Monday, January 14, 2013

“Hello, anybody…here are fabulous prizes…”

Last year—it seems so far away now—I contributed liner notes for a pair of smaller Radio Spirits collections that were tremendous fun to do; one of them was a project that I suggested to that company’s Mark Tepper several years ago that eventually came to fruition: a set of broadcasts from “radio’s bad boy,” Henry Morgan.  Mention Henry’s name to people today and a lot of them will say: “Oh!  Colonel Potter from M*A*S*H!”  (And that’s Harry Morgan—though for a while Harry went by Henry until he changed it to Harry to avoid confusion.  I wish I had done the same.)

Henry Morgan began broadcasting as far back as 1932 (at one time Morgan bragged he was the youngest announcer in the country) but his real popularity began when he went to work for New York’s WOR Radio in 1940.  He had a brash, in-your-face style (when doing the weather he would often make wisecracks like “Snow, followed by little boys with sleds”) that the WOR powers-that-be allowed him to have a Saturday morning quarter-hour to broadcast his nonsense in the hopes it would get out of his system.  That show, Here’s Morgan, would develop a cult following (among its devotees were Robert Benchley and James Thurber) and soon was heard six times a week where Morgan would make wry observations and play novelty records (he featured a lot of Spike Jones records, who would often send him promotional preview copies as a gesture of thanks).

Henry was inducted into the service in 1943, so that brought a temporary end to Here’s Morgan but soon returned with a vengeance when Morgan was demobbed…and this lead to the creation of The Henry Morgan Show, a half-hour series that debuted over ABC Radio in the fall of 1946.  To the strains of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow, announcer Charles Irving would intone incredulously “The Henry Morgan Show?”—and thirty minutes of satirical, surreal comedy would follow.  A small supporting cast included the likes of Arnold Stang, Art Carney, Florence Halop and Madeleine Lee, and the program was heard over ABC for two seasons before Morgan ran out of sponsors to tick off.  (He had a habit of doing that.)  Henry resurfaced on NBC in the spring of 1949 with another show that featured performers such as Pert Kelton and Kenny Delmar, whose boss Fred Allen was also one of Morgan’s fans.  (Fred had Henry on as the final guest when his own show called it quits on June 26, 1949—along with his famous nemesis Jack Benny.)

In later years, Henry became better known as an acerbic panelist on TV’s I’ve Got a Secret (he also played William Windom’s editor on the late, lamented My World and Welcome to It) and it’s a shame that more people aren’t familiar with his radio program because it’s really quite funny.  Radio Spirits and I—and I say I, because it was my baby—put together a 5-CD set of ten classic Morgan broadcasts…and while nothing is in cement yet we hope to maybe conceive another one in the near future.  (Sorry about putting that image in your head, by the way.)

The other collection I worked on was a set of broadcasts from The Mutual Radio Theater, a series heard from 1979 to 1980 first as The Sears Radio Theater but changed when the show left CBS Radio and found a home on Mutual.  It premiered at a time when veterans from Radio’s Golden Age were trying to bring about a comeback for the medium in the 1970s—the most famous example being, of course, The CBS Radio Mystery Theater…created by Inner Sanctum Mysteries legend Himan Brown.

The Mutual Radio Theater was the brainchild of two OTR legends, Fletcher Markle and Elliott Lewis, who proposed with their new series five nights of entertainment, each night featuring a different theme and hosted by a big name celebrity.  Monday nights featured western stories as emceed by Lorne Greene, then following on each successive nights were comedies (Tuesdays with Andy Griffith), mystery and suspense (Wednesdays, Vincent Price), “love and hate” dramas (Thursdays, Cicely Tyson) and adventure (Fridays, Richard Widmark).  By the time the program had switched networks and names Widmark, a radio veteran who appeared on such series as Gangbusters and The Shadow, relinquished his hosting duties to Leonard “Mr. Spock” Nimoy.

