Saturday, October 9, 2021

The Porter Heaps Collection of Rare Daytime Radio

Wow - well, it's been almost a month since I posted. Work is getting the best of me these days, and I haven't felt like I've had time to do much of anything. I've been "busy as a porcupine" to quote one of Shelley Berman's many great routines...

But I've got something today that I just love, and that, hopefully, some of you will, too. But there's a story, first. 

Since the 1930's, my family had attended St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Evanston, IL. Then, when my mom returned from college (and a subsequent adventure in New York City), in the mid 1940's, she was a full fledged professional singer. At that time, she was hired as the soprano soloist in St. Matthew's church choir (she would continue in that role for an astonishing 54 years). 

The organist and choir director was a man with one of the great names in history, Porter Heaps. Concurrent to his work at St. Matthew's, Porter was also the organist on several radio shows which were produced - most only transcription discs - out of various spots in and near Chicago. He was also the national spokesman for the Hammond Organ company. 

Reading over his obituaries, it becomes clear that he was the key person in "selling" the country and other musicians on the idea that a small console instrument could be called an "organ", and that the term was not just meant for pipe organs. St. Matthew's had, at the time, a Hammond Organ, of course. You can read about Porter here, including a fascinating paragraph on his use of citrus fruits during his Hammond Organ demonstrations. 

Along the way, he made a handful of albums of organ music, which pop up from time to time, at least in the Chicago area used record stores I've been known to frequent. 

Here is the man himself: 

Getting back to St. Matthew's: I grew up in that same church (indeed, I still attend it to this day), and as Porter and my mom were close friends, I got to know him, about as much as any grade schooler gets to know one's parents' friends. And I thought he was wonderful - a happy-go-lucky elf of a guy, with a great sense of humor and a gentle way with everyone. 

Porter announced his retirement and an upcoming move out west in 1970. But before he left, perhaps (probably) having been told of my love of tape recorders and recordings, he invited me and my mom over for an afternoon of copying some of his favorite tapes. 

But these were no ordinary tapes. They were paper reels, from the dawn of recording, they contained pristine (for the most part) recordings of otherwise long lost regional radio from the late 1940's and very early 1950's, nearly all of which were in his collection because he'd been the organist on those shows. While episodes of these shows exist elsewhere online, they are mostly in lesser sound quality, and they don't include these episodes. 

I quickly fell in love with the entire collection, and well before the end of 1970, the tape marked "Heaps Radio" was undoubtedly my most listened to tape of the year. I loved all the different shows, the very different world that they portrayed, and especially, the wonderful, corny commercial jingle for Quaker Oats, as well as the mystifying (for a ten year old boy) commercials about "certain specific days" that a woman might want to use Lydia Pinkham's products, as well as the brief Pinkham jingle. 

I'm going to share nearly the entire contents of that tape here, in the order that Porter shared them, leaving out only four novelty records that he included - presumably thinking they would appeal to me, which they did - all of which were rare at the time, but have since become easier to find, especially with youtube. 

For his first selection, Porter gave me a 22 minute segment of a show titled "Man on the Farm", which was a promotional program for Quaker Oats and Mother's Oats ("which ARE the same"), and which also promoted their "Full-O-Pep" Chick Starter and seed sales. I'm not sure this is all from the same episode - it starts midway through an episode, and then there is a short gap at the 9:15 mark.  

But following that gap is, no doubt, the reason Porter started with this reel. It contains what he called "The Heaps Wedding Bit". Unfortunately, Porter's voice is very hard to hear during this bit, as he describes how he played the wedding music for a variety of brides. I'm not sure why that is, but it's certainly the poorest recorded segment of the entire collection, with his tiny voice coming from seemingly two rooms away, followed by booming music on the organ. 

Download: "Man on the Farm" (Featuring the "Heaps Wedding" Bit)

Play:

This was followed by more "Man on the Farm", again, sounding as if perhaps this portion came from more than one episode, or simply had elements of one episode. The high point for me here is the "Meowing Contest".

