Behind the Scenes of The Big Broadcast with Ed Walker and Rob Bamberger

Uploaded by usnationalarchives on 27.06.2012

David Ferriero: To flush out 1940 and its neighboring years,
we’re honored to have with us this evening, two of our favorite voices from WAMU, Ed Walker
and Rob Bamberger. Rob Bamberger’s interest in vintage jazz and swing began in 1963 at
the elementary school book fair in Shaker Heights, Ohio where he picked over the remainders
on the record table after the crowd had disbursed. There he found a two record set from the RCA
Victor of broadcast performances by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. That fateful acquisition,
which cost Bamberger a dime, launched a consuming and scholarly interest in American music of
the ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘40s. Rob came as a volunteer in 1978 and soon became host of
Hot Jazz Saturday Night. Like some of his WAMU colleagues, Rob has written the notes
for more than two dozen CDs on a wide range of themes and performers including the Boswell
Sisters, World War II Love Songs, Duke Ellington, Ina Ray Hutton, and the Ozzie Nelson Orchestra.
He’s given talks on the history of repertory jazz and jazz in Paris between the wars. Tonight
he’ll help us explore the world of the young man known as Ed Walker. As a child, Ed always
dreamed of a career of broadcasting. Listening to the radio was always very important to
him; and while attending American University, Walker was one of the founders of the campus
radio station which was called WAMU AM in 1951 before the present FM station. While
in college, Walker met Willard Scott who became his good friend and radio partner for 20 years,
calling themselves “the Joy Boys”. Walker has also worked at local stations WPGC, WMAL,
and WWRC. He worked in television at WJLA from 1975 to 1980, and News Channel 8 in the
early 1980s. Today Ed Walker’s the host of WAMU’s long running program, The Big
Broadcast. The show, just in case there’s someone in the room who hasn’t heard it,
features a collection of vintage radio programs from the ‘30s, ‘40s. and ‘50s, including
Gunsmoke, The Jack Benny Show, The Lone Ranger, Suspense, Fibber McGee and Molly, and Superman.
The Big Broadcast airs Sundays from 7 to 11 and has been the weekly feature on WAMU since
1964; and Ed has been at the mic since 1990. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Rob Bamberger
and Ed Walker.
Rob Bamberger: Alright Ed I want to set the scene for you
a little bit. Nobody showed.
Ed Walker: This is a, that applause is a record I think.
Rob Bamberger: No it’s a very sophisticated facility to
have a laugh track; the pause that can sweeten it if we’re not very funny, and it’s so
you should relax, say anything you want.
Ed Walker: Anything?
Rob Bamberger: We have behind you well first, it’s a great
pleasure to be included in this series and always for me to hang out with Ed, you know
he keeps me around on retainer and calls me and says, we have behind us on the screen,
a page from the 1940 census that describes the families living on Euclid Street in Washington
DC. Good, and, oh there we are. We’ve zeroed in on the Walker family. What was the address
Ed Walker: 1218 Euclid
Rob Bamberger: And we see Edward H. Walker who is age seven, and your sister
Ed Walker: Betty Joann, yeah.
Rob Bamberger: And your folks. I don’t know if I’ve ever
asked you about your family, your parents.
Ed Walker: Well my father we came out here because my
dad lost his railroad job in the depression, and he got a part time job or a temporary
job at the Railroad Retirement Board, 1936. He came out here for six months, and we never
went home. This became home; and he worked for the Office of Defense Transportation,
then he got out of the government and worked for the National Lumber Manufacturers Association;
and that’s pretty much the story.
Rob Bamberger: So, like you, a long and checkered employment
Ed Walker: Yeah, that’s right.
Rob Bamberger: And you mentioned that you lost your sister
within the last year.
Ed Walker: Within the last year, yeah. She was about
85 I think.
Rob Bamberger: And you recently, if I might as well spill
it all
Ed Walker: Yeah, might as tell everything. We have no
Rob Bamberger: Okay, you recently turned
Ed Walker: 80
Rob Bamberger: Wonderful.
Ed Walker: I can remember when I was a new kid on the
block, you know. No more.
Rob Bamberger: Yeah, there are certain transitions in life,
one that always made an impression on me was about turning 30 and when someone calls and
says, “Will you help me move to another apartment and return for pizza?” And I say,
“Hell no.”
Rob Bamberger: That’s when you know you’ve made one,
and then when people you wake up once and you realize you’re institutional memory,
which is why I like hanging out with you because you are institutional memory to institutional
memory. Makes me feel better.
I do want to thank National Archives staff member Connie Potter for locating Ed’s 1940
census record. The station keeps somebody around to go out and locate Ed when we need
Ed Walker: And I have no secrets at all.
Rob Bamberger: None whatsoever.
Ed Walker: I need to get in the witness protection program
I think.
Rob Bamberger: Well Ed you are always very straight forward
that the Big Broadcast for all of its many years on our station did not begin with you
but began with a man that we hear a great deal about, John Hickman.
Ed Walker: Yes
Rob Bamberger: Tell us a bit about the early
Ed Walker: Well John, I first knew John, I was doing
a program at WRC years ago called “Grand Dad’s Record Shop.” And I would play old
records; they were old then, they’re ancient now. I mean, this was songs out of the ‘20s
and stuff, and I did this old man’s voice, “Hi folks, how are you?”, talk like that,
which is now my regular voice. [laughter]
Rob Bamberger: You just use your young man’s voice the
rest of the time.
Ed Walker: So Hickman heard, he collected records among
other, for a teenager, he was a very interesting kid; and he came down to the station one afternoon
and brought me a Paul Whiteman record of Just a Memory, ’78, and that began it; and then
he started hanging around with Willard and me when we were doing the Joy Boys; and he
was working at WRC in the music library, and that station was celebrating its 40th anniversary.
They sent John up to New York and got into the, as John called it, the archives of sound
up there where they had all the air checks on discs, transcriptions; and that, he got
the bug after that he started collecting radio shows, and NBC gave all of their transcriptions
I believe to the Library of Congress. So, but you know, they had to make room for other
things; and so they’re still at the Library of Congress.
Rob Bamberger: Yeah, I remember at John’s memorial service
there was also a lot of talk about, I think John’s mother’s cooking?
Ed Walker: Oh, Mama Hickman, she made the best brownies
in the world. Now she never gave anybody the recipe, but she always remembered Willard’s
birthday, my birthday, Christmas, everything with a can full of those brownies which went
over very big at the radio station of course.
Rob Bamberger: Well you mentioned John catching a collecting
bug which is, can also be quite a curse. I remember something that our colleague and
friend, Dick Spottswood said to me many years ago when Dick was arranging to actually sell
a collection that can hardly be described of the 78 rpm recordings he had gathered over
the years, things that I never thought I would ever see some of these great rarities, and
I said to Dick in the foolishness of youth, “How can you possibly sell this collection?”
And he said, “Well you wake up one morning, and you realize that instead of keeping a
collection, the collection is keeping you.” And there was wisdom in that because there
comes a point when one can be very much overwhelmed by it.
Ed Walker: Yeah, well I had to get rid of my collection
when we moved, when we downsized, and it was like a part of my life going out the window,
but you have to do it.
Rob Bamberger: Absolutely. And it’s one of the great character
building exercises of my life not to go and look at your collection before you disposed
of it. I, you know you have to do things to keep
your marriage. So back there on Euclid Street, what was the role that radio played?
Ed Walker: Radio to me,
Rob Bamberger In your house.
Ed Walker: It was everything. I guess my mother and father
listened to it some too, but I had most of the time on the radio because I had, not seeing
I did not use comic books or funny papers or anything like that. So I enjoyed the Jack
Armstrong, and the Lone Ranger, Tom Mix, and all those shows; then I got interested in
comedians, and the soap operas which my mother listened to religiously, and housewives, mostly
stayed home in those days and that’s why the radio soap operas became so popular; and
the radio that I grew up with is now at WAMU and they’re going to show it off, and when
they move to the new studios, I think; but it was bought the year I was born.
