Sunday, February 19, 2012

CBS Radio Mystery Theater - "Come in... Welcome..."

One of my earliest introductions to what would be classified as Old Time Radio was via The CBS Radio Mystery Theater. Many a night in the 70's of my youth would find me snuggled in bed, quietly tuning my AM/FM transistor radio to find this program. Great memories!

The CBS Radio Mystery Theater was a radio drama series created by Himan Brown that was broadcast on CBS Radio affiliates from 1974 to 1982. Hot on the heels of the release of the movie "American Graffiti" and taking advantage of the 1950s nostalgia fad that swept through America in the 70's. Remember Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and Grease? Because radio mystery drama was reminiscent of that era, the program quickly developed a fan base among young listeners in addition to its target audience. The program was pitched, at least initially, to an audience old enough to remember classic radio; Brown was a legend amongst radio drama enthusiasts for his work on Inner Sanctum Mysteries, The Adventures of Nero Wolfe and other shows dating back to the 1930s.
Episodes were introduced by a host (E. G. Marshall) who provided pithy wisdom and commentary throughout. Unlike the hosts of those earlier programs, Marshall is fully mortal, merely someone whose heightened insight and erudition plunge the listener into the world of the macabre (in a manner similar to that of "The Man in Black" on yet another old time radio program, (Suspense). Each episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater opened and closed with the ominous sound of a creaking crypt door, accompanied by Marshall's disturbing utterance, "Come in. Welcome. I am E. G. Marshall." Marshall hosted the program from January 1974 until February 1982, when actress Tammy Grimes took over for the series' last season, maintaining the format.

CBSRMT was broadcast each weeknight, with three or four episodes being new originals, and the remainder were reruns. There were 1,399 original episodes. The total number of broadcasts, including reruns, was 2,969. Each episode was allotted a full hour of airtime, but after commercials and news, episodes typically ran for about 45 minutes.

Sources: Wikipedia and

You can download the entire CBSRMT collection, all 1,399 episodes for free via

12 shows from the CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER 1976:

14 shows from the CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER 1978:

12 shows from the CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER 1980:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar!

"The man with the action-packed expense account, America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator, Johnny Dollar".

For over twelve years, from 1949 through 1962 (including a one year hiatus in 1954-1955), this series recounted the cases of Johnny Dollar. The name of the show derives from the fact that he closed each show by totaling his expense account, and signing it "End of report... Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar".

As originally conceived, Johnny Dollar was a smart, tough, wisecracking detective who tossed silver-dollar tips to waiters and bellhops. Dick Powell starred in the audition show, recorded in 1948, but withdrew from the role in favor of other projects. The role went instead to Charles Russell. The show, for which Powell auditioned, was originally titled "Yours Truly, Lloyd London," although the name of the show and its lead character were apparently changed before the audition tape of December 6, 1948, was actually recorded.

The final episodes of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and Suspense, airing on CBS, are often cited as the end of the golden age of radio. The last episode of Johnny Dollar, "The Tip-Off Matter", ended at 6:35 p.m. Eastern Time on September 30, 1962, followed immediately by the final broadcast of Suspense.

With the first three actors to play Johnny Dollar — radio actor Russell and movie tough-guy actors Edmond O'Brien and John Lund — there was little to distinguish Johnny Dollar from other detective series at the time (Richard Diamond, Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade). While always a friend of the police, Johnny wasn't necessarily a stickler for the strictest interpretation of the law. He was willing to let some things slide to satisfy his own sense of justice, as long as the interests of his employer were also protected. The series ended in September 1954.

CBS Radio revived Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar in October 1955 with a new leading man, a new director, and a new format. The program changed from a 30-minute, one-episode-per-week affair to a 15-minute, five-nights-a-week serial (Monday through Friday, 8-8:15pm EST) produced and directed by radio veteran Jack Johnstone. The new Johnny Dollar was Bob Bailey, (pictured) who had just come off another network detective series, Let George Do It. With a new lead and 75 minutes of air time each week, it became possible to develop each storyline with more detail and with more characters. Almost all of the Johnny Dollar serials were presented by CBS Radio on a sustaining basis (unsponsored, with no commercials); only two of the 55 serials take time out for a sponsor's message.
Bob Bailey was exceptionally good in this format, making Johnny more sensitive and thoughtful in addition to his other attributes. Vintage-radio enthusiasts often endorse Bailey as the best of the Johnny Dollars, and consider the 13-month run of five-part stories to be some of the greatest drama in radio history. The serial scripts were usually written by Jack Johnstone, "John Dawson" (a pseudonym for E. Jack Neuman), Les Crutchfield, or Robert Ryf, Blake Edwards also contributed several scripts and the show was always produced and directed by Johnstone. The show featured an excellent stock company of supporting actors, including Virginia Gregg, Harry Bartell, Vic Perrin, Lawrence Dobkin, Parley Baer, Howard McNear, John Dehner, Barney Phillips, Lillian Buyeff, Tony Barrett, Don Diamond, Alan Reed, and Forrest Lewis. Movie character actors appeared occasionally, including Jay Novello, Hans Conried, Frank Nelson, Leon Belasco, William Conrad, Edgar Barrier, and Billy Halop.
In late 1956 CBS Radio retooled the show, which reverted to a weekly half-hour drama, airing on late Sunday afternoons. Bob Bailey continued in the leading role until 1960 (and wrote one episode, "The Carmen Kringle Matter").

The final episodes of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and Suspense, airing on CBS, are often cited as the end of the golden age of radio. The last episode of Johnny Dollar, "The Tip-Off Matter", ended at 6:35 p.m. Eastern Time on September 30, 1962, followed immediately by the final broadcast of Suspense.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Cupid visits the VINTRAD Blog!

Valentine's Day is literally just around the corner so I thought it fitting to return to the VINTRAD Blog with some wonderful Valentine's Day related Old Time Radio programs.

The first of these is from 1945. An episode of Amos 'n' Andy entitled, A Mean Valentine.

Don Ameche and Frances Langford were The Bickersons. A married couple who were constantly at war! This installment from February 13, 1948 is called Valentine's Day, The Accident Insurance Policy.

William Bendix in the Life of Riley followed up a day later with this installment of his popular series. Riley Sends Peg a Comic Valentine, February 14, 1948.

Lucille Ball and Richard Denning starred in My Favorite Husband, the precursor to the iconic television show, I Love Lucy. This show is from February 11, 1949.

One of my favorite shows weighs in with a Valentine's Day entry February 13, 1949. Ozzie and Harriet: Valentine Card.

The last entry stars Eve Arden and Gale Gordon in Our Miss Brooks. Valentine's Day, February 19, 1950.