rand’s esoteric otr

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Tune Test Audition

December 28th, 2016

Once in a while, you run into the most puzzling things in batches of “throwaway” transcription discs.  This one had me asking “What the heck?”

This is an audition for a half-hour game show called “Tune Test”.  Similar to “Stop the Music”, the host of the show would call random numbers and ask contestants to identify a song and answer a music-related question.

What’s odd about this disc is that I can’t really decide if it’s a real audition for an actual proposed program or some kind of elaborate gag or parody of these game shows.

You never hear the contestants on the other end of the line - just the host, Jack Fuller, hawking the fake product "Dimaxio", which does everything and is available everywhere, and creating the most elaborate reactions to the “callers”.

Is this Jack Fuller the same guy who was an announcer for “Vic and Sade”?

I have no idea if he was working from a script or improvising around some loose notes - regardless, it’s a remarkable acting performance.

Our mp3 was transferred from a 16” thin vinyl transcription produced by Radio Ventures, Inc, 75 E Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois and labeled “Tone Test Audition with Merchandise Awards”.  The master numbers U-1629 and U-1630 and the numbers D-49034 and D-49035 are etched in the run-off.

My Google searching couldn’t turn up anything on Jack Fuller except listings at Goldin for his announcing work on “Vic and Sade” and absolutely nothing on “Radio Ventures, Inc”.  Based on references to "The Jolson Story" and similarities to "Stop the Music", I'm guessing this dates from the late '40s.

What do you think?  Is this a real audition or a satire made as some kind of joke?

update, 12.28.16

I knew if I put out a call on some OTR related Facebook groups, someone could find info on this.

Yes, it was a real show that made it air for a brief period.

Martin Grams found a review of the September 12, 1949 premiere of the program.  The show ran for 25 minutes, Monday through Friday, at 2:00 pm on WGN in Chicago.  It was directed by Carlyle Stevens and a combo called the Tune Testers that worked under other names on WGN’s other programs - Sam Porfirio, Ben Carlton, Fred Kissing, and Al Barathy.  Norman Kraeft was the announcer and Jack Fuller was the emcee.

The reviewer noted that there were four giveaway shows on WGN, “despite the recent FCC crackdown on phone gimmick lotteries”.  It sounds as though the format was the same.  “Fuller does a neat stint with the phones, but he has so many prizes to give away, with credit lines attached, that he has to race to stay with the schedule,” the reviewer said.  “Considering the load of yak carried, the direction kept the tempo bubbling well.  But less buzzing and fewer minor prizes could make the program a much catchier affair.”

Grams also found an article dated September 28, 1949 noting that Radio Features Inc was seeking a delay in Federal Court on it’s suit for a permanent injunction against the FCC’s ban on phone giveaway programs.  The president of the company, Walt Schwimmer, had secured a temporary injunction, preventing FCC action against “Tune Test” and another program, “Tele-Test”.  The company was pushing the case into what they thought would be a more favorable Federal court in New York, with a hearing scheduled for October.

Andrew Sternberg found a few references to the program host, Jack Fuller, in the June 28, 1947 edition of Billboard.  He was a personality on Chicago radio and television and the Billboard article reviews the “Sachs Amateur Hour” on WENR and WCFL, Chicago, a program where Fuller acted as an announcer.

It would be curious to hear one of the actual programs.  I wonder how Fuller could have kept up the pace on a five-day-a-week show like this with the kind of patter he was having to come up with.

 

Even though it's real, it still sounds like a parody of radio games shows to me.

 

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Strike It Rich - unknown date

December 28th, 2016

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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Christmas in California - Dec 24, 1952

December 23rd, 2016

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been posting in the blog.  I just haven’t been finding too many interesting transcriptions the past couple of years.  But, over time, I’ve built up a bit of an inventory and will start posting them in the coming weeks.

As a little Christmas gift, here’s an uncirculated show I ran into recently.  “Christmas in California” is a half-hour broadcast sponsored by Bank of America originally heard on December 24, 1952 from 7:30 to 8:00 pm PST on eleven Columbia Pacific Radio Network stations.  (see Broadcasting Telecasting Sept 22, 1952, p 10, “New Business” column).

The show is a Christmas-themed story of the Little Shepherd performed by the Franciscan students at the Old Mission San Luis Rey.  The songs are in Spanish, giving a little glimpse into California’s multicultural history.  In 1952, the Christmas Eve performance had been a tradition at the Old Mission for many years.