Rob Bamberger: Is this a table or a
Ed Walker: A floor model RCA from 1932, and that’s
the way most people had it in their homes then. One radio, much as the early days of
television when everybody had one television set in the living room. In the old days, a
family would get together around the radio and look at the dial, you know. But it was
good; radio was great for me because it’s “the theater of the mind” as William M.
Robeson used to call it, and it is that. You can picture in your mind’s eye just about
anything or any description that you want, and with the technicians, the sound men and
everything made it live, they made it come alive. That was the secret of old time radio.
Rob Bamberger: And you were saying that one of the first
programs you recalled listening to was the National Barn Dance.
Ed Walker: Yeah. That was another one. That wasn’t
a dramatic show, but when I was about two years old, we lived in Illinois then, and
we used to listen on Saturday night to the National Barn Dance. It was on WLS in Chicago,
came out of the 8th Street Theater in Chicago, and they had a, you know, people were applauding
and everything, and when they’d do a number, there was somebody that would ring a cow bell,
and so my mother got me a little cow bell or something. I was dumb kid, I didn’t know
any better. So I’d ring that cow bell along with the
rest of them, you know.
Rob Bamberger: Well let’s take a listen to hear what you
were ringing it with. Here’s a little selection from the National Barn Dance.
[beginning of clip]
Male Speaker: Alka Seltser for headaches. Alka Seltzer for
acid indigestion. Alka Seltzer for muscular aches and pains. Ask your druggist for Alka
Male Speaker: Hello. Hello. Hello everybody everywhere.
How's mother and dad and the whole family? Well folks, that old harvest moon is shining
extra bright on the old red barn tonight, and for a very special reason. Yes, the Alka
Seltzer National Barn Dance Gang is celebrating it's 9th birthday. It's 470th happy hayloft
party from the old WLS hayloft in Chicago. So come right on in folks, and join our ninth
birthday, we're celebrating it with a harvest home party. Say, the old hayloft is going
to shine tonight, folks. We go back 470 barn dances, folks, to the first song sung for
the first time on your first hayloft party. The tune Fit as a Fiddle, the singers, Hezzie,
Kenny, Frank, and Billy, the Hoosier Hotshots. Are you ready? OK, lets go. (music) Fit as
a fiddle and ready for love, I can jump over the moon up above. Fit as a fiddle and ready
for love. I haven't a worry. I haven't a care, I feel like a feather that's floating on air.
Fit as a fiddle and ready for love.
Male Speaker: The general program
[end of clip]
Rob Bamberger: Okay, there we go.
Ed Walker: Jumped the gun.
Rob Bamberger: So you said the host of the program was
Ed Walker: Joe Kelly who later became the host of the
Quiz Kids Show; and when I was a kid, he did a morning show on WLS where he had a dressing
contest, he would look in his magic looking glass, the women, the girls would win one
day, the boys would win the next day. That’s the way radio was in those days.
Rob Bamberger: And that, the National Barn Dance was not
all really bucolic I
Ed Walker: No. The Dinning Sisters were on there, Henry
Burr, the dean of American ballad singers, Billy Murray was on there, Eddie Peabody,
and it was sort of a Midwestern Grand Old Opry, if you will, a little more sophisticated.
Rob Bamberger: You said that your mom listened to a program
that is conventionally tends to be described as an early soap opera, although you’ve
suggested that might be an entirely fair description of Clara, Lu and Em.
Ed Walker: Yeah, that was a, I think Martin and Marge
was probably the first real soap opera, but Clara, Lu and Em was out of Chicago. My mother
listened to that. It’s about three housewives and their daily problems, and they would just
talk a little bit; and it lasted for a long time, and this program was from the early
1930s and I believe it was on NBC.
Rob Bamberger: Yeah, apparently I looked it up, it started
out as a skit in a sorority house, the three women of Louise Starkey, Isabelle Carothers,
Helen King, and their friends encouraged them to try to get it on to WGN, and then as you
say it was picked up by NBC. We have an excerpt I guess from, actually a 1930 audition that
was prepared for it. Let’s see if we can catch that next.
[clip playing]
Male Speaker: So, let’s meet them now. The most humorous,
the most loveable trio that ever settled the nation’s problems. Here they are: Clara,
Lu, and Em.
[music playing]
Lu: Oh, dear. Ernest should have stayed home tonight.
We got something important we ought to talk over. I’m so ashamed of him.
Female Spear: Oh, dear. Why, Lu, I ain’t ever been ashamed
of Ernest.
Female Speaker: Oh, you have to.
Female Speaker: Why [unintelligible].
Female Speaker: Lots of times.
Female Speaker: Why, I have not. This is the first time.
Lu: I guess this is the first time you’ve ever
spoke right out about it.
Female Speaker: Well yes, Lu, that may be. But my stars! Just
as soon as she said she was so ashamed of Ernest, I wish you could have saw what come
up my mind. I always picture Ernest as being out of work and then turning down a perfectly
good job. I remember once, he could have been a streetcar conductor, but he never took it.
I had to stand up, you know, all the time he took the fares, and then another time --
Female Speaker: Oh my goodness. I never seen the beat of you,
girls. I was speaking in a laughing mode about being ashamed.
Female Speaker: [laughs] Oh well.
Female Speaker: If a person just says something in a laughing
mode and you pick it up and shake it. Really, Clara, I never seen the beat of you for bringing
out a person’s skeletons in their closets. You seem like you just step into my home and
open doors and skeletons falls out all over the house.
Clara: Well, yes. Well, that’s more or less because
I know you so good.
Female Speaker: Well, is there any interest in what I was
saying laughingly?
Female Speaker: Sure, let’s get back to Em’s joke. Come
on now, Em, crack your joke. [laughs]
Female Speaker: Oh, dear, I wasn’t go able to...
[end of clip]
Ed Walker: Boy that was, that wouldn’t make it today
I don’t think. But my mom thought it was terrific, you know?
Rob Bamberger: Well apparently, Isabelle Carothers died unexpectedly
in 1936, and the other two, her two collaborators didn’t want to go on, and so it did go on
a hiatus for some years.
Ed Walker: Then it came back.
Rob Bamberger: But not for long apropos your comment. Apparently
they improvised quite a bit of it based on things that were in the news and so, but you
say your mom was one of its followers?
Ed Walker: Oh yeah, she loved it, yeah.
Rob Bamberger: You said you,
Ed Walker: That was her time with the radio I think then.
Rob Bamberger: Well you said you got interested in soaps.
What were some of the early soaps that caught you?
Ed Walker: You know, oh there was Ma Perkins of course,
Aunt Jenny’s Real Life Stories, Helen Trent who was well past 35 when she found romance
I think, and there was, you know soap operas ran from about nine in the morning, they took
a break at noon, and then they ran about six in the evening. I mean, they were on all day,
15 minute shows, one right after another, and they kept the actors in originally from
Chicago before they got switching capabilities on the network, all of these shows came out
of the Midwest in Chicago; and then they moved to New York when they got the capability of
switching coast to coast with the telephone lines, and then Chicago ceased to be the capital
that it once was. Fibber McGee and Molly came from Chicago, Vic and Sade originally came
from Chicago. A lot of shows started out in Chicago.
Rob Bamberger: You said something very interesting at the
start about how the development and the success of soap operas was very much a reflection
of the American society and women were in the home and here we find we are bearing witness
now to the end of the last of the television soap operas for the very same reason.
Ed Walker: And soap operas and radio where they use a
lot of innuendos, but they never came right out,
Rob Bamberger: Does anyone have the dictionary? Innuendo.
Ed Walker: Well, on television these days they, you know,
they show couples in bed and everything else. They never did on radio, they would insinuate,
that’s what they did.
Rob Bamberger: Still in the I’s, insinuating.
Ed Walker: Yeah. It’s sort of like the other word I
Rob Bamberger: You’re I think sort of referencing subtlety.
Ed Walker: That’s a good word, yeah, subtlety.
Rob Bamberger: Which you feel was more artful in radio.
Ed Walker: Oh easily. They had censors at the radio networks
that were very cautious. When I first went to NBC, they had a guy in charge of standards
and practices.
