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Yours Truly, Old-Time Radio!

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Family Radio

For those who have grown up listening to radio as it is today, what we fans call “old-time radio” (OTR) is a revelation. Radio before 1962 had many great series shows, and they included comedy, drama, horror, soap opera, detective and other offerings. Many, like Dragnet and Gunsmoke, later became television programs as TV became available in the early 1950s. I know of one series (Have Gun, Will Travel) that was a television show first and then became a radio show.

If you have a long commute to work, there is no better way to pass the time than listening to OTR and it needn’t cost you a dime.

While in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a couple of times recently, I was lucky enough to visit the radio studio in the Scranton Times Tribune newspaper building, which still looks like it did when it was used in the 1930s. Here’s a great photo showing a radio studio in the 1940s:

Radio Studio 1930s

If you have XM or Sirius satellite radio, discovering OTR is easy. Just tune to channel 82 and listen to the offerings hosted by OTR wizard Greg Bell (his website is gregbellmedia.com). Greg provides interesting commentary and the shows on his Radio Classics channel have superb-quality audio. His content provider, RadioSpirits.com, also sells classic radio shows on disc. Many folks I know say Greg’s channel is the main reason they subscribe to satellite radio, and my wife and I agree!

If you want to download OTR, there are many sites, both free and subscription; just Google Old TIme Radio and download the files. Please know that the audio quality on many of these, uploaded by OTR fans and collectors, aren’t what you’ll hear on Radio Classics.

Now that we’ve got that stuff out of the way, let’s look at one of the best of the OTR series: Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. This detective show lasted a long time; there were over 800 episodes from 1949 to 1962. Johnny Dollar was “the man with the action-packed expense account,” and the premise of the show was that Johnny Dollar was describing the incident while compiling his expense account to whatever insurance company had hired him that week. Johnny’s file on each case was usually referenced as a “matter,” as in “The Silver Blue Matter” or “The Forbes Matter.”

Johnny Dollar was the last of the episodic OTR shows, and over the years there were several actors who played the hard-boiled insurance investigator. My favorite was Bob Bailey, who had a world-weary and somewhat sarcastic delivery perfect for the part:

Yours truly, Bob Bailey

Yours truly, Bob Bailey

Here are a couple of Johnny Dollar episodes for your enjoyment. The first stars Mandel Kramer as Johnny Dollar, and is a half-hour complete episode from the last couple of years of the show:

The Medium Rare Matter

Now, for comparison, here’s my favorite: Bob Bailey in an earlier version of the same show. This episode is part four of the five-part version of the show that ran for a while:

Part Four: The Medium Well-Done Matter

Those of you who remember the Firesign Theatre’s Nick Danger, Third Eye spoof of old-time radio will recognize a lot of Johnny Dollar in Nick!

A huge part of the attraction of these shows were the sounds effects, created by talented and inventive folks called foley artists, and here’s a YouTube video showing how these effects were created. It’s a hoot!

I’ll be discussing other great OTR shows in the days and weeks to come; be sure to TUNE IN!

My First Published Work!

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Sherman, please set the WABAC machine to 1962 and let’s look in on ten-year-old Jimbo Page, who’s family is spending that summer in Apalachicola, Florida.

His dad, who is a stern and unfriendly person, loves airplanes and little Jimbo decides that since his dad’s favorite magazine, Trade-A-Plane, publishes a little one-panel cartoon in the upper-right corner of every cover, he’ll draw something and submit it for their consideration and– maybe– they’ll publish it. They did!

As a fourth-grader, I was amazed to see something I drew in print in a national– if decidedly niche– publication!!! Trade-A-Plane is still being published, though I’m not certain if they still are a tabloid pub printed on canary-yellow newsprint, and I’m not certain they’re still published in Crossville, Tennessee.

My dad seemed astonished when the magazine came in the mail and my cartoon was on the cover. He soon got over that, I suppose.

A very gracious person at Trade-A-Plane was nice enough to find and scan my cartoon and send it to me this afternoon (thanks, Linda!!!). She’s even sending me a collection they published a few years ago of their best cartoons, and mine was one of the ones in the collection.