Download: More "Man on the Farm" (Segments)

Play: 

The two longest portions of the Heaps collection are two complete daytime audience participation shows, heard back to back. The first is "Ladies Fair". This is not technically "complete", as the tape recorder had some problems midway through (commented on at the end), and this interrupts several short moments of the show. But the show is full of audience interviews, music, contests and ads and is endlessly entertaining to these ears. 

Download: "Ladies Fair"

Play:

The next track is a full episode of something called "Ladies Be Seated" (later satirized by Bob and Ray as "Ladies, Grab Your Seats"). The content of this show is pretty much interchangeable with "Ladies Fair", and is equally fascinating to me. 

Download: "Ladies Be Seated"

Play: 

The "Ladies Be Seated" reel also contained just the short opening moments of something called "Add-A-Line", really no more than an explanation of what the show was about. 

Download: "Add-A-Line" (Short Opening Segment)

Play

Barely longer than that is the next portion, and it has mystified me now for more than 50 years. Porter clearly wanted to share this moment of hilarity from a "Man on the Farm" broadcast, where the entire audience explodes with laughter at something a woman starts to say, and then they remain unable to stop laughing for two minutes. But what is the joke she is making? I suspect it has something to do with Bed Pans, which no doubt would have been the cause of nervous laughter and naughty chuckling at the time, but I'm not sure. 

Download: "Man on the Farm" (Short Segment - "Pot and Pan" Bit)

Play:

Finally, with a bit more room left on my reel, Porter gave me one more short segment of "Man on the Farm". 

Download: A Final "Man on the Farm" Segment

Play:

I don't usually beg, or even ask, for comments, but as this is one of my favorite tapes ever, I'd love to hear what you think. 

A postscript: 

Porter lived nearly 30 more years after retirement, and well into the years when I was heavily into collecting reels, and he and my mom remained friends. Over the years, I have thought, many, many, many, many times that I should have reached out to Porter, via my mom, to ask if he would give me his tapes, or leave them to me - he had an in-the-wall bookcase that was a literal WALL of tapes, and the thought of what treasures were on the other ones - other than the four or five he shared with me - has haunted me ever since I start seriously collecting them. But I never asked, and who knows where all of those tapes are today. 

~~~

Finally, here is our "Very Short Reel" for this post. Here's the way the tape box for this reel looks: 

The contents of this reel are below - it's a demo reel for Pat Sheridan, who was, for quite a while, an AM radio personality in Chicago, at this time on WMAQ, which was an easy listening/soft rock station in the 1960's and 1970's. His samples here are all over the map, from innuendo and one-liners, to a brief, serious plug for the United Fund. 

Download: Pat Sheridan - Demo Reel, "Sheridanize"

Play:

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Steve Allen Highlights, A Soldier Vacations in Japan, News From the Dawn of Reel Recording and More!

 Howdy, 

I have a wide variety of recordings today, so let's get right to it!!

First up - and this may be Manna from Heaven for some of you - here is a compilation someone made, featuring (mostly) musical performances as seen on the Steve Allen show. This was not his pioneering Tonight Show, but rather from The Steve Allen Show, most likely the late in the run of his of his NBC Sunday night show, or from his brief run thereafter on ABC. Here's the top of the tape box: 

I think the tape largely speaks for itself. There are a few spoken segments, including a short bit about angry letters in the paper and a phone call, among others, but most of this is music. It's not really my type of music for the most part - for me the best part by far comes when the always great Smothers Brothers show up at the end. But if you want a preview of what you're going to hear, here's the part of the back of the tape box that has the lineup: 


Download: Musical Highlights from the Steve Allen Show

Play:


~~

And now, here's the entire contents of a reel which is Manna from Heaven for me. For this is one of those elusive paper reels, of the type only produced between about 1948 and 1952. Often these turn out to be a letdown, containing recordings of classical music off of radio or records. But this one is the jackpot - news and comment from 1951 and 1952. 

At first, I thought the first segment was simply a newscast, but the amount of commentary, from decidedly left-of-center, led me to realize that it was something else, more akin to what Paul Harvey used to do, but from my side of the aisle. A more careful listen - d'uh - indicated that it was a broadcast paid for by the American Federation of Labor. The host is Frank Edwards - he hosted this show for close to ten years. As seen by the note contained in the tape box, this program was dated 9/17/52. 


Following this, we hear the well known and respected voice of Edward R. Murrow, delivering a eulogy for the then-recently deceased Senator Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan. Oddly, although this seems to start with the turning on of the tape machine, this broadcast (heard after Frank Edwards) clearly dates from more than a year earlier, both because that is when Vandenberg died, and because that's what it says on the other side of the paper: 


The tape ends with some Western Swing. Usually, when there are records recorded on a tape that I feature, I leave that segment, but here, I wanted to present the tape in its entirety, plus, the music is SOOO great - first, there's Merle Travis with "Alimony Bound", then there's a rendition of "Orange Blossom Special", following which there is just a moment of some walkie talkie conversation. 

Play:

