rand’s esoteric otr

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Ma Perkins, Pgm 423

March 21st, 2009

I'm sure all of you have heard of the long-running soap opera of the classic otr era, "Ma Perkins".  Running on NBC and later CBS between 1933 and 1960, the show followed the trials and tribulations of Ma as she ran a lumber yard in Rushville Center and tried to keep up with her kids, Evy, Fay, and John.  Virginia Payne played Ma Perkins for 27 years, starting in the role at age 23.

transcription label

In this blog entry, we offer a very rare early episode of the series, dated by the radioGOLDINdex to August 1935.  Faye and John have an argument at dinner and Faye announces her intention to seek her fortune in the big city.  The show at this point in the run was sponsored by Oxydol and the long organ intro and outro were probably for the local announcer to insert the commercial.

The show is of special interest to those looking at the changing role of women over the years - Faye is representative of an increasing number young women at the time were looking at having careers and a life outside of being a homemaker.  Ma Perkins herself was thrust into that role, managing her husband's business after his death.

This is also the first metal base disc I've offered up on the blog.  These were used for a period in the early 1930s before instantaneous lacquers became common - the cutting head actually embossed the groove into a thin sheet of bare aluminum.  You can read something about the early days of recording radio broadcasts in two articles by otr experts Elizabeth Mcleod and Michael Biel here and here.

The origins of this disc are obscure.  I think it may have been made for extension-spotting the show in Canada in conjunction with it's broadcast in the US.  According to this site, Proctor and Gamble was one of the biggest advertisers in Canada in the early 30s, buying up time on stations to broadcast "Ma Perkins" and other soaps, much to the annoyance of Canadian officials who wanted more home-grown content on the radio.  This led to restrictions on the use of transcriptions and gave the CBC power to selectively run series live from American radio networks.  So, this disc may have been used to broadcast "Ma Perkins" over one of those privately-owned Canadian stations.

Our show was transferred directly from an original uncoated aluminum transcription made by Mercury Recording Studios, Chicago.

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