bandwagon.
After some WGN broadcasts, perhaps in 1929, the series was first distributed in 1930 and was initially pressed on the Marsh Laboratories Electra label and later on Columbia. At its peak, the show was heard on at least sixty-five stations in 17 states from coast to coast and even in Canada. Louie’s Hungry Five were making personal appearances around the Chicago area into the 1940s.
Doug Hopkinson and Ryan Ellett produced a detailed and illustrated article about the series that tells the story much better than I can. Briefly, the show looks at the misadventures of Herr Louie Hasenpfeffer (Henry “Hank” Moeller), the Weasel (Harold “Hal” J. Giles), and Emil, Yohannis and Fritz (all played by unknown actors).
The gimmick on the show, besides the funny continuing stories, were one or two numbers played by the band in each show, usually German “oompah” versions of songs by popular artists like Eddie Cantor. (I haven’t been able to identify most of the tunes - perhaps listeners here can figure out what they are.)
At its peak, the show was heard on at least sixty-five stations in 17 states from coast to coast and even in Canada.
In this first show in our collection, episode 300 broadcast Tuesday, September 29, 1931, the band is preparing to auction off their belongings to buy tickets for a trip to South America. The first song they perform is “Springtime in the Rockies”. You can see the original cue sheet used by the local announcer for the episode by downloading this jpeg. (And, while I don’t have the actual program, you can view the cue sheet for the previous episode here.)
This group of discs representing around twenty consecutive episodes turned up on eBay and appears to be a different stash of discs discovered by Hopkinson and Ellett a few years ago, even though the episode numbers overlap. All of my discs include the cue sheet for each episode.
This show was transferred from two 12” Columbia Sound-On-Disc shellac transcriptions, matrix numbers 233253 and 233254. The discs in my collection are in wonderful shape and were a pleasure to transfer.
We’ll hear what happens to the "Little German Band" next week as the story continues. I understand Michael Biel has some of the early Marsh Laboratories discs of early episodes in the series and can’t stand them - I enjoy the ones that I’ve got and think it has a certain “early radio” charm.
Tags: comedy · early radio · Louie's Hungry Five
January 12th, 2017 ·
Once again, after a long break on the blog, we pick up again with an early radio broadcast by medical quack Curtis H. Springer. You can read more about him and the series in my first post in the series.
In program 2, Springer goes on rambling diatribe about gossip. The show recorded in studios in Chicago and was sponsored by Acidine. It was probably syndicated around 1934. The announcer is identified in program 4 as Hal Dean.
Our mp3 was transferred from a translucent blue one-sided 16” celluloid transcription with a Brunswick label, matrix number 9150-1. The disc was pressed by Flexo, which was producing various promotional and radio related discs from experimental plastics at the time. The surface noise you hear is the result of the deforming of the plastics as it has aged. These discs are rather unpleasant to work with - they have a strong smell of camphor.
Has anyone else run into any of these Flexo discs released by Brunswick? I posted an early “Front Page Drama” some time ago with the same red Brunswick label, but pressed on thick heavy shellac.
I have the first five episodes in this series and will be posting the rest in coming weeks. As far as I can tell, these are previously lost and uncirculated and probably the only broadcasts surviving from a man that was called the “King of Quacks”.
Tags: commentary · medical related · early radio
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.
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".
Tags: historical · Depression-era · commentary · medical related · early radio
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.
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.
Tags: drama · Depression-era · early radio
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.
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?
Tags: drama · early radio
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.
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!
Tags: drama · soap opera · early radio
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.
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.
Tags: drama · early radio
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.
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.
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?
Tags: memorabilia · women's issues · early radio