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Entries Tagged as 'memorabilia'

WHB - Voices from the Air - 1925

March 21st, 2010 · Comments

Here's a little mystery disc I'm posting to the blog in the hope that someone can give us an idea of what we're listening to.  I recently won the disc in an auction and the seller didn't offer any further information about it or its origins.

The disc is a 10" 78 rpm one-sided lacquer with a label from WHB Kansas City.  Typed on the label is "Voices from the Air "Re Recorded" - 1925".

transcription label

The record, which has rather poor sound quality, includes various announcers giving station ids and sign offs.  First, we hear Bill Hay, KFKX of Hastings, Nebraska; someone from WSB, owned by the Atlanta-Journal; WBAP, the Fort-Worth Star Telegram; and finally WHB, Kansas City.  In the WHB id, they mention they're broadcasting from the "convention hall during the electrical and radio show" and  that the regular programs of WHB and WDAF were originating from the convention that week, along with some information on tomorrow's program.

Is this a genuine aircheck from a special broadcast in 1925, perhaps where there was a special multi-station hookup put in place?  Is it a recording not recorded from the air, but from the convention, where announcers were giving the crowd and listeners on WHB an idea of what their station ids sounded like at the time?  Or is it something else?

If this is a genuine aircheck or a record from an early radio convention, it's certainly a unique bit of radio history.  Elizabeth McLeod has a fascinating set of pages on "Documenting Early Radio", noting very few surviving airchecks or recordings of programs from that era.  Most were experimental recordings of special events or tests done by Western Electric and Victor.

I'm guessing this could be a dub, perhaps made in the 40s, from an original cylinder or disc recording made off the air or at the convention.  Remote or off-air recording was cumbersome, but possible, in the 1920s; the material could have been captured on a home cylinder recording device or perhaps some equipment that was brought in specifically for the convention.

Note the distance and primitive sound of the recording, which seems to have the ambiance of an event in a large hall, and how the information seems to be very specific to the event.  Since the dub was found on an original WHB lacquer, it would make sense that the original recording was owned by the station or someone associated with the station, and would have had some significance to the station's history.  And that does sound like Bill Hay.  So, I think it's likely a genuine 20s era recording of the convention or broadcast and not a later recreation.

I've done digging at the Google News archives, which includes items from the New York Times and ProQuest, but haven't found any article specifically mentioning a "radio and electrical show" from 1925 in Kansas.  There were several exhibitions in different cities - Hartford in 1924 and Chicago and New York in different years in the 1920s.  I did find some references to KFKX serving mid-West listeners with farm reports; it was moved to Chicago in 1927.  Some simple networks and experiments with remote broadcasts were heard at the time, particularly the Democratic Convention and National Defense Day broadcasts in 1924 and the Cooledge inauguration in early 1925.

I also found this curious little excerpt at archive.org of "The Rape of Radio", a book published in 1941 by Robert West, Director of the Radio Arts Guild of America:

"Bill Hay, the perennial Amos 'n' Andy announcer, once taught piano and ran a radio store. For two years he read and announced his own program, with potato sacks for sound-proofing and open windows to admit the air on the now extinct KFKX of Hastings, Nebraska."

Potato sacks for sound-proofing?  That certainly sounds like early radio.  Or a dot-com start-up company.

So what do you think about the recording?  Please feel free to leave your comments with your own ideas and any info you might run into.

update, 03.21.2010

Elizabeth McLeod quickly wrote in on the disc, as she's familiar with it.

The original is a New Flexo disc, a flexible celluliod record from the 1920s that was used for advertising.

"It's a dub of a souvenir recording made at the trade show -- all of those announcers were there in person and took their turns recreating their traditional station IDs. It was a gathering of mostly Southern and Western broadcasters of the sort that was very common in the mid-twenties. I don't have a specific date, but I imagine you'd find it mentioned in Radio Digest that summer.

"The WSB announcer is Lamdin Kay, who was one of the most famous radio personalities in the country at the time, and the first to use chimes as a station id signal. The Texas station is WBAP in Fort Worth.

"Bill Hay indeed started his radio career at KFKX, which was in the same building as the piano company where he'd worked as a salesman."

Thanks Elizabeth!

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Tags: memorabilia · local radio · rand's favorites · early radio

Good Morning, It’s Knight - Sales brochure

February 5th, 2010 · Comments

I have a few pieces of old time radio memorabilia in my collection, so here's another non-audio bit of otr for you to enjoy.

