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Tips from a Fellow OTR Fan Issue 3: Thanksgiving

By Steve Atlas

Old Radio

Hi. My name is Steve Atlas. Like most of you, I am a lover of Old Time Radio (OTR). I want to thank OTRCAT.com for making these collections available at such an affordable price. In 1 year, I have built a collection of over 100 Instant Download MP3s.

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. 

Highlights from the OTR Samplers and a few other suggestions

Every month, it is a joy and new adventure for me to explore the 12 OTR Samplers. My journey is to start with the A’s in each of the samplers, then do the same with the B’s etc. My suggestions are based on what I have heard so far. I am working on the B’s now.

American History

Babe RuthBiography in Sound: Sampler 4, "The legend of Babe Ruth".

Are any of you baseball fans? Then, I’m sure you have heard of Babe Ruth: the legendary New York Yankee slugger and pitcher. This is a warm-hearted biography and tribute to the great athlete, narrated by sportscaster Mel Allen. It is so moving that both my wife and I loved it when we listened during a car trip. Biography in Sound is an excellent way to enjoy and relive American history—almost like the "Biography" TV show, created on the Arts and Entertainment (A&E) cable station years ago. Since each program takes nearly an hour, I am still listening to Volume 1. The program about Sigmund Romberg (the great American operetta composer) is eloquently narrated by Oscar Hammerstein II (yes—that Oscar Hammerstein II who with Richard Rodgers created Sound of Music, Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific, and the King and I). I loved it and enjoy hearing this tribute many times.

If you can afford it, I suggest purchasing all 4 Volumes. If not, start with Volume 1 (Volume 2 has Babe Ruth).

American Adventure: Sampler 5: "Johnny Appleseed"

Eddy Arnold of Mr PresidentWhen we think about American history, Cavalcade of America is probably the first OTR program that comes to mind. American Adventure is an easier way to experience our history. Best of all, all the programs are one MP3—total cost: $5. This series, produced by the University of North Carolina, brings U.S. history vividly to life—and with no commercials. Listen to Johnny Appleseed and you will see what I mean. If you are looking for a special and affordable gift for children or grandchildren—or even adult friends or family, this could be a great holiday gift! (Grandfather Jefferson, track 5 of the full collection, is an entertaining look at our third president, from the perspective of his grandson.)

Mr. President. Do you ever wonder what it might be like to be the U.S. President? In this unique series, every week a different U.S. President is portrayed by the great radio actor Edward Arnold. (Legend has it that he visited the white house so frequently that President Harry Truman called him "Mr. President.") The story generally spotlights some lesser known incidents and gives some unique insights into what life was like for that president. The name of the featured president is not given until the end of the program. Two of my favorites are John Quincy Adams and Theodore Roosevelt. I recommend all 3 volumes highly.

Recommendations When You Take a Drive or Short Trip

Paul HarveyMost of us take short drives as part of our everyday life. That is a great time to hear something short and appealing. One of my favorites "drive-time favorites" is Paul Harvey recordings.

You may remember Paul Harvey’s news broadcasts, his entertaining commercials, and his special 5-minute feature "The Rest of the Story" that ran from 1976 until Paul died in 2009. Based on historical background and little-known facts, this entertaining 5-minute series held back an important detail until The very end. Listening to one-three of these episodes (many narrated by Paul’s son: Paul Harvey Jr.—who is almost as entertaining as his dad) is a great way to pass time when waiting for someone or taking a short drive.

Let’s take a few minutes to enjoy music!

Voice of Firestone

This month, I want to share with you 3 of my favorite OTR series:

The Voice of Firestone. This wonderful series featured great singers, along with an orchestra and sometimes a chorus, who performed classical and popular selections. Sponsored by the Firestone Tire Company, it was so loved that it was transferred to television—while still playing on radio. The OTRCAT MP3 includes a regular program, and the 25th Anniversary special program—a gem in itself. Don’t miss it.

Best of All. This is one of my favorites! Each program features the music of a composer of Broadway musical comedies or operettas. The first two programs were half hour each. Beginning with the third show, each program lasted an hour. The first two shows were Vincent Youmans and Rodgers and Hart. I especially loved the third program that was devoted to Rodgers and Hammerstein. (It might be fun to compare the 2 programs about Richard Rodgers: Rodgers and Hart, and Rodgers and Hammerstein.) I confess that these 3 are the only programs I have heard so far. This delightful series will make your heart sparkle—it almost seems as if you are at a Broadway show.

The Railroad Hour. If you enjoy movies of Carousel and Oklahoma, you may remember that the male star was Gordon MacRae. On The Railroad Hour, Gordon MacRae is the host, accompanied by a different female star each week. When we hear these 30-45-minute performances of well-known Broadway musicals and operettas and Hollywood musicals, it almost seems as if we are at the theater. This is one of my very favorite musical collections of Broadway and Hollywood musicals. We can no longer see great operettas like The Student Prince and The Desert Song, but we can relive them on the Railroad Hour. I would strongly recommend Volumes 1-5. (Unlike the other 5 volumes, Volume 6 has only 10 programs.) If you can only choose a few volumes, I would recommend Volumes 2 and 3. Some of my favorites in Volume 2 are: The Student Prince, The Mikado, Brigadoon, Showboat, and The Pirates of Penzance. My Volume 3 favorites include: Carousel, The Student Prince, Song of Norway, State Fair, and The Desert Song. (The Student Prince is on both Volumes 2 and 3)

Happy Thanksgiving—and a Special OTR Series:

Biggest HeartThese days, it’s easy to get discouraged by all the hate, distrust, and cynicism in our society. Fortunately, OTR has an alternative to all of this negativity: Biggest Heart: Sampler 5: "Mrs Archaleta Story". 

In this unique series, Mark Stevens tells the story of some of the kindest and most caring people in different communities. In the Sampler episode, he tells of a big-hearted woman in Denver who befriends children who need a home. This inspiring series reminds us to be thankful for the many wonderful people who have befriended us and our loved ones! This one-MP3 series ($5) is a perfect choice to share during Thanksgiving—and probably the rest of the year as well.

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.

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Here's how I make use of the samplers ... All of my programs have been ripped into my personal cloud. On weekends, I make dated folders for the upcoming week, and I move all of the programs that aired on those individual dates into the folders, which I then arrange chronologically. So most of my favorite shows are represented once or twice a day, with sampler shows sprinkled in as well. The results have been most gratifying. For the last week or so, the Thanksgiving episodes have begun to spring forward. Haven't figured out yet how I'll make it through the summer, though, when most of my favorites "rest!"


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