Monday, November 6, 2017

"The Jeff Martin Case", and More!

I have three unrelated tapes today, shared with the hope that you'll find something of interest in at least one of them.

The first one presents more than a bit of a mystery. Several years ago, I acquired an ancient Concertone reel to reel tape machine - the same model as the one my father had bought way back in 1952, and which I've spoken about before. My brother and I hoped - and were rewarded in this - that it would work, and would more accurately and effectively play our beloved 1950's reels in the half-track mono in which they'd been recorded.

The owner of the machine - a man in his 80's - also donated to me all of his tapes, well over 100 of them. These proved to largely contain recordings of the local classical music organizations, of which he was a sometime member. These tapes have provided some interesting listening from time to time, but nothing I'd be likely to share here.

The outlier was a tape in a truly ancient Scotch box, labeled "old tape", and with a note that indicated it would only play correctly on the Concertone. The first item in our playlist today is the 17 minutes or so which are recorded on that tape. This seems to be a radio drama, perhaps titled "The Story Behind the Headlines", in this case, an episode about The Jeff Martin Case. The recording quality is quite good, and certainly doesn't sound like an over-the-air recording, so this may have been a studio reel.

But I can find no record of this show ever existing, and, sadly, the entire show is not contained on the tape - it ends with a teaser about more information yet to come. But what's there is certainly entertaining and sort of fascinating.

Download: The Story Behind the Headlines - The Jeff Martin Case

Next up, here are the 14 minutes that make up a tape simply labeled "Northrop Sounds", starting with the track "Space Mice", followed soon after by "Earthquake Ernie", and then moving on into other equally interesting sounds. Before playing it, I'd assumed this tape came from the Northrop Corporation, but very little, if anything, heard here seems related to the manufacturing of aircraft.

Download: Northrop Sounds

And finally, just a reminder. Check your phone book.

I mean it. Check your damn phone book. Maybe then he'll shut up.

Download: Check Your Phone Book

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Long John Nebel on WOR Radio

A couple of months ago, I posted a slide show narration about historic New Jersey, and mentioned in passing that the remainder of the tape contains multiple segments of broadcasts by a New York radio character named Long John. I received multiple responses to share this part of the tape, and am honoring those requests today.

Rather than blather on about the contents here (not because I don't love doing so, but because time is short this month), I'll just offer this up. You can read about Long John Nebel here. Based on that article, and since these recordings are from WOR, we can assume these were taped no later than 1962.

I will say that the main reason I did not initially plan on sharing this tape is that part of it features terrible sound quality. The first several minutes are nearly unlistenable, and the rest features an annoying hum. But don't be thrown by the quality at the start - it does improve, right about the 13 minute mark. Oh, and there seem to be segments of at least episodes heard here.


Download: Long John - WOR Radio Excerpts

For those who are interested, there are many more Long John broadcasts housed here.

Monday, October 2, 2017

A Paper Reel, Featuring an Exceptionally Rare Recording

I'm always excited when I can get my hands on a reel of tape from the paper-backed tape era. When I see that listed on a box (or, in this case, see it when I open the container), I know that the person who used this tape bought it either in the late 1940's or very early 1950's, when the format was phased out in favor of the more robust tape with (a variety of) plastic backings. I anticipate a recording which could be anywhere from 65 to nearly 70 years old, quite possibly a home or media recording. 
And this tape did not disappoint. The side of the box (not reproduced here) notes that the initial recordings made on this tape were from 1949, so that dates the purchase to at least that point. And the back of the box, seen below, show that the tape was used again to record something called "Town Hall", as well as someone named Elmer Davis (most likely this news reporter). I have little doubt I'd have preferred those recordings to what we now have, but even the existing recording is something unique, and compelling in its own way.
For the owner of this tape decided, on October 11, 1953, to record an episode of an apparently short-lived, Sunday afternoon network radio show, from NBC, titled "The Golden Treasury".  I can find almost nothing about this show online, except for some newspaper radio guide listings (from a site which requires payment to view the material, and a single item on a Jimmy Stewart-related website, which you can find here.
If the information on that site is correct, there may only be two recordings of this show in existence, one housed in the Library of Congress, from one week before this episode, and, now, this episode.
There is a moment of a news report, then the show begins. All that said, it's not the most riveting recording you've ever heard. The person recording it had trouble with the speeds he was using, and apparently, with keeping it going, leading to some odd sounds. This is disorienting and hard to listen to, but it passes within the first couple of minutes. Also, the sound is iffy in places, with a lot of white noise - which I've found to be common to paper reels. And the show is... well, let's just say I'm not surprised it doesn't seem to have lasted very long.
But that this tape exists at all is remarkable. Here is a show which aired briefly, on Sunday afternoon radio, captured on a soon to be eliminated form of reel tape, and recorded by someone who decided it was good enough to keep. A big thank you to that person.
Incidentally, for those who might wonder why the owner of this tape continued to reuse and reuse it - please notice the price tag on the front cover of the box.  That which cost $3.50 in 1949 dollars - a tape capable of recording 30 minutes a side, at the lowest speed typically used in those days -  cost more than $35.00 in today's money.
Also, I have received multiple requests for the radio tape I mentioned a month or so ago, from WOR in the late '50's/early '60's. As soon as I re-locate that tape, I will digitize it and get it up on this site, hopefully for the next post.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Audio Diary of a Retired Mailman, 1989-1990

Just within the past month, I stumbled upon this marvelous tape recording, a tape which is utterly unique among all of those I have in my fairly vast collection. I've never heard anything quite like it on any other reel.

