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Subject: FAQ: Old Time Radio (OTR)
This article was archived around: Wed, 20 Apr 2005 15:59:05 GMT
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) File for OTR (Old-Time Radio)
Copies of this FAQ are distributed to rec.answers, rec.radio.info,
rec.radio.broadcasting, rec.antiques.radio+phono and other news groups; and are
on file at bloom-picayune.mit.edu in the file:
The most recent HTML-ized version is at http://www.old-time.com/otrfaq.html
What is "OTR"?
You haven't mentioned OTR music, why not?
Where can I buy recordings of old radio shows?
Which vendors have (lower prices) (higher quality) (faster response)?
Are OTR shows rebroadcast? If so, where and when?
I remember a great show called (x). When was it aired?
Are there any books about OTR?
Does anybody trade tapes of OTR shows?
What's this stuff about Copyright?
How can I get my local radio or TV station to broadcast OTR programming?
I have some old transcriptions and tapes, how can I make them sound better?
Are there any OTR clubs near me?
I have some OTR tapes or CDs of the same program, but their dates are different.
Is there any place where I can get a complete listing of all the episodes in a
particular program series?
Is there any place where I can get a written synopsis of the plots or themes of
Is there a World Wide Web page (URL) that I can access for more information?
Is there an email newsletter on OTR? How do I subscribe to it?
What ever happened to the person that played [insert character] on [insert name
What is the best way to archive OTR programs?
My old reels squeak. Why does this happen, and can I fix it?
What is the best radio / antenna to get distant OTR stations?
Is there a group for modern radio drama ("new-time radio")?
I am interested in re-creating some OTR drama. Where can I get scripts?
I can hear what sounds like another program playing in the background on many of
my OTR tapes. Is this due to the tuning on the old radio or to the tape
recorder that recorded the program?
Is there an internet news group for old time radio?
OTR network shows were usually heard at the same local time, no matter what the
time zone. How did they do this?
I'd like all the information there is about [insert name of OTR show]. Is there
a FAQ that covers all the shows ever on the radio?
Is there any information on OTR conventions?
Are there any WWW Bulletin Boards where I can post OTR questions and read OTR
I would like to find recordings of [fill in rare OTR show name]. I have seen the
show mentioned in Jay Hickerson's book, but haven't seen the show in any of the
paper or on-line catalogs. How do I get this show?
I see a lot of OTR MP3s on the WWW. Are these worth collecting? How about the
OTR CD-ROMs being offered on the WWW, are they worth the money?
Were any of the old-time radio personalities interviewed recently? Where can I
find these interviews?
What MP3 player is best for OTR?
I keep reading/hearing about the LOC hoarding a bunch of unreleased OTR
episodes. Is this true? How can I get them?
Where can I find OTR to download?
I bought some CDs with OTR MP3s. Some of the programs sound pretty bad. Why is
this, and how can I make them sound better? If I make an audio CD from the MP3s,
will it be better?
MP3s have lots of different numbers, like 32/22 or 64/44. What do they mean?
1. What is "OTR"?
OTR is an acronym for "Old Time Radio", a term loosely applied to radio programs
broadcast from the dawn of broadcasting to the very early 1960s. Alternate names
are "radio nostalgia", "golden age radio", etc. Usually this applies to radio
drama, mystery stories, comedy and adventures. Some individuals classify the
resurgence of this type of radio programming in the '60s and '70s as "Revival
Radio", and similar programming since the '70s as "Modern Radio Drama". Purists
even discriminate between the "Golden Age" (late '30s and the decade of the
'40s) and the "Silver Age" ('50s). In any case, there are plenty of programs of
various types that are enjoyable entertainment. Best of all, they don't require
a large screen TV to enjoy 'em -- the "visuals" are provided by the listener's
2. You haven't mentioned OTR music, why not?
There was a good deal of big band, bluegrass, country and other music broadcast
during this era. For some reason, there seems to be more current interest in the
dramas rather than in the music. You will find much more discussion about this
topic in alt.music.big-band or the various news groups specializing in music of
various types. Bluegrass fans might enjoy the Old Time Music on the Radio WWW
pages. (They happen to use the same acronym, "OTR", but are not affiliated with
The Original Old-Time Radio (OTR) pages). In addition, there is a Big Band and
Other OTR Music BBS at www.old-time.com/otrbbss.html
3. Where can I buy recordings of old radio shows?
There are several individuals and companies willing to sell tapes and CDs of OTR
programs. A partial list can be obtained from the www.old-time.com site. Many
public libraries have a small stock for perusal as well. Some vendors and
collectors even have their own WWW pages.
