Sunday, January 29, 2012

The OTR Revival Of The 1970s



Photo Credit - Wikipedia


Although I grew up hearing tales of old-time radio from my parents, for this child born in the mid-1950s, the golden age of radio had already passed by the time I could care.


I knew who Fibber McGee and Molly were, and The Shadow, and had heard the story from my folks about Orson Welles' War of the Worlds Broadcast, but I hadn’t actually heard them.


Well, not until my early teens when I managed to get my hands on a couple of LPs with old radio shows on them. But in the mid-1970s CBS radio began a highly successful revival of the radio drama, called CBS Radio Mystery Theatre.


Created, directed, and  produced by Himan Brown, and hosted by E. G. Marshall, starting in 1974 (and running until 1982) CBSRMT produced 1399 45-minute episodes.

For this child born of the TV age, suddenly having an ongoing source of quality radio drama was an unexpected delight.


Not only did it awaken an interest in old radio for for me, when I began collecting OTR (old time radio) shows in earnest in the early 1990s, getting the full collection of CBSRMT shows was high on my list.


The series featured original stories along with retellings of classic works.  You’ll find murder, horror, science fiction, and even historical dramas in the mix.


While many performers graced the sound stage over the years, a number of `regulars’ could be heard including Fred Gwynne, Kevin McCarthy, Celeste Holm, Keir Dullea, Mason Adams, Mercedes McCambridge, John Lithgow, and Tony Roberts.


Himan Brown, a genuine legend due to his 65 year career in radio, is reputed to have produced more than 30,000 episodes of radio shows, including: Barrie Craig, Bulldog Drummond, The Inner Sanctum, Dick Tracy, Flash Gordon, along with numerous daytime soap operas.


I’ve recently had the opportunity to check out a website that offers the entire production run of the CBSRMT series along with plot descriptions of each episode. 


Click on the image below to visit this fan supported site:




Shotgun Slade: A `Crossover’ Western





Although you wouldn’t know it by today’s cop – forensic investigation - medical drama cornering of the market in television drama, in 1959 westerns were the number one genre for prime time TV.


There were a record 26 different westerns playing each week on the tube at the end the 1950s, and that year three of them made the top 10 list (Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Have Gun, Will Travel).


A pretty good showing, but actually a decline from the previous year, when 7 of the top 10 shows were westerns.  While still going strong, westerns were beginning to lose out to more modern and `hip’ dramas like Johnny Staccato, 77 Sunset Strip, and Hawaiian Eye.


With such a large field of similar shows, producers went out of their way to give their production a `signature’,  something to set it apart from the crowd.


In The Rifleman, Chuck Connors carried a modified Winchester Model 1892 rifle, tricked out to rapid fire. Don Durant as Johnny Ringo, carried French designed LeMat twin barreled revolver, that could fire a single 16 gauge shotgun shell in addition to .40 ammo.


Perhaps most famous (and certainly the most coveted by my 6-year-old playmates) was the Mare’s leg sawed off rifle carried by Steve McQueen in Wanted: Dead or Alive.


It was nicknamed the `mare’s leg’ because of its substantial kick.  But it was the ultimate in cowboy cool.


In 1959, Scott Brady (brother of actors Lawrence Tierney and Edward Tierney) took on the role of Shotgun Slade, which ran for 2 years and 78 episodes.


After starting out in poverty row movies, Brady had managed to carve a respectable career as a leading man in movie westerns and assorted TV dramas, appearing in many anthology series of the 1950s.


Like many of the other westerns that year, Shotgun Slade had a gimmick . . . well . . . actually three gimmicks.


First, instead of being a rancher, or a sheriff, a bounty hunter, or a gambler  -  Slade was a private detective in the old west. With shows like Richard Diamond and Peter Gunn drawing good ratings, making your cowboy hero a detective seemed like a good ploy.

Next came the signature gun, which this time was a over/under shotgun with a .32 caliber single shot rifle paired with a 12 gauge shotgun. 


And lastly, instead of incorporating a typical western movie score, the series featured a modern jazz beat, another homage to the increasing popularity of shows like 77 Sunset Strip and Peter Gunn.


The jazz score, admittedly, takes some getting used to.  But the end result is an atypical, albeit enjoyable western.


Think Peter Gunn on a horse.



We’ve several places for you to view episodes of this unique old western.   The Internet Archive has 5 complete episodes HERE.


Shotgun Slade – Backtrack
Shotgun Slade | Season 1, Episode 33 | Originally Aired - May 28th, 1960

Shotgun Slade - Crossed Guns
Shotgun Slade | Season 1, Episode 30 | Originally Aired - May 13th, 1960

Shotgun Slade - Flower on Boot Hill
Shotgun Slade | Season 1, Episode 36 | Originally Aired - August 9th, 1960

Shotgun Slade - The Spanish Box
Shogun Slade | Season 1, Episode 32 | Originally Aired - May 27th, 1960

Shotgun Slade - Ring of Death



For even more shows (including the ones listed above) you can try this link on Youtube.


Scott Brady worked steadily through the 1960s and well into the 1970s playing tough cops, or cowboys, and the occasional heavy. 


His last role was in the movie Gremlins (1984).


Brady died in 1985, at the age of 60, from pulmonary disease.



Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Terrific Repository Of Classic TV, Radio, And Movies





While several family matters have distracted me from my regular posting on this site (soon to resume), I have found an absolutely terrific (and growing) repository of public-domain radio, TV, music, and movies where you can download or watch online some of the best entertainment the golden age ever produced.

Run by Jimbo Berkey, files are fast to download, and the layout a pleasure to navigate.  You’ll also a good deal of background information about the movies and shows he presents.

So check out:

And if all that weren’t enough, Jimbo also has a terrific selection of free classic games you can play as well.