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How Not to Ship a Transcription

December 3rd, 2017 · Comments

Today's sad arrival in the mail and the packaging it came in. Please shed a tear for my broken invitation to the NY World's Fair.

Believe it or not, after several years of receiving radio transcriptions and records by mail, this is only the second one I've received that was broken or damaged in transit.

If you're wanting to ship a transcription, keep in mind that many of these discs are both larger than modern vinyl records (and more suseptable to bending when placed in shipping bins) and made of composite plastics that break when they are bent.

The best way to ship a transcription is to place the disc between two or four pieces of cardboard, as this seller did, but to take the additional step of putting that "sandwich" in a larger box, surrounded by packing material.

This particular broadcast is listed at Goldin's website, but I haven't seen a transfer circulating among collectors.  Here's hoping the one listed at Goldin still exists, unbroken, and can be transferred in the future.


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Strike It Rich - unknown date

December 28th, 2016 · Comments

In this post, the first half of an episode of the daytime game show “Strike It Rich” heard on NBC from 1950 to 1957.

“Strike It Rich” was a controversial program - the premise is that people went on the show with their hard-luck stories and tried to win money for something they needed.  This episode includes a Fayetteville, NC 81st Airborne soldier, Pvt. George Motz, back from Korea wanting to win money to buy cigarettes for his pals and an anonymous student nurse from Murfreesboro, Tennessee wanting to use her winnings to buy gifts for patients in a hospital.  Commercials are for Colgate-Palmolive products and your host is Warren Hull.

Based on the contents, including a reference to the Battle of Inchon, the show probably dates from 1951 or ’52.

It’s only the first half of the program, probably recorded from the network line by a local station for time-shifting.  Despite being on the air for several years, very few episodes of “Strike It Rich” survive, so I doubt this one is in circulation.

There’s no picture for this entry - it’s just an unlabeled 16” Audiodisc laquer.  The other side sounds like some kind of speech given at a local women’s club.



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Interview by Joe Web - 11-20-2016

November 22nd, 2016 · Comments

Over the weekend, I got to meet old time radio researcher Joe Webb.  Joe interviewed me about my radio transcription collection and the blog.  Here's his post about the interview on the Old Time Radio Researchers group on Facebook:

"Today I had the pleasure of interviewing transcription disc collector and expert Randy Riddle. This is an unrehearsed discussion in a shopping mall food court. Randy did not know my questions beforehand for the expected 20 minute discussion which turned into almost 50 minutes. There are two copies of the mp3 files for download; one of the files is at 48kps and the other is 128kps. http://pc.cd/IWzotalK so choose whatever size file you prefer. You can hear the mall starting to come to life in the background. Randy's blog site is http://randsesotericotr.podbean.com/ and some of the shows mentioned are at http://randsesotericotr.podbean.com/e/war-of-the-worlds-an…/ and http://randsesotericotr.podbean.com/e/suspense-pgm-365-the…/ and http://randsesotericotr.podbean.com/e/police-reporter-pgm-3/"


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Walkie-Talkie - June 22, 1945

May 14th, 2015 · Comments

Once in a while I run into a little mystery on ebay and take a chance on a disc.  This one popped up recently and I couldn’t figure out what the heck it was.  It’s a one-sided NBC Reference Recording  dated June 22, 1945 and titled “Walkie-Talkie”.  Looking through the Lantern database, Goldin, and other sources, I didn’t see any references to a show with this title and wondered if it was something done with or about walkie-talkies.


It’s actually a daily afternoon Blue-ABC network program carried on the West Coast.  Hosted by Don Norman, the show would travel to different locations each week for interviews.  This episode, the last in a week featuring Hollywood gossip columnists, is live from the Brown Derby in Hollywood with guest Jimmy Starr, a twenty-year veteran newspaper columnist covering the Hollywood scene.  Jimmy talks about what it takes to break into the movies, getting Gable started in the business and other topics (including the recent fall of the “H” in the Hollywoodland sign) and we briefly hear a vice president at Blue-ABC speaking from a nearby booth.

This was during the period when NBC Blue was transitioning into the American Broadcasting Company after NBC was forced to sell their second network.  In fact, this show was broadcast just a few days after the identity of the network was officially changed to ABC on June 15.  So, here we have an ABC show preserved on an NBC-labeled transcription.  The show is sustained and we hear a public service announcement for V-Mail and the ABC id at the end of the program.

Anyone else run into other episodes of this series?

Our mp3 was dubbed direct from a one-sided NBC Reference Recording lacquer numbered R-22370.  Incidentally, this lacquer looks rather odd - the lacquer itself is a forest green color.