This is a sales brochure for "Good Morning, It's Knight", a program originating at WJZ in New York.  It tells an unusual story about a contest promotion on the show that has to do with Paul Whiteman, a rooster, and picketing women from the Hollywood Model School.

brochure cover

WJZ was the flagship station for the Blue Network of the National Broadcasting Company until the formation of ABC in the mid-1940s.  WJZ changed its call sign to WABC in 1953.  (WJZ is currently the name of a Baltimore radio station.)

The brochure is undated, but is likely from around 1947 - the dates mentioned for the contest match up to a 1946 calendar.

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Tags: memorabilia · local radio

Francis - Personal Interview with Zasu Pitts

October 2nd, 2009 · Comments

When radio came along, studio publicity departments came up with the neat idea of bring the stars to your local station.  Of course, they couldn't afford all those airplane and railroad tickets, so they gave you the next best thing - a transcribed interview where your local announcer would interview a famous star.

transcription label

This disc promotes the movie "Francis", the comedy with Donald O'Conner and the talking mule.  The interview was probably released in 1950 since "Francis" premiered in February and would have been in wide release throughout the spring and summer.  In the interview, Zasu talks about how she got her name, her reputation as one of the best party hostesses in Hollywood and, of course, her new movie.

If you'd like to follow along or create your own interview with Zasu, here's the original cue sheet distributed with the disc.

Zasu Pitts interview cue sheet - PDF, 600 kb

Studios and tv networks still do this kind of thing today, with video interviews of stars distributed to tv stations where local reporters are cut into pre-recorded footage with "canned" questions.  I'm surprised that political figures haven't started doing the same thing.

Our mp3 was transferred from an original 12" Universal Pictures red vinyl transcription, matrix number .

Listener Christopher McPherson donated this fun little disc to my collection and provided a scan of the cue sheets.

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Tags: memorabilia · movies

Victor Radio-Tone Demonstration

September 25th, 2009 · Comments

In this post, a disc that isn't a radio broadcast, but one meant to simulate one.

record label

It's the "Victor Radio-Tone Demonstration", a 78 prepared by Victor for dealers to show off the sound of one of their radio-phonograph combinations.  It's a fairly common record and easy to find on auction sites, but we offer it here in its more-rare Canadian pressing version which features a white "batwing" label, rather than the more common US version pressed with a black "scroll" label.

record label

The first side of the disc features Milton Cross and his round tones extolling the virtues of Victor's dedication to superior sound; the second side consists of the theme song to the weekly Victor radio broadcast, called, appropriately, "Victory" and performed by the Nat Shilkret and the Victor Symphony Orchestra.

One 78 collectors discussion board I frequent dates the disc to late 1930 and notes that it was likely used to demonstrate the RE-57 sets.  You can see a photo of this model at this site.

Our mp3 was transferred from an original Canadian pressing of the disc, matrix numbers D-1-A and D-1-B.

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Tags: memorabilia

Ray Bourbon - Forbidden Broadcast

September 25th, 2009 · Comments

Now we bring you a disc that isn't a radio broadcast, but is a bit of obscure radio-related memorabilia.

"Forbidden Broadcast" is a comedy record made by nightclub performer Ray Bourbon sometime in the 1930s.  Ray got his start in vaudeville, was a bit player in silent movies at Paramount and was friends with Rudolph Valentino and William Boyd, and made a name for himself with his outrageous improvised comedy.  He was also a sexually ambiguous "drag queen" that wasn't afraid to do gay humor at a time when homosexuality was illegal and gay clubs were regularly raided by police.

Ray Bourbon

Ray's career would extend from the 1920s until his death in 1971 in prison.  He was convicted of the murder of the owner of the Pet-A-Zoo, a business in Big Springs, Texas.  When Ray left his dogs with the owner, Roy Blount, and couldn't pay the bill, Blount sold the animals for medical research.  But, during Ray's storied life, he appeared on stage with such stars as Mae West and helped composers Chet Forrest and Robert Wright and actor Robert Taylor get started in the business.  Even Robert Mitchum, when he was breaking into the business, wrote songs for Ray's nightclub act to pick up a few dollars in the 1940s.  Ray travelled all over the US and Europe, performing well into his 70s.

