Category Archives: Western

13 March: The man who grew up the western

Meston (seated) with Macdonnell---the western wouldn't be kid stuff anymore. (Photo: CBS.)

Meston (seated) with Macdonnell—the western wouldn’t be kid stuff anymore. (Photo: CBS.)

It may yet surprise old-time radio lovers/collectors of the 21st Century that half the brains behind radio’s arguable most groundbreaking western never won any award recognising his skill.

Colorado-born John Meston didn’t come to Norman Macdonnell to co-create Gunsmoke out of nowhere. Meston and Macdonnell had worked together previously on the respected but often ill-scheduled CBS adventure series Escape. Moreover, Meston by then had worked his way up to become CBS’s story editor. He shared with Macdonnell a feeling that there could be more to the radio western than the typical fare isolated in the children’s hours, which sounded too often to have been written and acted that way, too.

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31 January: Trendle’s double gamble

Earle Graser, in his years playing the Lone Ranger. (Photo: Mutual Broadcasting System.)

Earle Graser, in his years playing the Lone Ranger. (Photo: Mutual Broadcasting System.)

George W. Trendle in 1932 was a daring fellow in his way, daring enough to decide against continuing his Detroit station WXYZ’s CBS affiliation and try it as an independent operation in 1932. Just about everyone in the know thought Trendle was half out of his mind. Then, come January 1933, Trendle premiered a horse opera that nobody, including perhaps Trendle himself, could have predicted would become a radio and national institution.

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24 September: Birth of a news notion

Douglas Edwards, when he worked for WSB Atlanta prior to World War II . . .(Photo: WSB)

Douglas Edwards, when he worked for WSB Atlanta prior to World War II . . .(Photo: WSB)

CBS European News and CBS News of the World had a baby during World War II, and its name was World News Today.

Anchored customarily by George Bryan or Larry Elliott (European News) and Harry Mottle (News of the World), the original two news programs established what World News Today would solidify: smart pacing, smart spacing, perhaps the best such pace and space of any World War II regular newscasts. For a nation relying far more often upon radio for immediate war news, it was a game plan that worked.

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21 September: Radio ad absurdium

Karl Swenson, at the height of his renown as Lorenzo Jones. (Photo: CBS.)

Karl Swenson, at the height of his renown as Lorenzo Jones. (Photo: CBS.)

Of two charming programs airing tonight in 1948, one is a series premiere. Picking the leadoff between them here is something akin to choosing between lobster fra diavolo and chicken cordon bleu for dinner, so I decided to pick according to age.

There’s no question but that Frank and Anne Hummert are old-time radio’s king and queen of the soaps, with misery, disaster, melodrama, and heartbreak their quadruple specialties. But even they seem to have needed a little relief from the afternoon anxieties to which their usual audiences repaired. They forayed into musical programming now and then (the couple were passionate music lovers, though Anne Hummert won’t have time for further indulgence until she retires upon her husband’s death) and a prime-time crime drama here and there.

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17 September: To free the Dutch

The Allied campaign to liberate the Netherlands from the Nazi grip is underway in earnest.

 

TUNE IN TONIGHT:

Edward R. Murrow: Counting the Parachutes (CBS, 1944)

Murrow. (Photo: CBS.)

Murrow. (Photo: CBS.)

His habitual flying aboard bombing runs married to his London Blitz rooftop reporting has prompted many at CBS and even his own wife to ponder whether Murrow has a death wish. Today is additional evidence: Murrow flies aboard such a run to report on the Allied invasion of the Netherlands. The surviving recording will last a mere minute; what he reported will endure—particularly for the Dutch.

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