4. Which vendors have (lower prices) (higher quality) (faster response)?
Prices, quality and service differ somewhat among all vendors. Check with other
OTR fans to learn of their experiences, then check with potential vendors.
Audio quality is an important consideration when purchasing recorded tapes. As
yet, there is no "standardized" description of sound quality. Jim Widner and
other OTR collectors have suggested various metrics to describe the quality of
OTR recordings. Discussion of these standardized descriptors is summarized at
the www.old-time.com site
5. Are OTR shows rebroadcast? If so, where and when?
Yes, several AM and FM radio stations, satellite feeds, a shortwave station, and
at least one Public Access TV station rebroadcast OTR. Check the Old-Time WWW
page for current info. If you learn of other sources, leave a note!
For AM listening, try the National Radio Club's AM Radio Log, 17th Edition:
Complete Listing of U.S. and Canada AM Radio Stations (Mannsville, N.Y.: NRC,
1997). All AM stations carrying things like "Old Time Radio" are listed with the
format code NOS (Nostalgia), and there are lots of other codes. [Order from NRC
Publications, Box 164, Mannsville NY 13661-0164 USA. Price is: $22.95 post paid]
For FM listening, try Bruce F. Elving's FM Atlas (Esko, MN: FM Atlas Pub.,
1993). Alongside lists, this has maps of your area and its stations as well.
[Order from Bruce Elving, PO Box 336, Esko MN 55733-0336. Price Range: $11.00 +
approx. $1.00 s/h]
The M Street Radio Directory, M Street at +1 615-251-1525 voice, or +1
615-251-8798 FAX. The address is M Street Corp., PO Box 23150 Nashville, TN
37202 The price for the 8th edition is $65.00 plus S/H
6. I remember a great show called (x). When was it aired?
If the show was heard nationwide, look through the program databases / logs at
the Old-Time site or at Jerry Haendiges' site (see answer A14 below). If the
show was only on local radio, you will have more difficulty in finding an
answer. Checking with your local radio stations is probably the best bet. Go to
7. Are there any books about OTR?
Yes, there are many books related to OTR. See the www.old-time.com site for a
bibliography of several hundred books. There is also a page where you can read
or enter critiques or reviews of various books on OTR.
Jim Widner and Everett L. Slosman left this address for a bookstore specializing
in OTR books:
Rainy Day Books P.O. Box 775, Rt. 119 Fitzwilliam, NH 03447 (603)585-3448
Bob Crump reminded us that most good used book stores will do a nationwide
search for a title, if given enough time. Henry Brugsch related a good
experience with the following on-line bookstore:
Acorn Books email@example.com
There are also several "book finding" services that will help obtain old/out of
print books for a fee.
8. Does anybody trade tapes of OTR shows?
Yes. Check with the various on-line OTR services. Leave a note in the OTR Digest
or alt.radio.oldtime. Remember to observe copyright laws!
9. What's this stuff about Copyright?
The copyrights on some OTR shows have expired. Several copyrights have been
renewed, and some may have fallen under "common law" copyright (even though they
were not originally copyrighted). 1970s era Berne Convention agreements further
cloud the issue for non-lawyers. See the Old-Time WWW site for the latest
"common sense" and legal citations.
A concise answer was given by 'A. Joseph Ross' (firstname.lastname@example.org) (used with
Just to get a little perspective in this controversy, copyrights do
expire. Under the old copyright law, a copyright was good for 28 years
from the date of first publication, renewable for another 28 years, for
a total of 56. Under the 1976 act, those copyrights were extended to 75
years, provided they were renewed. Copyrights under the new law, which
took effect on 1 January 1978, are good for the life of the author plus
50 years. Copyrights on anonymous works, works made for hire, etc. are
good for 75 years after first publication.
