A rose by any other name....sound familiar? Poetry is as much a part of American culture as cricket and Italian wine. Wait a minute? Cricket? Italian wine? Isn’t that saying that poetry is rather rare in the American scene? Admittedly, it is not as followed or promoted as other areas of entertainment and literature. But, it is a work of art that should be enjoyed and in old time radio, poetry had a place during the golden age of radio and today!
Poetry was more than a literary favorite with the vast American listening audience. It was a simple way of bringing a touch of culture into their homes. Programs like Anthology created a world of timelessness and creative respite to the ardours of the day. women were the more prolific listeners to this world of rhyme and resonance. The homebound lady appreciate a feeling of pampering to the soul, especially when they faced a routine of domestics and child rearing.
The Poetry programs were usually a mixture of poetical genius and the popular music of its time. It might be a soft crooning or a big band hit. Whatever it was, it was magical and the audience loved it.
The advantage to having poetry on radio versus other medium were the words themselves. Poetic artistry worked well when the ear was tuned to the rhythm of the passage being realized in oratory. Shakespeare was grand on the stage as the performer made visual the words inter played into theatrics. However, the world of imagination could create a larger than life kaleidoscope scene as the semantical rhythm and creative word nuances were broadcast into the homes and minds of the listener. Here are some of the programs that expanded the listener creative imagery of poetry.
This wonderful radio program enlisted some of the major actors and actresses of the day to blend their voices with the remarkable works of the masters of poetry. The program was a cooperation between WNBC and YWHA Poetry Center. The intent was to share the works of the greats with people not used to poetry, or inclined to want to listen. Host Harry Fleetwood would compare poetry to spinach, some people had the same lack of taste for either. In spite of many listeners reservations to this genre; the desire for poetry made this program a quick favorite for many. Anthology never failed to capture the imagination of the audience when vocal talents of Orson welles or Agnes Moorehead hit the microphone. Anthology would also do musical selections as well.
Ending with the lines, “Float on drift on Moon River…to the sea”, Moon River held a legacy of quality poetry and music programs that was hard to match. The program began its run from Cincinnati, Ohio and in the studio of WLW. This late night program was created for the purpose of getting people into slumber land. It ended the broadcasting day and was fifteen minutes tranquility. Of a truth, who could not flow into a tranquil sleep under the sweet melody of doris Day? This program lasted over three decades for one reason...it worked.
Sammy Kaye Sunday Serenade (1941-mid 1950’s)
Big Band music was hit during the period of WWII. Sammy Kaye brought his talent to NBC and Sammy Kaye Sunday Serenade was born. This was the program for would be musical writing talent to showcase their amateur works. Presented in lyrical presense, the program offered a variety of talented music and poetical oration. In 1942 the program was the basis for the launch of a poetry book that became popular the minute it hit the shelves. It was dedicated to the verses that were made the most popular from the program. As the show grew in popularity, so did its time slot. The networks made it into a 30 minute program after people mailed the network asking for more air time. It never failed to gather listeners.
Words with Music
This program, diametrically opposed in format to that of Corwin, was another program to soothe the savage beast. As the poetry was being read by the great stars of the day, organ music would become the theme serenade. with Bob Mitchell, ticking the keys with an almost reverential aura, poetical verse would transmit to homes across the country and bring a simple melodic response of prose to a captivate audience. Dreams awaited those that drifted into a pleasant and peaceful slumber.
Norman Corwin (1940’s -50’s)
Rather then a look at a particular program, this is about a man that was a program. Norman Corwin came to radio around 1938 and began to host lyrical programs without the aid of music. He loved the use of words, especially poetic verse to get across important ideas and patriotism. During a time of major conflicts, nay war, hitting the globe, Corwin was want to inspire the listener to stay resolved or to form insights into the world stage. One of his greatest works was On a Note of Triumph. The work was read by Orson welles and was an instant hit for this man that sought words over evil.
Strollin Tom (1940’s)
Who said dentists can’t do more then improve your smile? With Wade Lane as the enchanting Strollin Tom, the program carried over the music of the dental chair to the living room chair. Poetry and music was the theme trademark of the radio airwave program. The idea was that if you can’t do anything else, the show taught the lesson you could always smile. Strollin Tom became the airwaves version of the strolling minstrel that brought his fare of frivolity to American homes every week. So, whether be gloomy or sunny rays of light, Smile. Smile. Smile.
Music and the Muse (1949)
As the poetry was recited, the soft vibrato of strings or sweet resonance of flutes might surround the verse and hearts would be touched by words and wonder coming into their homes. Music and the Muse was another of the poetry/music combinations that made life so much more pleasant to the vast audience. The announcer would come in with a soft baritone voice, “Music and the Muse” and then Janet Logan commenced with the poem.
To have poetical license was not needed for Old Time Radio and their melodic portrayals of verse and rhyme. They established the culture that introduced so many amateur writings and mastered patterns. ...stilled smelled as sweet.”
This compilation includes the following series on each volume numbers:
- Compilation all old time radio episodes from all different series featuring poems and poetry (Vol. 1)
- Compilation all old time radio episodes from all different series featuring poems and poetry (Vol. 2)
- Anthology 1
- Anthology 2
- Corwin 1
- Corwin 2
- Corwin 3
- Moon River
- Music & The Muse
- Sammy Kaye 1
- Sammy Kaye 2
- Sammy Kaye 3
- Sammy Kaye 4
- Strolling Tom