Rob Bamberger: That was the word for it wasn’t it then?
Ed Walker: Yeah; and then you had to be very careful,
and our show being the kind of show that it was, you, yeah, you had to watch what we did,
and we kept the legal department going for years.
Rob Bamberger: Give us an example if you’re not being all
together facetious.
Ed Walker: Well one time we had a spot was sold for I’ll
say Charmin’s, it wasn’t, but Charmin’s toilet paper, and there was a note on the
copy to Willard, “No adlibbing." So we adlibbed, you know, that’s all. And the one time we
were talking, we were filling out, we had some time to kill, and had some public service
announcements. I handed Willard one and it was for bingo contest, a bingo game, but it
was at a Jewish home. You think a bingos at Catholic churches don’t you? Well somebody
who had worked for the FCC got fired and didn’t, you know, they were taking it out on us, they
reported us to the radio station, and the FCC got involved, and the management of the
station got all over us for doing that, and we were innocent, you know. But that’s what
Rob Bamberger: You were innocent of that particular,
Ed Walker: Yeah, that time.
Rob Bamberger: That time, I just wanted to be clear. When
do you remember starting to listen to some of the prominent radio comedians?
Ed Walker: Oh boy, I’d say about 1940, ’41. I finally
got a radio that I had in my bedroom, and I would listen to Bob Hope of course, Bing
Crosby, Bergen and McCarthy, Jack Benny, Phil Harris, well he didn’t have a show then,
he was on Benny’s show. And Fibber and Molly.
Rob Bamberger: Were you there of some very lengthy runs of
Jack Benny on The Big Broadcast over the years. We have a very compelling excerpt from a Jack
Benny program from 1937 that speaks to the long running feud with Fred Allen.
Ed Walker: Oh yes, that was a famous feud, and it all
started because Fred Allen had a boy violinist on his show, and he played a song called “The
Bee.” And Fred Allen made the comment, “Jack Benny ought to be ashamed of himself, he still
can’t play that song.” And Benny of course would listen to the show and write an ad lib
for the next week; and so the feud began, and it went on for, oh a couple years.
Rob Bamberger: Well what we have tonight is an excerpt from
a show that’s very, very early in this feud. Jack had taken the program east and this is
only weeks after Fred Allen had made that comment and about a week or two after Jack
had played “The Bee,” himself on the show. So we’re going to hear a bit of dialogue
from that. One thing that really is interesting about this is that usually the announcers
don’t get into any of the feuding, but I guess they,
Ed Walker: Don Wilson
Rob Bamberger: Yeah but Harry Von Zell was Fred’s
Ed Walker: That’s right, Fred’s announcer.
Rob Bamberger: And there’s some reference and you’ll
get to hear how Don reacts to that. There’s a little bit of audio whistle during part
of this, but this is so priceless because of its being right at the start of the feud.
So here is Jack Benny’s program in 1937, March probably.
[beginning of clip]
Don Wilson: The Jell-O Program coming to you from the
grand ballroom of the Hotel Pierre, staring Jack Benny with Mary Livingston and Abe Lyman
and his orchestra. We bring you a fellow who is a big man in Hollywood, a giant in Waukegan,
but just another actor in New York, Jack Benny.
Jack Benny: Hello again. This is Jack Benny coming to
you from the grand ballroom of the Hotel Pierre. Now listen, Don, I'm not such a small guy
in New York either.
Don Wilson: Well then, Jack, how come they won't even
let you broadcast me in DC studios? First, the Waldorf Astoria, now the Pierre?
Jack Benny: Well, it's because NBC is crowded, that's
Don Wilson: Well, how long are you going to stay in New
York anyways?
Jack Benny: Until we run out of hotels. I've been hanging
around so many ballrooms, I feel like a chandelier. Anyways, it’s still a distinction to be
able to do our program from here, not every entertainer would be granted that privilege.
Particularly one that I know of.
Don Wilson: And who’s that, Jack?
Jack Benny: Well, I don't want to mention any names, but
I don't see how Harry Von Zell can laugh at him every Wednesday night.
Don Wilson: Oh, Von Zell. That announcer.
Jack Benny: Yes.
Don Wilson: By the way, Jack, did you hear Allen call
you a bully last Wednesday?
Jack Benny: Better than being a scaredy cat.
Don Wilson: How do you know?
Jack Benny: Oh Don, he's an awful baby, he's a grown man
taking ether when he gets a manicure. Anyways, I don't want Allen's name mentioned anymore
on this program.
Fred Allen: Hey, what's going on in here?
Jack Benny: Well, as I live and regret.
[simultaneous talking]
Jack Benny: Now listen Allen, what's the idea of breaking
in here in the middle of my singing?
Fred Allen: Singing?
Jack Benny: Yes.
Fred Allen: Now listen Benny, why you make Andy Devine
sound like Lawrence Tibbett.
Jack Benny: Now look here, Allen, I don't care what you
say about my singing, or my violin playing on your own program. But when you come up
here, be careful. After all, I've got listeners.
Fred Allen: Keep your family out of it.
Jack Benny: My family likes my singing, and my violin
playing too.
Fred Allen: Your violin playing?
Jack Benny: Yes.
Fred Allen: You are using that word loosely, Mr. Benny.
Fred Allen: Why if I was a horse. If I was a pony, even.
Jack Benny: Yes?
Fred Allen: And found out. Found out that any part of
my tail was being used in your violin bow, I'd hang my head in my oat bag from then on.
Jack Benny: Well, you listen to me you Wednesday night
hawk, another crack like that, and Town Hall will be looking for a new janitor.
Fred Allen: You a lay a hand on me -- you lay a hand on
Fred Allen: Anything we say accidentally will be better
than the script.
[end of clip]
Ed Walker: Writers in those days were just superb; and
of course they were masters of adlibbing as you hear with Fred Allen. I did a commercial
one time with Kenny Delmar, who was Senator Claghorn, and he was the announcer on the
show, and I asked him about that. He said, “You never, Fred Allen would give you all
sorts of liberties to do with the character what you wanted to do, but you never tried
to top Fred Allen, he’d kill you.”
Rob Bamberger: One of the things that I think part of the
joy of hearing these performers go off script is just their own merriment.
Ed Walker: Yeah.
Rob Bamberger: And you can hear Mary Livingston.
Ed Walker: And it was live, it was live.
Rob Bamberger: Yeah. At the end of that particular sequence,
Jack and Fred make up but they must have realized there was no upside to that, and they were
back at it at, back at it pretty quickly. One performer that you were, that was very
much a part of the scene through much of your professional life in the early decades, but
also one figure who became an object of yours and Willard’s on satire is Arthur Godfrey.
Ed Walker: Oh yes. Godfrey was the morning man; he did
a program called “The Sundial” at WJSV. Now originally, he had worked for NBC and
was in a terrible automobile accident in the early ‘30’s and was confined to the hospital
for months, at which time he got a radio and listened to the radio and he was appalled
to hear the formality of the announcers, you know, “The National Broadcasting Company”,
you know, these formal guys who used to come to work in tuxedos I understand, and he said,
“If I ever get back out of here and get on the air, I’m going to change this.”
He got out and he got on the air, and he created the, I don’t know what you’d call it;
the personal approach to radio, and I can give you one example. He had, he was famous
for missing commercials, and locally there’s a Smith’s Transfer and Storage Company,
and the Chambers Undertakers, and he forgot to, and he said, “I got two spots I didn’t
get in here,” he says, “Don’t make a move without calling Smiths, and if you can’t,
call Chambers.” That’s the kind of stuff he did and this was a morning show WJSV and
you can hear him I think the way he originally wanted to do before he got all the stardom
and glamour. This is on a day, it’s September the 21st, 1939, on WJSV; here’s Arthur Godfrey.
Rob Bamberger: And this is sort of an extraordinary occasion
because this was sort of known as the day that was recorded the entire broadcast proceedings
of the day were recorded from
Ed Walker: Sign on to sign off.
