I broke a mirror. After the last few years we’ve had, how will I know the difference when the bad luck starts?
That raises a couple of other questions. Does the seven years of bad luck run consecutively with other bad luck, or concurrently? Like, if I walk under a ladder, or spill a salt shaker, or get off on the 13th floor of a building, do each of those things then add more bad luck to the seven years I’ve already received for breaking the mirror, or does it just make the already existing bad luck worse?
Anyway, I blame Steve Allen. I’ve been reading a Steve Allen book and when I was getting ready for work, I bumped the book, it fell onto a mirror that was sitting on the floor, and broke it.
Some might say the mirror shouldn’t have been sitting on the floor. Well, thanks, but that would have been useful advice a couple of hours ago.
Speaking of bad luck: It’s my luck to be out of town two Saturdays in a row, which means I have a pre-recorded show again this week. But it’s a good one.
We’ve had a bunch of records donated to the Tube City Online Radio studio (most of them by me) and I’ve recently been going through them.
So this week’s show is three hours of vintage 45s, mostly from the 1960s, with a handful from the ’50s and ’70s.
There are a few rare dusties, but they’re mostly hits, and all of them in glorious, scratchy vinyl sound, some even with cue burns at the beginning. Surprisingly, I think we only had one record that skipped.
Also, Thursday was Good Neighbor Day in McKeesport, just about a block from the studio, so I took our traveling microphone over to Fifth Avenue and interviewed some of the people about their groups and organizations.
It’s good, old-fashioned local radio, and it’s all yours from 12 to 3 p.m. Saturday on Carnegie Mellon University’s WRCT (88.3) FM and Tube City Online Radio in McKeesport.
And speaking of Tube City Online Radio: Every Sunday night from 7 to 9 p.m., we run old-time radio shows — meaning scripted comedy, drama and sci-fi — from the 1940s and ’50s. Alert Listener Charles asks:
What’s up with Radio Theater on Tube City on Sunday nights? It has been stuck on the same programs for the last six to eight weeks.
Well, that’s odd. Tube City Online Radio does run the same shows every Sunday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. — namely, “The Jack Benny Program,” “Fibber McGee & Molly” and “Dragnet” — but we run a new episode of those shows every week. So you should be hearing the same shows, but not the same episodes. If it’s the same episodes, that’s a weird glitch.
(I keep the 8:30 hour open for a rotating wheel of sci-fi, detective and adventure shows, including “Suspense,” “X-Minus-One,” “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar,” and “Nero Wolfe.”)
We’ve had old-time radio on Sunday nights ever since we signed on the Internet station back in 2015.
Generally speaking, I try to run shows from as close as possible to their original air date from 70 years ago — in 1953. (When we started, it was from that week in 1945.)
Why do we run “Jack Benny,” “Fibber McGee,” and “Dragnet”? That’s a complicated question. Actually, no, it isn’t: Mainly because they’re my personal favorites. They also generally don’t depend on topical references, so they don’t date well. (Fred Allen was considered the greatest comedian in radio, but his shows depended heavily on current events. If you don’t know what was in the news in 1948, they won’t make any sense.)
But we’re running into two problems: One, which happens every summer, is that most of the scripted radio shows took the summer months off. (Most TV shows take the summer off, to this day.) That means that from June to September, I have to find substitutes for “Jack Benny” and “Fibber McGee.” For the last few years, I’ve used “The Great Gildersleeve,” “The Halls of Ivy” and “The George Burns & Gracie Allen Program.”
The second problem — which is more existential — is that the “golden age of radio” was more or less over by 1953. Audiences were increasingly moving to television and scripted radio shows started to be replaced by game shows, news, talk, or music shows.
What might be called the “golden age of disc jockeys” began in the 1950s. Many of the big rock ‘n roll radio personalities, including Porky Chedwick in Pittsburgh, first came to prominence as radio drama and comedy faded away.
If we keep the old-time radio shows on Sunday nights, I need to jump back and start over again with the late 1940s. So the question is, do I go back and repeat “Jack Benny,” “Fibber,” etc., or pick new shows?
A challenge with running old-time radio is that some of the shows were horribly racist. It was still considered acceptable, for instance, to have white actors playing Black characters. In fact, it was considered the height of humor in some cases to have a white male character play a Black female character. Obviously, I don’t care to run those shows (even though it might be instructive about how — as Billy Joel sang — “the good ol’ days weren’t always good”).
Another challenge is that some of them weren’t that great. The science-fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon is credited with coining something called “Sturgeon’s Law,” which says “90 percent of everything is crap.” For old-time radio fans, that means that we fondly remember the great shows — like Jack Benny, or “Duffy’s Tavern” — but we’ve blocked out of our memories the hours and hours of slow-moving soap-operas, turgid detective shows, and cowboy shoot-’em-ups that clogged the airwaves.
Are you interested in old-time radio? If not, what would you rather hear in that time period?
If you are interested, what would you like us to feature on Sunday nights — should we stick with our reliables (Benny, Fibber, Dragnet, etc.) or try something new? Post your suggestions in the comments.