Despite Ray's reputation as a "smutty" comedian, his material is rather tame and coy today and he did appear on radio a few times.  In May 1933, his San Francisco revue "Boys Will Be Girls", was carried live on the radio - and, in a twist that made headlines at the time, the show was raided by the police and the raid was carried live on the station.  I've also found documentation on program schedules that Ray appeared on radio three times in December 1938 on Los Angeles radio station KTMR in a 15 minute show.  Ray was regularly working in Los Angeles nightclubs during this period and may have bought the time to promote his stage act.

record label

Researching Ray's life and work and collecting his recordings and other memorabilia has been another one of my hobbies over the past decade.  I was lucky enough to obtain the original typed manuscript of Ray's incomplete memoirs that he was working on when he was in prison in Texas.  If you'd like to learn more about Ray's very strange life, check out my website on this unique performer.  Also, sixties underground cartoonist Skip Williamson had a fascinating blog post a few months ago on working as a publicist for one of Ray's productions.

"Forbidden Broadcast" is one of over 150 recordings Ray made from the 1930s to the 1960s.  He was a true "do it yourself" artist, contracting to have 78s and lps produced and selling them at his shows and via mail order.  Some were sold "under the counter" at record shops and the discs are well known to "party record" collectors today.

So, in this post, give a listen to "Forbidden Broadcast" by Ray Bourbon, originally released on Western Record Company Bourbana, matrix number WR-716-A.

My sincere thanks to collector Sara Hassan for providing a tape copy of this 78 used as the basis for this mp3 file.

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Tags: comedy · memorabilia · gay and lesbian

The Hour of Charm - Announcements

September 18th, 2009 · Comments

Continuing from our previous post, we now hear a collection of announcements by "Evelyn" to promote the local "Hour of Charm" program featuring Phil Spitalny's All-Girl "Hour of Charm" orchestra.

transcription label

The announcements were transferred from an original vinyl RCA Thesaurus transcription, matrix number E1-MM-1741.

Special thanks to listener Michael Utz for his donation of the disc to the blog!

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Tags: music · memorabilia · women's issues

The Hour of Charm - Thesaurus Audition Program 5

September 18th, 2009 · Comments

In this post and next, we step "behind the mike" for a piece of memorabilia that demonstrates how local stations could carry inexpensive, quality programming.

transcription label

You may have heard of RCA's Thesaurus discs.  First released in the 1930s and continuing well into the fifties and sixties, stations could subscribe to a music library that included songs, generic singing commercials and other material recorded especially for broadcast.  Collectors of jazz and country music have mined music library transcriptions for years for recordings by well-known artists that were never released in any other form.  Stations would use music from the discs for several purposes - theme songs or background music on local shows, filler when programs turned up short, or even to assemble a custom program of music.

In this mp3, we hear "The Hour of Charm - Audition Program #5", a fifteen minute demonstration program aimed at local potential sponsors for a program based on a Thesaurus-based music series that demonstrates how the show could be assembled from the recordings.  The demo features, as hostess, "Evelyn and Her Magic Violin" and we hear the music of Phil Spitalny's All-Girl "Hour of Charm" Orchestra.

The next post is the flip side of the disc - a set of announcements by Evelyn promoting the show.

The program was transferred from an original vinyl RCA Thesaurus transcription, matrix number E1-MM-1730.

Many thanks to listener Michael Utz for donating the disc to my collection.

update, 9/20/2009

A listener asked for some more information on the show in the comments, so here's some additional background on the disc and "The Hour of Charm".

RCA's matrix numbers at the time used a code, with the first two figures indicating the date. So, I'd make a guess that the "E1" would date this disc to 1951. There's a "Night Beat" 45 rpm promo set I posted on the blog a few months ago with the matrix code "E0" from 1950.

Dunning's "Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio" has a fascinating entry on Spitalny's All-Girl Orchestra. "The Hour of Charm" ran on CBS and NBC from 1934 to 1948. "Evelyn" later described life in the group as being in a kind of very strict sorority - Spitalny enforced a code of behavior and the girls even had to get approval to go on dates from a committee. The girls had to weigh less than 122 pounds when they auditioned and their costumes and hairstyles were very carefully planned.

But, all of the women in the group were immensely talented musicians; many had to play multiple instruments and sing - one played 24 instruments and took up tuba when Spitalny couldn't find a suitable tuba player in a nationwide search.