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Mercury Theatre on the Air - October 30, 1938 - alternative version

July 31st, 2013 · Comments

In this post, an alternative version of probably the most well-known broadcast of all time.

I recently picked up on ebay a six-disc, twelve-side lacquer recorded at 78 rpm of the Mercury Theatre broadcast of "The War of the Worlds".  The set is a dub, either from another 78 rpm set or from a 16" lacquer.

Although the set has some sound issues, it does include some very brief parts missing from all of the circulating copies.

Known copies of "War of the Worlds"

A bit of history is in order.  Several posts archived here sum up what we know and don't know about the provenance of existing copies of the program.  CBS, apparently, has an original lacquer of the show - it's unclear if they had transcription recording capabilities "in house" or if it was done "off-site" during the original broadcast.  Michael Biel, in one of the archived posts, talked with an engineer who said he recorded the original discs at CBS when he was new in his job there and was ordered to "smuggle them out" of the studio.

After the broadcast, there are indications that some copies were made for a Congressional committee and/or the FCC, but we don't know the format (16" or 12") or particulars of what discs were made and what happened to them.

We know that another 16" unlabeled lacquer surfaced at an auction in 2001 from the estate of old time radio collector Ralph Murchow.  This green label Presto disc set was not authenticated, but sold for $14,000.  It's not clear where the disc originated - it might have been one of the Congressional committee/FCC copies, another copy made at a local station or a dub made from CBS's archive copy.  The type of Presto lacquer was commonly used in 1938, so it could have originated from the period of the original broadcast.  (You can see more info on Presto's early years here.)

The Library of Congress has a set of four 16" lacquers of the War of the Worlds broadcast.  When they were obtained by LOC and the origin of the set isn't clear.  (Was it a dub from the CBS disc or another copy made for LOC?  One of the FCC or Congressional committee copies?)  LOC made a mono preservation tape master of the set at 7 1/2 ips in 1968.

By coincidence, about the same time, a reel to reel mono tape copy emerged among collectors of the broadcast.  Was it the CBS archive master, the Murchow green label Presto set, or another undocumented version?

Regardless, the copies of "War of the Worlds" circulating now all came from that same tape that surfaced in the late 60s, perhaps a dub of the Library of Congress tape.  The most common lp releases of this recording were on the Mannheim-Fox and Evolution labels, but different versions, some slightly edited from that version, appeared on other lp releases and with varying sound quality.  The cds in circulation, as well as the mp3 versions at archive.org and other Old Time Radio sites, originated from the lps of this tape that were released in the 1970s.  The various lp and cd releases of the tape also have noise gates or other analogue or digital tricks to minimize the surface noise of the original tape.

Background on this set

In this post is a new dub made direct from the 78 rpm 12-sided set that I recently obtained.

According to the seller, it came from a book dealer specializing in rare books and celebrity autographs in the City of Orange, about twenty minutes from Los Angeles.  The set originated in the estate of Jimmy Star, a reporter for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and "Film Daily", an industry magazine.

The set has the name "Paul Stewart" written on the cardboard container for the set.  Stewart was one of the Mercury actors who appeared on "War of the Worlds".  He was later a founding member of AFTRA and well respected "behind the scenes" in the Hollywood film community, working in films and television well into the 1980s.

Did Stewart have the set made for reporter Jimmy Star for some reason, perhaps as a gift, a souvenir, or for some story he was working on?

There's no documentation with the set to be sure.  Based on the sound quality, it sounds as if it came either direct from the 16" masters or a really well-done dub of one.

The discs themselves all have white paper labels just like the picture above.  One was a little loose and I peeled it back - the discs are aluminum based and are green label Presto brand.  The set came in Audiodisc "glass base" generic sleeves - the discs themselves could date from near the time of the original broadcast or after WWII.  The disc type - Presto green label - and the way they were cut leads me to think they were done in a professional facility.

The original recording that is the basis for the set appears to be taken directly from the CBS studio or a line from the studio - there's no local station ids, the program is complete, and I don't hear "line noise" indicating it was a "line check" from a local station.  The surface noise is different from the 60s era copy circulating now - perhaps this copy and the 60s tape came from the same disc, dubbed to 78 rpm before it became damaged, or perhaps they came from different copies.

Sound quality and extra material on this set

It's unfortunate that the sound quality of this disc set varies so much on each side, with bright clear sound at the beginning of each of the twelve sides and more muffled sound as the inner groove is reached at the end of the sides. The set also suffers from palmitic acid leaching - a white powder that comes out of the lacquer coating and causes surface noise.  Some parts sound better than the circulating copy; some sound worse.

Despite the varying sound quality, the set is the most complete version of "War of the Worlds" available and includes some brief segments not in the circulating copies.