Rob Bamberger: Right, and there’s a couple of curious things
just a flag before we hear it, Arthur clearly knew that it was being recorded because you’ll
in this sort of cobbled together excerpt, he does make reference to posterity, though
he is very vague about it and certainly listeners would have had no sense of the reference he
was going to be making; and just to make sense of one or two other things he brings up, he
talks about a very big 1939 MGM movie, The Women which of course TCM screens off and
based on a play by Claire, well Claire Booth Luce wrote the play, The Women, but it has
an all female cast which figures in his remarks, but the most interesting thing, and I know
you can add some details to this, is that you will hear Arthur Godfrey talking about
Leesburg Pike.
Ed Walker: Which he lived in Leesburg, and of course
they were developing Leesburg Pike. He commuted every day from his farm down there to the
Earl Building where WJSV was located, 13th and E I think it was; and he’d come in every
day, he talks about this pike, turnpike.
Rob Bamberger: And then there’s something else that happens,
you hear
Ed Walker: I don't want to give it away. Listen very
carefully, and this was unrehearsed I’m sure.
Rob Bamberger: Okay, we were debating this. Arthur Godfrey.
[beginning of clip]
Arthur Godfrey: 6:29 and a half. Good morning, one and all,
it's The Sundial, WJSV, Washington, DC. This is Thursday morning, September the 21st. If
I'm not mistook, took with the mistake, this is the Autumnal Equinox, isn't it? Today?
Male Speaker: It would be.
Arthur Godfrey: This is the first day of fall, officially,
isn't it?
Male Speaker: [unintelligible]
Arthur Godfrey: I do believe it is. Mmm-hmmm. [singing]. You
know, Pilcher?
Arthur Godfrey: Pilcher? I have a funny feeling this morning
that my few words here are being set aside, so to speak for posterity, I don't know why.
Would you care to say a few words for posterity?
Arthur Godfrey: [singing] Let me see what else is there in
here. Which you should know about, what you should. Oh yes. The little message here from
my neighbors out there in Virginia. The council in the Town of Leesburg, the Leesburg Rotary
Club have adopted resolutions urging the state highway commission of the Commonwealth of
Virginia to take steps to improve Virginia Route number 7. That's the Leesburg Pike,
you know, between Clarks Gap and Falls Church. Now, the Chairman of the Highway Commission
has arranged for a public hearing of all governmental bodies, civic organizations and their representatives.
Let us all inform the Chairman of the Highway Commission of our interests in the improvement
of the Leesburg Pike. The traffic on that road nowadays is something terrific. Would
be nice if we can get it widened, and those blind hills, curves taken out of it, huh?
Says here, Arthur, please announce that there will be a midnight show tonight of The Women.
And how about the women treating the men to this show? [laughs] It's just talking about
style, wait until you see that gorgeous $250 nightgown, that is part of the Technicolor
fashion show, in the new fiction The Women. Fancy that, paying $250 for a nightie. Huh?
Male Speaker: [unintelligible]
Arthur Godfrey: Mine cost a dollar and a half, and I bet I
sleep better than she does, I bet you.
Arthur Godfrey: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell
and a 100% female cast. Did you see the play? Oh boy, they got up in the rumor and the scandal
flies on the wings of the wittiest dialogue you've ever heard. Luxury beauty parlors,
homes and hotels [sneezes], oh, pardon me, I've always wondered what I'd do if I had
to sneeze on the air. Now I know.
Aruthur Godfrey: Where was I? The Women, the picture you must
see, opens tomorrow at Lowes Palace Theatre. It's quite a picture. Quite a picture. $250
for a nightie [whistles].
[end of clip]
Ed Walker: That was the style that a lot of people tried
to emulate over the years, but he kind of created that approach on radio; and it served
him very well, you’ve got to admit that.
Rob Bamberger: Well do you think there was anyone any more
interested than he was that something be done about Route 7?
Ed Walker: I don’t know. He drove it every day.
Rob Bamberger: Yeah, he certainly was posturing as if he
was doing a real public service putting that in the show that day, but I was asking Ed;
he alludes to the fact that the show is being recorded, and that’s the same day that he
sneezes on the air, and so we were debating.
Ed Walker: Well you notice what he says, you know you
can hear the grabbing in his voice when he says luxury hotel, and you can’t recreate
that. He had it. It was real, I’m sure it was real.
Rob Bamberger: You would know. And as I mentioned earlier,
that his reputation began to sort of develop an edge to it. Some people say that the character
that Andy Griffith plays in; let’s see what is the title of that?
Ed Walker: Face in the Crowd.
Rob Bamberger: Yeah, Face in the Crowd, and then there’s
that wonderful film, The Great Man with Jose Ferrer, and Ed Wynn, but the media characters
depicted in those movies that were some resemblance to how Arthur Godfrey was understood to be.
Ed Walker: He was possessive of his talent and he resented
the fact when Julius La Rosa went and got an agent, Godfrey served as the agent. He
never took a fee from them, but like the McGuire sisters, they got billings by being on his
show, and he resented the fact that La Rosa who was a young singer was getting more fan
mail than he was, so he fired Julius on the air. We don’t have that recording here,
but they said it,
Rob Bamberger: It always makes Ed and me nervous to hear
someone’s being fired on the air.
Ed Walker: I’ve been there and done that, but,
Rob Bamberger: Oh, I guess I’m doing alright.
Ed Walker: The story goes that La Rosa heard him, he
had Julius do the last song on the show before they were to sign off, and Godfrey says, “After
tonight Juli’s going on his own, he’s going to be,” so forth and so on, and Julius
said to somebody, “Did I just get fired?” Which he did.
Rob Bamberger: What prompted you and Willard to begin to
do some satire?
Ed Walker: Well he was such a big figure and Willard
did a beautiful Godfrey imitation and Willard always like Arthur Godfrey, in fact he had
Godfrey sign a dollar bill that was the first dollar bill he earned from NBC. They paid
him in those days, he was a page and they paid him in cash. He saved that first dollar,
he had Godfrey sign it, and then one time David Sarnoff was in town, and Willard went
to Sarnoff, he said, “Mr. Sarnoff, I have the first dollar bill I ever made here, would
you sign it for me?” He says, “You’ve got the first dollar bill you’ve ever made
here?” “Yes sir.” He said, “You’re losing interest.”
Rob Bamberger: Well that explains why he was David Sarnoff
and the rest of us weren’t. How did you start to then begin to carve out a career
in radio yourself?
Ed Walker: Well, I started out with a, and Willard started
out the same way. I had a little, for Christmas one year, about eight or nine years old, I
got a small what they called a phono oscillator, and you could hook your phonograph to it and
hear it all through the house with no wires; and I hooked the microphone up to it, and
then I figured, well if I put an aerial on it, it might get further, which I did. And
I took it, went down the street and I could be heard at the neighbor’s house. So I’d
go down there a knock on the door, “I’m going on the air in about a half hour." Alright
kid. So I did that, that’s how I started. Then we had a dear friend of the family who
was an engineer for WOL, and he would take me with him on remote broadcasts, and that
was fascinating to me; and then when I got old enough to want to decide what I wanted
to do, I wanted to be in radio hoping that there was something I could do, and so I listened
to the radio so much, and then I met Willard in college and of course he opened a lot of
doors for me because they wouldn’t have hired me on my own, but the fact that we were
working together made a big difference. In fact, you have to fill out a log when you
do commercials, you know the times, and they would always say, “Walker did you sign this
log or was that Willard that did that?” His handwriting wasn’t the greatest, you
Rob Bamberger: Let’s talk about sort of the discovery that
you and Willard made of the chemistry that seems to always come so naturally.
Ed Walker: It was natural. The first time I met Willard
I was a year ahead of him at American University, and we had a mutual friend named Roger Gordon
who later became Dr. Gordon in audio visual at Temple. And Roger always talked like Henry
Aldrich to me, “Gee Whiz!”. Even when he was a man, “Hi!”. So he got Willard,
Roger talked Willard into coming out and looking at the University and while he was there we
had this little radio station, we were just trying to get off the ground and he brought
Willard in there and he said, “Willard, go in there and sit across the table from
Walker and say something; he can’t see anyway, so say something smart and see what happens.”
