March 24, 2014

Old Time Radio (Really Old !)


No, not the Top 40 style of radio I played and you grew up listening to on that tinny AM radio (or even the progressive rock on FM)....this is about radio shows from the 40's and 50's when radio was still king. This was the era when families gathered around the large console radio in the living room to listen to Sam Spade mysteries, Bing Crosby singing. Arthur Godfrey variety shows, or big band orchestras performing live in a radio studio somewhere.

Yes, I know this type of entertainment is likely before your time. Being born in 1949 most of it is before mine. For folks used to the visual stimulus of television, simply listening to a murder mystery or comedy without pictures takes some getting used to. The quality is not what we are used to either; shows from that long ago were recorded on equipment that is crude and almost prehistoric-seeming in today's world.

But, with all that said, I hope you will just try an old radio show or two. There are tens of thousands of them available on the Internet. While some of the better known sites charge to listen, many are completely free. If you try those and find you enjoy using your imagination and mind's eye to recreate the scenes being described, then you can go ahead and invest the rather minimal amount for a lifetime's worth of choices. In fact, collecting old time radio broadcasts is a hobby that attracts thousands. You might find an interest, too.

One thing you will quickly notice is how different humor was 60 years ago. Besides being "clean," it was rather hokey. The jokes sound silly to our ears. But, that is part of the fun of listening: you can hear what made your parents and grandparents laugh You will get a better understanding why they struggle with today's brand of comedy and what is appropriate conversation.

There was no such thing as "political correctness" so jokes at the expense of women and the roles of the sexes, labels such as "doll baby" and "honey" were used for most female characters. Again, this is an excellent way of appreciating how far we have come (with a lot farther to go) in being more sensitive to these issues.

OK, enough set up. I have provided several links for you to explore. They are clearly labeled as free or requiring a membership. This list barely scratches the surface of the resources available on-line, but there is plenty here to get you started.

I must mention that one site listed, RUSC,  provided me with a free guest membership to evaluate their offerings. I was favorably impressed and at $60 for a year I very well might invest in a regular subscription.

Free Choices:

Pay Sites:


I will be interested in your feedback. These shows aren't for everyone, but you might find using your imagination instead of your eyes is an interesting experience.

13 comments:

  1. This post about old radio programs makes me think of the CFCW (790 AM) radio station that I listen to regularly. I grew up listening to this radio station. My dad always listened to it and I remember making fun of it back then. Listening to the radio personalities each morning as they talk about local weather, traffic and events has turned them into almost family. There are the usual travel and concert contests as well as the recipe of the morning and the farm report. Hugh MacLennan's Spirit of the West on Saturday mornings is another favorite on that station. "Did you hear what Danny said ..." was common at coffee break when I was still working. Then there's the Grand Ole Opry WJSM (?). I didn't listen to it on the radio but know that was its roots. And what a thrill to actually attend the Opry at the Ryman Theater in December. Saturday morning is time for Wide Cut Country on CKUA where I get to hear folk music new and old including some of the performers that have performed in my home as part of the Home Routes music tour. Radio is more than music.

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    1. Radio used to be an important part of our family and daily life. Before it became not much more than a delivery system for commercials separated by homogenized music, radio really entertained, informed, and bound us together. We counted on local radio for news and information and what was important in our community. We learned to know the voices who spoke to us.

      Today's version of radio is a poor, pale imitation of what it once was. These old shows give us a glimpse into the power radio had in our lives before TV took over

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  2. There is a station here that plays old shows on and off. I seem to catch them on the way to my son's. You are correct. They were wonderful how the twisted verbiage to make fun jokes. The lack of vulgarity helps the laughs come in a more natural way for me.
    Thanks for bringing the subject to light. I will be looking for these on the internet through your links.

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    1. There is no station locally that airs shows like this, so when I want to hear some of these shows, the Internet becomes the perfect stop.

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  3. Bob, ever thought about having your own internet radio show? Now that you're retired, you could play anything and not worry about revenue. You could be management AND talent. Bring back your old DJ days. People have radio shows on the internet now just as bloggers write. Would you be interested in doing a once per week hour long show? Give some background and context for old songs and say whatever happened to the artists. I know your blog readers would listen with great interest and appreciation.

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    1. I haven't really thought about it before, but maybe. I have been playing with the idea of some podcasts, which is the same thing without the music. I could deal with retirement and RV/travel issues.

      There are all sorts of sites that would allow me to do that, but I'd have to find out about music licensing. I have thousands of songs but I'm not sure of the legality of my playing them.

      Anyway, Nik, something to think about.

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  4. Considering making these available to a family member who is 90 years old and has Alzheimers. I think she would enjoy them as she loves talking about the past. Thanks for the tip.

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    1. That is a great idea. Long term memory generally remains viable the longest, so hearing Bob Hope, Glen Miller, or Fibber McGee and Molly again might be just the ticket.

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  5. I operate a 24/7 Old Time Radio Internet Streaming site. Please give it a listen http://brandoclassicotr.com Thanks

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    1. I just sampled your site: the quality is excellent. Thanks for the info, Brandon.

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  6. Thanks Bob, let me know if you have any troubles with the site. Take care

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  7. For years, Beth and Bill were my morning buddies on my drive to work.It was sad to lose Bill. Oh, they were limited with the playlists the station made them play but I loved their morning energy--not the same without Bill, but then, I don't drive to work anymore! :-) Used to love WMMR an "alternative" FM radio station in Philly, during my college days! Here in Pine we have a VERY local, quirky radio station, you can buy and sell your used household items during one of the shows..

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    1. I once worked for a small station with a daily "Trading Post" show. People would call in to sell the oddest things! It was fun to listen to see if someone would actually buy the 3 dish towels from a set of 4, or tractor tires.

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