~~~

And speaking of Walkie-Talkie Conversations, here's an oddity I found on a three inch reel of tape. It's a series of police calls and dispatches from somewhere in England. Like many three inch reels I find, this was recorded on a machine which did not keep its speed very accurately throughout the recording, and if you compare the background hum throughout, you'll note that it varies in pitch from spot to spot: 

Play:

~~~

And now - and I hate to bury this wonderful tape so far down, but I like everything I'm sharing today - here's a really neat tape featuring a young soldier in Japan, recording a chatty tape for the folks back home in the spring of 1968, all about his vacation through parts of Japan, with loads of great detail and thoughts about what he did and saw. 

This tape was recorded on all four tracks of a three inch reel - as you'll hear, he realizes he has a lot to say after finishing side two, so he went back to side one and started using the right channel. 

By the way, each of the four segments, except the second one, starts with what "used to be" on the tape, before he started erasing it, and I've left these in. On parts one and four, this isn't that interesting, but part three starts with someone starting up The Beatles' "I Feel Fine", and proceeding to play drums along with it, in possibly the worst possible mismatch for the record, and exceptionally badly, to boot. I found that most entertaining. 

Here is the mailer cover for the tape: 


And here is the tape: 

Play:
~~~

For my Acetate of the month, I've chosen to dig into my mother's collection. As I've mentioned here and elsewhere, she was a coloratura soprano, and as her training and career began in the 1940's, she had many acetates of herself performing, that being the most convenient way to hear oneself, in those days. 

I share this, not to feature her vocal performance, although it is nice, but because her comments at the end - starting at the 2:10 point - make me smile, and I hope it does the same for you. One thing mom didn't lack for was belief in herself....

She was exactly a month shy of her 23rd birthday, the day this was recorded. 