So, since otr has just barely been around for 75 years, little or none
of it is in the public domain yet by reason of having been around for a
long time. The question of what constitutes publication, and the fact
that sound recordings could not be independently copyrighted until the
new law took effect add additional complications.
10. How can I get my local radio or TV station to broadcast OTR programming?
Call the station and tell them of the many people who like to listen to OTR.
Suggest this programming will increase the number of listeners and help buy
things from their advertisers.
Shawn Fulper-Smith, a managing director of a non-commercial station, tells us:
The days of radio being ruled by the artisans is over, and for some time now
it has been in the hands of people who only look at the bottom line, so to
reach them you must talk through public radio pledges, or through sponsors
on commercial stations.
Don Fisher has been successful in getting his local Public Access TV station to
rebroadcast OTR. In fact, Don is the MC of the program. Contact him for hints on
how to get your Public Access TV station to do something similar.
Elizabeth McLeod, who has spent more than 15 years working in local radio, gave
the following advice:
I can tell you that one phone call from a listener means absolutely
nothing to a program director. PD's are totally under the thumbs of
their General Managers -- and GMs, in turn, base their decisions
EXCLUSIVELY on sales issues. It doesn't matter how many people want to
hear something -- if the GM doesn't think he can sell it, if the GM
doesn't think it'll bring hard cash into the station, it won't get on
the air. Period.
The only reason a commercial station exists is to make money for its
owners. ALL decisions at the station, be they about programming or
anything else, are made with this in mind.
Don't bother to approach the station itself, APPROACH THE STATION'S
Listen to the station and figure out who its biggest sponsors are.
Generally, they'll be local banks, car dealers, insurance agencies, and
appliance retailers. Do you know anyone connected with these
advertisers? Then approach these people. Tell them you've heard their
ads on such and such a station, and that you think a lot of people would
be interested in hearing OTR, and that advertising on an OTR series
might be a good strategy. And get your friends to do the same. And be
persistent! In other words, SELL THEM ON THE IDEA!
You need to keep in mind that some types of stations are more likely to
air OTR than others. If your local station is has a firmly-defined
format, you are probably "S-O-L," as the saying goes. They won't break
format, no matter what. On the other hand, if you have a local
non-commercial community-type station, way up on the left side of the FM
dial, you may have a very good chance of success.
11. I have some old transcriptions and tapes, how can I make them sound better?
You might try using a good equalizer and/or digital signal processing (DSP) unit
between the playback and recording devices. Some people have mentioned that the
Radio Shack DSP unit does a fair job. There are also other, more expensive DSP
units available from Ham radio stores and audio stores. Some subscribers have
attested to the efficacy of the Timewave brand of DSP units.
There are several computer programs available to convert analog sounds (as on a
tape) to a digital format (e.g. WAV file). Some of these computer programs also
have noise reduction, filtering and enhancement capabilities. In many cases,
application of digital technology will improve the sound of a noisy or
deteriorating analog tape. There is a problem, however, if the digitized
rendition is re-recorded to tape, and subsequently re-digitized for further
treatment. Since digitization is a sampling technique, sampling a sample can
result in extremely degraded sound patterns.
A very nice program that will convert analog material to digital format is
Audiotools by Andrew Fish. For more information on this software, visit Andrew's
site at http://www.unrelatedinventions.com/Audiotools/
From: email@example.com (Henry Howard)
For cassette machines (and reel to reels for that matter) occasionally
take a "Y" cord and connect the output of your cassette player to both
"sides" of the "Y". Plug the combined side of the "Y" into your stereo.
If the sound is mush(ier) than what you hear normally, you have a head
alignment problem (assuming that the tape you are listening to was
From: Ron_B._Hare@livewire.com (Ron B. Hare)
Dolby HX on the recording deck makes an audible difference. Other audio
optimization features are of negligible value for OTR. Dolby HX also
requires no playback decoder.
[Dolby HX uses or "preserves" the Dolby noise reduction method of the master
tape when duplicating - ed.]
12. Are there any OTR clubs near me?
Check the club listings in the Old-Time WWW page, and leave a note in one of the
on-line OTR groups asking about local clubs for your area. If you find a club
that is not listed at www.old-time.com, ask a club officer to send a note to the
webmaster with particulars about the club.