And he did, and he responded, and I don’t remember what was said but that’s how the
Joy Boys were born. On the air, literally.
Rob Bamberger: Literally on the air; and some of the sketches
you would sort of just have a theme in mind, and you’d, I mean I say this in such a tentative
way because I can’t imagine flying without a net they way it’s my understanding.
Ed Walker: And we did that. Well Willard would write
little notes to himself like names.
Rob Bamberger: Which did you a lot of good with notes.
Ed Walker: No, I counted on him to do that and, yeah.
We worked it down to a fairly well, in other words, my hand would be on the table. If he
wanted to cut in, he’d wrap me on the back of the knuckles with a pencil. In other words,
“shut up I’ve got something to say”, and then he’d jump in the first chance he
got; and that’s the way we did it and it worked.
Rob Bamberger: Except that your hand got kind of,
Ed Walker: Well yeah, my hands were sore, but that’s,
Rob Bamberger: Well it’s remarkable, I mean I think of
just some lines from some of the sketches, you know “Whatever Lola wants, Stan Getz”.
Ed Walker: Yes.
Rob Bamberger: And to think that those things were sort of.
Ed Walker: You know that stuff wouldn’t go over today.
We’ve talked about this a lot.
Rob Bamberger: You just heard people laugh when I quoted
it though.
Ed Walker: Yeah, but you know, I guess, you know, we
weren’t suggestive enough. We were naughty, but we weren’t like Howard Stern, you know.
He points it right out there for you, you know. But we would, there again make innuendoes
I guess, and adults would you know, listen to those guys, and the kids didn’t get it
anyway. So we appealed to cross generations. Old folks, older folks, and the kids.
Rob Bamberger: Yeah, be careful.
Ed Walker: Yeah. They liked the stupid stuff we did,
which was most of the stuff we did.
Rob Bamberger: But it was, did you sometimes sort of because
you were on five days.
Ed Walker: Four hours a day, five days a week.
Rob Bamberger: So after you got off the air did you sometimes
sit and maybe brainstorm a few things for the next?
Ed Walker: No, no, I didn't. I’d go home and my wife
would give me the dickens because I wouldn’t talk; and finally I said, I talk all day,
I’m tired and I want to listen. So that’s you know, but no, we’d go our separate ways
and Willard would come in, we’d get together about a half hour, an hour before the show
and talk it over; and while the records were on, we actually played records in those days,
we’d come with the order of the, like the soap opera, As The Worm Turns. We had a throat
doctor who was this top 40 DJ had lost his voice, and when the throat doctor, Dr. Clayton
Jackson Durante was his name; and he would say, “What do you want, junior?” you know.
“You got a bad throat?” So we’d get a whole week out of that just...
The set up and the ending, you know how soap operas are. There’s only about a few seconds
of dialogue, and Willard would set it up now, the sponsor with Scuff No More. You sprayed
it on your kids to guard against abrasions.
That was Willard’s creation. But I’ll tell you a story if we’ve got time.
Rob Bamberger: Oh yeah.
Ed Walker: As The Worm Turns, one of the first ones we
did we had a doctor named Dr. Kaleo. And Dr. Kaleo was to say the least, kind of a shyster.
He wouldn’t, and so he Dr. Earnest Kaleo, I’ll never forget it, we did the show and
the phone rang and the NBC people upstairs, “You got to change that doctor’s name.
His lawyer just called and he said you’re prejudicing his case.” And I said, “What
case?” Well he’s being up on a malpractice suit.
So a couple of years later...
Rob Bamberger: What are the odds of that?
Ed Walker: Yeah. I’m at WMAL and I met a young intern
and she said, “My mother said to tell you hello.” I said, “I don’t believe I know
your mother.” “Well she knows you, she was Dr. Kaleo’s secretary.”
True story.
Rob Bamberger: And had she been looking for a job for a while?
Ed Walker: She didn’t say that.
Rob Bamberger: One genre, well our late friend Jerry Gray
used to really bristle if anyone used the word genre, so I still catch myself sometimes,
but certainly one form of radio entertainment quiz shows; some of which were quiz shows
in the standard way, but others that were not such as “Information Please”.
Ed Walker: Very erudite show. If there had been an NPR
in those days, that would have been the network for it.
Rob Bamberger: Yeah.
Ed Walker: Clifton Fadiman was the narrator, not the
narrator, but the host, and he had series of guests, Franklin P. Adams and a couple
of others. Oscar Levant was a frequent guest. Milton Cross was the announcer; he was one
of the dean of American Announcers. “Milton Cross”, and this was I guess Information
Please went on the air in 1938.
Rob Bamberger: Yeah, and it did sort of turn things on its
head and so far as instead of asking people like thee and me questions, people like thee
and me sent questions in that would be posed to a panel of experts. And I gather that Franklin
P. Adams was really an extraordinary figure long standing career in American journalism.
Ed Walker: Yeah and John Kieran.
Rob Bamberger: Who was also...
Ed Walker: One of them is a sports addict and he had
to answer all the sports questions.
Rob Bamberger: But he apparently also had knowledge in a
number of, number of other areas.
Ed Walker: Yeah.
Rob Bamberger: And of course Oscar...
Ed Walker: Listen to the money that they awarded. I mean
$5.00, $10.00, I mean, chump change nowadays, you know.
Rob Bamberger: And if you send a question in and the panel
couldn’t answer it, you would be sent $5.00 and they would even include the sound of a
cash drawer as if to be heavy handed about this $5.00 going out to, but we have a little
excerpt from an early Information Please to run for you now.
[clip playing]
Male Speaker: Information Please. Wake up, America. Time
to stump the experts. This is the program in which you the public turn the tables on
the authorities. Send us questions with the right answers. Each question accepted wins
you $2. You can win, therefore, as much as $7 per question if you’re lucky and Information
Please is not. Our master of ceremonies is Clifton Fadiman, literary critic of the New
Yorker Magazine. Mr. Fadiman.
Clifton Fadiman: Thank you, Mr. Cross. Good evening, everybody.
May I introduce our three wise men and one wise woman? Our two old faithfuls are with
us again: Mr. Franklin P. Adams, columnist of the New York Post; and John Kieran, sports
expert, paleontologist, hi pal, and walking encyclopedia. Information Please is glad to
welcome back Mr. Oscar Levant, musical expert, composer, pianist. And it takes special pleasure,
in announcing as its fourth guest, the star of stage and screen, whose charm is exactly
equal to her ability, both of them being almost unmeasurable, Ms. Lillian Gish. You were supposed
to listen to that, Ms. Gish. And now, Ms. Gish and gentlemen, the first question comes
from Mr. William Haldsey of Boston, Massachusetts. I’ll ask you to try to give me five typical
commonplace remarks or clichés used by the family and its members in the home. For example,
the one I remember best is the one I used to say always when I was a small boy: “Did
I ask to be born?” Let’s have five of them. Mr. Levant.
Oscar Levant: Hey, are you going to stay in that bathroom
all day?
Clifton Fadiman: Very good. Any family that has a bathroom
has heard that said. Mr. Adams.
Franklin Adams: He got a bigger piece of ice cream than I
Clifton Fadiman: Perfectly true. Two, Mr. Levant?
Oscar Levant: Stop picking on me.
Clifton Fadiman: Had a terrible home life, Mr. Levant. That’s
correct, though. Three. Mr. Kieran?
John Kieran: It’s good, but it’s not like what mother
used to make.
Clifton Fadiman: Very good. That’s four. Ms. Gish, have you
had no home life?
Lillian Gish: Where were you last night?
Clifton Fadiman: Yes, that’s perfectly all right.
[end of clip]
Rob Bamberger: John Kieran apparently commented once, and
I’ll quote, “A uproarious error, or a brilliant bit of your reverence was rated
far above any dull delivery of truth.” Oscar Levant was such a, well where are the words,
this is after all the guy who said “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity - I
have erased that line”.
Ed Walker: Now he had his problems for sure.
Rob Bamberger: He did, and today we would recognize it as
he was bipolar and as so much of his on air character and personality was rooted in his
Ed Walker: The times were a lot different then, and it
was a gentler age actually, we didn’t talk about that stuff.