As I look at this effort now, I see stuff I didn’t see when I drew it. Being a kid, I didn’t realize that printers needed an inked, not pencilled, piece for printing (notice the signature of the person who kindly inked it at the publication for me in the bottom right of the cartoon). Also, I misspelled “Apalachicola.” The two people are drawn (from a World Book photo of Wright and a comic-book drawing as references) in two different styles. The microphone and reporter’s hand are awful. Most absurd is that I accidentally drew Wilbur instead of Orville Wright, which messes up the gag; Orville sported a mustache.

I guess I was just too excited and eager to mail it in to care about niceties, and I was just a ten-year-old kid.

As Conan Doyle once said, when someone pointed out a few mistakes in one of his best-loved Sherlock Holmes stories, “Sometimes one has to be masterful regarding details.”

Anyway, here’s the cartoon:

JamesPageCartoon

Memphis Blues Again by the Dead

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Somebody stop me, for God’s sake!!! Two posts in one day!

In my last post, I referenced one of my favorite Dylan tunes: Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again. Is there any wonder that many of us in the late ’60s and early ’70s were so smitten with the Bobster?!??! Listen to the lyrics!

I had more than one friend in my high school and college days who, like me, had a sort of inside game we played on people. We’d try to converse the entire day using only Dylan quotes as our responses to what folks said to us. Crazy? Yes. Fun? Oh, HELL YES! And we could do it, too, couldn’t we, Andy McLenon and Bill Poteet and Ken DeVille? Goofing on people; it’s not just a way of life; it’s a religion.

Anyway, here’s a splendid cover of that splendid song by the Dead, with Bob Weir on lead vocals and shorty shorts, from 1989. Jerry’s playing his Doug Irwin Tiger guitar:

I don’t always like what the Grateful Dead did, but when I do like them, I like them a lot.

A jam buddy has said that he may invite a friend of his from Takoma Park, Maryland, John Kadlecik, to one of our Usual Suspects Saturday night jams. Furthur is the band that the surviving Dead band members have and John’s the lead guitar player. From what I hear, John’s a great guy. He’d fit right in with our ensemble; especially if he likes spicy shrimp!

Enjoy!

Well, Shakespeare, He’s in the Alley . . .

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At least that’s what Dylan said back in 1966:

Well, Shakespeare, he’s in the alley
With his pointed shoes and his bells,
Speaking to some French girl,
Who says she knows me well.
And I would send a message
To find out if she’s talked,
But the post office has been stolen
And the mailbox is locked.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end?
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while; it’s been a busy month or so!

Here’s a little background and then some history, with photos! One of the main reasons Patty and I moved up here in 1987 was the fascinating history in the Washington, DC, area. We love exploring all the old places and learning what happened in those places in years past.

From mid-December until the beginning of March, I was a print-production contractor at the Society of Neuroscience in downtown DC. Great place and wonderful staff. In late February, I got an offer to return to a prestigious organization where I had contracted a couple of times last year, and decided to make the switch; they also have a wonderful staff and a great marketing department. But I’ll miss SfN and its amazing collection of people!

Anywho, in the alley behind SfN’s modern offices just south of Thomas Circle, at 14th Street NW and Vermont Avenue, is an alleyway. Just down the alleyway is this fantastic old carriage house, which now houses a bar called the Green Lantern. Here’s an iPhone photo I took of the 1860s building last month, on a cold and rainy afternoon while I smoked a cigarette in the overhang of a garage doorway:

GreenLanternBar1

Now, thanks to the wonderful folks at Shorpy.com, here’s the same alley in 1919 or so:

HEC/42900/42919a.tif

Note that the building on the far right– you only see the corner– is the same carriage house that now is the Green Lantern. What nails the location is the dome shown in the photo’s background; it’s the Portland Flats, which is often called Washington’s first luxury apartment building. An online DC history website says that this Green Lantern bar carriage house building housed a brothel in the 1980s. In the 1919 photo, the horse-drawn grocery wagon has the name of P. Chaconas

And, thanks once more to Shorpy.com, here’s the Chaconas grocery store in 1915 or so:

Shorpy 00048a

The Shorpy caption reads:

“P.K. Chaconas Co. Market.” Pictured: Proprietor George Chaconas, whose grocery (“fancy fruits and vegetables”) was at 924 Louisiana Avenue N.W.”

Pretty cool, huh?

In the first old photo, the Society for Neuroscience office building– 11 stories high and as nice an office as I’ve ever worked in– is at the end of the alley where the ramshackle two- and three-story brick buildings were in the old days.

Just shows what you can discover while wandering around town.