One of my vices is old time radio, generally pre-1950s radio before commercial radio stations learned it was cheaper to play the same dozen pop songs over and over again all day long than it was to offer genuinely entertaining and informative programming.
I’m a semi-serious collector of British, U.S. and Canadian radio shows from the late 1920s up to more modern stuff, but generally I am fascinated with material from radio’s “golden age”, the period from the early 1930s through about 1950, but also includes modern podcasts, mostly of CBC, BBC, NPR programs.
Alas, the vast majority of this material was lost long ago, but a surprisingly large amount of the stuff remained around long enough for collectors to track it down. There are shows by major talent you’ve probably heard of, like Jack Benny (I have a recording of his very first appearance on radio back in 1932), Bob Hope, and shows you might have heard of, like The Shadow, and, of course, Orson Wells’ production company responsible for the infamous “War of the Worlds” scare.
Some made the transition to television, like Hope, Benny, and some shows, like Guildersleeve. Even Duffy’s Tavern tried to make the leap, but like so many, it failed in the visual medium.
I’m fascinated by shows which were wildly popular in their day, but which have completely vanished from public consciousness. Shows like Vic and Sade, which was enormously popular on NBC for many years, is almost entirely unknown today except outside of fans of old time radio.
And then there was Lum and Abner. The show was a 15 minute program, running three times a week, I believe. It was a comedy soap opera about the inhabitants of a small, Arkansas town called Pine Ridge. The main characters were Lum and Abner, played by Chester Lauck and Norris Goff, and who also played all of the other numerous characters in the show (until the 1950s when the show was expanded for a time to half an hour and outsiders were brought in).
The show was on the air almost continuously from the early 1930s up to 1954. It was so popular that they often made guest appearances on other shows such as Bob Hope, and well known stars like Hope, Jack Benny and others had cameo appearances on Lum and Abner. So popular that it generated not one or two, but seven Hollywood movies. The Arkansas legislature declared a Lum and Abner day, and even changed the name of their home town legally to Pine Ridge.
Despite this popularity, almost no one outside of collector circles remembers it. The fickleness of fame…
if you’re interested in old time radio, want to hear Lum and Abner or one of many other old time radio shows, check out http://www.otr.net/
BTW: The reason the poster on the right has the word HORRIBLE stamped on it in red is because the 1/2 hour version of the show was, well, horrible. They started to bring in outside characters, including Andy Devine, changed the whole feel of the show, added music and, well, it just didn’t work.