Hi. My name is Steve Atlas. Like most of you, I am a lover of Old Time Radio (OTR). I want to thank Jon for making these collections available at such an affordable price. 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. I may be recommending a few programs that I have already featured in earlier issues of Tips from a Fellow OTR Fan—but only if there is a special reason for doing that.
Feeling Stressed Out by the Tension and Turmoil Going on Today?
As I write this, there is conflict in Europe and US political parties are attacking each other. Inflation makes everything more expensive, and gas prices are on the rise. It's enough to make you want to close your eyes and escape to a place and time when life was simpler and all you had to do was do your work, enjoy and support your family, and be part of your community. But, these days, where can we go?
One refuge can be the world of old-time radio. Shows like Burns and Allen, Father Knows Best, Fibber McGee and Molly, and Jack Benny can transport us to a very different world. For a few hours, we can almost enjoy a feeling of time travel—away from today's troubles and challenges.
Music can be an ideal way to escape, relax, and take time to enjoy and appreciate a slower pace. Today, I want to share with you a few suggestions for old-time radio music programs that lend themselves to this.
The Enchanted Hour: Each 30-minute program is special because, except for the introduction which tells you what music will be heard, the show has nearly 30 minutes of uninterrupted classical music. While we relax, each of us can do the dishes, read a book, or do something else we enjoy. Unlike television, radio does NOT demand our undivided attention. We don't have to watch anything. We only need to let our imagination soar.
Each program has a theme. One of my favorites is Program 3 entitled "On Wings of Song." I plan to listen to Chopin Nocturne soon.
Lawrence Welk: My wife and I enjoy watching Lawrence Welk on our local PBS station. I was surprised and delighted to learn that Welk also had a radio program. If you enjoy Welk's TV shows, listen to a few of his radio programs from the 1940s and 1950s.
Moon River: This is an ideal show for insomniacs and others who want to relax at night. Each program includes a hypnotic narrator (sometimes yawning), soothing female vocal trio, violin, and the Moon River organ. (Rumor has it that the Moon River organ and original transmitter still exist.) This late-night program includes dreamy and relaxing poems and music. The (appropriate for this type of show) sponsor was the Southern Cross Spring Mattress Company, and the advertisements blend into the program itself.
This is my first choice for times when all you want to do is relax, sleep, or just drift off.
Duke Ellington: This upbeat and cheery program is one of my special favorites. Great music and limited talk make you feel as if you are at a live concert by this renowned orchestra. The Duke was one of the outstanding band leaders and composers of the big band era.
America's Pop Music: The big band era had so many great bands that it can be hard to decide where to start. If you have this problem, check out this program. America's Popular Music is unusual because each program features a different band. For big bands, there are Artie Shaw, Casa Loma Orchestra, Count Basie, and Glenn Miller. For jazz fans, there are the California Ramblers, Dukes of Dixieland and Sidney Bechet. It's almost like an opportunity to hear a different band each week—just by listening to this program.
Best of All: This is one of my favorite old time music programs. Each program features music, performed by singers with orchestral accompaniment, of a different musical comedy or operetta composer. The first two shows (Vincent Youmans and Rodgers-Hart) were each half hour. Beginning with the third program (Rodgers and Hammerstein), Best of All expanded to an hour. I especially enjoy the difference between Rodgers and Hart (program 2) with the light touch to Rodgers and Hammerstein (program 3) with their more profound songs and shows. If you enjoy Broadway shows and music by a variety of composers, this may become one of your favorite programs.
Biography in Sound: Three of these 50-minute programs are devoted to composers.
A special favorite of mine is Sigmund Romberg (Volume 1, Track 1). Narrated by Oscar Hammerstein, the program includes great comments from people who knew Romberg, and a wealth of memorable songs—sung by great singers. The Student Prince, Desert Song, and New Moon are some of the shows highlighted.
The Serious George Gershwin (Volume 2) takes us inside the world of Gershwin with comments by Irving Berlin, Ira Gershwin, and others who knew the composer.
Jerome Kern is another of my special favorites. I didn't know that Kern composed "The Last Time I saw Paris." Most of us know "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (from Roberta). For me, the highlights of this program are the comments by Oscar Hammerstein and Edna Ferber (author of the book, "Showboat).
The only disappointment for me is that all of Kern's songs are only played by an orchestra. There are no singers included. This biography was so touching that, at one point, my wife burst into tears.
My wife and I have already listened to both the Romberg and Kern programs several times. We look forward to listening to the Gershwin program again very soon—especially the part about Porgy and Bess.
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. Do you have requests for other themes or programs you would like me to include in a future article? If so, please also leave a comment below.