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Monday, December 9, 2013

Fear on Four (BBC)

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FEAR ON 4 is the British Broadcasting Corporation's continuation of a tradition of horror shows dating back to 1943. Back then, the BBC offered APPOINTMENT WITH FEAR, the title given to ten series of programs running from 1943 to 1955. The Man in Black returned to radio again in 1988, this time played by Edward de Souza. FEAR ON 4, airing on BBC Radio Four, continued in the tradition of its predecessors. Four series were produced from 1988 through 1993 with a fifth series in 1997.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Lightning Jim (OTRR Certified)

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Lightning Jim - Only about 41 broadcasts have been located. Marshall Lightning Jim Whipple on his horse Thunder and his deputy, Whitey Larson explore the history of the west through adventure. The program originated in 1938 and was called The Adventures of Lightning Jim. At this time it was a West coast program. The program returned to the air in the 1950s and a total of 98 radio programs were produced.









Saturday, November 30, 2013

Johnny Cash Show

Highlights from Johnny Cash's variety television program. The Johnny Cash Show was an American television music variety show hosted by Johnny Cash. The Screen Gems 58-episode series ran from June 7, 1969 to March 31, 1971 on ABC; it was taped at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. The show reached No. 17 in the Nielsen ratings in 1970.

Cash opened each show, and its regulars included members of his touring troupe, June Carter Cash (his wife) and the Carter Family, The Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, and The Tennessee Three, with Australian-born musical director-arranger-conductor Bill Walker. The Statler Brothers performed brief comic interludes. It featured many folk-country musicians, such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Kris Kristofferson, Mickey Newbury, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Merle Haggard, James Taylor and Tammy Wynette. It also featured other musicians such as jazz great Louis Armstrong, who died eight months after appearing on the show.

The show started with an hour-long tryout offered by ABC as "a summer replacement for their Saturday night variety extravaganza The Hollywood Palace." While Cash had a large degree of freedom, he "had to accept some compromises by hosting showbiz royalty like Bob Hope, George Gobel, Kirk Douglas, Burl Ives, Peggy Lee and Lorne Greene. They gave the show gravitas that satisfied both advertisers and the network". The show was recorded at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, then home of the Grand Ole Opry.The show was conceived by Bill Carruthers, who also served as executive producer and director for the first season. Stan Jacobson was also a producer on the show. Myles Harmon was the program executive for ABC Television.

The first show featured Joni Mitchell, Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw, Fannie Flagg as a comic, and Bob Dylan. The show included a "Country Gold" segment which featured legends rarely or never seen on network TV such as Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys. Author Rich Kienzle suggests that as well as providing entertainment, the show operated as a "Country Music 101". Cash persisted in the face of ABC "network anxieties" on several occasions. He refused to cut the word "stoned" from Kris Kristofferson's "Sunday Morning Coming Down", he stood by his Christian faith "despite network anxieties", and persisted in bringing on Pete Seeger whose anti-Vietnam War song on another network had "caused a firestorm". He premiered his "Man in Black" song on an episode taped at Nashville's Vanderbilt University campus. The show was canceled in 1971 as part of ABC's involvement in the so-called "rural purge" in which all three major broadcast networks eliminated rural and older skewing programs. The purge also affected ABC's The Lawrence Welk Show.

Highlights from Johnny Cash Show (59 min)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Suspense

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Suspense was a radio drama series broadcast on CBS from 1942 through 1962.

One of the premier drama programs of the Golden Age of Radio, was subtitled "radio's outstanding theater of thrills," and focused on suspense thriller-type scripts, usually featuring leading Hollywood actors of the era. Approximately 945 episodes were broadcast during its long run, and more than 900 are extant.

Suspense went through several major phases, characterized by different hosts, sponsors and director/producers. Formula plot devices were followed for all but a handful of episodes: the protagonist was usually a normal person suddenly dropped into a threatening or bizarre situation; solutions were "withheld until the last possible second"; and evildoers were punished in the end. The program made only occasional forays into science fiction and fantasy, including "The Man Who Tried to Save Lincoln" (a time travel fantasy), an adaptation of Curt Siodmak's Donovan's Brain and an adaptation of an H. P. Lovecraft short story, "The Dunwich Horror".