13. I have some OTR tapes or CDs of the same program, but their dates are
Sometimes broadcasts are dated according to their original broadcast date, and
sometimes according to a date on which they have been rebroadcast. For instance,
the Armed Forces Radio Service rebroadcast many Mutual Radio transcriptions at a
later date. Your tape may be of one of these later dates. Alternately, somebody
might have made a mis-typopgoof.
Finally, some shows -were- broadcast more than once, and sometimes on different
programs! For instance, a few Suspense shows were re-scripted / re-cast for
Escape. You might also find similarities between certain SF shows as done on X
Minus 1 and Dimension X.
14. Is there any place where I can get a complete listing of all the episodes in
a particular program series?
Some on-line OTR collectors have contributed Program Logs for several well-known
series. The logs are available at www.old-time.com/otrlogs/ . While you are
logged in at that site, check the "Humongous OTR Database" (a database of
contributed catalogs and libraries), which is searchable with your WWW browser.
The "logs and publications" entry at the Old-Time WWW site gives names and
addresses of several vendors of these items (thanks to RadioJoe5@aol.com (Joe
Coleman) and others).
Jerry Haendiges maintains a VERY complete set of OTR program logs, at his
Vintage Radio Place: http://www.otrsite.com/radiolog
Jay Hickerson maintains several logs and lists, as well as -Hello Again-, an OTR
newsletter. Jay is the author of The Ultimate History of Network Radio
Programming and Guide to All Circulating Shows. You can see more info at
Jay's address is:
Jay Hickerson JayHick@aol.com Box 4321 Hamden, CT 06514 (203)
248-2887 FAX (203) 281-1322
15. Is there any place where I can get a written synopsis of the plots or themes
of OTR programs?
Again, some vendors include this information with their catalogs. If you would
like to contribute your interpretations of OTR plots or themes, send them to the
on-line OTR services or to firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion in one of the
Jim Widner and others have contributed some synopses / introductions to various
programs. They are on file at http://www.otr.com and http://www.old-time.com.
Also check Frank Passage's logs at the old-time WWW site; most contain a short
synopsis of the program.
Many of Jerry Haendiges' logs contain excellent summaries of not only the
program series, but of each episode as well.
Many of the local and national OTR clubs maintain informational libraries with
16. Is there a World Wide Web page (URL) that I can access for more information?
Yes, there are several WWW sites. Each site contains different information, so
you might want to visit them all. The major OTR WWW sites all have links or
pointers to each other, so you can explore many topical areas within old time
radio. Good places to start exploring are: www.old-time.com or www.otr.com or
An excellent database of OTR-related WWW sites, with an explanation of the
contents of each is at www.otr.com
17. Is there an email newsletter on OTR? How do I subscribe to it?
Several newsletters currently exist. Here his how to get the best:
The Old-Time Radio Digest (AKA "Internet OTR Digest") is a very popular and
freely available electronic newsletter, delivered nightly. Its purpose is to
foster general discussions about the hobby of collecting, preserving and
listening to OTR. To subscribe, send an email
TO: email@example.com SUBJECT: subscribe (The body of
the message is ignored)
18. What ever happened to the person that played [insert character] on [insert
name of show]?
Check the "Personality Pages" at www.old-time.com for home pages of several
well-known OTR personalities. Also check the Where Are They Now pages at
19. What is the best way to archive OTR programs?
The most popular way seemed to be reel-reel tapes, using each of the four tracks
to record monophonically. Modern reel machines are in the > $2,000 range, and
used open reel machines are becoming harder to find.
Purists claim open reel tapes are best stored "tails out", in which the tape is
played (not fast-forwarded) onto the take-up reel. This method of storage makes
"print through" of the magnetic sound image a little less noticeable because the
"echo" will come before the louder sound that caused it, and be somewhat masked
by the louder sound.
