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RADIOtalk - Your humble host's occasional column.

May 26, 2003

Hello, everybody else! Thanks for the comments about our Bob Hope specials this month. They're very much appreciated. And on that subject, special thanks to Mike McDonnal, KONA AM's morning man and sports director (and the voice you hear every week introducing The RADIO Show) for filling in for me on the May 10th episode.

Now, let's explore the two shows we'll be hearing on the June 7th edition.

Beginning in the 1930s right on through the mid-50s, one of the staples of the golden age of radio was the juvenile adventure serial. Shows like “Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy,” “Radio Orphan Annie,” “Captain Midnight,” “Jungle Jim,” “The Tom Mix Ralston Straight Shooters,” “Superman” and other local, network and syndicated shows of this type were must-listen radio for the younger generation after putting in a hard day at school. If you’ve ever wondered why you don’t hear many of these shows on classic radio programs like this one, well, the sad fact is, that so few of them exist in enough episodes to make it worth the time running them…with maybe one possible exception.

“Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police,” created and written by Virginia Cooke, told of the adventures of Speed, a 15-year old secret agent who, along with his uncle Clint Barlow and their pal and co-pilot Barney Dunlap, flew around the world attempting to capture the criminal mastermind known as “The Octopus,” in this quarter-hour series. If you’re a classic radio fan and have a sharp ear you’ll recognize the voices of Howard McNear as “Clint” and John Gibson ("Ethelbert" the bartender on "Casey, Crime Photographer") as “Barney.” Hanley Stafford of “Baby Snooks” fame played Chief Reilly of the I.S.P., and none other than Gale Gordon is heard as “The Octopus.” In fact, about the only cast member we can’t identify is the young man who played the title character.

The show followed two storylines. The first 100 episodes followed Speed and the gang as they tracked down The Octopus, and the final 78 episodes told of their adventures investigating The Atlantian Syndicate. We have the entire series run here at The Radio Show, and we’ll be running them in order, one chapter per week except for the last weekend of each month, when we play three episodes. So, put yourself in the mindset of a youngster in 1937, when this series debuted…gather ‘round the radio, and take off for high camp adventure with Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police. This week, we'll hear Episode 1, “The Octopus Gang Is Active,” syndicated January 2, 1937.

Stan Freberg has gotten laughs in practically every show biz medium there is, with the possible exception of nude bungee jumping. Just out of high school in the 1940s, the first job he landed after literally getting off the bus in Hollywood was doing cartoon voices alongside Mel Blanc at Warner Brothers. Soon he was in demand for voice characterizations on the top network radio shows, which in turn led to a contract with Capitol Records in 1950. By 1954, he’d landed a weekly sitcom on CBS Radio called “That’s Rich,” which lasted all of 39 weeks. It would be another 3 years before Stan got another show, and though this one lasted only 15 weeks, it had a far greater impact than his earlier effort. “The Stan Freberg Show” was CBS’ highest budgeted new radio show in ten years, and would be notable if for no other reason than this: when CBS pulled the plug on the show in October of 1957, despite a healthy for its time weekly radio audience of six million listeners – a neat trick in the television era – it made Stan Freberg the last network radio comedian in America. When that program was cancelled, there were no more network radio comedy shows from New York, Chicago, or Hollywood. Stan says it made him “the snail darter of radio comedians.”

Stan was joined by his excellent stock company from his Capitol records – June Foray, Daws Butler and Peter Leeds – plus singer Peggy Taylor, the Jud Conlon Rhythmaires and the great Billy May and his orchestra. You'll hear the first episode of “The Stan Freberg Show,” "Tuned Sheep," also featuring the original version of the controversial "Freberg's Fable," "Incident at Los Veroces," on the show recorded for broadcast July 14, 1957. (When CBS heard this episode in advance of the premiere, they ordered Stan to change it - fast! Oddly enough, the second version of the first show doesn't seem to exist - only the original version.)

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"


The Greatest Hits and Rarest Shows from Radio's Golden Age.

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