Play:

~~~

And now, it's time for our "Very Short Reel". On the tape, the label says "Coke Theme" (I am unable to get my scanner to replicate the very light writing on the reel). On the recording itself, Coke is not mentioned, and the show is called "Refreshment Time". The entirety of the tape is heard here - it features someone named Singing Sam, who sounds a bit like Bing Crosby, saying goodbye at the end of the show. 

Play:

I hope you've found something - hopefully a lot of somethings - to enjoy here today. 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Vintage College Top 40 Radio, Birthdays at the Dawn of Reel Recording, a Bit of Football and Some Compelling Selling

Greetings! I hope you haven't melted. 

I have a delightful set of rare recordings for you this time around. 

I'll start with the one I suspect will be the most interesting to the largest sub-section of this blogs listenership. It's another tape I've owned for decades, but one which I digitized just this week. The entire tape (well, one side of it, the other one is blank) contains portions of a mid-morning program that aired on a college radio station, WRBU, at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois.

A young woman is the DJ, and while she is earnest and a had a voice which is pleasure to listen to, she seems to have needed quite a bit of seasoning if she was going to pursue a career in that area. She talks over the opening lines of several of the songs, and her quips between the songs range from entertaining to inane, to.... well, I'm not sure what to call the moment when she opines that there was "quite a dispute" over how to categorize Simon and Garfunkel's music. 

The first 56 minutes here contain her entire shift from May 14, 1969, while the remaining 11 minutes are from two days later, May 16, 1969

Download: "The Coffee Break Show" - WRBU, 610, Peoria, May, 1969

Play:  

~~

And now for something completely different. I was extremely happy to line up a paper reel (i.e. a commercially sold recording tape from prior to about 1952, with paper backing to the recording surface, rather than paper), and find that each side featured a birthday celebration for a member of The Smith Family of Connecticut. 

What's more, one family member took it upon himself to be the Master of Ceremonies for the recording, and managed to keep the recording interesting throughout by interviewing various family members, offering up commentary, and generally speaking, maintaining the event as a sort of presentation. 

On one side of the tape is the celebration of the birthday of a man who (as becomes more clear on the other side) was named Senator Joe Smith, of Connecticut. I have done a fairly deep dive, but am unable to find out who this Joe (or, most certainly Joseph) Smith was. There was a Representative Joe Smith of Connecticut, who also had several other political positions, but he was, according to Wikipedia, born in America, while the man honored here was clearly - based on his accent - an immigrant. I suspect he was a state senator some time in the 1940's, a position not likely to have a huge footprint on the internet. 

Regardless of all that, here he is fĂȘted by family and friends on the first day of March, 1951, just a short 70 years ago or so. 

Download: Birthday Celebration for Senator Joe Smith of Connecticut - 3-1-51

Play:  

On the flip side is another birthday celebration, and while I've labeled it 1952, I'm not sure that's correct. The person being celebrated on his birthday is Norman Smith, Senator Smith's son, on his 21st birthday, and nearly the last thing heard on this side is a date, part of which is talked over, but at the end he definitely says "1952". 

On the other hand, during the Senator Smith celebration, it is mentioned that the Senator's son recently had a birthday, and is now an adult, and that his celebration is on the other side of the tape. So either this recording is actually from 1950, or this is a different son, and a different recording, than the one described on the other side. You listen, you decide! 

And if anyone can find Senator Joe Smith in the historical record, I will update this site with my thanks to you!

Download: Birthday Celebration for Norman Smith's 21st Birthday - 1952

Play:  

~~

Now I'm going to use an obscene phrase..... BULK ERASER.

This evil contraption has been the bane of my reel collecting pastime. If someone has an old tape, and he or she does not wish to simply record over the old material, a bulk eraser can be used to wipe the tape (nearly) clean of previous recordings before use. 

I have found many, many tapes where I can just make out enough to know what used to be on the tape, and how fascinating it would have been, if not for bulk erasers. I have actually seen auctions on eBay of batches of tantalizingly old reels, perhaps even with something intriguing written on them, only to be confronted with "tapes have been bulk erased before sale". NOOOOOOOOOO!

If I had unlimited genie wishes, one would be to banish all bulk erasers. 