  • At the 30 minute mark, there's a short extra bit at the part where the announcer says "One moment please ladies and gentlemen … We've run special wires…."  This previously unheard part is some "behind the mic" fumbling by the announcer with another cast member - on circulating copies, this segment got lost in a side change.

For some time, we've been puzzled by a couple of missing lines from the existing recording. 

  • About 40 minutes into the piece where Welles as Professor Pierson says "I look down at my blackened hand…"  In the version that exists, part of the line is missing and sounds like Welles might have not said some of the lines in the published version of the script.  With the missing lines in this new copy, it sounds like the original master used for the circulating copies has a "skip" that was disguised with a bit of editing.
  • At 57:25, there's also a line in the original script not heard on the circulating recordings where Welles says "Strange to see from my window the University spires dim and blue through an April haze."  This might have been another "skip" in the master used for the circulating copies.
  • This new version also includes the original full-length CBS station break, which runs about 15 seconds.  In circulating versions, the silence for the original station break was edited out.

There might be other short bits not in the circulating version that I missed.

Wrapping up

If you have any thoughts on the possible origins of the disc set or other bits of the show you've never heard before, let me know in the comments.

Our mp3 was dubbed direct from this undated 78 rpm, 12", 12-sided lacquer.  Slight scratch removal was applied to the original file and the "side joins" were edited as closely as possible to the original - each side change of the disc had overlapping sentences or phrases, so you may notice a side change in the middle of a sentence.

Note - This file may take a bit to download.  I've encoded it at a max 128 kps bit rate with the highest quality option.  It's just over 50 mb.

Update, 8/5

I added a link and some information on the LOC's lacquer set of "War of the Worlds".  I also talked with someone at the Pacific Pioneer Broadcaster's library - they suffered a fire a few years ago and the collection is in storage, so we're not able to see if the Welles copy located there was cut on green label Presto blanks and is similar to my set.  They're trying to see if someone might remember what the Welles set looked like or any particulars about it.

However, I did obtain a low-quality mp3 file that has circulated privately and _may_ have originated from the Welles set there.  It includes all the missing bits in my copy except one - at the 30 minute mark, the lines "One moment please ladies and gentlemen", the studio chatter, and some lines after that are omitted from that copy and sounds like they might have been lost due to a very noisy side change or some kind of disc damage.  That section of the Welles copy is missing more material than the commonly circulated copy.


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Police Reporter - Pgm 26

November 30th, 2010 · Comments

Well, now we come to the end of our early to mid-30s "true crime" drama series, "The Police Reporter".  And we go out with a bang with "a story of gangsters, violence and bloodshed!"

transcription label

Program 26 looks at a series of payroll robberies that occurred in Chicago in 1920.  A site on the mafia in America has some info on the real case.  This previously uncirculated show was transferred from an original shellac Radio Release, Ltd transcription, pressed by Allied Recording in Hollywood, matrix number A-1127.


Tags: Uncategorized · Police Reporter

Monticello Party Line - Pgm 674

August 19th, 2010 · Comments

Now we start digging into our syndicated serial "Monticello Party Line" in earnest this week with the next two episodes in the series.  Program 674 was originally heard April 28, 1938 and, as usual, is sponsored by Syrup Pepsin.  In the last show, Carlton Ross and his sister were shopping for a house; in this episode, Aggie is dying of curiosity to find out their decision and tries to get Clem out of the house so she can find out more.

transcription label

This previously uncirculated program was transferred from the original Flexite syndication transcription pressed by Columbia, matrix number 341818.  The show date is noted in pencil on the label.


Tags: Uncategorized · Monticello Party Line

Early Television clips

July 24th, 2010 · Comments

We don't talk much about that young upstart - television - on the blog, but I thought you might be interested in what the boys in the research and development department have been up to.

The Paley Center has online a very early attempt at creating a kinescope.  It's a silent reel of clips from a 1939 live drama, "The Streets of New York, broadcast by WNBT.  A very young Lloyd Nolan is featured in the cast.

This is probably one of NBC's tests of how to record a broadcast for later viewing.  Someone posted a curious film from NBC demonstrating how kinescope technology had advanced by 1939 - that film includes a clip from a 1938 television broadcast, comparing it to kinescopes created in 1946 and the present day.

Think anything will come of this television business?

You might also want to check out a clip I found on YouTube of a color lenticular kinescope excerpt from Ernie Kovac's 1956 "Silent Show" and the 1958 dedication of a Washington, DC television station, the earliest color videotape to survive, streaming in it's full original 30 minute running time on Veoh.

Tags: Uncategorized · early television