Cassettes are generally fine for portability / ease of use / exchange, but they
suffer from several problems when used as a long-term storage medium. These
problems include "overwinding" and splitting of the tape at the leader. Because
of their thinner track width and slower speed (1 7/8 IPS), the density of the
information is greater than with wider and faster (3 3/4 IPS or 7 1/2 IPS) reel
tapes. This leads to a greater loss of signal (particularly high frequencies)
The Hi-Fi VHS tape is gaining in popularity because of its six-hour storage
capability and relatively robust mechanical construction. "Hi-Fi" decks need no
video signal to synch the systems, and can thus record audio without an
accompanying video signal. One T-120 Stereo Hi-Fi VHS cassette can easily hold
12 hours of OTR audio (recorded monophonically on the right and left channels
independently). If the linear track can be accessed independently, this will add
six more hours of recording time. There is very little fidelity loss when using
this medium to duplicate programs.
Conrad Trautmann left this note in response to a query about finding used
You can also call Harris/Allied used equipment division at 1-800-622-0022
or call Radio World magazine at 703-998-7600 for subscription
information. Radio World is an industry trade and has used equipment
listings in the classifieds once a month.
(Jim Blackie indicates that the Harris/Allied number has changed to:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Andy Blatt)
I wholeheartedly recommend Play It Again, Sam of Lakewood, Ohio. They
also sell used Pioneer reel decks with a warranty and accept major credit
cards for repair or used machines. The address is 12611 Madison Avenue in
Lakewood, Ohio 44107. The phone number (no answering machine, no fax
machine) is 216-228-7330. As far as pitch control cassette decks, Marantz
offers several one of which is the three-head portable PMD-430.
[Play It Again Sam has a WWW page at www.playitagainsam.com - ed]
Richard Novak wrote this informative note on using Hi-Fi VHS as an archival
To clear up any misunderstandings concerning VHS HiFi machines and their
ability to record audio, I offer the following..
It should be understood that what distinguishes a HiFi machine from a
linear machine is that the audio track is recorded helically
(diagonally) on the tape along with the video track. On linear machines
the audio is recorded at the upper edge of the tape (and a control track
at the lower edge, if anyone wonders what the extra head is for.)
On a HiFi VHS the audio is not recorded as an analog signal as would be
the case with linear recording. Instead the analog audio signal
frequency-modulates a carrier which is then recorded between the video
tracks. A duplicate signal is also recorded linearly to maintain
compatibility with linear VCRs. The FM signal recorded on the HiFi track
should not be confused with FM radio broadcasts. One of my customers
thought the FM switch on his HiFi was for recording FM from the radio.
Today's machines no longer use the label "FM", instead use "HiFi". Less
The sound recorded from FM radio broadcasts (or any other source) onto
HiFi VCRs is virtually indistinguishable from the source. The material
can be dubbed to cassette with no generation loss.
There is no difference in audio quality using either six hour or two
It is true that at slower speeds the diagonal tracks are closer
together. This does degrade the video signal as anyone knows who has
compared six hour video with two hour video. But does not degrade the FM
carrier with the audio track.
The tape writing speed of the audio track in HiFi mode is the same
regardless of linear speed. This is because the head speed remains
constant and is independent of the linear tape speed.
Worked it out once and it is around seven meters per second. Whatever it
is, it's a whole bunch faster than 7 1/2 inches per second. If anyone
really wants to know the writing speed, it is the circumference of the
upper cylinder (or video head) multiplied by the rotational speed which
is 30 revolutions per second, or 1800 revolutions per minute. (Two heads
180 degrees apart at thirty rps results in 60 frames per second.)
Who cares how it works.. The point is that VHS HiFi is the best and
cheapest medium around for recording masters. But not for archiving.
Most experts still agree that reel to reel is the best and most reliable
method of archiving. (Sticky shed syndrome from the 70s
Although Bob Burnham does not like dubbing (two-well) cassette decks for
producing highest-quality cassette tapes, he does have a few recommendations:
One of the BEST dubbing decks (if you must use one) is made by Denon.
Both sides can record at the same time and both sides have pitch
control, and both sides have separate output jacks for connecting to
other equipment.... almost like TWO (click) TWO (click) TWO DECKS in
one. Tascam (Teac's pro division) also recently introduced their model
303 double deck. If it's anything like the 202 MKII, it's probably not
worth it. You pay a high price for the name, but still basically
consumer grade inside and lots of plastic. Denon is better.
