Network radio in the United States really began when the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) assembled it's first line-up of stations in 1926. The Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting System (it soon dropped the word Phonograph and become the CBS we know today) followed shortly thereafter. NBC-Red, NBC-Blue and CBS, along with the younger Mutual Network, were to dominate the airwaves throughout the remainder of the Golden Age of Radio. In 1943 NBC was compelled by a court decision to divest itself of it's Blue Network. After the sale, it eventually became the American Broadcasting Company (ABC).
Network radio provided free entertainment and amused a nation during a decade of economic hardship in the 1930s, and bound the nation together during the harrowing years of the Second World War. (If you're interested in WWII news broadcasts, may I suggest you visit Echoes of the Past.)
In addition to news - the broadcasting of history as it happens - network radio often looked to the past for source material. A unique, and honored, series was "Cavalcade of America," sponsored through its long-run by DuPont. The program brought American history to life by presenting big, and little, stories from the nation's past. Shows were done before a studio audience and cast members dressed in costumes appropriate to the period of the story being aired.
Jack Benny was the master of radio comedy and the master of comic timing.
From the first broadcast of his first series for Canada Dry, Jack thrived in a 30-minute format. During his first few seasons, in shows for various sponsors, he slowly acquired the cast that would remain with him for many years . . . Mary Livingstone, Don Willson, Phil Harris, Kenny Baker (later replaced by Dennis Day) and a supporting cast including Mel Blanc, Frank Nelson, Benny Rubin, Sheldon Leonard and Bea Benaderet.
By the time Jello took over sponsorship of the show, Jack was a Sunday night institution, and would remain so until 1955 (and for several years thereafter via transcriptions). Jack's association with Jello was so ingrained that even though Jello ceased to be his sponsor after 1942, he could get a laugh with a Jello joke right up to his death in 1974.
In 1942, his show became a vehicle for Grape Nuts and Grape Nuts Flakes for two seasons. And in the fall of 1944 he begain touting Lucky Strike cigarettes. Jack Benny's Lucky Strike years are the best of the best in radio comedy. The humorous commercials became integral to the program. So much has been lost in recent years because over-the-air rebroadcasts of his show strip out the tobacco advertising for legal reasons. Often guest stars, including Humphrey Bogart, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dorothy Kirsten, et. al., would take part in the commercial hijinks.
The fun continued on Sunday nights until May 1955 when Jack ended his weekly radio series. His efforts on television (in a series, then on a special basis) continued until 1974. Another special scheduled for 1975 was in the planning stages at the time of his death in December 1974.
OTR Sites of Interest
The following is a list of internet sites with free old-time radio programs that you can download to your computer or portible MP3 device.
- Captain Midnight A history of the series and many ra episodes
- Dave's Old Time Radio Trading Post
- Echoes of the Past WWII era newscasts and clips
- Evan's Gallery of OTR Broadcasts "Dimension X," "X Minus One," "Mystery Theater"
- EY's Audio Links A ton of links
- floorten.com Internet audio s.f. dramas
- Generic Radio Workshop Radio script collection
- Green Acres Home Page Dedicated to the TV and radio series
- Mercury Theatre on the Air, The Dozens of classic Orson Welles productions
- Munich Crisis With newsclips from the 1938 crisis
- Old Time Radio Line-Up, The
- Old Time Radio Show Server
- One Act Players, The
- OTR Vault, The Thousands of shows
- Plot Spot, The Guide to OTR plots
- Quiet Please
- Radio Theater on the Web Links to contemporary sites
- Robert Dickson's Goon Show mp3 Page
- RUSC Old Time Radio Over 3,000 shows in mp3 and growing daily
- SnaPs HOt's Place
- Sound Portraits - The Day After Pearl Harbor ra stream
- Unofficial Fibber McGee & Molly Page, The
- W.C. Fields: The Radio Years
- www.tinfoil.com Early recorded sounds preserved on wax and tin cylinders. This isn't OTR, but it is interesting.
- Dave's Old Time Radio Trading Post
OTRCAT.com is a vast resource about nostalgic radio shows. You can hear thousands of old time radio episodes online by streaming or downloading full episodes in Mp3 format while reading detailed descriptions of the performers and series broadcast in the era (1920s to 1959). In the 'daily downloads', there are the broadcasts of the day throughout history (from the last fifty to seventy years). Click this link to visit http://www.OTRCAT.com.
Here's a huge collection of Free Old Time Radio shows -- including 278 episodes of my favorite: Amos 'n' Andy. If you want it, there's a good chance this site has it. Here's a list of the catagories offered:
- Science Fiction
- World War II
Old Time Radio for Halloween
Thought you had seen everything, all those old movies and television shows two or three times even? Well you probably haven't experienced old time radio! This media is so old, it is refreshingly "brand new" to many of us. Here, we present 100 of our favorite horror theme stories, from shows like Witch's Tale, Lights Out, Innersanctum, Quiet Please, The Haunted Hour and others. These are the very stories that inspired favorite Horror Comics and shows like Twilight Zone and Thriller! In fact, old time radio horror show, "Witch's Tale" is reported to have served as direct inspiration for EC Comics. Click this link to listen to Old Time Radio shows at The Monster Club.
Here's another link for some old radio shows. I'm a sherlock Holmes fan, so here's all the radio shows I could currently find on one web page. I think it's pretty darned extensive, too. http://sherlock.mindcop.net then click on audio.
In the pre-TV era, people saw the news every week in their neighborhood movie theaters. Newsreels were shown before every feature film and in dedicated newsreel theaters located in large cities. Universal Newsreel, produced from 1929 to 1967, was released twice a week. Each issue contained six or seven short stories, usually one to two minutes in length, covering world events, politics, sports, fashion, and whatever else might entertain the movie audience.
These newsreels offer a fascinating and unique view of an era when motion pictures defined our culture and were a primary source of visual news reporting. Universal City Studios put the newsreels into the public domain, and gave film materials to the National Archives in 1976. Surviving materials from the entire collection are available at the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland. Click this link to visit the Universal Newsreels web site: http://www.archive.org/details/universal_newsreels.
March of Time Newsreels
From 1935 to 1967, Time Inc's newsreel series The March of Time chronicled important events in the U.S. and the world. These examples of "pictorial journalism" blended long-form, documentary-style stories and dramatic re-enactments. The newsreels are being restored and included in the HBO Archival Collection and are available at no charge for online viewing after registration. The collection, which includes more than 70 million feet of 35mm films, also contains historic footage dating back to 1913 and hundreds of hours of vintage Government films and Universal Newsreel programs. A teacher treasure vault! Click this link to visit the HBO Archival Collection, The March of Time: http://hboarchives.com/apps/searchlibrary/ctl/marchoftime.
Old Time Radio
Back in the "good old days" people listened to stories dramatized on the radio. Now here's a chance to do that again. No need for descriptive DVDs here, as these are the old time programs that were produced specifically for the radio. Here's entertainment, as well as a fun way to enhance your child's listening skills.
You can listen to "My Favorite Husband", starring Lucille Ball, or to Abbot and Costello, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Ozzie and Harriet, and others at the Old Time Radio website: http://www.otr.net.
Another website to mention, even though its not entirely free is Vintage Radio Shows. It features unlimited downloads and it is only $6.95 a month. They even offer a three-day free trial. Here is the website. Click this link to visit http://www.vintageradioshows.com.