Rob Bamberger: Well he did, but you’re right, no one would
have made the point of it that he did. He did it so charmingly; he no doubt raised some
consciousness and awareness of those things. One other thing that he quipped that I’ve
always liked was something he said about Elizabeth Taylor, “Always the bride and never the
Ed Walker: Was he the guy who said about Doris Day?
Rob Bamberger: Oh yes.
Ed Walker: “I knew here before she was a virgin.”
Rob Bamberger: Yeah, Yeah, he was, and of course, it isn’t
really a joke.
Ed Walker: Yeah.
Rob Bamberger: He was with her in the very first movie she
made, Romance on the High Seas, which if next time TCM shows it if you have not seen that
movie, try to watch the first five minutes and think of when Doris Day comes on like
a saucy wench chewing gum, and calling people chum, and I mean it is not Please Don’t
Eat the Daisies. Her whole persona changed. I was just reading the other day that she
had been approached about taking the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, and she
and her husband refused the idea, it could have really been a role that...
Ed Walker: She was the girl next door. That would be
opposite of type casting for sure.
Rob Bamberger: It might have though led to a whole different
dimension for her, but she couldn’t, she couldn’t sort of absorb Oscar Levant’s
wisdom I guess, go back, but, if you do, can see Romance on the High Seas, just the first
10 minutes, that’s all you have to look at. Some of the major stars that you have
a chance to interview over the years, was Crosby among them?
Ed Walker: On the phone. I didn’t meet him in person,
but we were going to do a show, I was doing a television show then, AM Washington on WJLA,
and we were doing a show on Al Jolson, and Al Jolson had a half brother who lived in
Washington, and we’re going to get him on and I said, “You know we’re having a program
meeting,” and I said, “What we need is Bing Crosby. He knew Jolson pretty well.”
And everybody said, “Yeah, get him.” And I said, “All right, I will.” So I found
him, we had a book we subscribed to called the, it gave the agent’s number of all the
actors and their office numbers. So I called Crosby’s office and I talked to a very nice
woman, and I said what I was doing. I said I’d like to set up an interview with Bing
Crosby if we could. Well, she says, “He’s not in town right now, but I will, give me
your number and I will call you when he’s available.” And the next day, I was out
of the office and she called, and I got the message when I got, a lady called from Bing
Crosby’s office and you weren’t here, and I was really, “oh no I missed him, oh
gee”. So she said, “I’ll do something I very rarely do.” She said, “I'll give
you his home phone number.” I said, “I got Bing’s home phone number?’ “But
you’ve got to call him early in the morning, he’s an early riser.” I said, “No problem,
he’s in California, I’m in New York. If I call him about 9:00 a.m. here it will be
6:00 a.m. there.” So I called and his British butler answered the phone, “Crosby residence.”
I said, “My name is Ed Walker, I’m calling from channel seven, so forth and so on, and
I’d like to be able to talk to Mr. Crosby.” “Oh yes, I saw your name on his spindle.”
I said, “I’m on Bing Crosby’s spindle?” These are the things you’re thinking at
this time, and I got him on the phone and I was petrified, you know, “Mr. Crosby,”
I said, “For purposes of this interview, can I call you Bing?” And he said, “Oh
yeah, of course, I would not answer if you didn’t.” He was very nice and he even
sent me a letter for interviewing him which is unheard of. I should have sent him a letter,
but I have that somewhere, treasure that.
Rob Bamberger: Yeah. He would apparently sit at his typewriter
and tap these things out.
Ed Walker: Then we also interviewed Bob Hope, I met him
on a couple of occasions, and, oh gee there are so many, I, I was talking to Jerry Vale
one time on the phone, I was just new at a little station, and I was talking about his,
Jerry’s appearing at the Casino Royal, I’m sure the food, is Jerry Gray there. Jerry
Gray, listen to me, Jerry Vale. He said, “I’m sure that’s a good place, but I’m at The
Was my face red I’ll tell you.
Rob Bamberger: Well Bing Crosby certainly is one of the towering
icons of radio, I mean he was huge in everything, but really dominated the radio for decades.
Ed Walker: Well he started out with Paul Whiteman, of
course and The Rhythm Boys, and then he joined Gus Arnheim’s Orchestra, and he had a habit
of getting soused, if you will, and not showing up, and that’s how Russ Colombo got started,
because Colombo was a violinist...
Rob Bamberger: With Arnheim wasn’t he?
Ed Walker: Yeah, and Arnheim would use him as a vocalist
while Bing was in absentia.
Rob Bamberger: Yeah, in absentia.
Well Crosby goes on the radio network radio for the first time I guess 1931; Harry Von
Zell announcing for him.
Ed Walker: Fifteen minute show.
Rob Bamberger: And then it’s early 1936 that Bing takes
over the Kraft Music Hall which was apparently posted by his previous, one of his prior employers,
Paul Whiteman. There’s a lot of interesting early Crosby that has surfaced in recent years,
and some of which has been privately issued to Crosby collectors. We’ve got just a couple
minutes worth by way of example coming up here. This is from December of 1935, Paul
Whiteman is hosting the program from the east coast, and Bing is brought in from the west
coast, and a few weeks later would take over hosting the Kraft Music Hall and would do
so for, what until the mid ‘40s? So we’ll hear him sing a very appropriate song for
the influence that Bing had on popular music, its “Learn to Croon,” and then something
from a very brief performance from a 1932 show from Los Angeles, the Union Oil Dominoes
Program. You’ll hear Bing singing “Some of These Days” which is one of those songs
that he sang that really show his jazz chops.
Ed Walker: Yeah.
Rob Bamberger: And I think Ed, you will be the arbiter of
this that even in 1935, that it’s Ken Carpenter who’s announcing for the Music Hall.
Ed Walker: It could very well be because he used, he
was very loyal to his announcers. Carpenter worked with him his whole career.
Rob Bamberger: Yeah, but this is even before Bing took over.
Let’s take a listen to this then.
[clip playing]
Male Speaker: The Greater Kraft Music Hall.
[music playing]
Male Speaker: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Tonight
the Kraft Music Hall brings you the first of a series of shows featuring the popular
radio and screen favorite, Bing Crosby. Co-starring with Paul Whiteman and the brilliant Whiteman
Ensemble. And here is Paul.
Paul Whiteman: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, thank you.
And welcome to the Kraft Music Hall. Tonight’s a mighty big night for me and for you too,
I’m sure. Because we would have with us one of Hollywood’s greatest stars, Bing
Crosby. As a matter of fact, Bing’s not really in the music hall tonight, he’s in
Hollywood. Ladies and gentleman, here’s Bing Crosby.
Bing Crosby: In a picture of college humor, I first introduced
a little song. If you recognize the melody, why don’t you hum along? [singing]
Male Speaker: Now, Bing, what are you going to sing next?
Bing Crosby: I’d like to sing that old favorite, Jack.
Some of these Days. I’ll stick around till you sing it. Don’t get hurt. [singing]
[end of clip]
Ed Walker: Yeah he was a, he loved musicians and he did
have a jazz influence. He was doing scat before Ella wasn’t he?
Rob Bamberger: Well he was certainly among the early and
true scatters. With him on that performance was guitarist Eddie Lang, who was his accompanist
until Eddie’s very untimely death of March of 1933, and you were speaking about Bing’s
loyalty to performers, and the pianist was Lennie Hayton, but just an incredible, incredible
performer, and Bing also had, he had a real strong sense of broadbill; his sense of comedy,
his use of language; and you’ve played a lot of Bing Crosby, Kraft and other radio
series programs on The Big Broadcast.
Ed Walker: Yeah, he had a great, he could articulate
very well. He’d been a debater I think in high school, and that sort of came naturally
to him.
Rob Bamberger: It’s interesting to think that while Bing
brought so much to radio from I guess my own perspective, he also too something out of
radio because he was the first to insist on transcribing his weekly broadcast because
he did not want to be enslaved to the live mic.
Ed Walker: He liked to play golf.
Rob Bamberger: Right, he was one of the early investors in
the tape recorder, and so his shows after the, well I wish I knew the exact date.
