This tape came to me with a batch of others, none of them in boxes, and with minimal indication of what it might contain. There is a sticker on the reel, seen at the right, which reads "Radio's Nostalgic Yesterdays, 3/30/64
That sticker's information is true enough, but what it doesn't say is that the tape contains a rare recording of the legendary WGN Radio personality, Franklyn MacCormack, chatting with a few other long-time radio voices, about the history of radio, in particular, what would later become known as "Old Time Radio". The show was part of a series - an episode of "The Reviewing Stand" - which brought together personnel from WGN and WNUR, the radio station run by Northwestern University.
Also featured in the conversation are Willard Waterman (best known as "The Great Gildersleeve"), radio producer James Jewell, and moderator James H. McBurney, then dean of the school of speech at Northwestern University.
Besides the involvement of MacCormack, I find this discussion particularly interesting because those taking part don't have any notion - indeed, they don't seem to think it would be possible - of the comeback in popularity of what would become known as Old Time Radio (OTR). That comeback would begin taking place in the early '70's, thanks to, among others, Chuck Schaden, whose career reviving OTR shows and stars started right in Evanston, mere blocks from Northwestern, a career that took him to the Radio Hall of Fame.
There is an assumption, mentioned a few times here, that these shows no longer existed in any playable form, which Schaden and many others demonstrated to be untrue, and which you can still determine to be inaccurate via visits to myriad OTR websites, as well as eBay.
They also discuss the likelihood of OTR drama and comedy being attempted anew in that day and age, 1964, and their belief that it could work. Aside from the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, no attempts made after that point that I'm aware of (Theater 5, The Zero Hour, etc.), actually did make and keep an audience.
And of course, in the midst of this, there is the requisite, gratuitous slapping down of the rock and roll music that had taken the place of "good" radio; music which, we're told, is un-hummable and forgettable. Interestingly, it was this very week when The Beatles held the top five positions on the Billboard Hot 100, with some very memorable work indeed.
Just an interesting conversation with a couple of radio legends involved. I enjoyed it, and I hope you will, too.
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