I mentioned Kingdom Tapes in Mansfield, PA as a good source for cassette
copiers, and equipment servicing. All the duplicators I have in use
today came from this company. They have all the major brands (plus
their own house brand), also tape decks, blank cassettes, etc. Great
service (same day usually available). They'll beat anyone's price on
cassette dubbers. 800-788-1122. Fax is 717-662-3875.
Several hobbyists are now investigating the utility of using CD-ROM or MiniDisks
for archival purposes. CD-ROMs can hold hundreds of hours of program material,
but at the cost of time-consuming conversion from analog to digital
representations. Selection of appropriate encoding and compression technologies
is extremely important to prevent digital artifacts. MP3 (MPEG III) compression
seems to be more favored than is RealAudio(R) compression.
20. My old reels squeak. Why does this happen, and can I fix it?
There are at least two causes for "squeaky reels" on a reel-reel tape recorder.
(1) The tape edge may be rubbing against the rim of a distorted take-up reel, or
(2) the oxide may be sticking to your erase (or other) heads. If the former, the
least frustrating alternative is probably a new take-up reel. If the latter,
Fred Korb left this note:
If you have any squeaky reels that you would like to recover, I will
be glad to send you more information on how to do it. Just send me a
stamped self addressed # 10 envelope and I will respond. Send your
request to: Fred Korb, c/o Oldtime Radio Collectors and Traders
Society, 725 Cardigan Court, Naperville, Illinois 60565-1202. I am
willing to help you preserve the sounds of radio days gone by.
[Editor's note: Fred's method consists of a kit by which a lubricating film can
be automatically applied to the tape as it is played. I tried it. Although
temporary, it does indeed work! I'd recommend it for those squeaky tapes that
you wish to re-record onto newer reels.]
Richard Fish (email@example.com) also left this helpful info about an
HYRDROLYZATION is the culprit. The tape material -- the backing, or the
binder compound used to stick the magnetic particles to the plastic
backing -- has absorbed water from the air. The water molecules actually
make the tape expand a bit, so it doesn't fit the machined tape-guides
properly anymore; and they can interfere with the lubrication impregnated
into the tape; and it is theorized they can even interfere with the
polished smoothness of the tape surface.
WHY SOME TAPES AND NOT OTHERS? It depends on the formulation of the
plastic backing and binder. In the mid-70s, both 3M (Scotch) and Ampex,
the two major tape manufacturers, started experimenting with their
formulas. They thought they were introducing major improvements, but
instead created a tape much more prone to hydrolization than anything had
ever been. The problem did not show up for years, and the formulas did
not get corrected until sometime in the mid-'80s. Theoretically any tape
could get hydrolyzed over a long period of time, especially if stored in
a high-humidity situation, but in practice most squeaky tapes were made
(roughly speaking) between 1975 and 1985.
WHAT'S THE FIX? Tom Lopez at ZBS (the most prolific and entreprenurially
successful producer of radio drama in the US today) gave me his formula
and I've done it many times now and it works:
Bake the tapes in a convection oven for 8 hours at 130 degrees
Fahrenheit. It is entirely possible to bake a tape twice if the first
time doesn't do the trick. You get about a three-week "window", sez Tom,
before the tape starts to re-absorb water. So the best deal is to bake
the tape and immediately make a copy. But if you forget to do it and it
re-hydrolyzes, you can bake it again.
21. What is the best radio / antenna to get distant OTR stations?
Several readers have been acclaiming the GE SuperRadio III as an excellent
choice for picking up distant AM stations that carry OTR programming. Although
the tuning dial has notoriously poor calibration, the sensitivity and
selectivity seem superior to other radios.
Some readers have had good success with the Select-A-Tenna antenna advertised in
several magazines, and the Grove Catalog. The S-A-T seems to be rather
directional, and may eliminate off-axis interference.
