24 March: The bloody red harmonica blues

Shep Mencken. (Photo: CBS.)

Shep Mencken. (Photo: CBS.)

It has been almost as much a staple instrument of the blues as the guitar. The earliest records of such rock and roll legends as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones featured it frequently enough. A century earlier, and just a few years after a German clockmaker named Matthias Hohner made his first and began to mass produce it, the first such maker to do so, soldiers in both the Union and Confederate Armies are said to have taken comfort carrying and playing the instrument. So was President Abraham Lincoln.

The humble harmonica also figures quite prominently in tonight’s story, which examines a side of war ignored far more often than the sound of a harmonica ever is.


The CBS Radio Workshop: Harmonica Solo (CBS, 1957)

The Bloody Red One regiment in World War II is part of the march into Germany toward the war’s end. So is young soldier Dino (Shep Mencken) whose harmonica playing is one of the only things providing him comfort during his first operation. So is his battle-weary sergeant Stoney (John Dehner), who’s survived numerous operations his buddies and subordinates didn’t.

Fearing the youth’s harmonica may draw enemy fire over a particularly tough ridge—and, after the young man grieves over his first kill, a German soldier who confronts him at surprisingly close range—Stoney finally commits the unthinkable out of his fears.

Banion: Joe DeSantis. Mike: Lou Krugman. Music: Leo Diamond. Director: William N. Robson. Writer: Arthur Zigouras.

Further Channel Surfing . . .

Lux Radio Theater: Flight Command (CBS, 1941)
Fibber McGee & Molly: Fibber Writes a Song (NBC, 1942)
The Danny Kaye Show: The Great Diamond Robbery (CBS, 1945)
Maxwell House Coffee Time with Burns & Allen: Jane Wyman and the Academy Awards (NBC, 1949)
The Halls of Ivy: Is Professor Gerhart Cheating? (NBC, 1950)
Fibber McGee & Molly: McGee’s Lucky Day (NBC, 1953)

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