I spend about an hour a day in my car, more if I’m on a trip, and I always have the radio on. I pretty much ignore talk radio anymore – too depressing, so I listen to the oldies station or light rock. It’s background noise, mostly, something to occupy the time.
But there was once a time when the radio not only made noise, it entertained us. Many Boomers recall the Golden Age of radio.
I grew up listening to the radio. There was Arthur Godfrey in the morning – every morning. Mom always listened to Godfrey with his guests like Mario Lanza, Patsy Cline and Pat Boone. The Old Redhead strummed his ukulele and hawked Chesterfield cigarettes and Maxwell House Coffee. The afternoons were filled with westerns while dramas took over during the evening hours. The Inner Sanctum was one of the most frightening. The radio was always on and always on the kitchen table. It was the center of our lives.
Some may recall programs like the Lone Ranger, Gene Autry, Sam Spade, Ozzie and Harriet, Edgar Bergen, Burns and Allen, The Cisco Kid, Death Valley Days, The FBI in Peace and War, Fibber McGee and Molly, Gang Busters, Bob Hope, The Lone Ranger, Mr. and Mrs. North, Our Miss Brooks, The Original Amateur Hour, Red Skelton, Sky King and countless others.
The two that stand out to me to this day were Amos and Andy and the Jack Benny Show.
Amos and Andy was a mega-hit. It came on Sunday nights and every radio in town was tuned in to see what The Kingfish would do next. He was always scheming and plotting and getting himself and his friends into trouble. It was hilarious. Some now say it was racist. Sure, the show starred black comedians, but it could have been any race, anybody that got into those same predicaments. I loved that show, especially on the radio.
My other favorite was The Jack Benny Show. I consider Jack Benny the greatest comedian of all time. His timing was perfect. When he did his famous pauses on air, the audience roared – often too long. The shows were timed down to the second and when the audience continued laughing for a half -minute or more, it caused problems. Guests such as Rochester, Mary Livingston, Dennis Day, Don Wilson, Phil Harris, Mel Blanc, Bob Crosby, Verna Felton, and others delivered the punch lines while Jack played the straight man – always tight with his money and always age 39.
Jack never grew old and I never tired of hearing him and all the other great stars during the Golden Age of Radio.