Site hosted by Build your free website today!
SITEMAP (click here)

The Top Shows!

Bill's Favorite Old Time Radio Shows

Programs are listed on separate pages alphabetically.  (Click here for shortcut to program index.)

The Networks:

NBC (National Broadcasting Company):

Former home of NBC was at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street in Los Angeles.  We are looking north in the picture. Radio City West, as it was called, was razed in the mid 1960s.  The site has been occupied by a bank for the past 35 years.  An interesting note of interest: See the neon sign in the upper middle of the picture "The Broadway Hollywood?"  Well, the chain went out of business in the late 1990s and taken over by RH Macy and Company (of New York Thanksgiving Day Parade fame).  However, if you look from the same spot today, you'll still see the Broadway sign.  I know nothing about the bowling alley.  NBC's first home in Hollywood was the RKO Movie Studios located off Melrose Avenue, near Vinc Street (behind the present Musicians' Union complex; there is still a movie studio on the site.)

Began in November 1926.  Original flagship station was WEAF in New York City (to become WNBC in November 1946).  Shortly after its onset, NBC became two networks: the Red Network and the Blue Network.  Eventually, there would also be a short-lived Orange Network, which would become the Pacific Network in the early 1930s.  Because of the sparsity of broadcasting stations west of the Mississippi River, NBC offered a combined schedule of both original networks for Western listeners.  By the mid 1930s, these two networks were heard throughout the country.  In 1943, the government forced NBC to sell one of its networks.  The Blue Network was sold to Edward Noble, who made much of his fortune with LifeSavers candy, and became the American Broadcasting Company. NBC continued strong, even after the Golden Days of Radio were over.  In 1985, its original parent, RCA was sold to and absorbed by General Electric, which wanted out of the radio broadcasting business and did so in 1989 by selling the radio network to Westwood OneNBC Radio merged with MutualWestwood One purchased CBS Radio in 1998. NBC Radio went out of business in early 1998, along with Mutual.

Interesting trivial fact: NBC owned its own radio stations in New York, Chicago, Washington, and San Francisco, but never owned one in Los Angeles.

An early CBS microphone

KNX Columbia Square in 1937.  It would have its grand opening in April 1938.

CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System):

Began in September 1927 by William S. Paley, Jr., a cigar tycoon.  It was a merger between two struggling networks, the Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting Company and United Independent Broadcasters.  Its original flagship station was WOR in New York City.  It was replaced in December 1928 by WABC (has been WCBS since November 1946, just in case listeners had this station and the ABC network confused).  Since CBS was only network, some folks jokingly referred to it as the Purple Network (the combining of red and blue).  It was also the color of the transmission wire used by the telephone company.  CBS was purchased by Westinghouse in 1994 (hence, some former Westinghouse-owned NBC-TV affiliates realigned with CBS, such as KYW-TV in Philadelphia). CBS Radio was purchased by Westwood One in 1998.  The network owned stations were acquired by Infinity Broadcasting, which is partially owned by Viacom, which owns the CBS (Television) Network. Click here to listen to how CBS identified itself 40-50 years ago.  (This is a Windows WAV file.)

Simple Trivial Fact: The initials "CBS" have not officially stood for anything since 1974. This is when the name of the company was changed from the Columbia Broadcasting System to CBS, Inc.

Don Lee Broadcasting System:

