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RADIOtalk - Your humble host's occasional column.

March 19, 2003

Well, here we are, coming to the end of the second month of The RADIO Show, and so far it's gone pretty good (literal last-minute schedule changes not withstanding). I've gotten some nice comments about the show, and I'm glad you're out there listening to it.

One of our listeners mentioned a show he'd heard in his youth, RENFREW OF THE MOUNTED, and that he thought it was pretty hard to come by. Well, he's right. RENFREW OF THE MOUNTED ran on the NBC Blue Network (NBC had two networks in the early days, the "Red" Network and the "Blue" Network - more on that in a future column) from 1936 to 1940. House Jameson (THERE'S a great radio name right there!), who many otr fans will recall as Henry Aldrich's father "Sam" on "THE ALDRICH FAMILY," played the part of Douglas Renfrew of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Of the nearly 200 episodes produced (actual number may vary), only two half-hour episodes are known to exist in their entirety. If I can get my hands on one or both of them, I'll schedule them for a future edition of the program.

One of the mainstays of early radio was the juvenile adventure serial. One can imagine kids rushing home from school in time to hear "JACK ARMSTRONG, THE ALL-AMERICAN BOY," "THE TOM MIX RALSTON STRAIGHT SHOOTERS," "RADIO ORPHAN ANNIE," "CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT," and other such shows, and trying to decipher the "secret messages" the announcer would give faithful listeners (providing they'd sent in the required number of cereal boxtops or foil seals from Ovaltine cans for their magic decoders...and really, aren't today's Ovaltine commercials the second most annoying things on radio today? Just my opinion...) at the end of each show. (By the way, remember Jean Shepherd's hysterical holiday film, "A Christmas Story," when little Ralphie hurriedly decodes the message on "Orphan Annie," and it turns out to be "Drink Ovaltine"? A funny bit, but in reality, the messages were anything but commercials for the sponsor's product. But there I go rambling again...)
You might wonder, though, why you don't hear many of these shows on programs such as The RADIO Show. The sad truth is, most of these shows either no longer exist, or they exist in such few numbers as to not make it worth the time to air them...except, maybe, for ONE...

"SPEED GIBSON OF THE INTERNATIONAL SECRET POLICE" was a popular weekly 15 minute serial, which told of 15-year old "Speed" (actor uncredited), his uncle Clint Barlow (Howard McNear - "Doc" on radio's "Gunsmoke" and "Floyd" the barber on "The Andy Griffith Show") and their pal and co-pilot Barney Dunlap (radio's underappreciated renaissance man, Elliot Lewis), and their efforts in trying to capture the elusive master criminal "The Octopus (Gale Gordon)" This "rock 'em, sock 'em" syndicated serial from Radio Attractions premiered in January of 1937 and ran until May of 1940. That's 178 episodes, if you're counting...and we've got ALL of them here at The RADIO Show. In just a couple of months, after we get through with the Bob Hope shows in May, I'll be running this series as the "front" feature on the program, in the original broadcast order, at the rate of one a week (except for the end of each month, when I'll play 3 episodes) until the end of the "Octopus" storyline (which is episode 100). Hope you'll join in the excitement of "Speed Gibson" beginning this June.

And speaking of "Hope" (like how I worked that one in?), the month of May marks the 100th birthday of one of America's best-loved comedians (and a man who did more to boost the morale of our fighting men during World War II than anyone else), Bob Hope. We'll salute Bob with a special month of shows, all under the banner title "Thanks for the Memories: 100 Years of Hope (BOB, That Is!)" You'll hear Bob bantering with Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, and - of course - Bing Crosby, and showing his dramatic abilities in an encore performance of "Suspense." More details will be posted on the site as we get closer to the shows.

I hope you'll take the time to check out the Classic Radio Links section of the site. There are some great places on the web if you want to know more about classic radio, and new links are being added as I find them. (Speaking of which, my thanks to Bob Bybee for the mention of our show and KONA on the site he runs for Ed Walker and Willard Scott, The Joy Boys, as well as providing Joy Boys shows for me to use on the program. It's very much appreciated, Bob.)

I also hope you'll use the email link at the bottom of each page to send comments or suggestions for future "theme" episodes, or request a program you'd like to hear (however, don't ask to hear "Amos 'n' Andy" or something gory like "Inner Sanctum" - I'm attempting to keep it light), or ask a question about classic radio.

And that's a wrap, as they say in show biz. And as I say at the end of each and every program, "Thanks for listening...and remembering."

Lee Michael, Host/producer/chief cook and bottle washer,
"The RADIO Show"


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