Category Archives: Music/Variety

27 December: A jubilant “Jubilee”

Writing in American Quarterly in 2004, Laura Rebecca Sklaroff wrote of AFRS Jubilee that the staffers of the Armed Forces Radio Service only thought the show could or would present predominantly black entertainment, or bills featuring black and white performers in equal measure, without stirring the racial pot. They didn’t count upon or necessarily understand the subtleties black performers could and did deploy in an era well before a time when less subtle conveyances could or would be accepted:

 

Louis Armstrong was an AFRS Jubilee favourite. (Photo: CBS.)

Louis Armstrong was an AFRS Jubilee favourite. (Photo: CBS.)

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8 November: The big broadcast to be . . .

The last Big Broadcast film hands Bob Hope a key to real radio stardom at last . . . (Photo: Paramount Pictures.)

The last Big Broadcast film hands Bob Hope a key to real radio stardom at last . . . (Photo: Paramount Pictures.)

Film put a shot of high octane fuel Bob Hope’s radio career, and just in time, too, considering his first two very lame seasons aboard CBS and NBC Blue prior to 1938. Ironically, it was a radio sub-theme that cleared the fuel line and kicked the motor over.

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27 April: Matters of records . . .

Margaret Whiting. (Photo: CBS.)

Margaret Whiting. (Photo: CBS.)

What I called a “seeming resurgence” of vinyl records last year seems to be swelling considerably this year. So it’s still appropriate to review one of the most interesting pop culture explorations in old-time radio history, scripted in part by one of the medium’s best crime drama leads.

 

TUNE IN TONIGHT:

The CBS Radio Workshop: The Record Collectors (CBS, 1956)

Biologist Vincent Arbolgast (Howard McNear) and teratologist Titus McFadridge (Lou Houston) stand firmly on the side of vintage 78 rpm shellac records and the more primitive recording technology of the earliest 20th Century, not to mention the popular performers of that period, such as Margaret Young.

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20 April: The big plotz

Dame Tallulah proved a deft radio hostess . . . (Photo: NBC.)

Dame Tallulah proved a deft radio hostess . . . (Photo: NBC.)

In the end, you have to give The Big Show A for effort if nothing else. Valiant, often engaging, its aim was to preserve old-time, big-time radio variety against television’s metastasis. At its absolute best, The Big Show has lived up to its hyperbolic name. At its absolute worst, it’s still been more ambitious, more earnest, than nine-tenths of what television has thrown up thus far in the variety subgenre.

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2 April: Virtual seduction, revisited

Jean King, for a few years radio's Lonesome Gal. (Photo: Possibly Time.)

Jean King, for a few years radio’s Lonesome Gal. To keep her mystique as long as possible, she wore the cat-eye mask for public appearances and her very few publicity photographs. (Photo: Possibly Time.)

(A reader [I do have a few!] asks if I can repeat this essay. I’m pleased to do so.JK.)

I was damned lonely in Dayton. So I just hooked into this idea and talked about my loneliness. And, you know, I found out there are a lot of lonesome people in this world.

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