Thursday, October 31, 2013

October 31: Happy Birthday, Ethel Waters



Tied for Halloween for greatest significance today is the birthday of singer, actress, and pioneer, Ethel Waters.

Waters was a groundbreaker and trailblazer for many later African-American singers and performers of all stripes.  She ground out a living on the hard-scrabble vaudeville circuit in the early 20th century, then became a staple of the still-developing artform known as jazz.  She's best known for her big hit songs such as "Dinah," "Stormy Weather," and "Heat Wave."

She was the first African-American woman to star in a nationally-broadcast radio program, and turned in great appearances on Jubilee, The Tex and Jinx Show, The Big Show, and Command Performance.  We salute a strong and successful woman and a great addition to the universe of oldtime radio.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 29: Happy Birthday, Fredric Brown

I'm sure we're all grateful that the world of old-time radio is peopled by lovable hams and charming cut-ups. However, Fredric Brown injected some very deep thought into the medium. Not a song and dance man nor announcer, Brown was a sci-fi writer whose works were adapted into radio programs.

One of the most interesting and cerebral of the pulp sci-fi writers of the mid-century, Brown wanted to experiment with the form and push the boundaries. One of his most noted short stories, "Knock," opens with the last man on Earth receiving a visitor. He challenged himself and worked his imagination so hard that, according to his wife, he actually hated writing.

But listeners of Lux Radio Theater and other shows featuring his work probably wouldn't have guessed, and they themselves probably loved what Brown put to paper.

Monday, October 28, 2013

October 28, 1946: 'Sky King' and his final flight on NBC

October 28, 1946: The Mars Candy sponsored program Sky King went on the air for the final time on ABC. It originally featured Lester as Sky, followed by Earl Nightingale. and lastly Roy Engel. Beryl Vaughn performed the role of Sky’s niece while Jack Biven performed as Chipper, and Cliff Soubier starred as the ranch foreman.

Sky King was a radio adventure series aired in the 1940's and 50's on radio and TV. The main character, Schuyler "Sky" King, was said to be based on a true-to-life personality named Jack Cones.

King's character was both a rancher and a pilot, and his adventures involved chasing spies and criminals with the help of his plane, Songbird. Although different planes were used during the series' entire run, it was always called by that name. 

The actors that portrayed Sky in the radio and TV series included John Reed King, Earl Nightingale, and Kirby Grant.

Friday, October 25, 2013

October 25, 1937 'Stella Dallas' premiered on NBC Red

October 25, 1937: NBC Red Network broadcast the debut of Stella Dallas on this day. The program, starring Anne Elstner, lasted until 1955. The Stella Dallas show was a true strory about Stella's love and sacrifice for her beloved daughter Laurel, who was part of wealthy society.Stella realized that they lived in different worlds, so she was forced to disappear from her daughter's life.

Stella Dallas was based on a novel by Olivia Higgins Prouty. It was a 15-minute local show in New York City before it was broadcast on NBC Red. The program was about the beautiful but poor Stella Dallas and her immense love for her daughter Laurel.