Alfred Hitchcock directed its audition show (for the CBS summer series Forecast). This was an adaptation of "The Lodger," a story Hitchcock had filmed in 1926 with Ivor Novello. Martin Grams, Jr., author of Suspense: Twenty Years of Thrills and Chills, described the Forecast origin of Suspense:

On the second presentation of July 22, 1940, Forecast offered a mystery/horror show titled Suspense. With the co-operation of his producer, Walter Wanger, Alfred Hitchcock received the honor of directing his first radio show for the American public. The condition agreed upon for Hitchcock's appearance was that CBS make a pitch to the listening audience about his and Wanger's latest film, Foreign Correspondent. To add flavor to the deal, Wanger threw in Edmund Gwenn and Herbert Marshall as part of the package. All three men (including Hitch) would be seen in the upcoming film, which was due for a theatrical release the next month. Both Marshall and Hitchcock decided on the same story to bring to the airwaves, which happened to be a favorite of both of them: Marie Belloc Lowndes' "The Lodger." Alfred Hitchcock had filmed this story for Gainsborough in 1926, and since then it had remained as one of his favorites.

Herbert Marshall portrayed the mysterious lodger, and co-starring with him were Edmund Gwenn and character actress Lurene Tuttle as the rooming-house keepers who start to suspect that their new boarder might be the notorious Jack-the-Ripper. [Gwenn was actually repeating the role taken in the 1926 film by his brother, Arthur Chesney. And Tuttle would work again with Hitchcock nearly 20 years later, playing Mrs. Al Chambers in Psycho.] Character actor Joseph Kearns also had a small part in the drama, and Wilbur Hatch, head musician for CBS Radio at the time, composed and conducted the music specially for the program. Adapting the script to radio was not a great technical challenge for Hitchcock, and he cleverly decided to hold back the ending of the story from the listening audience in order to keep them in suspense themselves. This way, if the audience's curiosity got the better of them, they would write in to the network to find out whether the mysterious lodger was in fact Jack the Ripper. For the next few weeks, hundreds of letters came in from faithful listeners asking how the story ended. Actually a few wrote threats claiming that it was "indecent" and "immoral" to present such a production without giving the solution.

In the earliest years, the program was hosted by "The Man in Black" (played by Joseph Kearns or Ted Osborne) and many episodes written or adapted by the prominent mystery author John Dickson Carr. Escape was a similar anthology thriller and suspense program. The two series occasionally adapted the same stories, though Escape had lower budgets — and thus fewer name actors.

The sponsor became Roma Wines and then Autolite Spark Plugs; eventually Harlow Wilcox (of Fibber McGee and Molly) became the pitchman. William Spier, William N. Robson and Anton M. Leader were among the producers and directors.
Second issue of the 1946 magazine tie-in.

The program's heyday was in the early 1950s, when radio actor, producer and director Elliott Lewis took over (still during the Wilcox/Autolite run). Here the material reached new levels of sophistication. The writing was taut, and the casting, which had always been a strong point of the series (featuring such film stars as Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Henry Fonda, Humphrey Bogart, Ronald Colman and Cary Grant), took an unexpected turn when Lewis expanded the repertory to include many of radio's famous drama and comedy stars — often playing against type — such as Jack Benny. Jim and Marian Jordan of Fibber McGee and Molly were heard in the episode, "Backseat Driver," which originally aired February 3, 1949.

The highest production values enhanced Suspense, and many of the shows retain their power to grip and entertain. At the time he took over Suspense, Lewis was familiar to radio fans for playing Frankie Remley, the wastrel guitar-playing sidekick to Phil Harris in The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. On the May 10, 1951 Suspense, Lewis reversed the roles with "Death on My Hands": A bandleader (Harris) is horrified when an autograph-seeking fan accidentally shoots herself and dies in his hotel room, and a vocalist (Faye) tries to help him as the townfolk call for vigilante justice against him.

Another noteworthy episode was "The Hitch Hiker," in which a driver (Orson Welles) is stalked on a cross-country trip by a nondescript man who keeps appearing on the side of the road. This episode originally aired on September 2, 1942.

The single most popular episode of Suspense is Lucille Fletcher's "Sorry, Wrong Number," about a bedridden woman (Agnes Moorehead) who panics after overhearing a murder plot on a crossed telephone connection but is unable to persuade anyone to investigate. First broadcast on May 25, 1943, it was restaged seven times (last on February 14, 1960) — each time with Moorehead. The popularity of the episode led to a film adaptation, Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), starring Barbara Stanwyck. Nominated for an Academy Award for her performance, Stanwyck recreated the role on Lux Radio Theater. Loni Anderson had the lead in the TV movie Sorry, Wrong Number (1989).