Began in 1930 by Los Angeles Cadillac Dealer Don Lee as a clearinghouse for CBS programs for the West Coast.  By the mid 1930s, Lee began to handle Mutual programs instead.  CBS had plans for a state of the art broadcasting studio in Hollywood and the clearinghouse was not needed for CBS.  It was for Mutual.  That CBS broadcast studio became Columbia Square in 1938 and still houses radio stations KNX (AM), KCBS-FM, and KCBS-TV.  Don Lee's original Los Angeles station was KNX.  With KNX going to CBS, Don Lee's new station (in 1937) was KHJ, the oldest radio station in Los Angeles.  Besides radio, Don Lee was also very interested in the development of television.  He was responsible for the first public TV broadcast in Los Angeles in 1931 (W6XAO, channel one).  The Don Lee Broadcasting System was sold to the General Tire Company in the early 1950s, which also purchased RKO Radio Pictures (the company, not the studio).  RKO General (which also owned broadcasting interests in Boston, New York, and Memphis) was active in Los Angeles television until 1989 when KHJ-TV was sold to the Walt Disney Company and became KCAL-TV. Walt Disney purchased the ABC Network in 1985.  ABC owns KABC-TV in Los Angeles, so to avoid a monopoly, KCAL-TV was sold to the Young Broadcasting Company.  (Consequently, they don't show very many cartoons anymore.  Too bad!)

Important Trivial Fact: The oldest television station west of the Mississippi River is not KTLA, Channel 5, in Los Angeles.  KTLA had the first commercial license.  The oldest television station in Los Angeles is KCBS-TV, Channel 2.  Channel 5 began as W6XYZ, channel 4, in 1940 and became KTLA, channel 5, in 1947.  W6XAO became KTSL, channel 2, in 1949.  After a couple of trades, it would become KNXT, channel 2, and Don Lee would acquire KFI-TV, channel 9, from (another car dealer) Earl C. Anthony; it would become KHJ-TV.  The first CBS television station in Los Angeles was KTTV, channel 11, whose first owner was the Los Angeles Times.  KCBS-TV in Los Angeles has a similar dilemma to its similarly named AM radio counterpart in San Francisco (KCBS).  In 1909, Charles Herrold began a broadcast station in San Jose which would eventually have the call letters, KQW.  For years, based in San Jose, it was a Christian broadcasting outlet to the South San Francisco Bay area.  In 1949, the station was sold and moved 60 miles north to San Francisco.  With its purchase by the Columbia Broadcasting System, it replaced KSFO as the CBS radio affiliate for the area. So KCBS (AM) is the oldest broadcasting station presently on the air and KCBS-TV was the first television station west of the Mississippi River.  Check out the facts if you don't believe me!  (Or you can believe the propaganda!)

Mutual Broadcasting System:

Began in 1934, solely as an outlet to broadcast The Lone Ranger from Detroit station WXYZ.  Mutual never owned radio stations and its affiliates were very independent.  Just because a Mutual program was carried by a Mutual affiliate in Oklahoma was no reason to believe you would also hear it on WOR in New York.  Mutual called itself the world's largest broadcasting network because if one station in a city wouldn't broadcast a certain program, it might have been heard on another station in the same town.  While WOR was the primary Mutual affiliate in New York City, other stations, namely WMCA and WHN among others, also broadcast Mutual shows.  Mutual was a very poor network.  It didn't have a huge budget to acquire big name stars on a regular basis.  One of its most popular shows in the early 1950s was a program put on by a Roman Catholic priest in Hollywood called Family TheaterFamily Theater had the big name stars the network wanted.  But they weren't the same stars every week. Mutual was sold to the Amway Company in the 1970s and, after several trades, became the property of Westwood One.  For a great part of the 1990s, Westwood One owned Mutual, NBC, and CBS radio networks.  Mutual ceased to be in early 1998.

ABC (American Broadcasting Company):

Although on this list, it is the newest network, in reality it was part of the first broadcasting network, NBC.  From its start in 1943 until June 14, 1945, when it acquired new ownership, it continued to be known as the Blue Network.  Since that time, it has been on the cutting edge of broadcasting.  In the 1960s, it developed several different networks (mainly for the broadcast of news) based upon radio station format.  There was an American Contemporary Network, American Country Network, American Information Network, and so on.  Today the network is owned by Disney and the multiple network idea still persists with Radio Disney (geared for children), Stardust (adult standards), ESPN Radio (sports), the ABC Radio Network (general news), etc. ABC is presently the only radio network with a direct link to a television network.

