Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Treasury Of Bob & Ray




Ray Goulding and Bob Elliott hosting The Name's the Same in 1955.


Show business lore is filled with stories of fortuitous pairings that led to fame, sometimes fortune.  It is difficult today to think of Abbott without Costello, or Laurel with Hardy.  


Yet all four were relatively obscure solo performers before getting together.


Another such pairing, that endured nearly 50 years, was that of radio comedians Bob & Ray.   

Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding were both radio announcers on the same Boston radio station (WHDH)  in the early 1940s, and while working separately (Elliot was a DJ, Goulding a news announcer) they became friends off the air, and developed a natural and informal banter that impressed the station management.

During Red Sox rain delays, they were called upon to `vamp’ to fill air time, and soon were given their own 15 minute (then 30 minute) daily radio spot.  Improvising as they went along, their off the wall humor (often directed at the very medium in which they worked) quickly caught on with the audience.


Their stock in trade was the bogus interview, done with dead-pan seriousness, no matter how absurd the subject matter (or interviewee). 


Along the way they create a number of memorable characters (voiced by Bob & Ray) including: inept news reporter Wally Ballou,  sportscaster Biff Burns, Charles the Poet (a sort of Percy Dovetonsils character), book reviewer Webley Webster, and a Peter Lorre clone named Peter Gorey who read gruesome news stories.


They also parodied radio shows of the era, with offerings such as "Mary Backstayge, Noble Wife" and "One Fella's Family" (takeoffs of Mary Noble, Backstage Wife and One Man’s Family).   The Mary Backstayge spoof ran so long, it became better known than the soap opera it lampooned.


In the early 1950s Bob & Ray branched out into television, but would remain firmly entrenched in radio.   A small sampling of their early television work (1951) follows, with Audrey `Alice Kramden’ Meadows.

They would do commercial voice-overs (spokesmen for Piels Beer), host a game show (The Name’s The Same), and make numerous guest appearances on variety shows, including on Saturday Night Live Special in the late 1970s.


They appeared in several movies including Author, Author!  and Cold Turkey, and starred in a couple of 2-man stage shows (The Two and Only on Broadway in 1970, and A Night of Two Stars at Carnegie Hall in 1984).


But radio was their bread and butter, and over the decades they managed to appear on NBC, CBS, and the Mutual radio networks, along with NPR.


During the early to mid 1970s they were the afternoon drive hosts on WOR, doing a four-hour show. They were regulars on NBC’s Monitor during it’s 20 year run, often available to fill in when technical difficulties derailed a scheduled segment.


For Bob & Ray aficionados, the Internet Archive has a huge treasury of material, consisting of more than 235 separate audio files.   Some of these are short bits, while many others are full 30 minute shows. 


Bob and Ray


Ray Goulding died in 1990, but Bob Elliot is still with us. You’ll find more on this talented duo at:

Their legacy of delightfully deadpan humor remains a highlight of the golden age of radio. And we are indeed fortunate that so much of it has survived over the years.


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