Radio AM to FM: November 19, 2004
SPERDVAC -- the Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety And Comedy -- celebrated its 30th anniversary last weekend with a huge convention at the Hacienda Hotel in El Segundo. Special guests included Charlotte Rae, Harold Gould and other stars of radios golden age, as well as Eddie Carroll who does Jack Benny so well, you'd think you were transported back in time.
SPERDVAC began in September, 1974 with just 26 members who wanted to discuss old time radio shows and strategize ways to help get -- and keep -- such programs on the airwaves of Southern California. In February, 1975, according to the first issue of the SPERDVAC Bulletin, there were 26 stations running old time radio or related programs, including programs on KCRW, KPFK, and KUCI, as well as the nationwide broadcasts of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater which aired locally on KNX.
Much has changed in 30 years. Now it's getting harder and harder to find OTR programs on broadcast radio; instead, as with most other formats, you can find them on the internet or satellite radio. But that didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd assembled to celebrate the golden age of radio.
There were panel discussions, social hours, discussions by authors of OTR books, and even a celebration of the work of Bob Hope. But the highlight of the weekend was the banquet and re-creation time, when, after a nice meal, the audience got to witness recreations of two OTR programs.
First it was a wonderful version of the Ford Theater's The Horn Blows at Midnight, starring Eddie Carroll as Jack Benny. Then it was an episode of The Fred Allen Show, directed by Gregg Oppenheimer and starring Gould as Allen. Scratch that, Gould WAS Fred Allen.
Now I've seen live broadcasts of radio dramas, but nothing like this. The acting and sound effects were superb ... I felt like I was watching a live broadcast from 1947, the year both of these episodes originally aired. The talent on stage -- including some original golden age actors -- showed why fans of OTR are so devoted.
Sitting at my table was Art Linkletter, who received a lifetime achievement award from SPERDVAC.
If you are a fan of old time radio, SPERDVAC is the place to be. They have a huge collection of programs that members may listen to and duplicate for their own collections, their meetings and conventions include special guests ... the very people who helped make radio's golden age golden, and they actively encourage radio stations to air radio drama, variety and comedy programs, both old and new.
Memberships are $25 for new members; $15 per year after the first. Go to www.sperdvac.org or call (310) 947-9800.
Los Angeles had KHJ; San Francisco had KFRC. Many of the most legendary "Boss Jocks" worked at both. The difference? Consultant Walter Sabo screwed up KFRC much later than he did KHJ, so the station was successful much longer.
This week on Uncle Ricky's Radio Repository, hear a composite aircheck covering almost an entire year of what was then San Francisco's top-rated music station ... before Sabo got his hands on it. Point your browser to www.reelradio.com.
Copyright © 2004 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.
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