To The RadioGOLDINdex

This reference work must begin with two admissions, either of which usually dooms a database’s usefulness

1. It is out of date.

2. It is inaccurate.

Having said this, I hasten to add that as of this writing, it is the best of its kind. The study of radio programming from the start of the “broadcast era” (generally considered the November 2, 1920 election eve coverage by KDKA in Pittsburgh) to the end of the so-called “Golden Age” (I declare that to be September 30, 1962 when CBS radio ended the last two dramatic shows still on the air) is similar to the science of archeology. The researcher is forced to draw conclusions about a great many things from very little evidence. Radio existed long before those sporadic election results came from Pittsburgh. (Guglielmo Marconi is said to have made the first successful radio transmission in 1895). WHA in Madison, Wisconsin was among the several stations broadcasting before KDKA. Radio existed long after “Suspense” and “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar” went off the air. (Rumor has it there are still a few radio stations broadcasting even today.)

We are therefore, dealing with a continuum; a gradual evolution from a scientific experiment, to a practical means of point to point communication, to an amusing novelty, to a creative source of evening entertainment in the living room, to the news/information/recorded music service that has evolved today. As the audio archeologist digs through the sounds of radio’s past, it becomes apparent how little we know. I admit that I’ve turned up recordings of very few broadcasts that I can accurately date before 1930. That’s a whole decade of programming by hundreds of different stations, networks and performers of which little or nothing can be heard or is even known! Obviously this situation will improve as the study continues, but I suspect that decades from now, it will still be accurate to say, “how little we know!”

This knowledge vacuum leads to an attempt to organize what we do know and to standardize the way we know it. This is the first database of its kind, but it will not be the last. Previous efforts have been in several other categories;

1. Histories of broadcasting. The best example being Erik Barnouw’s trilogy beginning with “A Tower In Babel.”

2. Picture books about radio. These are essentially photo collections, such as “The Pictorial History Of Radio” by Irving Settel.

3. Program rosters and cast lists, These attempt to list the better known network shows and those who participated in them. “The Big Broadcast” by Frank Buxton and Bill Owen was the first and is still one of the best of this type

4. Program essay collections. The exhaustive “Tune In Yesterday” by John Dunning goes beyond cast lists, giving anecdotal histories of the better known shows.

There are other types of books and hybrids, all of which add to our knowledge of the subject. Most are genuine works of scholarship, involving considerable research and effort. Believe me, I know. This work is an attempt to fill two specific gaps in radio knowledge. 1. It tries to be a compilation of network programs, plus significant local and regional broadcasts. 2. It’s a list of the people who were involved in putting these programs on the air. I define “people” as those who received air credits (or should have received air credits) which were usually heard at the end of the show. To list the names of the station management, sales and engineering staff and all the other behind the scenes personnel at the larger stations and networks is beyond the scope of any database. Before the war, it was not uncommon for some stations in larger cities to have hundreds of employees. On the other hand, the entire Mutual network had about 75 people in 1967, including secretaries and mailroom personnel.

So why then, is this database both out of date and inaccurate? 1. It is an analysis of programs that are or were in my possession. There are many programs that have been located, sonically improved, recorded, catalogued and available for study. Discovery continues, books are being written and then revised, in fact, a whole army of amateur archeologists (don’t they have anything better to do?) supplies us with new information continuously. This, therefore is a work in progress. It was out of date the day it went onto the Internet.

The information is inaccurate not because I want it to be, nor because of sloppy scholarship, but because the information is still coming in, and some of it is going to be wrong. How do you determine when a network program started or stopped? You can check the newspapers and Radio Guide-type publications as a start. How do you handle that information when you find an original recording of a program clearly labeled as being broadcast a year after the show supposedly went off the air? What do you do when the program was heard locally in New York or Cleveland before it became a network show heard all over the country? What’s the date of the show’s last broadcast if it went off the network, ran just in Chicago for two years and then went into syndication around the country and was offered for sale to other radio stations for the next ten years (and then perhaps revived and resold a decade after that)? How do you determine the day of the week a show was on if it was heard on different days in different parts of the country! How can you tell its time of broadcast with four time zones, plus the delayed and repeat broadcasts? Who is the sponsor of the show if the product being advertised was different in varying parts of the country or changed from week to week! How do you spell the name of a performer whose name is mentioned on a program’s closing credits, but who wasn’t important enough to be mentioned in print anywhere? Is his name spelled Steven? Stephen? Stefan? Alan or Allen or Allan? William or Bill? Robert or Bob? Richard or Dick? What should Ira Grossel’s listing be since he was called Jeff Chandler for most of his career, except that one western series when he was billed as “Tex” Chandler? How do you handle Myron Wallace when he starts calling himself Mike Wallace, or when Connee Boswell becomes Connie Boswell? Is an actress’ name spelled Ann or Anne, is Gil Stratton the same actor as Gil Stratton, Jr.? And was Michael Ann Barrett a man or a woman?

It’s easy to ask the above questions; it’s a lot harder to answer them. Obviously, I’ve made decisions and compromises. Much time consuming research was necessary, some of it is bound to be wrong. That’s why this work contains inaccuracies. One final question: how do you spell a name or describe a program when two trusted sources disagree?

I encourage readers to help me correct the many errors to be found in this book, both with “program” information and with “people” spelling. Please have some form of documentation beyond “I've always spelled it that way,” or “the show is dated differently in the XYZ catalogue.” My fellow collectors may be as perplexed, stubborn and wrong as I am. I would be most appreciative of those with definite information, and offer them immortality in the “acknowledgments” section of future editions, as well as my gratitude.