Ed Walker: 1947 I think.
Rob Bamberger: That sounds right.
Ed Walker: That’s when the Philco Series started.
Rob Bamberger: Okay, and those were transcribed and they
just don’t quite sound the same because of the transcribed, the editing as gifted
as his editors were, there is something that one senses to be a little different. With
respect to thinking about the lengthy runs on the Big Broadcast of Jack Benny or Bing
Crosby, or Johnny Dollar or Dragnet, what are some of the things that influence the
decisions you make about what to run, just some of the shows you may run...
Ed Walker: Some of the shows were carryover from when
John Hickman did it, of course Gunsmoke is probably the most listened to the shows I
do, and we’ve gone back recently and started that series all over again, and we try to
mix a little comedy and a little mystery, and everything else; and you never can please
everybody. Some people send me emails, “There’s not enough comedy.” Somebody else said,
“There’s too much comedy, more science fiction.” You know, you can’t please everybody,
so in the course of four hours we try to do it the best we can and the final hour, we
run a lot of times the Lux Radio Theater which is sort of a composite of all sorts of things,
because that’s the time when people are going to bed and you know, I don’t use the
prime shows in that time slot.
Rob Bamberger: Well Mr. DeMille might take exception to that,
Ed Walker: Goodnight to you from Hollywood, yeah.
Rob Bamberger: What Ed did was just mention brings to mind
something I do want to share with everyone. One of the things that I remember when after
John Hickman died, there was a very nice memorial service and the program director at the time
at WAMU, Steve Martin, Steve Palmer, and I don’t know which to call him, Palmer, Martin.
Steve stood up and said that the Big Broadcast delivered to him what every program director
of a radio station wanted on Sunday nights, and that was an audience. It is a very narrow
time for radio listeners, not a large Sunday evening radio audience, but the Big Broadcast
has over its lifetime delivered with exceptional consistency a very strong and a very loyal
listenership, and indeed we would note that since the means mechanism by which audience
numbers are measured was changed a few years ago. Just looking at WAMU’s Fall 2011 and
Winter 2012 book, the Big Broadcast is, Ed can’t see what I’m doing but I’m putting,
holding up one finger, number and not, it’s an okay finger.
Ed Walker: Which finger is that?
Rob Bamberger: I’ll speak with you later.
Ed Walker: Oh, all right.
Rob Bamberger: Number one. Number one.
Ed Walker: But I can’t take the credit for, it’s
the programs that the people listen to. I just tie them together, so I can’t take
a lot of credit for it, lest to have a lot of material to use.
Rob Bamberger: Well, and I grant what you say because of
the, to the extent that anyone has ever talked about my own show, I also will give full credit
to the musicians and usually people will say, “I hope you would.” But still, Ed, as
you’ve heard me say on many, many occasions, and I never can find any other way to say
it, you personify so much of the history of radio, you help us forge a connection to us
to it, you created so much of that history, you are part of it, and the connection that
you feel with the programs is so apparent that I think everyone here would probably
agree with me that there is a point at which we cannot completely separate you from the
Big Broadcast.
Ed Walker: I appreciate that.
Rob Bamberger: And I see that time and time again. One story
if I may tell on myself with respect to what Ed said about Gunsmoke. A few years ago, Ed,
you were sidelined by some back difficulty, and I was there the night of the membership
campaign with Sam Litzinger during to encourage people to become members at , you don’t
want to hear that language, but, we could recite a phone number for everybody. But anyway...
Ed Walker: 2885...
Rob Bamberger: That number again...
Ed Walker: 202-885-8850. It’s etched in my mind. If
they ever changed the phone number, I’m dead.
Rob Bamberger: Ran long the first hour and started Gunsmoke
about 10 minutes after 8:00. Well I don’t know, Eddie, whether you were there that night,
came in and told me the irate calls that were coming in because I had let the start of Gun
Smoke slip 10 minutes, and of course, my repast to that was if it’s so important to you,
then you should be a member.
Ed Walker: Yeah. Well that’s appointment listening,
it really is, that show would not go every day of the week, but on Sunday night, it’s
a perfect time in the week to do this because people are unwinding from the weekend, getting
ready for the upcoming week and it’s kind of a nice time.
Rob Bamberger: Yeah and the great thing is that the music
fills, that’s when you can run the faucet or do other things. Yeah, and you turn it
off and, yes, yes, I always thought that what was this American life was so great at 6:00
p.m. on Sundays when you were fixing dinner, because there was all these music, you know,
that you could cut the onions during it and, I lost that battle. We want to slip in maybe
just one more program excerpt because I certainly want you to have an opportunity to ask some
questions of Ed as I’m sure you have of him. The Lone Ranger.
Ed Walker: The Lone Ranger, it goes back to 1933 and
created by Fran Striker, George W. Trendle who owned WXYZ in Detroit started that as
sort of an experiment. From that came the Green Hornet, Challenge of the Yukon, and
countless shows; and there were several Lone Rangers. The one that is most familiar is
Brace Beemer, who originally was the announcer on the show. The guy that you hear at the
beginning of this is Earle Graser who was the Lone Ranger until 1941, and he was killed
in an automobile accident in April of that year, and then they got Brace Beemer to take
over the part of the masked man, and he did it actually longer than Graser, for the whole
rest of the show.
Rob Bamberger: It’s interesting, we suggested finding an
excerpt where there’s a passage in which the Lone Ranger is expressing kind of value
system we associated with the Lone Ranger, and what we have here is almost eight stories
over the top from what even I had been imagining, so a little bit of the Lone Ranger.
[clip playing]
[music playing]
The Lone Ranger: Hi ho, Silver, away!
Male Speaker: A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud
of dust, and a hearty hi ho, Silver. The Lone Ranger.
[music playing]
The Lone Ranger: Dan, your grandma was a fine woman. It’s
too bad she had to go.
Male Speaker: She was certainly good to me.
The Lone Ranger: She and your father left you a great heritage.
Male Speaker: A heritage?
The Lone Ranger: Yes. They and others like them have handed
down to you the right to worship as you choose, and the right to work and profit from your
enterprise. They have given you a land where there is true freedom, true equality of opportunity,
a nation that is governed by the people, by laws that are best for the greatest number.
Your duty, Dan, is to preserve that heritage and strengthen it. That is a heritage and
duty of every American.
[end of clip]
Rob Bamberger: 202-885-8850.
Ed Walker: Now you notice that the beginning of the show
was Earle Graser and the dramatic part was Brace Beemer who you could tell the difference
probably, but that was the Lone Ranger.
Rob Bamberger: Well as I said, we do want to open it up to
questions. There are microphones at either side, and while you make your way to that
I just want to thank everyone who has joined us tonight, but it is always such a great
treat for me to hang out with Ed, I mean it sort of happened by false pretenses. Ed said
to me several years ago, you know, “Kid, you’re no Joy Boy, but you stick with me,
there is big money in public radio.”
What you didn’t tell me is it’s somebody else’s, But we’ll start on this end, Ed
there are a number of people that want to ask you some things.
Male Speaker: I came from Chicago; I lived in Chicago as
a little kid. I used to, in fact I was about five or six years old, and I used to go to
bed at 6:00 on Sunday night, and I would spend, if I could stay awake, I would spend the next
three, three and a half hours listening to one show after another. It was just wonderful;
and then in about 1954, something called Monitor came along in Chicago. I don’t know whether
it was any place else, and you could address that, but it wiped out all of these shows.
It replaced them; and to be honest, the radio was never really the same for me again. My
question is what was this? Did it extend across the country? What was the purpose of this
thing? What were they trying to accomplish with it because I don’t think it lasted
very long. It wasn’t very successful apparently. Do you know anything about it?
Ed Walker: Monitor was carried nationally, it was a creation
of Pat Weaver, who also created the Today Show and he was the head of NBC at the time,
and this was an idea that local stations other than the big cities, could carry this show
on the weekends with only a board operator on duty. It was a cheat for the station’s
to run and they could get some big names on it. It was a different form, more of a magazine
type radio, but radio changed then, and you know the network, like Johnny Dollar and Suspense
and those shows, all went off by 1962, so you could see the pattern was there; radio
is changing. Everybody, the advertisers were putting the big bucks into television, so
radio had to fend the best way they could. That’s what happened.