The announcer and narrator for the program is Ralph Story, a popular radio host on KNX in Los Angeles.  Story would go on to host the CBS tv game show “The $64,000 Challenge”, in 1956, and later develop a television news magazine for KNX television.

The program was dubbed to digital direct from a 10” microgroove lp that was apparently given away to customers or employees by Bank of America.  The matrix numbers are RR-19602 PT1 and RR-19602 PT2.  I’m assuming “RR” stands for Radio Recorders, who regularly did recordings of CBS network programming.  I’m not sure who might have pressed the disc - the matrix numbers look like a style that Columbia used.

The disc was fairly scratched and there’s one skip in the audio I wasn’t able to overcome, but the transfer turned out quite well.

I wonder what other otherwise lost or unknown shows might pop up on promotional albums like this - I always try to keep a look out for them.

 

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Interview by Joe Web - 11-20-2016

November 22nd, 2016

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

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.

walkie-talkie_1945-06-22.jpg

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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War of the Worlds - An Update on the Paul Stewart lacquer set

October 27th, 2013

Note:  The mp3 attached to this post is the same transfer I put up earlier in the summer; it is included here as a convenience.


At the end of July, I posted a lacquer 78 rpm lacquer set of the famous Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcast of "War of the Worlds" on my blog.  I transferred the discs and posted the audio file thinking it was likely a "dub" - the fact that the disc set might be an original surviving master copy was just something I just couldn't believe.

Since my original post, I've dived into researching the background on the set, surviving copies of the broadcast, and have concluded this set is, indeed, a "live" master, probably ordered up by Mercury actor and associate producer Paul Stewart.

In this post, I'll share some details on my research into the set, highlighting what we know and don't know about how the show was recorded and preserved over the years.


Keep reading →

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War of the Worlds interview on KFJC-FM

October 27th, 2013

If you are near Los Altos, California, tune in to KFJC-FM 89.7 on Wednesday, October 30th at 8:30 pm.  The station will be carrying a special on the 75th anniversary of "War of the Worlds" that includes an interview with me on my find of the "Paul Stewart" "War of the Worlds" lacquer set and collecting transcriptions.  Information on the anniversary special is here.  You can listen live to the broadcast on the KFJC stream.

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

July 31st, 2013

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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Curtis H. Springer for Acidine - Pgm 1

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".

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WCBS “Skin” tape - Feb 12, 1955

March 24th, 2013

Update - click "Read the rest of this entry" at the bottom of the blog post to see an important update on the origins of this unusual tape.

In this post, a bit of a mystery.

Some months ago, I got some reel to reel tapes that came from someone that was connected with WCBS in New York.  In a previous post, I uploaded a lengthy excerpt from the October 30, 1957 edition of the "Lanny Ross Show" that came from one of the tapes in the group.

WCBS tape box cover

WCBS tape box - back

This tape is a 7" Scotch reel recorded in full-track mono at 7.5 ips.  The box is labeled "Skin/LB (piano) - Feb 12 55" on the back.

There's a slip of WCBS memo paper that was in the tape box with a handwritten list of songs.  I can't read the handwriting very well, but it looks like this.  (You can download a scan of the paper here.)

Act I -The Colder Day of the Year -Telegram! -The Whole Crooked Family -It's Cold

Act II -The Ancient Ordering Mermaids (?) -? (looks like "Kedel") -Sabrina -Evening (?) Senior Years -Two of Every Kid (Kind?)

Act III -Poor Before We Know It -Sweet Hong (?) -Hour of the Night/Magic -The Coldest Day/Frak (? - "Finale"?)

Also in the tape box was a standard postcard with the notation "Copy to SS" and someone's signature.  (Download a scan here.)

The tape itself contains different songs played on piano.  There's no announcements or other audio on the tape.  The mp3 in the post is the first song from the tape, or at least part of it - the tape is starting to curl and warp on the outer edges and doesn't have a leader at the beginning.  The reel seems to start in the middle of one of the songs.

I'm not sure if this is connected with some type of special show that was done for WCBS or maybe for CBS Television.  I did some searching on JJ's Radio Logs for 1955, Goldin's radio show database, and on Billboard magazine at Google Books, but didn't turn up any radio or tv show with "Skin" in the title.

Anyone know what this is?

Our mp3 was dubbed direct from a 7" full-track mono Scotch reel to reel tape running at 7.5 ips.

Keep reading →

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