Several old time radio programs were syndicated to local stations in the 1970s as part of the “nostalgia boom” that included the revival of nightly radio drama on the “CBS Radio Mystery Theater” and a similar series on Mutual, along with commercial releases of original old time radio shows on lp records, cassettes, and even 8-tracks.
Usually, these syndication versions, with the commercials removed and other alterations, aren’t much interest to collectors, but I’m posting a half-dozen episodes of “This Is Your FBI” that I obtained a few months ago.
What sets these apart is that they’re the actual 15 inches per second master tapes used to create vinyl discs or 7 1/2 inches per second tapes for syndication to local stations - they were dubbed from the original broadcast masters and have absolutely remarkable sound.
In this post, you’ll hear “The Adopted Thief”, originally broadcast on August 10, 1951 on ABC and sponsored by the Equitable Life Assurance Society. The commercials are omitted and generic openings and closings are heard in this version of the program. The episode deals with a man running a scam on a woman, convincing her that he is the son she gave up for adoption many years ago. Stacy Harris played FBI agent Jim Taylor; the announcer is Larry Keating and the narrator is William Woodson.
Over 400 episodes of “This is Your FBI” were produced between 1945 and 1953; producer Jerry Devine was given cooperation for the show by J. Edgar Hoover and the dramas were based on actual case files. Several familiar radio regulars from this period, like William Conrad, pop up in roles in various episodes.
This group of six tapes were something of a mystery when I first got them a few months ago, based just on the labeling. After I listened to them, I figured out these were versions of the programs prepared for syndication, likely in the early 1970s.
The engineer probably made a dub of each master tape, then spliced on a generic opening and closing to each show. Oddly, each opening and closing was done with a tape stock different from the body of the program - when I dubbed them to digital, the opening and closing segments of the tapes suffered from sticky shed, while the body of the program was just fine.
It would have been too complicated to remove the openings and closings and bake them since the segments were fairly short, so I just let it ride, carefully cleaning the tape machine after each segment. There was also a thin paper leader spliced before and after each opening and closing, and for a commercial break in the middle of the show - of course, all these splices came loose, so I had to prep each tape by reworking the splices.
In other words, these tapes were a good reminder of why I usually don’t deal with tapes.
These syndicated versions of “This is Your FBI” were prepared at the famous Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles where some of the major rock groups of the sixties and seventies, such as the Beach Boys, recorded their hits and classic albums.
The sound is pretty amazing, far better than what a listener would have even heard on FM when the shows were originally broadcast. For example, if you listen carefully, you can hear things like room reverberation in the studio when they set off prop guns and other loud live sound effects during the show. At times, the use of sound effects is layered to create atmosphere, similar to “Gunsmoke” - the sound quality adds much to the enjoyment of these programs.
I haven’t found any definite information about this 70s syndicated run of the series. I’m not sure if these were used as masters to press the show up on vinyl or for dubbing to 7 1/2 ips tape for distribution to local stations. Has anyone run into the tapes or disc used to syndicate the show
Our program was transferred from an original full-track quarter-inch reel to reel tape running at 15 inches per second, captured at 24 bit/96 kHz from a ten inch reel. The labels indicate the tape is a "Dubbing Master". I believe this may be a program in the series not commonly in circulation among collectors. I have five other episodes from this set of tapes I’ll be posting in the coming weeks.