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Tips from a Fellow OTR Fan Issue 11: Summer Concert Listening

By Steve Atlas

Old Radio

Hi. My name is Steve Atlas. Like most of you, I am a lover of Old Time Radio (OTR). My problem is there are so many OTR programs that even if I buy a collection, I am not sure which individual programs I would enjoy most. What collections are good choices if you can only pick a few? Do any of you have similar dilemmas?

Then this newsletter is for you. Here, I recommend some of my favorite OTR collections, and a few of my favorite programs, as well as tips and suggestions from other OTR fans. I hope you too will share some of your favorites with other OTR listeners. (By the way, I may be recommending a few programs that I have already mentioned, but only if there is a good reason.) This month will feature a great show for July 4.

James CagneyHow was your July 4? My wife and I watched my favorite patriotic July 4 movie: Yankee Doodle Dandy. James Cagney was a real delight. Watching and hearing the songs, the rise and fall of an era, and especially the stirring performances of Over There made me proud to be an American—despite today's turmoil and unrest.

Screen Guild Theater presents a half hour performance of most of the music and some dialog from Yankee Doodle Dandy on October 19, 1942. You can enjoy this program on the Flag Day Collection. Even though this was only half hour, I found myself deeply stirred as I listened to the abridged biography as well as most of the music.

We are now in the middle of summer with its heat and long days. Perhaps you too enjoy summer outdoor band concerts. When I moved to Baltimore in 1974, the city had two bands that gave summer concerts in city parks. Each concert began with Baltimore's city song (that was only performed at these concerts), followed by a soloist who sang songs from Broadway shows. For me, a highlight was a "sing-along" with song sheets, a song leader, and the band who accompanied us all. Perhaps your community still has a local band that presents summer concerts.

City Services SponsorIf you are a fan of old-time radio, you can relive these days with the Cities Service Band of America, led by Paul Lavalle.  After an opening march and an announcement by the conductor, the vocal quartet sings a variety of songs. One of my favorites is "The Happy Wanderer." For me, the quartet's performances are one of the highlights of every concert. Later in the program, the band often performs a classical selection such as Tchaikovsky's Marche Slav. Most concerts end with a performance of a march by John Philip Sousa. (If you enjoy the opening theme: Paul Lavalle's Band of America March, you can enjoy the complete march on on this disc.) I especially enjoyed the concerts:

Another joy of summer can be performances of operettas and musical comedies either in a park or in an air-conditioned theater. This is one way that many of us can enjoy these shows without having to go to Broadway or pay high prices for tickets. Cincinnati is well known for its summer operettas. How can we enjoy these types of performances of musical shows on old time radio?

Chicago Theater of the AirA wonderful one-disc collection is Chicago Theater of the Air. Each 60-minute program features an operetta or musical comedy that was sung in English. Frequently, a new singer is introduced on the program. Colonel Robert McCormack, editor of the Chicago Tribune, presents a 10-15 minute talk each week. While the Colonel talks in a monotone, many of his topics give valuable insights into U.S. history. On the program that features The Gondoliers, Colonel McCormack reads Lincoln's Gettysburg address. Some of my favorite musical shows presented on Chicago Theater of the Air are the Student Prince, Music in the Air, The Mikado, the Vagabond Kind, the Gondoliers, and Hansel and Gretel.

What are your favorite Old-Time Radio programs? Do you have a few favorite programs or individual episodes that you would enjoy sharing with other OTR listeners? Do you have requests for other themes or programs you would like me to include in a future article? If you answered "yes" to either question, please leave a comment below.

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