Anyway, that's a set up for what you're about to hear. Bulk erasers, in my experience, do a poorer and poorer job of performing their task, the closer you get to the middle or hub of a reel of tape. So it is that I found a tape which, at one time, probably contained an entire broadcast of a 1959 pro football game, recorded at 1 7/8 IPS on a 2400 foot reel of tape -  a speed and length which would absolutely have fit the whole game (in fact, the flip side is recorded at the same speed, and has over four hours of material). 

What you will hear, below, is the portion that didn't get erased beyond listenability - essentially the first 30 minutes of the broadcast, which is largely the pre-game stuff, with only a bit of the game itself, which was on 11/20/59, and was between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. The recording starts out fairly strong and slowly but surely fades away into near silence - I have boosted the sound considerably, particularly at the end, where the actual sound was miniscule. 

Download: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears, November 20, 1959 (pre-game and short segment)

Play:  

~~

And finally, here's a very enjoyable "Very Short Reel", a 140 second blast of sound promoting a radio voice over/commercial spokeswoman talent named Florence Brown, extolling her "Compelling, Selling Touch". 

Download: The Compelling, Selling, Florence Brown Touch

Play: 

And here is the box for that tape!



Sunday, August 15, 2021

Boy Scouting in a Canadian Winter, An "American Idol" of the '60's, The Return of Australian Shortwave and Much More!

Hello, Hello, Hello!

Before I get to this week's offerings, I want to share a link which is very much overdue. One of my most frequent commenters goes by "Oldradios90", and three months ago, Oldradios shared, in the comments, that he or she had started a new, similar project to this one, capturing old audio from reel to reel tapes and other sources, on Archive.org. As of today, there are 46 items uploaded, including such things as: 

A Sailor's Message to His Family, 1945

 A Half Hour of Baltimore TV, 1958

A Talk on Cattle Feed and Disease

Football Game and Singing, 1961

As you can see, the items are just as varied and esoteric as those I've been sharing here. I want to take a deeper dive into the site, and encourage you to do the same. This looks like a great collection. 

I have shared the site in the links, to the right, but I'll also link it in this post. The site is found here

As a side note, OldRadios90 pointed out that last week's "very short reel" did not contain ads for Kodak cameras, despite what it said on the tape box, but for a competitor's product!

~~

Aside from making sure I left time for that explanation and link, I am, as I expressed on my other site, short of time in August, due to work demands that crop up this time of year, so my comments will be quite short. 

To start, here's a neat tape containing a recording of three boys describing (with the help of an adult) their adventures on a Boy Scout camping trip, during the no-doubt freezing Saskatchewan winter, in some unknown year many decades ago. 

The beginning of this tape was erased by other, less interesting material, so it begins mid thought...: 

Download:  Roy, Kenny, Bob and Ronnie Discuss Their Boy Scout Adventures In Winter in Saskatchewan

Play:

~~

Next up, here's an ancestor of shows like "Star Search" and "American Idol", a 20 minute segment of a program titled "Talent Scouts", from the summer of 1962, possibly August 28th. 

I should add that, unlike the shows mentioned, this was not a competition, and the performers were selected in advance due to having previously been discovered, and were being given, in many cases, their first national exposure. 

Download: Talent Scouts - Jim Backus, Harry Belafonte and Valentine Pringle

Play:

~~

Next up, here's an example of a type of tape that I come across fairly often, but rarely share. This is the genre of amateur musicians making a tape of themselves going through their repertoire. In this case, it's an unlabeled tape featuring an organist and a vocalist - two people or one, I don't know, but I would guess the former. Here's 22 minutes or so of R & B, Pop and Country hits from the mid '50's through the mid '60's. 

This tape starts as you'll hear it here, mid-song. 

Download: Unknown - An Organist and a Vocalist

Play:

~~

And here, for the first time in quite awhile, is another of the many tapes I manage to accrue, featuring mid 1970's shortwave broadcasts of "Australian Mailbag". This one, as becomes clear quickly, was recorded within days or weeks of Gerald Ford becoming president, meaning it's likely from August of 1974, but possibly (although unlikely) as late as September of that year. 

Download: Australian Mailbag - August or September, 1974

Play:

~~

And now it's time for our "Acetate of the Month". I made this MP3 quite a few years ago, and can't currently find the disc in question, so I'm not sure how I knew the possible station or date, but the file is titled "Possibly WGBW - Political Commentary - Possibly 3-20-40". It's certainly from a station in Louisiana, and, on side one, concerns some troubles the Governor of a nearby state was finding himself in, while on the flip side (which plays with a few skips, and far more surface noise), the speaker comments on a certain bill then being considered in Congress. 

