Thursday, May 14, 2015

Marvelous Musical Michael Feinstein

Young Michael Feinstein is the greatest thing that has happened to the songs of "The Great American Songbook," the songs America loved before the mid 50s when the rock culture and its music came along and forever changed the world.  He's a passionate preservationist, dedicating his  considerable talent to keeping those songs alive.  If you don't know about him, look him up.  Gives me goosebumps and smiles.

Radio's Big Voice

I imported this one from my Facebook Page

I listened to The Lone Ranger, The Challenge of the Yukon and Super Man last night. I continue to be amazed at how real those old radio shows were. Truly "theater of the mind." Another interesting thing. Male radio heroes had deep voices. Clark Kent went into the phone both , emerged as Superman and his voice dropped an octave . The rock culture and its falsetto singers changed all that. A deep voice now sounds like somebody's grandfather. I couldn't get used to the light voices of the movie actors who played Superman. They sounded like Clark Kent when he went into the phone booth to become Superman with super powers and a super voice. It just wasn't right. Another old time radio show, one of the best ever produced and also great onTV, was Gunsmoke. I never watched the TV version. William Conrad had the perfect Dodge City sheriff radio voice but he was too fat for TV. It was the longest running Western series.. I am so glad that I grew up with that kind of radio that let me draw my own mental pictures of what the characters looked like.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Podcasts are the New Radio.  You see the "R" word used a lot in that way.  It's audio, that's for sure.  But it's not much like what has become  Old Time Radio.  There's lots of the old classic shows for younger persons who want to experience what their grandparents listened to or perhaps study it as history.  But it's difficult  to find a podcast or new radio drama that sounds like the "real thing," even those that are billed as produced in OTR style.  The acting on contemporary audio theater is often pretty bad.

Podcast producers are so enamored with amazing digital special effects technology that they sometimes appear more interested in showing off their stuff with music and tightly edited clips than in communicating ideas or telling a story. Way back in the day, all you had to work with was a microphone, a live sound effects person and a Hammond organ for musical punctuation.  Corny by today's standards but played by an expert, the Hammond was the perfect instrument for that purpose. Many early radio organists were true artists, having learned their craft accompanying silent films.

Alright, so I'm an old fart who grew up when radio was the biggest home entertainment and information medium.  Thank you kindly for letting me pop off.

Monday, August 11, 2014


The Michael in the title is Michael Moore. OK, so I don't know him and all we share is a Flint, Michigan
connection.  Pretty important for both of us.  It can't hurt to toss out the name of somebody famous. Michael got famous for "Roger and Me, " his film about General Motors' part in the near death of that once great city.
I got famous in Flint ... alright maybe not that famous... as a hotshot deejay in Flint Radio. That was 1950.  Was I cute, or what? Another famous Flint name is William "Billy" Durant.  He founded General Motors in 1908. There was a Durant Hotel.  I don't know if it's still there.  And a Durant auto, too.

Flint was still a big prosperous GM town when I was there. That's where  I met my wife, a radio fan and our first child was born there. Relatives and in-laws worked at the auto plants. I would not have met my wife but for the great migration of Southerners who came North for good factory jobs. 
I'm not a great fiction reader but I'm glad my wife was a John Grisham fan. I took a look at her copy of his 2001 novel, "A Painted House." It was a tale of an Arkansas family and their trek to Flint for work. My wife was born in Newport, Arkansas and they moved to the Flint area when she was three years old. When somebody mentions John Grisham I always ask if they read that one.

My wife, young son and I left Flint in 1954, the year that Michael Moore was born, in my big beautiful  white 1951 Dynaflow Special just like this one. Actually, the "Special" was the low end Buick model.  But I felt like I was driving a Roadmaster when that Dynaflow transmission wound up and she started to move. We  listened to Gisele MacKenzie sing "My Buick, my love and I," the theme song of "Uncle Miltie" Milton Berle's TV show.  Chevrolets went by,  families hearing  Dinah Shore's theme music, "See the USA in your Chevrolet." It was still a good time for Flint and General Motors and it got even better into the 60s.  One of the several radio jobs that I left, not exactly voluntarily, was at WTAC.  That stood for "The Auto City." A sign at the North end welcomed all to "Buick Town." A few years ago a long mothballed arch was dug out and re-erected over Saginaw Street. It originally proclaimed Flint "TheVehicle City."

By the time native son Michael Moore grew up, his town had fallen on terrible times. GM closed most local plants and moved to Mexico. Moore's documentary, "Roger and me" showed him demanding to see GM CEO Roger Smith to give him an earful about what he had done to Flint. Someone painted the sign when Flint was named one of the country's five most dangerous cities. 

What got my nostalgia juices flowing about all this history is a 1923 Durant that showed up in the Muskegon shop of friend Phil Schugars, a professional restorer of classic and antique cars. It's  owned by Ken Brink, a member of the Durant owners club.  His e-mail address even makes reference to the Durant name.  

Durant's company built other cars  including the Flint. Here's a classy 1925 Flint Touring Car.  Wouldn't it  have been the cat's meow to take your  best girl for a ride in this baby! Or the whole family. 

The first words I spoke into a radio microphone were "Going Forward With Flint." It hasn't worked out well for Flint or the Buick. She wasn't even 10 years old when the junkyard gave me twelve bucks for her.  Oh well, I have great memories.   I won't forget the town where my son and my Buick were born.

Monday, July 07, 2014

BOGEY and BACALL on Radio

BOLD VENTURE was a great radio series.  What a pair .... as good together on radio as on the screen.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Turn on the bubble machine

Come every Saturday Night I am about to bust out of my geriatric skin from needing to express high praise for those old Lawrence Welk shows.  Laugh at them if you will, and I know you will, but the fellow with the funny accent hired world class performers for his musical family. I am awed at the talent, training, musicianship and showmanship in those shows.  OK, so it's corny and hokey by today's showbiz standards.  What's new ain't always better.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


That song, first recorded by Billie Holiday, might be the first social commentary protest song.  Most unusual for 1939 when Ella Fitzgerald did her jazzy version of "a-tisket a-tasket, the old nursery rhyme. Today's generation and probably at least one before it grew up with "message" songs about some social issue.  No so for me.  Songs were for fun and romance. "Strange Fruit" is  about a lynching. The word doesn't appear but but the meaning is there.


Random Harvest.  A sweet amnesia story.  Maybe a bit predictable but who cares.  I watched it because TCM host guy  Robert Osborne and guest programmer Gene Wilder said it had two great speaking voices, Ronald Coleman and Greer Garson.  It wouldn't be real hard to work up a tear over the Smithy and Paula tale.  Wilder said it does it for him. Too bad I could not stay up for the next TCM oldie, "The Merry Widow" from 1934.

Monday, April 14, 2014


Another Doris Day film I must see again. "The Glass bottom boat." Arthur Godfrey was her father. Like many broadcasters of my era, I was a huge Godfrey fan and admirer. Once a powerful radio and TV performer, so popular that he could have been elected to high political office if he had chosen to go that way, he became a victim of cultural and media change when folksiness no longer worked.