Male Speaker: Thank you.
Male Speaker: Hi, I’m one of those faithful listeners
who make the Big Broadcast number one on Sunday.
Ed Walker: Thank you sir, bless your heart.
Male Speaker: I love the show, I listen to it every Sunday,
but I do have questions about a couple of radio personalities that I seldom hear on
the show; Orson Welles and Groucho Marx. For the Campbell Playhouse and the Mercury Theater,
Orson Welles created 56 hours of programming, not just War of the Worlds, and did his own
adaptation also of Les Miserable. And Groucho Marx of course was the longtime host of You
Bet Your Life. So I’m wondering why not Orson Welles and Groucho Marx on the Big Broadcast?
Ed Walker: We have run them. Orson Welles, we did run
Les Miserable several, few years ago, and we’ve run some Mercury Theater, we’ve
run Dracula, and I can’t quote you offhand. We don’t run them every week because a lot
of the listeners I don’t think, if we did we’d run it later in the show, but I will
try to find some more Orson Welles, and Groucho Marx, I don’t know how much radio he has,
we have of him because that was a television show that was edited for radio, You Bet Your
Life was predominately a TV show.
Rob Bamberger: So the radio show used the actually...
Ed Walker: Actual footage, actual audio from the TV show.
Rob Bamberger: I see, very good, well thank you for mentioning
Ed Walker: We shall try.
Rob Bamberger: Sir.
Male Speaker: At the time was radio strictly racially segregated,
and if that was the case, what were black performers, what were their outlets as a venue?
How did they get to be heard? What sort of famous shows, what did black performers have?
Ed Walker: Rochester’s a perfect example on the Jack
Benny Show, and if you notice that when you listen to, Rochester always gets the last
laugh many times, and somebody was criticizing Benny once about the way he treated his servant,
and said that’s just not fair, and Benny said, “I’ll have you know that Rochester,
Eddie Anderson, happens to be the wealthiest black actor in Hollywood these days.” So
he was well paid. Others had the stereotypical, Amos and Andy on radio were two white men.
Now we can’t run that now because that’s been a no no ever since I’ve been at the
station, and I think Amos and Andy are hilarious, you know, and they get by on television for
a while with black actors, but there were limited black actors on radio in those days,
but I can’t even think of some of the names of them but they did, like on Johnny Dollar
they have black actors who do like hotel porters or something like that, type casting. They
don’t do that so much anymore.
Rob Bamberger: But they weren’t comparable opportunities
is really sort of the bottom line.
Let’s see, was that from this...
Male Speaker: I’ve always liked the one liner that the
true definition of an intellectual is someone who can listen to Rossini’s Overture to
William Tell and not think of the Lone Ranger.
Ed Walker: You are right, you are right.
Male Speaker: But my question, actually I’m a big fan
of the Big Broadcast, but also of Hot Jazz Saturday night, and my question is to Mr.
Bamberger, what are your sources or records? Are the all from your collection or from the
Library’s collection, or a whole mixture?
Rob Bamberger: Never from the library, you mean the Library
of Congress, when I worked there, no no no, no no it’s personal collection. Remember
what I said about collections keeping you instead of the other way around?
Ed Walker: I just applied for food stamps last week.
Rob Bamberger: We need a second basement, but thank you very
much sir, yeah. It’s the curse of collecting, yeah. This side.
Male Speaker: Thank you. I don’t know if there would be
any way to quantify how much of old time radio has been preserved versus what was broadcast,
you know the way we hear sometimes about early silent movies, X percent has been preserved.
I kind of wonder about that, and also like, to Mr. Walker, are the particular shows or
particular broadcasts that hasn’t been preserved that you know of but you would really love
to turn up somehow?
Ed Walker: Well the broadcast from the ‘30s, the early
‘30s are limited because they had no tape then, and they had to do them on transcriptions,
and I know in the case of Vic and Sade which was a very popular program sponsored by Proctor
and Gamble. Proctor and Gamble was moving a facilities of something, somebody got the
bright idea of throwing out all those discs; little did they know what they had done; and
that’s how a lot of the old radio stuff comes to being. Guys at radio stations, they
might have recorded stuff off the air to run on the air delayed, and they throw them out
and every once in a while some engineers rummaging around the trash bin will see those disks
and take them, and of course we get a lot of stuff from Armed Forces Radio which theoretically
you’re not supposed to run, but they carried a lot of the old radio shows on the Armed
Forces Radio Service cutting out the commercials.
Rob Bamberger: What Ed says is absolutely true. A lot of
material was disposed of, but it’s something that I’m fond of saying is that you can
never completely despair of what a finite universe will cough up. That sort of is an
odd way to put it, but the fact that you can’t go back and capture anything that wasn’t
captured, but yet there are stories like the Crosby material we heard earlier, some of
it was belonged to Georgie Stoll who was leaving the orchestra of the Woodbury program. Some
of the Benny Goodman Camel Caravans from 1939. Johnny Mercer who was side kick on that program
had them record it off air, his family had the discs. Fortunately, Johnny played most
the parts where he was singing so the Goodman parts were, had less surface noise, but I
meant there’s stuff out there and it keeps surfacing with respect to film versus radio,
it’s hard to know because film is such a more finite universe and there’s enough
documentation you know what films were produced, but radio was hours and hours and hours all
over the country, a lot of it local, so it’s hard to know how much was lost.
Ed Walker: What’s happening, you know, after the ‘50s
and the radio is mostly on tape, and tape has some of the same characteristics as movie
film, it dries up after a while and is not usable; and that’s why it’s vitally important
to get this stuff digitized, put on CDs. Now I don’t have a big collection; we’ve moved
and I had to downsize, but I got a fellow in Baltimore who has a tremendous collection,
and I confer with him on the phone, and we talk about shows and like one show that’s
very good that Jack Webb did was Pete Kelly’s Blues which had a Dixieland band in it too,
Rob, and it only ran for 13 weeks, and I’m trying to get my hands on those. I’ve had
one or two of them, and they’ve made a movie from that later on in the ‘50s you know.
But that was a very good show. Every once in a while you come across a show that you’ve
been looking for.
Rob Bamberger: Yeah, I think we have time for one more question.
I think I’m obliged to go on this side but...
Male Speaker: Thank you. I’d like to thank Ed for bringing
back so many memories, not of the ‘30s, but my case, late ‘40s when radio was still
a very viable media that we did huddle around and listen to these mysteries and comedy shows,
but I also, you almost gave me a good segue there talking about Armed Forces Radio. I
don’t know if he knows this, but the guy that turned me on to your program, Ed, is
Adrian Cronauer of Good Morning America fame and he’s a very, very big fan whom I’m
sure wishes he could be here tonight. Thank you so much for all you’ve done.
Ed Walker: Thank you. I interviewed him. I had him on
television when I was doing a show on channel eight, and he was famous for “good morning
Vietnam,” and, oh really? Very good. Thank you.
Rob Bamberger: I’m going to take one more question, just
to be civilly disobedient. One last one.
Male Speaker: Hi, well I have listened to the Big Broadcast
for a few years now, and I also really love it when you play Jack Benny and, you know,
he’s always making fun of on the show how he played the violin, and I was just wondering
if he ever actually had any jobs playing the violin, whether he was actually good at playing
the violin?
Ed Walker: Near the end of his career he did a series
of concerts for charity, and he did play legitimate violin.
Rob Bamberger: His daughter, Joan and her book Sunday Nights
at Seven, writes about, if I’m not mistaken Ed I think it’s in that book she writes
about how very seriously he was working at the violin.
Ed Walker: Yeah. And the way he scrapes the strings and
everything, that’s you know...
Rob Bamberger: It’s art. You have to be artful to play
Ed Walker: It’s like Spike Jones’ musicians, they
were that way too. You have to be very good to be very bad.
Rob Bamberger: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much. It’s
been a pleasure.