Download: Possibly WGBW - Political Commentary - Possibly 3-20-40

Play:

~~

And finally, for this week's "Very Short Reel", here is an ad for Carling Black Label Beer, dated April, 1971. 

Download: Carling Black Label Beer Ad, April 1971

Play:

Here is the letter that accompanied that tape, when it went to the radio station: 



Saturday, July 31, 2021

"Shut Up and Listen", a Few Country Tunes, the Newest in Cameras and More!

This is an intensely busy moment in my work life, but I really wanted to get a post up this weekend, so I am doing so, but my comments will be uncharacteristically brief. And as an aside, the Acetate of the Month will return in the next post. I'm just out of time....

~~

The big feature here - at least from my viewpoint - is a favorite tape of mine which someone made during the great Chicago snowstorm of January, 1979. 

Here we have just over an hour and a half of a radio talk show/call in show, as heard on WNUR Radio, which was and is the radio station for Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. 

I was 18 when this show aired, and if I'd known there was a show that sounded like this - free form, incredibly loose hosts, silliness and everything else you'll hear here, I would have made a point to tune in as often as possible. There should be more radio - a lot more - like this. I find this endlessly entertaining, almost intoxicatingly so. 

By the way, in the final minutes of this tape, the dreaded tape squeal comes in, at times with a vengeance. Nothing I did - including baking the tape twice, cured this reel of that issue. The last several minutes are rather hard to listen to, as a result.  

Download - "Shut Up and Listen" - WNUR, Evanston, January, 1979

Play:

~~

Next, here's a tape featuring just a few minutes from a Country Music station. There's some dreamy guitar, then an odd Spade Cooley offering. There's some DJ patter, followed by Skeeter Davis with the # 10 hit of the week (nicely dating this to 1961), more DJ, and finally, a country singer named Johnny Mathis (not that other one), with a song I've always enjoyed (although this version was new to me.

Download: Brief Excerpt from a Country Music Station, 1961

Play: 

~~

Next, here's the sort of tape which will ALWAYS resonate with me. It's a few kids, just having fun with the tape recorder. In the first segment, they try to sing a religious song without cracking up, without success, Then there is a lengthy segment in which one of the kids pretends to be a reporter at Grand Central Station, interviewing kids (played by the others who are present) who are going to ride on the trains. After a very young child sings a few songs, we have an NBC news parody, with "Chet Winkley", complete with commercial parody, as well. 

Download: Various Kids - Media Parodies, Songs, Etc., Early 1960's

Play:

~~

And finally, here is our "Very Short Reel" for the week. Here we have the recording of the voice-over for two television ads for new Kodak Instamatic Cameras, complete with recording studio intro and noises. It's amazing what one can do with cameras these days!

Download: Two Kodak Ads

Play:



Sunday, July 11, 2021

Life in the Eisenhower Years: Sports, Slumber Parties, Live from Riverview, and Making Fun of the Hits

Howdy, y'all, 

I have a nice little collection of obscurities for you today. And after I selected them, I realized that they all fall within a very specific period: 1953-1960, nearly an exact overlap with the Eisenhower years. I'm not sure what that means, aside from something I already knew, which is that I'm particularly fascinated with recording made in the years before I was born. But I selected them because they are each wonderful in their own ways. 

To start, a tape of a grown man being completely silly. And I don't know who this guy is, but I love him. I have an image of "the Man of the House" in the 1950's, and it isn't this guy. He's not afraid to be ridiculous. I'm not sure if he was trying to amuse his grade school children (who are heard elsewhere on the tape, in less interesting segments), or just amuse himself, or what, but I have rarely come across a tape in recent months that I've adored as much as I do this one. And I'll say this right off - your mileage may vary - I could see this tape annoying the hell out of a person who is not like me. 

Basically, and for the most part, the gentleman in question is simply interacting with the radio, talking back to the announcer, making fun of the songs played, sometimes with satiric asides or comebacks, but just as often with wordless noisemaking. And it's not just the hits - classical music and quiet pop also get razzed - even the newscaster doesn't escape his playing. At one point near the end, he simply sings listing from TV guide over a rendition of "I've Got You Under My Skin". One of his kids joins in a few times, too. 