Evelyn must have been pretty happy in the group. Dunning notes that she married Spitalny in June 1946 and they lived together in Miami until Spitalny's death in 1970.

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Tags: music · memorabilia · women's issues

Tribe Book of the Lone Wolf

August 20th, 2009 · Comments

Note:  The attached pdf file contains racial stereotyping themes that may be offensive to some blog readers.

"Lone Wolf Tribe" was a juvenile series that ran on CBS for one or two seasons, circa 1932-33, three days a week.  The show followed the adventures of Wolf Paw and his Indian tribe.  I haven't found out much about the program, except for a page on a collectors site that talks about premiums offered in conjunction with the program.

portrait of Chief Wolf Paw

In this post, "The Tribe Book of the Lone Wolf", a pdf file of a booklet offered to listeners of the show.  It includes secret signs and picture writing you should only share with the members of your tribe, some info on Native American lore (at least the way that Madison Avenue imagined it), the Wolf Tribe credo, and, most importantly, a catalog of fine "Indian things" you can get by trading "wampum" (ie, Wrigley's Chewing Gum wrappers).

Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be any surviving episodes of the series.  Anyone have additional info to offer about it?

The pdf file, linked on the ebook icon below the post, is about 1.8 MB and runs 28 pages.

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Tags: memorabilia · historical · kids and juvenile · Native Americans

Willie Piper Promotional Announcements - August 1947

July 18th, 2009 · Comments

In this entry, we offer something a bit unusual - a peek behind the scenes of radio promotion.

"Tales of Willie Piper" is a rare ABC radio sitcom, broadcast from 1946 to 1948.  The show followed the misadventures of Willie and his wife Martha and her father in a small New England seacoast town.  Outside of that, I can't say I know much about the series except for the basic info provide in the show's entry in Dunning's "On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio".

transcription label transcription label

What you'll hear in this file is a series of promotional announcements for the program from an original ABC radio transcription.  The first side of the disc includes seven announcements for the program by members of the cast; the other side contains announcements for the show by Diana Lynn, probably broadcast during the "Hollywood Star Time" series.  In between the sides, you'll hear a tone I inserted for the side break (the tone isn't on the original disc).

The announcements were transferred from an original red vinyl American Broadcasting Company transcription.  The file has been run through click reduction software.

Update:  See the comments for this post for a link to an episode of "Willie Piper".

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Tags: memorabilia

Claudia - Audition

February 22nd, 2009 · Comments

This week, we feature a guest post from fellow otr collector Daniel Sears who shares a rare 78 rpm record set with us containing an "audition" for the soap opera "Claudia".  Daniel is the Creative Director for GrumpyFILMS, inc in New York.

Many thanks for the show and blog post - I hope we can hear more from Daniel's collection in coming weeks. - Randy

"They saw...they met...they married each other. Six whole weeks ago."

So goes the intro for this audition episode of "Claudia", the well-known daytime serial sponsored by "your friendly neighbor who bottles Coca-Cola."

This audition program, however, seems to take plot points and parts of scripts that would later be broadcast across several episodes and squishes them together into one 15-minute program.

78 disc set label

In this visit with Claudia and David, we hear the craziness that ensues when David has to get up early for an appointment in Connecticut, and he discovers what Claudia has done to his socks and his breakfast. Later, Claudia goes shopping for a dog with her mother, and in the third segment we see what happens when David comes home and discovers what kind of dog Claudia has bought.

Looking at the radioGOLDINdex, my guess would be that parts of this script would later be used in programs broadcast on 9/30/47 ("Waking Up Early"), 10/13/47 ("Claudia Ruins Breakfast"), and 10/14/47 ("Claudia Buys David a Big Dog"). However, I was not able to find postings of these episodes online to confirm that.

The broadcast episodes of "Claudia" featured Kathryn Bard and Paul Crabtree, with Joe King announcing. Comparing this recording with snippets found online, it sounds like Ms. Bard is the only one also found on here. No cast list is announced, so does anyone have any guesses as to who the other actors are? Maybe the actor playing David didn't make the final cast because of the couple of goofs he makes...

This file was transfered directly from a pair of vinyl 78 rpm discs with great maroon/brown marbeled vinyl. The surface noise gets a little thick in spots, but I hope you'll enjoy this rare program.

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Tags: memorabilia · soap opera · women's issues · Guest posts