Thursday, August 29, 2013

Adventures of Sam Spade (OTRR Certified)

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The Adventures of Sam Spade was a radio series based loosely on the private detective character Sam Spade, created by writer Dashiell Hammett for The Maltese Falcon. The show ran for 13 episodes on ABC in 1946, for 157 episodes on CBS in 1946-1949, and finally for 51 episodes on NBC in 1949-1951. The series starred Howard Duff (and later, Steve Dunne) as Sam Spade and Lurene Tuttle as his secretary Effie, and took a considerably more tongue-in-cheek approach to the character than the novel or movie. In 1947, scriptwriters Jason James and Bob Tallman received an Edgar Award for Best Radio Drama from the Mystery Writers of America. Before the series, Sam Spade had been played in radio adaptations of The Maltese Falcon by both Edward G. Robinson (in a 1943 Lux Radio Theater production) and by Bogart himself (in a 1946 Academy Award Theater production), both on CBS.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Grand Ole Opry

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The Grand Ole Opry started as the WSM Barn Dance in the new fifth-floor radio station studio of the National Life & Accident Insurance Company in downtown Nashville, Tennessee on November 28, 1925. On October 18, 1925, management began a program featuring "Dr. Humphrey Bate and his string quartet of old-time musicians." On November 2, WSM hired long-time announcer and program director George D. "Judge" Hay, an enterprising pioneer from the National Barn Dance program at WLS Radio in Chicago, who was also named the most popular radio announcer in America as a result of his radio work with both WLS in Chicago and WMC in Memphis. Hay launched the WSM Barn Dance with 77-year-old fiddler Uncle Jimmy Thompson on November 28, 1925, which is celebrated as the birth date of the Grand Ole Opry.

Some of the bands regularly featured on the show during its early days included the Possum Hunters (with Dr. Humphrey Bate), the Fruit Jar Drinkers, the Crook Brothers, the Binkley Brothers' Dixie Clodhoppers, Uncle Dave Macon, Sid Harkreader, Deford Bailey, Fiddlin' Arthur Smith, and the Gully Jumpers.

However, Judge Hay liked the Fruit Jar Drinkers and asked them to appear last on each show because he wanted to always close each segment with "red hot fiddle playing". They were the second band accepted on the "Barn Dance", with the Crook Brothers being the first. And when the Opry began having square dancers on the show, the Fruit Jar Drinkers always played for them.

In 1926, Uncle Dave Macon, a Tennessee banjo player who had recorded several songs and toured the vaudeville circuit, became its first real star. The name Grand Ole Opry came about on December 10, 1927. The Barn Dance followed NBC Radio Network's Music Appreciation Hour, which consisted of classical music and selections from the Grand Opera genre. Their final piece that night featured a musical interpretation of an onrushing railroad locomotive. In response to this Judge Hay quipped, "Friends, the program which just came to a close was devoted to the classics. Doctor Damrosch told us that there is no place in the classics for realism. However, from here on out for the next three hours, we will present nothing but realism. It will be down to earth for the 'earthy'." He then introduced the man he dubbed the Harmonica Wizard — DeFord Bailey who played his classic train song "The Pan American Blues". After Bailey's performance Hay commented, "For the past hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera. From now on we will present the 'Grand Ole Opry'".

As audiences to the live show increased, National Life & Accident Insurance's radio venue became too small to accommodate the hordes of fans. They built a larger studio, but it was still not large enough. After several months of no audiences, National Life decided to allow the Opry to move outside its home offices. The Opry moved, in October, 1934, into then-suburban Hillsboro Theatre (now the Belcourt), and then on June 13, 1936, to the Dixie Tabernacle in East Nashville. The Opry then moved to the War Memorial Auditorium, a downtown venue adjacent to the State Capitol. A 25-cent admission was charged in an effort to curb the large crowds, but to no avail. On June 5, 1943, the Opry moved to the Ryman Auditorium. It was used for Grand Ole Opry broadcasts from 1943 until 1974

Top-charting country music acts performed there during the Ryman years, including Roy Acuff, called the King of Country Music, Red Foley, Hank Williams, Webb Pierce, Faron Young, Martha Carson, Lefty Frizzell, and many, many others.





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National Barn Dance 


Opry

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Times Past has no affiliation with Old Time Radio Researchers. Any related content is provided here as a convenience to our visitors and to make OTRR's work more widely known.

References: Old Time Radio Researchers Group, Wikipedia, Frank Passage & Others OTR Logs, Archive.org, Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio by John Dunning, Australian Old Time Radio Group



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