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Radio AM to FM: June 22, 2001

The CBS Radio Mystery Theater

At first glance, 1974 would hardly be thought of as a banner year for radio theater. That was the year of fast-paced top-40 radio, with stations such as KHJ/Los Angeles, KEZY/Anaheim and KCBQ/San Diego crankin' out the hits.

Or it was the year of progressive rock, as KMET and KLOS in Los Angeles and KGB in San Diego brought us into a new level of consciousness.

Radio theater? That was from an era gone by, pushed off of radio years before by television.

Himan Brown always thought that radio theater was pushed off of radio far too early; that good theater could not only survive on radio but thrive ... if given a chance. CBS Radio gave Brown a chance to prove it in 1974 with the launch of The CBS Radio Mystery Theater.

Produced by Brown -- producer of many memorable radio shows including Inner Sanctum Mysteries, Dick Tracy and Grand Central Station -- and narrated throughout most of its eight-year run by E. G. Marshall, the Radio Mystery Theater gave listeners -- including myself -- a taste of old-time radio when it ran on KNX (1070 AM).

It opened to mixed reviews critically, but it was a huge success for the network, peaking with a weekly audience of 5 million listeners on over 350 stations. It was so successful, that after it ended its run on CBS, the popularity of radio drama, comedy and mysteries nudged KNX into running repeats of old-time radio shows on its nightly KNX Drama Hour at 9:07 nightly -- one of the most popular hours of radio in Los Angeles.

But whatever happened to the Radio Mystery Theater? CBS did try to bring it back with repeats for a short time, as did radio program supplier Westwood One. Brown rerecorded the opening and closing of the show (an unfortunate move, as Marshall had done such a wonderful job hosting the show originally), and the program ran on the original KMPC (now KDIS, 710 AM) in the late 1980s. Since then, its been gone.

Well guess what? Reader Mike Dangott sent along a tip: the show can now be heard over the internet on WRVO ( from New York at 6:07 weeknights as part of its nightly block of old time radio programming that airs weeknights from 4:30 to 9:00 and weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) from 5:00 to 9:00 Pacific time.

That doesn't do much for those without a computer and internet access, but it does give some incentive to get connected.

Name Change

KISV in Bakersfield is being forced to drop the "Kiss" name it has used for several years because the owner of competitor KKXX "proved" that it "owns" the name "Kiss." KKXX has been calling itself "Kiss FM" since February.

I won't name the company, which wasn't even in business when stations first started using the name "Kiss" across the country in the 1970s. But the fact that a company, which I'll refer to as "Lear Camel," can claim to own a name is frightening. Next thing you know, they'll be claiming to own the name Richard Wagoner. Oops ...


Copyright © 2001 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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