It features an elderly man, a retired postal worker, offering up his thoughts into the microphone, not for anyone in particular, but for posterity. It's clear from listening to this, that this was one of a series of tapes he had made (and presumably, continued to make). I wish that I had more of them (it is, in fact, possible that I have one or more other tapes from this gentleman, given the chaotic nature of my arrangement of tapes in the basement).

The man's name is Bob Hoppe, or Hoppy or Hoppie, or Happe, or something. Even though he gives his age a couple of times, makes it clear that he had lived in Aurora, Illinois, for years, and speaks multiple times of having been a mailman, I cannot find any record of him online, even an obituary. Those have sometimes proven fairly easy to locate, even from 30 years ago, so maybe I'm spelling his name wrong. If any of you want to take it upon yourself to figure this one out, by all means, please do!

These audio diary entries could not be more everyday, life-passing-by sort of things, and I find it just that much more endearing and fascinating as a result. His tone is a mix of upbeat, and can-you-believe-it, and "well, whattaya gonna do about it", and he starts every entry with a hello and a 'bye, as if he was talking to someone. But that doesn't actually seem to be the case (except that he makes it clear that he sometimes listens to the tapes himself).

The entries are chronological, as would be expected on a tape, except for two early ones, which are reversed in date - he quickly explains what happened. It's mostly just Bob narrating his life, but there is a bit of a broadcast of a St. Patrick's Day parade at the end of side one and start of side two (featuring Tom Skilling, who is still at WGN, nearly 30 years later), and near the end of side two, there is a segment recorded at what seems to be a party of some sort, not explained.

(One more thing - this tape was falling apart - the backing was rubbing off on my heads, and I will never play it again. I had to clean the heads three times between copying parts of it into my computer. The tape whined while going through the machine, which accounts for the metallic sound you'll hear throughout. There is a way to "bake" these 1980's reels, which are notorious for losing their coating and squealing across heads and rollers. The process fixes them, at least temporarily, but I don't have the equipment to do so.)

I hope you find this as enjoyable - as captivating - as I do.

Download: Bob Hoppe's Audio Diary, 1989-1990, Side One

Download: Bob Hoppe's Audio Diary, 1989-1990, Side Two

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Travelogue Through Historic New Jersey

I've had several requests to post more of the "slide show narration" tapes that I've come across. I will have to do more searching to find the remaining ones that I own, as I don't always remember to label things well, but just by chance I came across this extensively researched, fairly professional sounding narration of a slide show, one which is largely focused on historic locations found in New Jersey.

I am dating this to some time in the 1950's or very early 1960's, as the remainder of the tape has poorly recorded segments of someone called Long John on WOR in New York, a position that host (who sounds very interesting) left in 1962. I can share those recordings, too, if anyone is interested.

I hope you can picture the images in your head while the narrator takes you on tour!

Download: Unknown - A New Jersey Travelogue

Monday, August 7, 2017

Australia, A Private Phone Call and Bill Cosby - Who Could Ask For More!!!

Well, private life and work have both been fairly overwhelming these last few weeks - not necessarily in a bad way, but far too much for me to do what it takes to post here as often as I'd like.

To make up for that, here's another three for the price of one posting, three utterly unrelated bits of tape from the collection.

Up first, it's another piece of Shortwave recording of an Australian radio program. A fellow in Maine was in the habit of recording these shows, and at some point, part (or all) of his collection fell into my hands. I've posted two of these tapes before, which you can find here. Like the more recent of those two posts, this one features an episode of "Listener's Mailbag", which, as I said in February of last year, just fascinates me. It's comments from the US regarding Radio Australia and many other related things, with comments and answers from the host. When I shared another episode, I made this comment: "I find this a charming concept and effort, the likes of which have been completely lost in our modern world."

Download: More Shortwave From Australia

Next up, here's something which could not be more mundane - a phone call from one home to another. For whatever reason, the caller chose to record this call. I have found a small number of these over the years, but typically there is something of importance about the call, either with regard to the circumstances of the call or some situation needing discussion. That doesn't seem to be the case here - just two friends (or perhaps more than friends) having an eight minute phone conversation. The amateur sociologist in me (which, admittedly, is probably what drives a lot of my reel collecting) finds this sort of thing captivating.

You should also be aware that there is extensive dialing and operator interaction over the first third of this 12 minute tape. The caller make several failed attempts to reach his other party, then tries the operator - the actual call doesn't start until nearly the four minute mark.

Download: John and Irene - A Phone Call

Finally, here's a bit of 1960's radio history that I'd never read about - not surprising, as it may not have lasted very long. Here is a site (the owner of which no longer seems to be involved with it) which has a bit of information about the show. Bill Cosby produced a radio show, circa 1967, featuring short comedic sketches. The following episode was found in the midst of a short tape tape of various recordings of Chicago top 40 radio stations. It's a cute little bit of dry radio humor, and very much has the tone (although not the focus) of Cosby's mid-'60's albums.

Download: Bill Cosby - The Bill Cosby Radio Show

I hope you found something to enjoy here, in this cornucopia of sounds.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Party in 1959

Today, for your dining and dancing pleasure, an hour or so of tape to help you imagine that you are at a party, probably involving mostly young people - although there are certainly adults present, as well - in what I'm guessing was 1959.

The tape is dominated by the records chosen to be played nearly throughout, records which largely come from the mid to late 1950's, with none, as far as I heard, which came from after 1959, hence the date. But there are some other sounds here - conversations, shouts, laughs, etc., to reward those who choose to listen all the way through. (By the way, the loud noise heard at the start ends within the first 30 seconds.)

So sit back, pretend you have a houseful of teenagers, imagine that we have an actual President in Washington (Eisenhower, in this case), and that none of these young people are going to know what hit them, when the next 5-7 years are done with them.

Download: A Party in 1959