If you’re interested in listening to radio programs from the “Golden Age of Radio,” there’s an overwhelming collection available at the Internet Archive. You’ll find a lot of dramas, news, comedy and variety programs available.
For other classes where I get to indulge radio more, I usually audition these programs to get a sense of the different formats available.
- Amos and Andy, “Andy Reads a Law Book,” July 3, 1929. A comedy that traffics in some pretty racist stereotypes of the not-so-distant past. However, note that the comedy follows the straight-man and the stooge template of comedy duos and is entirely premised on literacy.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Fireside Chat, March 12, 1933. This excerpt of FDR’s first radio address to the nation explains why he chose to close the banks: it’s so that people don’t all take their money out at the same time. Note his use of two opposite tropes: fear vs. faith.
- Rudy Vallee on the Royal Gelatin Hour, August 25, 1938. This singer, and bandleader of the Connecticut Yankees, entertains his audience in classic variety show style. As a recreational softball player, I appreciate the interview with the softball player.
- CBS News, “London After Dark,” August 25, 1940. This dispatch gives radio listeners in the US a sense of what it was like in London during the “Blackout,” when the entire city was kept in the dark so that German bombers couldn’t find their targets. This proves the adage that radio is the most visual of all the media.
- Burns and Allen, “George Goes to College,” November 29, 1945. George and Gracie are married and living in Hollywood. A lot of the humor is predicated on George being old (he was 49 years old but only half way through his life at the time), Gracie being dumb, and Jack Benny being cheap. Only that last bit was probably true. Also, I don’t know about you but my college didn’t have such an obsession with popularity, but then again, I went to a state school.
Also, if you’re interested in the difference between AM and FM radio, and how static (interference) affects the reception, here’s a US Army film from the 1960s.
I love this stuff so it makes sense to me, but if you need to have something explained, let me know.