I am indebted to Brian B., who popped up in my e-mail, out of the blue, back in March, and offered to donate a stack of 1950's reels to me, for my perusal and possible use. Other tapes from Brian will be featured in the future - I've listened to three of them - but this was killer segment, and like I said, one that I couldn't wait to share. 

I love this guy. 

Download: Unknown - Singing Along with the Radio in 1958

Play:  

~~

Shooting back a half-decade, we head to Riverview Amusement Park, which was the place to be for teens and young adults in Chicago, right up to it's closure following the 1967 season. 

Apparently, the mighty WGN radio, which was conveniently located about six blocks from Riverview, had a regular remote broadcast from the park in 1953, and a then-newcomer to the station, Buddy Black, hosted that half-hour broadcast. 

This is another in the series of tapes that I've owned for decades, which I've started revisiting in recent months, and it's another of my favorites. There is a cornucopia of pre-rock 1950's feeling to this reel, from the songs played to the interaction between the host and his friend, to the interviews with attendees. 

Download: Buddy Black at Riverview Park, WGN, 1953

Play:  

~~

Now let's head right back into 1958. 

Clif Mercer (and that is how he spelled his name) was a mainstay in Chicago radio for somewhere around 25-30 years, mostly at WGN, and later, briefly, at WJJD when it was a big band oldies station. He also worked at WGN TV and did everything from news to commercials to DJing. 

He is said to have been a fairly wonderful person. That said, I always wondered, from the first time I heard him, how he ever ended up trying to make it in radio, and once he did, how he succeeded. My mother had the same reaction, as did most of the radio-heads that I knew when Mr. Mercer was still on the air. 

Because, as you'll hear, while Clif Mercer had a lovely, deep and authoritative-toned voice, he also a prominent lisp. One that would, I would think, preclude entry into the field of on-air broadcasting, let alone a 25 year plus career. 

I have several recordings of Clif Mercer, the best two of which I've been wholly unable to put my hands on, since starting this project. Many, many thanks to my best pal Stu, who sent me a digitization of a segment from 1958, featuring a Clif Mercer sports report, that I believe I sent him some time in the early 1990's. Now you can enjoy the dulcet tones of Mr. Mercer, too. 

Download: Clif Mercer - WGN Sports Report, May, 1958

Play:  

~~

And here's a discovery! Would you like to eavesdrop on a slumber party from 1960? Our host set up her reel to reel machine, and for part of this recording, her pals knew it was on, and at other times, it seems to be a surprise to them, particularly the last few minutes when they talk a bit more openly about certain things. 

The sound quality goes up and down here, and there are sections where nothing of very much interest goes on, but the overall tape is interesting to me in its one-of-a-kindness and just that "fly on the wall" aspect that makes, for example, the Beatles "get back" rehearsal tapes (50+ hours of them available on bootleg) so fascinating for some of us. Just to hear people being themselves when they are not conscious of being recorded and don't expect anyone else to hear large sections of it. 

They talk about school (a lot), boys, things they've been doing, etc. - there's even a few moments when they discuss (with someone's father present for a moment) what food to order. 

We're in (or near) Chicago, and the radio gets turned on in the last quarter of the recording. I'm assuming it's WJJD, which was a top 40 station at the time, as this is clearly the winter of 1960, based on the songs played, and WLS didn't flip to Top 40 until May of that year. 

Download: A Chicago Area Slumber Party, Winter 1960

Play:  

~~

For our "Very Short Reel", I've selected two items today, and they're from two sides of the same tape. The first is just under 100 seconds worth of an interview, at Bell Island in Canada, and a then-new ferry called "The John Guy". Since the ferry began its work in 1960, I'm guessing that's about when this is from. 

If you want to read about Bell Island, you can find that here. If you want to see a picture of The John Guy, that's here

Download: Brief Interview About "The John Guy" on Bell Island, circa 1960

Play:  

~~

Finally, on the flip side of that tape, is a series of short ads, which clearly date from the same era, just based on the sound of them (and that they're on the same tape). 

This is not actually three ads, but three recordings of the exact same ad. That's the way they're heard on the tape, as indicated on the box (below), and that's what I've provided here for you. The ad is for"Terra Nova Motors", which, like Bell Island, was and is in the vicinity of Newfoundland and Labrador, in Canada, where the dealership has been located since 1930. 

Like the guy who makes fun of the radio at the top of this post, I simply love this little ad. Those tight sixth and seventh chords in the final section are intoxicating to me - like manna from heaven

Download: Terra Nova Motors - 3 Jingles - "All Same"

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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

