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Old time radio finds a new fan base

Travel back in time half a century or more, to a time when milk was delivered to the nation's doorsteps in glass bottles, when pop-up toasters were a new technical innovation and when sliced bread was hitting the shelves . back when times were simple . .

there was old-time-radio. Of course, we call it "old time-radio" now but back in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, radio was the newest, most popular and powerful medium around. Radio was to the 1930s what the Internet was to the 1990s. The years between 1959 and 1962 are often referred to as the Golden Age of Radio -- and radio programs that were broadcast during that period had significantly more variety than radio programming today.

The shows captured the imaginations and the hearts of Americans from coast to coast. It was a time when families would gather 'round the radio in the living room -- that "magic box" that had the mysterious power to snatch laughter, tears, drama, thrills and adventure out of the air and bring it into our homes. The Golden Age of Radio started in 1929 with the debut of radio shows like The Goldbergs, True Detective Mysteries, National Farm and Home Hour, and the Rudy Vallee Show.

It continued through into the 1930s when shows like Fibber McGee and Molly, Lux Radio Theater, The Aldrich Family, Bob Hope, and the Al Jolson Show hit the airwaves. By the 1940s radio broadcasting was in full flow. Shows like Abbott and Costello, Escape, Suspense, This is Your FBI, the Judy Canova Show, You Bet Your Life, and The Adventures of Phillip Marlow dominated the airwaves By the time the 1950s came around radio had a serious competitor in the form of television, but many high quality shows could be heard every night of the week. Dimension X, Tales of the Texas Rangers, Gusnmoke, Dr. Kildare and The Sixty-Four Dollar Question were heard by countless millions. As the 1950s came to a close the glory years of radio were coming to an end.

In September 1962 the last episodes of Suspense and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar were broadcast. It was the end of a glorious era. An era that exploded into the public consciousness in the 1920s, but had finally been cast aside in favor of the new visual medium of television. What happened to all of those wonderful old time radio shows and why would anyone want to listen to these shows today? It's been over seventy years since Amos n' Andy first hit the airwaves, nearly fifty years since Fibber McGee's junk-filled closet crashed down on anyone foolish enough to open the door, and over forty years since Johnny Dollar filed his last expenses claim, so why would anyone want to listen to radio shows that are several decades old when we have hundreds of TV and cable channels to choose from, and an endless selection of big screen movies, not to mention a massive selection of online entertainment with all its interactive bells and whistles? One of the primary reasons is nostalgia for the "Good Old Days". Old-time-radio shows enable listeners to take a pleasant stroll down memory lane to when times were simple.

For the older generations it brings back memories of when they were younger, and for todays youngsters it provides a wonderful insight into just how much lives have changed over the years. Another reason why the old time radio shows are seeing a renaissance is the amazing variety of shows that were recorded during radio's golden period. There are thousands of old time-radio programs to appeal to every taste, mood and age group, covering everything from surreal comedy through to spine tingling thrillers. Finally, there an ever increasing desire for wholesome entertainment. Old-time-radio shows offer a refreshing respite from the vulgarities, profanities, sex and violence that punctuate modern-day TV, movies and other forms of entertainment.

Fortunately, over the years many people have collected and restored these old shows so that they can be enjoyed again as much by older listeners as a new generation coming to them for the first time. Ironically, it was the growth in popularity of a brand new technological medium, the Internet, that really helped to make these classic radio shows available to a wider audience. So, whether it is for nostalgia reasons, for wholesomeness, or just for plain entertainment value, old-time radio shows are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to today's mainstream media and one that is well worth checking out whether you're 9 or 90.

Ned Norris is the webmaster of RUSC Old Time Radio site, one of the best loved old-time radio sites on the Internet. It's a place where you can travel back in time and relive the golden days of radio whenever you like, download or listen online to thousands of classic shows, and enjoy regularly updated editorial and reviews on old time radio and related subjects.


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