Return with us to yesteryear and old-time radio

Friday, June 23rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A colleague asked us if we knew of any good sites on which to listen to old-time radio shows about a year ago. Our first venture yielded poor results, as many Web pages only wanted to sell, not share, copies of their collections. But we took another stab at the topic recently and hit solid gold from the 1930s to the 1950s. True, many hosts are still selling their wares, and many sites are in disrepair with bad links and poor design. But we came back with enough sites to keep radio fans tuned in to yesteryear 24 hours a day.

WRVO Playhouse

This Oswego, N.Y., public radio station airs old shows such as CBS' Radio Mystery Theatre, Jungle Jim, Gunsmoke and scores of others over the Internet from 7 to 11 Dallas time each evening. A program guide includes a key that tells listeners which radio network originally aired the show. We were impressed by the format's intentional effort to turn back time and have visitors take in the programs in real time. So gather 'round the old Pentium, sit back and listen.

Original Old-Time Radio

Visitors will find a big selection of sound bites collected from popular radio shows over the years. Other than those, the usefulness of this page comes in its large collection of background and reference material on just about anything that was sent over the air waves. A search engine hunts down information by keywords, which we found particularly helpful.

Otherwise, we would have been scrolling up and down a lengthy page with scores of topics. There are also chat and message board areas where folks can discuss, reminisce, sell and trade rare shows. The site also lists North American radio stations that replay old shows.

The Listening Room

Kay Kyser and His Kollege of Musical Knowledge, The Day the Earth Stood Still and Have Gun Will Travel are the main features on this teaser site for getting people interested in old radio shows. The host updates files in science fiction, mystery-drama, music, comedy and Western genres irregularly, so this isn't always the place to find new, old material coming in. The host also links visitors to hundreds of radio files for free downloads in two popular newsgroups, plus his own file transfer protocol library.

Radio Days

For the uninitiated, there's probably no better place to learn who was who in the golden days of radio while listening to what glued Americans to those gothic-style wooden boxes. At least it required some imagination on listeners' parts, unlike those black boxes we're glued to now. Radio Days' Timeline takes visitors through a history of radio and its most popular shows. The site features News, Mystery and Comedy categories, and there are plenty of links for side trips to listen to The Shadow, Edward R. Murrow or Fibber McGee and Molly. Each personality rarely has more than one show online here, but you get a full show - complete with commercials and cheesy organ music.

Yesterday Now

Collecting, cataloging and studying old radio shows is more popular than we thought when we started thumbing through these sites. Yesterday Now has a mountain of collector information and tools, to be sure. This page links into five Internet Radio broadcasts of old shows - two that air on weekends only and three that run 24 hours a day. The variety of shows is the best we found.

With a monster selection of almost any type of Internet radio broadcast available, Live365 includes a hefty chunk of air time for old radio, to boot. The old stuff doesn't have a listing in the left-hand navigation bar, so plug in your terms in the search engine for a channel-by-channel listing (we found 17 listings on our visit). The disc jockeys are Internet contributors who upload programs on Live365 with their favorite collections of shows. Each channel listing displays the show's genre, ratings by listeners and how many others out there are tuning in the show at the same time you log on.

The Olde Tyme Radio Network

Here's a site that reairs radio hosts who reair old-time radio shows. A bit confusing, maybe, but once you log on you'll see that this is a two-for-one posting of some guys who select and narrate highlights of shows that originally ran from the 1930s to the 1950s. Heritage Radio Theatre's host Tom Heathwood gives visitors a tour of what he thinks is the best of radio, while John and Larry Gassman's Same Time, Same Station program features a good selection of their two-hour shows. A lot of the material is still riveting, even CBS' You Are There program, where the network would do "live" re-creations of historical events.