by Steve Atlas
Like most of you, I am a lover and collector of Old Time Radio (OTR). I want to thank OTRCAT for making these collections available at such an affordable price. In just 1 year, I have been able to build a collection of about 100 Instant Download MP3s.
My problem has been that there are so many OTR programs that even if I buy a collection, I am not sure which individual programs I would enjoy most. Also, what collections are good choices if you have to limit yourself to just a few? Do any of you have similar problems?
Then this article is for you. Here, I will recommend some of my favorite OTR collections, and a few of my favorite programs. I hope you too will want to share some of your favorites with other OTR listeners. If you have a few favorites, please comment below.
Are you just getting started, or not sure how to build your collection?
A good way to start is by listening to one or more of the 12 OTR Sampler collections (one is included free with every paid order of $5 or more). Each Sampler includes a single episode of 100 or more programs. You can enjoy each sampler in 2 ways:
The first way is to enjoy it as a collection of old-time radio programs. Since each sampler has over 20 hours of programs, take a few hours to enjoy some programs. You can skip those you don’t like.
The 2nd way—and the way I do it—is to listen as an OTR fan. If a program interests you, type the name of the program into the search bar of OTRCAT. You may find a series you never knew about. That is what I did when I listened to OTR Sampler #7. Track 6 featured an episode of Anthology: a wonderful series devoted to poetry read by famous actors and present-day poets. I enjoyed that Memorial Day show so much that my wife and I agreed that Anthology was a series that we could enjoy for a long time. We just finished listening to the episode called "Midnight Ride of Paul Revere." Next week, we plan to listen to the next program that spotlights poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay. We would never have even heard of Anthology if we hadn’t listened to OTR Sampler #7. (Since we have limited time, we try to listen to all the Sampler programs beginning with A. When we finish those, we will start on the B’s.)
Are you a music lover?
OTRCAT has so many collections of music that it can be overwhelming to find a few to start with. Here are two of my favorites:
Do you like Hank Williams, the legendary country singer?
My wife is a big fan of his. That’s why she loves: Mother's Best Flour. These 15-minutes programs feature Hank Williams singing at least one song and chatting with the announcers as they advertise Mother’s Best Flour. Nearly any of these 1951 programs will delight you. If you have a favorite Hank Williams song, that show might be a good choice. 2 of my favorites are "Mind Your Own Business" (program #5), and "Why Don’t You Love Me" (program #13).
How about an hour with great classical pianists of the past?
Then, you will want to hear: Keyboard Immortals. The elegant commentary and memorable performances make the 1968 radio series a gem. My special favorite is the first program in this collection: Chopin. The next 2 programs in this collection are also delightful. Program #2 features the music of Anton Rubinstein: an unjustly neglected composer who today is best known for his short Melody in F. Program #3 spotlights the music of Claude Debussy. A highlight of that program is a recorded performance by Debussy himself.
Do you enjoy Broadway musicals?
Would you like to hear the story behind "Guys and Dolls", "Kiss Me Kate", "My Fair Lady," and "Oklahoma." Then check out the fabulous short collection (you can buy it on a single audio CD) Heartbeat of Broadway. When we listen to each 15-minute program, it almost feels as if we were getting ready to watch the musical.
Perhaps, the best-known radio theater program was Lux Radio Theater. Featuring popular movies adapted for radio, Lux Radio Theatre began its Hollywood-based series in 1936 and lasted nearly 20 years. The legendary movie producer Cecil B. DeMille was the host from 1936-January 1945. The biggest problem, for me and probably many of you is that the program ran for so many years that it can be difficult to select a single year or collection. It’s almost like going to the store and looking for one item—but finding so many choices that we leave without selecting any.
Probably the best way to sample Lux Radio Theater is with a collection called Best of Lux Radio Theater. 25 one-hour plays are on a single MP3. The collection includes several of my favorite movies (most with at least some members of the original cast). "Goodbye Mr. Chips", "Treasure Island", "Casablanca," "Wizard of Oz", "Lost Horizon", "Miracle on 34th St.", and "It’s a Wonderful Life."
Another way to build a Lux Radio Theater collection is by reviewing the MP3 collections available and selecting a collection with many of your favorite films. That is what I did when I bought Volumes 21 and 22. Two of my favorites in Volume 21 are 2 "radio movies" featuring Al Jolson in "The Jazz Singer," and "Alexander’s Ragtime Band."
Are you a Ronald Coleman fan?
Two of my favorite Ronald Coleman movies are "Lost Horizon," and "Goodbye Mr. Chips." Both are available as part of The Ronald Coleman Collection: Volumes 1 and 2. A great bonus for Jack Benny lovers is the inclusion of several Jack Benny programs that feature Ronald and Benita Coleman.
My favorite Ronald Coleman series is Halls of Ivy—a series about a fictitious college: Ivy College where Ronald is the president and Benita his wife. The first half of each program has lots of humor (the writer of the program was Don Quinn who wrote for Fibber McGee and Molly) while the 2nd half has a more serious theme. Four of my favorite episodes (all are on Volume 1 of this 2 MP3 collection) are: "Student Actress" (track 20), "Faculty Raffle" (track 28), "The Education of Annie Bell" (track 30), and "The Leslie Hoff Painting" (track 31).
What are your favorite Old Time Radio programs?
Do you have a few favorite episodes that you would enjoy sharing with other OTR listeners? If you would like to include some of your favorites and why you like them in "Tips from a Fellow OTR" fan, leave a comment below.