International commemorative days come thick and fast, but I can’t let World Radio Day on February 13th slip by without some kind of celebration!
Easy to forget in this television age just how central radio was as a source of both entertainment and information in the first half of the 20th century. Names such as Jack Davey, Bob Dyer, Lorna Byrne, Gwen Plumb and Roy Rene are gradually receding into a sort of cultural fog, their immense local popularity hard to imagine in our more global world. Often shifting with remarkable ease between the vaudeville stage and the radio microphone, many of these pioneering performers also managed to survive the early years of television in Australia when homegrown studio entertainment was the order of the day.
Radio drama is an interesting phenomenon, given that one might have predicted its demise with the rise of film and television. Against the odds it has proven itself to be a more resilient beast than we might have imagined and this lovely book, part history and part biographical dictionary, explores the writers, producers and actors who brought this theatre-of-the-mind to life over the radio-waves in what was clearly a golden-age of Australian drama. And of course, Gwen Meredith is here with the story of Blue Hills, which ran for an astonishing (in any medium) 27 years!
Fortunately we can relive some of the glory days of these radio stars through recordings such as this. Jack Davey, Billy Williams, Stiffy and Mo, Bob Dyer, Jenny Howard, Jack O’Hagan, Minnie Love, Pat Hanna, Florrie Ford, the list goes on and on, and the sheer variety and old-fashioned vaudeville barnstorming that still manages to come through the pops and crackles is absolutely amazing! It’s a wonder television got anywhere at all!
Radio stars : an illustrated biographical dictionary of 953 performers, 1920 through 1960 by Thomas A. DeLong
Radio in America really set the template for so much that happened internationally in the first half of the 20th century, and it’s quite remarkable to read the list of great names who graced the airwaves over the years; Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Groucho Marx, Frank Sinatra, Abbott and Costello, etc., etc., seemingly ad infinitum! This labour-of-love concentrates on their radio work, listing shows and appearances and highlighting the pre-eminent place the radio had in the lives of countless devoted fans.