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Better, bygone days

While locked away in durance vile the last several months I resumed an old habit of mine, a most enjoyable one: listening to streaming OTR (Old Time Radio) shows. There are a handful of enthusiast sites out there who have somehow acquired catalogs of every episode of radio classics like The Great Gildersleeve, Fibber McGee and Molly, The Shadow, Jack Benny, and one of my own personal favorites, Gunsmoke. Honorable mention goes to the finely-crafted CBS Radio Mystery Theater, which ran on the CBS radio network from 1974 to 1982. RMT was a loving kiss blown back to OTR by people who clearly held a tremendous affection for the old programs of yore, a most worthy homage for a most deserving art form.

One of the best things about RMT is that whoever collected all those episodes (evidently, some fellow in Seattle whose name I don’t know) didn’t trim away the commercials and newscasts that went along with those old shows. The old Budweiser ads (one even features Engelbert Humperdink crooning the old “When you say Bud…” lines in the inimitable Humperdink style, bless him) are wonderful to hear again, but the real revelation is the news breaks.

The contrast between what mainstream journalism was then and the vampiric, dishonest obscenity that disgraces its older, better sibling today is truly striking. Even the voice tone, phrasing and delivery from 1974 is markedly different: calm, sober, non-sensationalistic, just an even-handed recitation of the day’s happenings without trying to promote a position or pimp an ideology.

I was a huge fan of RMT during its original run and lived in a house whose unquestioned lord and master, my dad, diligently had the Whole Fam Damily in front of the TV for the evening news each and every night, and I can’t say I remember the difference between then and now being so stark, so obvious. But there just ain’t no arguing with the tapes. It serves to highlight what a low point the squeaking, chipmunk-voiced propagandizing of our present-day news readers represents. The wreckage they’re responsible for creating at every level of our society speaks for itself, I think.

5 thoughts on “Better, bygone days

  1. I guess I thought I was the only one. My parents were saints, working so hard to provide a better life. We would come home from minor league baseball games listening to CBS Mystery Theater. I remember when Sorry Wrong Number came up with Endora. My dad remembered it from when he was young.
    I love how EG Marshall as host.
    Now, as my parents enjoy eternal rest, I listen to Fibber McGee and wonder if my parents laughed at the same episode. It connects me to them in a profound way.
    The news part and commercials are so great. EG Marshall said Anheuser in a funny way, maybe the way it would be said in Germany.
    Thank you for the work on this blog.

  2. After the election theft, when I realized the Fox news was a part of the theft, I turned the TV to basically two channels*. Andy Griffith reruns in the afternoon and then Gunsmoke and Wagon Train at night.

    *And whatever channel the Tar Heels are playing on.

  3. I was a big fan of CBS Radio Mystery Theater when it was on the air. I was very disappointed when it ended. I also enjoy the “Golden Age Of Radio” programs. “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar” is one of my favorites. I have a considerable collection of various programs saved to my computer.

    The comedy back then was funny without being vulgar or suggestive for the most part.

  4. SirusXM has a channel called Radio Classics, and they play all of those shows, but not all episodes are available.

    More to look for plus some already mentioned (I recommend):
    Johnny Dollar
    Broadway Is My Beat
    Frontier Gentleman
    Fort Laramie
    Mystery Is My Hobby
    Have Gun, Will Travel
    Duffy’s Tavern
    Richard Diamond, Private Detective
    Let George Do It
    Pat Novak For Hire
    Jeff Regan

    Less favorite, but I listen sometimes:
    Jack Benny
    Fred Allen
    Fibber McGee and Molly
    The Great Guildersleeve
    Phill Harris & Alice Faye

    There are many more. Gangbusters, Alan Young (pre-Mr. Ed), The Cisco Kid, Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, and tons of variety shows and radio plays based on movie scripts.

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