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The Magic of Old Time Radio (OTR)

By Edited May 2, 2015 0 2

Radio today is about news, music, and talk shows. Radio, like all media has adapted to our information age in order to survive. As such it is relevant, but for me it's mostly noise in the background while driving. That's not the radio I grew up with.

If you were fortunate enough to grow up in the first half of the 20th century, you grew up with radio as a companion. Radio has always been a news source, but in the period up to the 1960's, radio was a family companion. You woke up to the early news, had breakfast and got ready for school with the Arthur Godfrey show in the background. If you were home during the rest of the morning and early afternoon, there was one episodic soap opera after another. You might hear a baseball game on when you came home from school in the afternoon. The early evening hours were filled with comedy and music shows. The later evenings probably included detective shows and if you could stay up late enough the suspense and horror shows were on.

Most radio shows lent themselves to casual listening. Everybody was doing something else, and at the same time keeping track of the show. Your favorite shows announced themselves with familiar music and an opening line like, "I am the Whistler, and I know many things, for I walk by night…" When it came to the later shows, though, you were probably giving the radio dramas your undivided attention. You didn't have to stare at the radio, but it was still a focal point during those evenings when Sam Spade or Richard Diamond was on.

Fortunately recordings of many of the shows survived and have found their way into mp3 format. There are thousands of serious collectors of old time radio shows. There are scores of OTR groups on the Internet. You can purchase audio and mp3 CDs of OTR shows, but sharing and swapping of mp3 files is widespread. Some fans of OTR have collections that reach into the tens of thousands of episodes.

Many fans of OTR, like me, grew up with these radio shows; but many more fans h

Guaranteed Time Machine
eard their first shows through computer speakers or mp3 players. Of course, these shows are from a different era and many are very dated by today's norms, even the old commercials resonate for listeners. These old time radio shows are nostalgic time capsules. That aspect led me to write this article for HubPages, "OTR, the secret of time travel revealed…" I included many links to OTR show sources and available recordings.

These shows are more than nostalgia. I defy anybody to listen to a Fibber McGee and Molly episode and not smile or chuckle, and possibly even laugh out loud. The episodic nature of these shows can be captivating. Taken one at a time, the Lum and Abner shows are corny, but listen through a story arc, and the chances are you want to hear what kind of foolishness comes next. Find and listen to a rarity like private eye Candy Matson and you'll be surprised at how good her show was. I'm only aware of 14 episodes that survived.

As Molly often said to Fibber McGee, "t'aint funny McGee…", but it always was.


Mar 13, 2010 3:52am
You are so right, most stations now just blare out noisy headache making supposed to be music. We do have one station in western australia. for the oldies, cannot remember the name now. going senile too . Oh well great article I still got my memories tooooo. thanks for writing that
Mar 13, 2010 9:06am
eileen, there are a couple of Internet radio stations that play old time radio (OTR) episodes on a regular basis. Thanks for visiting and remembering with me.
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