Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Get some of that old time radio

When I was but a little The Hawg, my dad and I listened to reruns of an old time radio show called Lum and Abner.

I'm going to wander a bit, but please be patient as there is a point to all of this.

For those not familiar with Lum and Abner it was the creation of two Arkansas boys -- Norris Goff (who played Abner Peabody) and Chester Lauck (who played Lum Edwards). The show took place in the amazingly rural setting of Pine Ridge, Ark. (a town that was completely fictional at the time) where Lum and Abner ran the Jot 'em Down Store.

Dad and I used to pick up reruns of the show at 4 p.m. every weekday from a radio station in Hot Springs. It only makes sense the show was broadcast from Hot Springs through the 1980s as that's the city where Lum and Abner first hit the airwaves before being picked up nationally in the 1930s.

At any rate, my dad's an absolute nut about old time radio, partially because he grew up listening to the stuff. He inflicted old radio shows on me so I wound up liking it, too. Those shows took dad back to his youth and I liked spending time with my father. So I hope he looks back on those times fondly -- I sure do.

Now that Internet thing is a wonderful invention, indeed, and I think it's ironic as hell that I can use it to download fuzzy, distorted copies of Lum and Abner and all those other shows that reigned supreme before the advent of television. Those old shows have largely entered the public domain and are available for download through the Internet Archive's Old Time Radio section.

Yes, grabbing those MP3s is perfectly legal and absolutely free. The selection is impressive and you've got everything in there from old Gunsmoke episodes (thank God for radio -- can you imagine William Conrad sitting on a poor horse and crushing it?) to Lum and Abner (of course!) to the great Burns and Allen shows.

If you're a fan of anything from the days when radio was king, the chances are good you'll be able to download it from the Internet Archive. That site if organized fairly well and the search feature is great (I only mention that because I've found a lot of sites that have great stuff that's almost impossible to search). For whatever reason, the Christmas shows are particularly enjoyable.

The fidelity is rarely great as we're talking about stuff that was recorded over 50 years ago and recording techniques were decidedly primitive back then. Still, it's great fun and forces the listener to pay attention to what's going on during the shows. Besides, it was only a matter of time until those old tapes, wax discs and whatever else was used to record old time radio shows were destroyed over time. A good number of those programs have been lost through the years, too. Thank goodness those recordings are being converted to MP3s so they can be permanently stored (more or less, at least).

Yes, those old shows are still as entertaining as they ever were and, in a number of ways, reflect American society as it was during the Great Depression, during World War II and into the early 1950s. They provide a great window into an America that most of us are far too young to even remember (I was born about the time the Beatles were breaking up, by the way, so the world depicted in those shows is often foreign to me).

Besides, you can annoy the hell out of people with old time radio references if you've listened to as many hours of that stuff as I have. For example:

* Man, it's a bigger mess in here than McGee's closet!
* I'm stunned they're still married. They fight like the Bickersons!
* That's worse than the time Jack Benny lost Ronald Colman's Oscar!
* Remember -- LSMFT (short for Lucky Strikes means fine tobacco --
how's that for ancient?)
* My kid's teacher is a bigger smart ass than that woman from Our Miss Brooks.

I ought to buy my dad an MP3 player and load it up with gigs of those old shows. He'd either love it or hate it.

8 comments:

Toni said...

I so remember this, My Granny would listen to re-runs. It came on either before or after the "swap shop". I can even remember at times answering the phone "Jot 'em down store".

I have not thought about this in years! Thanks for the memory!!!

By the way, congrats to your team. My Vols - not so much!

The Natural State Hawg said...

Toni:

Well, we can't brag too much about that victory. Arkansas should have drilled Western Illinois by at least 20 points.

It's going to be a long year. The Vols will be fine -- they almost always are...

By the way, I've even been to Pine Ridge and the Lum and Abner museum. Haven't gotten over that way in years.

Marci Nobles said...

Now dear don't forget Henry Aldridge, we use to listen to everytime we traveled from NWA to Benton... It lulled the kids right to sleep... and i loved listening to them...

Jessica said...

I don't really know much about the old radio shows that you mentioned, but I just might check them out! :)
From your link I was able to find free audio books...so cool. Right now I'm listening to Emily Dickinson's poems! Thanks.

The Natural State Hawg said...

Marci:

How could I forget?

The Natural State Hawg said...

Jessica:

That Internet archive is great for a lot of things. Do check out some of those shows -- they're an absolute hoot.

GumbyTheCat said...

Thanks for the info.

One of my all-time favorites was "Mystery Theater" on local AM radio. When I was a little 8-year old kid I would hide under my covers at night with my radio and earphone and be totally engrossed in those serials. Even the static and electronic squeal of the distant AM station added to the aura of that week's mystery.

TV, movies and spectacular visual effects are great, but there is also great value in listening to a story on the radio and using your imagination to visualize what's going on. If a radio show is done well, it's easy to do. Radio like that is interactive, while visual entertainment is merely passive.

Today, radio is totally unimaginative drivel, dominated by tiny repetitive song playlists and totally brainless "morning zoo" shows where the only people laughing and the lame jokes are the idiot radio jocks who tell them.

MTV's very first broadcast (which I saw as MTV first went on "the air") was The Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star".

Boy did it ever. And we are all diminished as a result.

The Natural State Hawg said...

gumbythecat:

And let's not forget the most important thing -- you had to actually pay attention to what was going on in those things. If you missed just a minute or so, it could blow an entire episode.

That stuff is great entertainment and it's a real shame that it's been replaced.

I'm just glad that a solid attempt has been made to preserve those old shows.