There were game shows, back then called quiz shows, comedy shows, variety programs, interview shows, and a reality crime show called Night Beat which followed police on the street, similar to Cops today. These shows were new and innovative yet, the main thing this era was known for were radio dramas. There were Westerns like Gunsmoke, detective mysteries like Philip Marlowe or one of my favorites, Johnny Dollar about a hard-talking insurance claims adjuster who tracks down criminal insurance fraud. There was the critically acclaimed show, Suspense, a drama in which Hollywood actors and actresses would guest star in murder mysteries each week. There were numerous science-fiction dramas, the best of which was X-Minus One, which mixed suspense, horror, comedy and drama mastering techniques that would come to be used more in movies and later TV. And just because these shows were censored doesn’t mean that the concepts weren’t hardcore. On many of these shows, harsh reality, make-believe death and mature concepts were normal. The Golden Age of radio occurred during the Great Depression, the rise of the Mob, and World War 2 where people were confronted with harsh reality everyday. Radio reflected that in the early 20th century during the Golden Age of radio.
Radio is a long-forgotten pioneer of techniques still used today in mass-communicated media. The radio takes us back to the essence, which is sound. The word. The beginning. The message without visuals allows the listener to expand their own imagination. Listening and imagining is good exercise for the brain and may actually help stimulate learning. It spawned the serials that would influence people like Star Wars creator George Lucas, and Indiana Jones director Steven Speilberg. Radio is an amazing and powerful format. In 1938, Orson Welles used the format to touch off a new publicity model when he aired his radio play version of H.G. Wells War of the Worlds. Outside of NPR and college radio, the internet is the only place to hear what the audio format is capable of.
In the modern era, we have been hearing the same repetitious brain-wash formula for years on FM radio. Huge corporate radio industry monopolies strangle the airwaves with the gibberish they want you to hear, not the sounds you could be hearing. The radio utilizes the audio communication format which can be used in thousands of ways. Why is it so limited on commercial radio? What could radio be if it was more creative? The following is an example of creativity in radio formatting that is rarely if ever heard today. To get the full effect you must listen to the whole show, even though its about an hour long. Still, its worth it.
For the show, I picked something that shines in the same essence of the Golden Age, but its actually more recent, from 1973. For those who never considered radio for something other than to listen to music, talk shows or sports, the following should be interesting. Sometimes it’s hard to say where the best place to start is because there are so many good options. However, the Halloween season might be the perfect introduction into the genre. In 1973, WKBW in Buffalo, NY celebrated its 8th year of doing their revised tribute to Orson Welles’ classic radio drama, War of the Worlds. This is the broadcast from that night, October 31st 1973.
As a side note, notice how the music of the day, although pop, and done by a mix of people, was all coincidentally much more thought provoking than the music of today. This is part of the song list from that night…
There were also some cool radio commercials that added to the mood for Halloween fun at home listening to the radio while you cooked dinner or carved a pumpkin….
The full line up of Halloween radio treats from Shadesradio.com is as follows:
WKBW 1973 Halloween Special – The War of the Worlds
WATCH THE FULL SPECIAL HERE: