Monday, July 3, 2017

Don’t touch that dial!

If you were going to request that a “coffee table book” be written on old-time radio, I can’t think of a more suitable author than my fellow Radio Spirits contributor and nostalgia expert Martin Grams, Jr.  I’ve joked in the past that my pal Martin is “the Isaac Asimov of OTR books,” due to his prolific output of tomes on that subject.  Honest to my grandma, every time I’m in communication with the guy he seems to be in the middle of writing yet another invaluable pop culture reference contribution.  You’ll find many of his books—ranging on topics from radio’s Duffy’s Tavern to TV’s The Time Tunnel—for sale at his website…and this November 1, he’ll add another title to his overstuffed bookshelf with The Top 100 Classic Radio Shows, co-written with Radio Spirits founder Carl Amari.

The end papers for the book.  To paraphrase A Date With Judy's Oogie Pringle, "they look sna-a-zzy!"
(Someone once asked me to explain the Asimov reference—I got the idea from M*A*S*H actor Alan Alda, who, after encountering the science fiction legend at a social gathering, jokingly asked: “Shouldn’t you be writing a book somewhere?”)

When Ann Rutherford took over for Penny Singleton on
Blondie in March of 1949, she adopted Penny's bleached-blonde
tresses, too.  At left is Arthur "Dagwood" Lake and in the
middle is Jeffrey Silver (as son Alexander).
Coffee table books, as a rule, are rather simple in content (they serve mostly to show off photographs and/or illustrations), and serve as light reading for the occupants of the home or visitors to same—though they can be pressed into service to jump-start a little conversation at a party or get-together.  You’ll get much, much more with Top 100 Classic Radio Shows, however; it’s packed to the rafters with important history on a range of radio favorites from Abbott & Costello to X-Minus One, and includes loads of trivial ephemera to go along with its profuse presentation of photographs.

The book is split into six sections: Comedy, Drama, Mystery & Detective, Sci-Fi & Kids, Variety, and Western & Adventure.  For each show, the reader is provided with a cast list, airdates, and additional program background; many of the shows discussed also feature a “Did You Know?” section which offers up tantalizing trivia for those of us who eat that sort of thing up with a spoon.  Included with Top 100 Classic Radio Shows are three CDs with vintage old-time radio programming (not dissimilar to the bonus disc that accompanied Leonard Maltin’s The Great American Broadcast) and a website where you can download additional broadcasts (mentioned in “call-outs” in the sections of the shows listed) for additional hours of listening enjoyment. 

Martin was swell enough to send me a .pdf proof of the book (I don’t have a coffee table—just an ottoman) and what I saw in that digital copy convinced me that fans of old-time radio will not want to be left out when the big book hits the streets in November.  Simply put, it strikes the perfect balance between essential and informative OTR reference material and page-turning pictorial.  (And really—how many more nature books can you fit on your table anyway?)  Pre-order this one at an Amazon near you.

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