Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear…
“You don’t own a TV? What’s all your furniture pointed at?”
–Joey Tribiani (played by Matt LeBlanc)
The One in Barbados: Part 1 episode of
screenplay by Shana Goldberg-Meehan, Scott Silveri
Decades before the TV became the centerpiece of the American home, families still gathered around a mass media device and everybody was talking about it the next day.
Early television, in fact, wouldn’t have been what it was without those radio shows establishing that weekly entertainment habit.
Some famous TV shows and stars started out on radio: Jack Benny, Ozzie & Harriett, The Lone Ranger, and many more. Dragnet originally said, “The story you are about to hear is true,” not that you “are about to see”…although the names were still changed to protect the innocent.
Even the sight-gag oriented Candid Camera started out as Candid Microphone.
Sure, they came out of the entertainment “industry”…made to make money, with sponsorship as obvious as any major league ballpark is today. Still, there can be something magical about OTR (Old Time Radio).
The make-up, the special effects, the wild locations…those were all in your head. The only real limitation was the writer’s imagination…oh, and what the sponsors approved, of course.
That, by the way, may be a lot more than you’d expect. Murder, horror…even to the point of people being turned inside out in one famous Lights Out episode (that’s an image that will stay with you).
I don’t listen to OTR every day, but it is part of my Kindle mix. I particularly like it on a plane trip, but it’s also good from time to time in the car (although I tend to prefer text-to-speech).
If you’d like to give it a try, there are a few ways to get Old Time Radio on your Kindle:
Download an MP3
You can do this with any Kindle (except the Mindle, the $79/$109 model, which doesn’t have speakers)…even a Kindle 1.
You can get the MP3 from a number of sources. For free ones, I recommend
The trick to listening to these on an RSK (Reflective Screen Kindle) is to put them into the Audible folder on the Kindle, not into the music folder.
Each file you’ve downloaded will then appear like an e-book in the homescreen. That will let you select the one you to which you want to listen at the time, stop in the middle and resume later, and so on.
If you have a Kindle that does Collections, you can put them into a Collection to make them easier to find…that’s what I do.
With the Kindle Fire, you can go to one of the sites, find the file you want, long press it (hold your finger or stylus on it for about a second), and choose “Save Link” (in the Silk browser…other browsers may use a different technique). You’ll find it again in
Web – Menu – Downloads
One nice thing: once you’ve started listening to it once, you’ll also find it in your Music tab. It might be in an album called “download”, but you should find them as individual songs. How it classifies it can be interesting…this is a place where the free app ES File Explorer comes in handy…not only in finding them, but in renaming them.
If you want to buy the MP3s from Amazon (which can be an easier way to get a bunch of them at once…and gives you more flexibility listening to them on multiple devices), here’s a search for them:
As an alternative, you can get them from Audible.com (also owned by Amazon). I like the way that works on my Kindle Fire with the Audible app…
As far as Kindles go, this is only an option on the Kindle Fire. You can stream from Archive. org (the downloadable files are at the bottom of this page, the streamable ones are at the top). You can also stream at RadioLovers.com.
Again, this is only on the Kindle Fire.
which is free, but streaming only. I wouldn’t say they have a huge selection, but it’s an easy way to listen when connected.
Just for the sake of this post (really, dear, that’s why I spent $1.99) I got
It did seem to have a lot of shows, and the playback was fine. The negatives: there didn’t seem to be an easy way to find a particular episode (or even a show), there wasn’t an explanation of the show that I could see (even as to what the series was called), and there was an ad/intro at the beginning of the show. However, you could quickly and seamlessly download an episode, and you could star your favorites. This appears to be a podcast, and they have other “flavors” besides horror as well.
Before we get into some specific recommendations for shows from me, I do want to mention
That’s the updated version of the classic reference work, Tune in Yesterday (I have it in paper) by John Dunning, and now published by Oxford University Press.
Okay, let’s tune in that dial…
One warning: the golden era of Old Time Radio was decades ago (really in the twenties, thirties, and forties, although there is some fuzziness in the dates). The “politically correct” standards were different. Just diving into it at random, you could run into something that you might consider offensive. Also, as I’ve mentioned already, it could be really scary. I’d very careful about letting, oh, a six-year old listen to the horror shows like Lights Out in the dark by themselves…
You’ll also probably be amused when characters describe what’s happening in the scene: “John, why are you putting that box on the table by the door?”
Oh, and don’t be surprised if you hear what sounds like the old hiss and pop of vinyl. That’s why we have a lot of these shows…they were actually distributed to radio stations as records like the vinyl records we used to have (although they were more commonly on aluminum, I think).
The Lone Ranger
Start at the beginning with this one…there’s a real origin and development. In fact, the details are all explained: we know how the Lone Ranger became the Lone Ranger, how the masked man got Silver…even the origin of the mask itself. You might want to listen to it before the Johnny Depp movie next year. Incidentally, they are making a point in that version of making Tonto a more important figure…but Tonto in the radio series is already a strong character. Yes, other people treat Tonto poorly, and there is that “broken English”, but Tonto is shown as a very capable person.
No connection to the Marvel superheroes. This can be quite a strange superhero show. It plays somewhat like a detective show, but the hero has two special abilities (both through secret inventions of the character). One is the “telepathic indicator”, which picks up sort of random thoughts…the Avenger can’t use it to read a specific person’s thoughts in a specific circumstance. The other one is the “diffusion capsule”, which renders the Avenger invisible. The plots can be out there, though…try The Mystery of the Giant Brain for an example.
If you are interested in what were the most popular shows, this site has done a nice job of organizing them:
This, by the way, is particularly fascinating. Station WSJV recorded their entire broadcasting day on September 21, 1939. You can listen to it in “real-time”, if you want…but you’d have to start at 6:30 AM and go past 12:30 AM the next day.
It’s twelve MP3s…
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.