Tuesday, April 1, 2008

At the corner of 14th and Oak

It’s the first of April—and you know what that means! Well, other than the endless string of lame “your shoe’s untied” jokes, it’s time for another Premier Collection, courtesy of the fine people at First Generation Radio Archives. This month, another volume (number five in the series) of Fibber McGee & Molly: The Lost Episodes—broadcasts from the 1953-56 run of the series, which were presented in a five-day-a-week, quarter-hour form. The liner notes were written by yours truly, and I cannot even begin to describe the tremendous kick I get listening to these rare episodes—with Jim & Marian Jordan still at the top of their form and laugh-out-loud moments from their supporting players, Bill Thompson and Arthur Q, Bryan.

For this month’s notes, I shined the spotlight on one of the show’s utility players, Robert Easton (who plays the McGees’ next-door neighbor, Lester Nelson); you probably won’t recognize the name but as soon as you hear his voice and/or see his face you’ll know him right off the bat. Easton specialized in playing slow-witted country hicks, and his best remembered role is in an Abbott & Costello picture entitled Comin’ Round the Mountain (1951), in which he has a recurring line: “I’m tetched…I got kicked in the haid by a mule!” My father wouldn’t know Robert Easton if Easton bit him on the inner thigh, plus he thinks Bud & Lou are the Anti-Christ of Comedy—but I’ll bet not a week goes by when he’s not quoting that phrase.

First Generation Radio Archives also has a new Radio Legends collection out this month, a second volume of Have Gun, Will Travel broadcasts starring John Dehner (or as my friend the Chief always interjects, “Mister John Dehner”) as the man called Paladin. Boomer TV fans, of course, remember that the tube version featured Richard Boone as the cultured gun-for-hire, but Travel is one of but a handful of television shows that transitioned to radio instead of the other way around (you can read a little about it here). I like the radio version of Travel—it doesn’t reach the lofty heights of, say, Gunsmoke or Frontier Gentleman (or Fort Laramie, for that matter) but it still makes for entertaining listening.

If you purchase the new Fib & Molly or Have Gun collections—or anything at all from the Archives this month, the “Voice” of FGRA (none other than Harlan “Low Overhead” Zinck his ownself) has whipped up one of his patented freebies: a bonus CD containing two broadcasts from the Archives’ previously released Mr. President collections (Volumes 1 and 2 also containing liner notes from the pen of this humble blogger). President—a dramatic anthology that had a healthy run on ABC Radio from 1947 to 1953—is another example of some truly fine old-time radio that doesn’t receive the critical kudos it should. I’d heartily recommend these collections to the history scholar or buff in your family, and because the “hook” of Mr. President was that the identity of the Commander-in-Chief went unmentioned until the final minutes of each episode, I’ll provide a couple of “hints” to help you determine which great man’s life is being dramatized. (If the president has a predilection for corned beef and cabbage, it’s Grover Cleveland. If the president has sons that appear to have been raised by wolves, it’s Teddy Roosevelt.)

On a personal note, I’d like to use up a tiny bit of bandwidth and thank Harlan and the rest of the FGRA gang for allowing me to flex my writing muscles and conjure up the notes for these fine collections on a regular basis. I e-mailed Harlan the other day to ask if there was any utility work to be done shoring up the Premiers and he was gracious to throw a little work my way while the ‘rents and I sit around Rancho Yesteryear and wait for the real estate agent to call. Everyone at First Generation are fine people; individuals completely dedicated to the worthwhile cause of “preserving radio’s past for the future”—and I’m prepared to step outside with anybody who thinks otherwise.


Campaspe said...

Fibber McGee and Molly - I get a bit melancholy reading about this. I don't know the shows myself, but my father, who died in 1991, often told me how he loved them when he was growing up. It's a pity he didn't live long enough to see this information age where suddenly things are available all over again.

Pam said...

I'm with you on that, campaspe. I remember my parents and grandparents referring to The Closet.

When my siblings and I were very young my father used to spin elaborate tales about adventures to Egypt and space and just about everywhere else with Gloria Golden and Four-Fisted Frank Fuddleman as our heros. Oh, we enjoyed those stories! It wasn't until the last few years that I realized they were characters (sort of) from Vic and Sade.

Thanks to Ivan, I "hooked up" my mother with some Old Time Radio internet broadcasts during the last couple of years of her life. She truly enjoyed listening again.