Tag Archives: Romance

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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Oh, Goody! Old-time radio listening, 15 January

The easiest Ace. (Photo: CBS.)

The easiest Ace. (Photo: CBS.)

This son of Latvian immigrants was born 114 years ago today. He became a newspaper reporter, abbreviated his given surname (Aiskowitz), and caught his big radio break when—doing two spots of criticism and mild humour a week—he had to ad-lib fifteen minutes worth of air time when a scheduled show feed fails the Kansas City station where he worked, prompting him to invite his wife to join an impromptu chat on bridge (a passion of theirs) and a local murder. (“Would you like to shoot a game of bridge, dear?” his loving wife would ask on microphone).

The unexpected segment became such a surprise success that he was invited to create a regular show, making it work well enough to be invited first to Chicago and, in due course, New York, where his creation—a serialised comic eavesdropping in on conversations, situations, and absurdities between a malapropping wife and her tart, harried, but loving husband, their boarding best friend and her newspapering paramour, and a small round of revolving support characters—became a consistent and admired radio presence for fifteen years. Or, as Time will put it on 2 November 1942:

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