Contrary to what I read on other websites, Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life was originally heard on ABC, not CBS!  (This ABC ad in a 1947 Saturday Evening Post proves it.)

AFRS (Armed Forces Radio Service)/

AFRTS (American Forces Radio and Television Service)

Almost all of the programs were rebroadcast overseas to military personnel on the Armed Forces Radio Service network (AFRS), and were broadcast during my service time in Berlin, Germany, on the American Forces Radio and Television Service network (AFRTS).  I was reintroduced to old time radio during my time I served in the Army in Berlin.  Some of the only commercial recordings available of these shows are military rebroadcasts.  Some programs were broadcast on AFRS and AFTRS for the sole listenership of military personnel (then).  Fortunately, many of these shows are also available commercially.  My sources tell me that they quit broadcasting the old radio shows to personnel stationed in Europe in 1994 (they were the last to hear them).  They continue to broadcast stateside news from all the commercial and noncommercial networks, live major sporting events (there is nothing like watching or hearing the Monday Night Football at 2 in the morning!), popular talkradio shows, and whatever the rest of the people back home enjoy hearing (with military "propaganda" [said with tongue in cheek] and public service announcements in place of commericials).  Formerly stationed in Los Angeles, then Norton Air Force Base, AFTRS now makes its home at March Air Force Base, about eight miles east of where I am writing this page, outside Riveside, California, closer to Moreno Valley.

Interesting personal historical trivial fact (count the adjectives!): When I was stationed in Berlin, I used to wake up to BFBS (British Forces Broadcasting Service), whose German headquarters were (and probably still are) in Bielefeld, Germany.  Unlike the Americans, who borrowed programs from civilian sources, the BFBS constructed all its own programming.  It was a very entertaining service.

Notes worth noting:

I regret that many of your favorite shows are missing from this list.  These are a few of my favorite series.  Many of my favorites are missing, too.  Some programs are missing from this list because of attitudes shown which may be considered a detriment.  The Cisco Kid is missing from this list because its sole purpose was to be a putdown to people from South of the Border (e-mail me with some good reasons why I should include it and I might have second thoughts!)  On the other hand, Amos 'n' Andy is here because of the opportunity it gave to black actors in the 1930s and 1940s. Life with Luigi is here because, although the accents are fake, the stories are heartwarming and do not put Italian people down.  Women had very few leading roles on radio in the old days, though most of the examples here are exceptional.  Veteran radio producer, director, and actor Elliott Lewis commented that if he had more than two women in a play that the audience would be confused because all women sound the same.  Maybe that's why radio actress Cathy Lewis became his ex-wife!

I have included two programs which probably would not have been heard by the general public during World War Two (Lord Haw-Haw and Zero Hour)These are propaganda broadcasts which were heard by servicemen stationed overseas, sent out by the enemy.  There are also a few programs which were to be heard exclusively by American GIs (military personnel).  Watch for these shows.

One thing to take note here for movie buffs: Several cinematic actors portrayed characters on radio they would never have done in front of the cameras.  Dramatic motion picture actors William Bendix and Ronald Colman starred in their own situation comedies (The Life of Riley and The Halls of Ivy).  Heavyweight Bill Conrad (seen later on TV's Cannon and Jake and the Fat Man) was lean, lanky U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke.

For you trivia fans, the last OTR programs to survive through to September 1962 were Suspense! and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.  Some non-drama programs lasted after that time, but  they were not considered in the same genre.

References to tobacco and alcohol products do not show an endorsement on my part.  I am merely showing the sponsors of the shows.  As you browse this list, do make a notice as to how important tobacco was to American culture not so long ago!

Some of the entries have weblinks.  Click on these to learn more than I could ever do in this short survey of OTR.  Please e-mail me if some of the information is wrong.  I apologize for earlier blunders.  I took a long time to correct everything on this list, using firsthand sources (the way they told us to do it in graduate school.)  I'll stand back now so you can scroll down and get lost in this wonderful page.  Enjoy!

Last updated and greatly expanded November 23, 2001