Sunday, September 06, 2015

When radio was all there was

I wonder if a person who grew up in the world of television and internet can ever fully appreciate the value of the spoken word as it was transmitted by radio in that medium's "golden era." A few podcasters  try, but the word "radio" has a different feeling, a different meaning for them than it does for one who experienced radio when that's all there was.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


One more reason to be glad I'm pretty old:  I listened to "Vic and Sade." It was one of the most popular radio shows back in the day.  It wasn't  a dramatic soap opera.  Just Mr. and Mrs. Victor Gook (rhymes with book)  and young son Rush talking about their daily lives and the colorful characters they knew.  Nothing of great consequence, no drama.  Brilliantly written with great humor,  perfectly cast and performed, it was wildly popular and got lots of awards. The estimated number of listeners in 1943 was seven million. The Gooks lived  in  "the small house half-way up the next block." That's how the show started each day.

Looking back, thinking about what made it such a big hit, maybe you would need to have lived during the 30s and 40s to understand why we loved it.  For escapism radio gave us the same fare we have on TV today.  Soap operas, crime show, drama, sports, music and variety.  But when we needed something we could relate to and laugh along with , Vic and Sade filled the bill.  It was a sweet, simple time for a great many Americans.  We really lived like that, sitting on the front porch and going over the day's events.

There are many old time radio fans not old enough to have experienced it as I did. I wonder what they have to say about Vic and Sade.

There are lots of recordings of the show on the internet but some are pretty low audio quality.  Keep Googling for the good ones.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

 I have not listened to Garrison Keillor for quite a long time.
Maybe it's that there are so many great story tellers on the internet and a few on live radio there isn't time to hear all of them. 

Canadian story teller Stuart McLean is apparently as popular on Canadian Radio and in public appearances as Keillor is in the states, maybe even more so.  He's a good writer and his stories have more laugh-out-loud situations than Keillor's  Lake
Wobegon monologues.  Like Keillor's stories,  McLean's Canadian tales have a standard cast of characters. 

But I can't get used to his delivery.   He reads his stuff and sounds like he's projecting to the live audience.  Keillor knows how to romance a microphone and make it intimate. He is old enough to understand the power of radio as a spoken word medium.
                                          To find the Canadian Show google "The Vinyl Cafe."


Radio, the once great spoken word medium

I did a Facebook post about how I liked Steve Allen, a true wit and multi talented performer. I said  he's one of many TV greats who got their start in radio.  Johnny Carson, too.
Ask anyone age 75 or younger about a favorite radio station and they'll say it plays good songs. 

At 85, I have no common frame of reference with younger persons that lets me talk about radio as a great spoken word medium.  They do  podcasts and call it radio but it's not the real thing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Vote for Gracie and the Surprise Party

The greatest presidential campaign was 1940.  George Burns's beloved Gracie tossed her hat in the ring with real style.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

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.