The Radio Spirits set of Mutual Radio Theater broadcasts contains eight episodes on six CDs, and features radio veterans such as Jeff Corey, Sam Edwards, Frank Nelson, Jeanette Nolan, Parley Baer and many others—there’s even a broadcast (“Lion Hunt”) written by and featuring Lights Out maven Arch Oboler, who’s joined by producer Elliott Lewis, Ben Wright, Jack Kruschen and The Great Gildersleeve himself, Hal Peary.  There is some superb radio drama on these shows—though I must also confess that I was also amused with the inclusion of some of those classic “Radio—It’s Red Hot” promos from the great comedy team of Dick "Chickenman" Orkin and Bert Berdis.

I have a set of each of these collections to give away—and I’ll give both of them to one lucky member of the Thrilling Days of Yesteryear faithful.  Here’s the rules and regs:

1)     Simply send me an e-mail with “Mutual’s Henry Morgan” in the subject matter to igsjrotr(at)gmail(dot)com before 11:59 EST next Monday (January 21).  You can include something pithy like “How’s your mom, Ed?” or “Potrzebie!” in the body of the message, but make sure your name is in there…and if you want to include your snail mail to facilitate me getting this out to you faster (should you win), that’s fine and dandy.  If you’d rather wait until you’ve been confirmed the winner…that’s okay-fine, too.

2)     Please don’t enter if you’ve been a recent winner, only because it’s nice to let everybody have a crack at this swag.  (Such swag retails for $19.95 for the Morgan set and $24.95 for MRT—so we’re talking serious prizeage here.)  The grace period in the past has been thirty days but math was never my best subject, so I’m going to assume you’re on the honor system.
3)    Offer good only in the U.S. and Canada.  (Sorry, fans from other countries—it was a lean year in 2012.)

The following morning, I will draw a name via the Mighty Random Number Generator at, and get the winner’s prize out to them with all deliberate speed.  But remember—you can’t win if you don’t enter…so if you’d like to win some top-shelf radio, send an e-mail today.  Thrilling Days of Yesteryear—where the winning tradition continues!


ClassicBecky said...

I qualify! On my honor system! My palms are sweating at the thought of these sets!

By the way, in your first paragraph, did you mean that you wish you had changed your name to Harry Shreve? Or Ivan Morgan? Don't do it! Ivan Shreve is much cooler, and Harry just wouldn't suit you! LOL!

hobbyfan said...

I was only familiar with Henry Morgan from later editions of I've Got a Secret and other shows. The memory's hazy, of course. As for Mutual Radio Theatre, somehow that passed me by. Then again, I did wayyyyy too much channel surfing on the transistor back in the day.......

Patti said...

Hi, Ivan. This is my first visit to your blog, and I can assure you, it won't be my last. You have so much wonderful content here!

Thanks for participating in my John Garfield blogathon. I'm thrilled to have you, and you may choose either of those 2 movies...or, if you'd like, you may do them both and have 2 Garfield entries in the blogathon. The more entries, the more love and honor lavished on one very deserving actor.

By the way, I see you have a weather banner for Athens, Georgia. I assume that is where you live. I lived there for 3 months in 2003 (from July to October). Things didn't work out for us there, so we ended up moving again. It is a very lovely area. To me, there is no place in the world like the South!

Have a great day!

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...


As I tell everyone who comes across the blog: thanks for encouraging my behavior.

I am definitely going to do Force of Evil for your blogathon…and if my schedule isn’t too pressing, I’ll try and tackle We’re No Strangers as well. I’m hesitant about the last one only because your Garfy blogathon is on a weekend, and I’m usually pretty busy with a couple of the regular TDOY features (Serial Saturdays and Mayberry Mondays). I’ve also got a bit of news regarding the state of the blog that I need to keep close to my vest right now but may have a direct impact on the frequency of posting here…but because John Garfield is one of my cinematic heroes, I will definitely write about my favorite of his films for your event.