Golden radio shows take me back to the old days

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Today’s column will probably identify with those of my generation and my age group.

Those old time golden radio shows take me back to my grammar school days in the 1940s. In fact, there was a time in my youth that I could tell you just about anything you wanted to know about those radio programs.

It was an obsession, moreover, a driving desire, completely embedded in me and engrossing me in all aspects of those programs. I suppose that’s why I have a CD collection of over 100 of these old shows.

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It also inspired me to work in radio, particularly WATM, and write my thesis in “Golden Radio Nostalgia” in college.

Please don’t get me wrong, as I certainly don’t want you think I am boasting. But there was a time I could name each show’s theme song, the orchestra leader, the announcer, the sponsor and night and time the show was on.

There were literally dozens of those old programs. And, I am sure some of my older readers can remember some of them. One of those early 1940 programs afforded me the opportunity to correctly answer a “mystery question” during one of PBS and Pensacola’s WSRE’s fund raising affairs. This was about 25 years ago. The emcee wanted to know the name of the radio show which featured an all girl orchestra. Well, I immediately picked up the phone and called the number crawling across the TV screen. The emcee asked if I could answer the question and I said I certainly can. I told him the name of the show was NBC’s The Hour of Charm and it was conducted by orchestra leader Phil Spiltany. It featured a talented violin player named Evelyn Kaye, who would become his wife.

The show was popular in the 1940s ending in 1948. That show was sponsored by GE for several years. Ron Rawson was one of the announcers.

Country music lovers tuned in each Saturday night to WSM’s Grand Ole Opry to enjoy an assortment of down home country music.

A popular announcer was George D Hay. Referred to as “The Solemn Old Judge.” He was formerly an accomplished newspaper writer. Those early Opry shows featured Uncle Dave Macon a unique banjo player and vocalist. He was accompanied by his son, Doris, a somewhat unusual name for a man. Eddie Arnold never failed to sing his well-known “Cattle Call” and Francis “Whitey” Ford always gave us his “I’m heading back to the wagon because these shoes are killing me.”

Red Skelton was known for his many characterizations but he was also a talented artist. David Rose was his long time orchestra leader and his famous instrumental theme was Holiday for Strings.

Fibber McGee and Molly used Harlow Wilcox as the announcer. He was referred to as “Waxy”, probably because the show was sponsored by Johnson Wax. Each show featured Fibber’s junk filled closet, which emptied onto the floor when the closet door (careful how you use that term today) was opened.

Many familiar sayings originated back in radio days. Jimmy Durante always closed his show with “Good night Miss Calabash, where ever you are.” There was another character on his show called “Tyrone Touchbottom.” His part was played by New Orleans’ own Candy Candido, who also played stand up bass with several well known big bands of that time. But, he was known for his line “I’m feeling mighty low” which he uttered about three octaves below scale.

Fanny Brice played the role of “Baby Snooks” and her famous saying was “silly, silly boy.” Hal Perry and Willard Waterman played the roles of “the Great Gildersleeve.” Their famous words were “Leeeeroy,” calling to his talkative son.

A show that I really liked was Horace Heidt. His show featured new talent very much like the Arthur Godfrey talent show. Heidt always closed “it’s better to build boys than to mend men.”

Warren Hull, a well known emcee of a panel show in the early fifties, used a well know saying “buzz off Kato.” Hull came to TV after gaining success in radio as the 1940s Green Hornet.

Mel Blanc, whose voice was heard on the Jack Benny Show, because famous on TV and in the movies as the voice of Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, The Tasmanian Devil and many, many other zany cartoon characters.

There were so many shows back then. The Bing Crosby Show, The Jack Benny Show, Manhattan Merry-Go-Round, the Cities Service Band of America, The Kate Smith Show, The Gene Autry Show which featured Addison, Alabama’s Pat Buttram, The Fred Allen Show, The Spade Cooley Show, The Renfro Valley Show which Red Foley help organize near his Berea, Kentucky home, Jack Armstrong-All American Boy, The Lone Ranger Show, The Jimmy Durante-Gary Moore Show(…change blades that quick), Hawaii Calls with Webley Edwards and on and on and on.

Column space does not allow me to write on all those memorable days of old time radio. Perhaps, I could write it in novel form and give copies to school and public libraries. I would do it if I could only generate the youthful drive I once had.

A few months ago, a couple questioned me about my column on eating out. Those that I spoke with said they would not trade our Atmore restaurants for any others because our eating places serve such good food. Most of us eat out just about the time the news comes on, and it would be nice to be able to watch it while we were having our evening meal at our excellent local restaurants. I’m sure not all watch news on the TV while eating out. Younger folks, especially, like music. I like music too, if is soothing and has a prevailing melody. And, speaking of eating out, it’s refreshing to meet up with friends and enjoy nice “hellos.” There are many who I never see eating out with their family and friends. I wonder why?

I always enjoy talking with the parents of Phil Savage. They are friends of my sister Dianne Weaver and they all attend the same church in lower Baldwin County Alabama.

We enjoyed their friendship together at a nice gathering a few weeks ago. Phil, as you know is the color commentator on the Crimson Tide Radio network. His parents told us how proud they were of Phil’s “other job” on ESPN. And rightly so because he has become quite a fixture on that network.

Hey, how you noticed the current dress style for men? It begins with the hair. No longer do you find the neatly combed back style. Instead it is a brushed up in front style engrossed in “sticky” moose. It looks OK on some men but for a few they would look better retaining the old “combed and brush” method.

Shirts and coats are worn differently, too. In today’s style, shirts are worn outside the trousers with coats. It is not like the days when our grammar school teacher would tell us “put your shirttails in boys” …yes…it always whispers to me…those days of long ago.