What's "In the Bag"?, Greetings from Germany, A Few Moments on WLS and More


Helloooo.....

What a cornucopia of sounds I have for you today, all of them seemingly from about 1958 to about 1969. 

First up, another of my "old favorites", the reels I filed away, in some cases decades ago, before I started sharing things online, but which I believe to be very much worth sharing. 

In this case, it's an impossibly rare recording of (most of) a local Chicago TV attempt at a game show along the lines of "What's My Line?" and "I've Got a Secret". I've owned this tape for about 30 years, I think. 

As far as I can tell, "In the Bag", only existed as a pilot episode, and a video of it exists in at least one library of such ephemera. The sites I read didn't seem to indicate that the show ever aired, but it clearly did, as you can hear a promo for another June, 1958, show at the end. 

Anyway, if you want to hear the results of someone taking the genius of "What's My Line" and making it stupider, especially when you throw in the always ridiculous Irv Kupcinet for flavoring, you are bound to get a great deal of enjoyment out of "In the Bag". 

The start of this tape is a bit confusing - we hear the tail end of "In the Bag", followed by a bit of a promo for "What's My Line", another promo and part of a commercial. Then we miss the start of the actual episode, and jump into the episode which is already under way, with celebrity guest Jimmy Durante, who's secret is guessed right away - probably not what they'd hoped for when they involved so great a star....

Download: "In the Bag" - CBS, Chicago, June, 1958

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Next, as a bit of a sequel to last week's lengthier WLS excerpts, here is a sort of medley of two bits of the same WLS, about seven years later. This comes from a longer tape which unfortunately - and like a lot of radio tapes - features only the songs, with the DJ banter, commercials and other items heard on the station edited out. Undoubtedly, our (teen?) recordist only wanted the song, which is usually the case. As everyone out there has probably heard (or doesn't want to hear) the songs of 1969 as the sounded over AM radio, minus all the "fun" stuff, I didn't share the entire reel.

But two segments on the tape have a bit of the whole story. The first part is from early 1969, and features, primarily, a newscast, while the second segment, after the fade, is from later that same year: 

Download: WLS, Chicago, 1969, News and Top 40

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Now... at some point, I seem to have purchased the audio letter holdings of someone named Larry - you can catch his last name on the tape, I think. I have at least six or seven audio letters that he received, from multiple people, during the 1960's, and I may have already featured one before. 

At least three of them are from an audio correspondent in Germany, and it's at least somewhat likely that they never actually met. I should explain that, starting in the 1950's, a mailing list (perhaps even a magazine) was developed that contained the names and addresses of people all over the world who wanted to be "reel pals", a la the pen pals of the old days. I don't know exactly how this worked, but perhaps each person's interests were listed - and languages - so that you could pick an appropriate person to send your three inch audio letter to. 

I'm pretty sure Larry was one of those recipients. And so, from late August of 1963, here's an audio letter - which also features some appropriate music - from Germany to Larry. 

(Incidentally, I believe the microphone test at the start of the tape was recorded later, perhaps by Larry himself, but I left it on, because it was there.) 

Download: Audio Letter from Germany to Larry - 8/31/63

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Another recent addition to this site, by request, is the "Acetate of the Month". And today I have one that can only come from a point at which recording acetates were on the way out. 

I would put money on it that this brief, unlabeled recording, which almost certainly comes from 1964 or so, was made at a booth at a store, or an event such as The World's Fair, because home acetate machines were simply no longer a thing in the mid 1960's. And I personally have memories of those "store acetate booths", which remained a thing into at least the late 1960's. 

Anyway, this is a charming, if quite short, performance (appropriately, it's 64 seconds long) of "I Saw Her Standing There", by a group of kids who are clearly having a good time. 

Download: Kids Sing "I Saw Her Standing There"

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And finally, as part of yet another series, here is our "Very Short Reel" for today. As you can see, it's labeled "Guided Missile Effects" on the three inch box: 


As I didn't actually have the box in front of me when I saved the digital version of this tape's contents, I attached a simpler title: "A Series of Explosions". And here it is!

Download: A Series of Explosions

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