Ham Radio magazines sometimes carry information about small loop antennas for AM
DX-ing. Some pointers to instructions on how to build them are at
http://www.old-time.com. Also, Dan Hughes (firstname.lastname@example.org) left this note:
Several years ago one of the electronic magazines ran plans with
dimensions and number of turns, etc to build one of these antennas. I
have built several and I'm no mechanic. If you (or anyone else reading
this) would like a copy of the article and plans, visit my website at
If you are interested in AM Broadcast Band reception, and technical articles
related thereto, send a SASE to the following address for their product catalog:
National Radio Club Publications Center PO Box 164 Mannsville, NY
(The National Radio Club also has a WWW page, at www.nrcdxas.org/)
22. Is there a group for modern radio drama ("new-time radio")?
There are several USENET groups whose charters include modern drama. Check the
lists on your local Internet provider to see which are available to you.
Here is a list of some of the WWW sites for modern audio drama:
Jim French Productions (Imagination Theatre):
http://jimfrenchproductions.com/ Atlanta Radio Theatre Company:
http://www.artc.org ZBS Media: http://www.zbs.org/zbs.html LodesTone
Productions: http://www.www.lodestonecatalog.com Midwest Radio Theatre
23. I am interested in re-creating some OTR drama. Where can I get scripts?
Check your local or national OTR clubs. Many have a "print library" that
includes scripts. You can also point your browser at the University of
Maryland's script page, at www.lib.umd.edu/UMCP/LAB/scripts.html
Jack French (OTRpiano@erols.com) said:
One excellent source is the book. "One Hundred Non-Royalty Radio Plays"
compiled by William Kozlenko, Greenberg Publ of NYC 1941. It's certainly
out of print now, but many libraries would have a copy. I bought mine at
a used book store a few years ago. The 100 radio plays in the book
include adventure, mystery, fantasy, comedy and historical. Most were
originally produced on educational stations in the 30s. Authors include
Saroyan, Julian, and Liss.
Larry Groebe, of the Generic Radio Workshop, has several pages dedicated to
on-line OTR scripts at http://www.genericradio.com
24. I can hear what sounds like another program playing in the background on
many of my OTR tapes. Is this due to the tuning on the old radio or to the tape
recorder that recorded the program?
In addition to the old radio being mistuned, similar problems can be caused by
one or more of the tape recorders used before you received your copy of the
program. Print-through has already been mentioned. Bob Burnham has a nice
explanation of two more problems: crosstalk and channel leakage.
Crosstalk and Channel Leakage are 2 different things. OTR collectors
seem to have the most problem with channel leakage.
When you hear another program faintly playing in the background in
normal direction, this is usually Channel Leakage. This is a leftover
problem from the 1970s & early '80s when most collectors traded on open
reel tapes which were quarter-track mono -- there were different
(separate) programs on left & right channels. This allowed 6 hours of
shows to be placed on one reel. Unfortunately, many collectors would
duplicate L & R shows simultaneously. Depending on the quality of the
equipment (and its condition) it was common for one program to bleed
into the opposite channel...especially if the collector was careless and
Crosstalk results when a tape is recorded (or played back) on a machine
with mis-aligned tape heads. It can also occur when trying to record
over a 1/2 track recording with a 1/4 track machine with dirty or
mis-aligned erase head. You usually will hear another program playing
IN REVERSE in the background.
HOW TO PREVENT CHANNEL LEAKAGE AND CROSSTALK...
If duplicating quarter track reels, copy ONE channel or track at a time.
As for crosstalk, make certain your machines are kept in proper
alignment. Use a high quality BULK ERASER if you re-use old tapes...
this is especially true for those who use reels.
Sorry, there is NOTHING you can do to remove these flaws once they are
25. Is there an internet news group for old time radio?
Yes. alt.radio.oldtime is available via some news servers. Since many news
servers ignore alt.groups, you may need to contact your ISP to get that news
group listed locally. See www.old-time.com/newsgroups.html for more information.
Also try www.groups.google.com to sample some of the messages.
26. OTR network shows were usually heard at the same local time, no matter what
the time zone. How did they do this?
Two ways: Many networks used telephone lines to carry the show from the studio
to transmitter sites. The show was done live at least twice - once for the East
coast, once for the West. After Bing Crosby spearheaded the introduction of
recorded shows (about 1948), the East coast show was recorded for later
telephone transmission to the West coast.
27. I'd like all the information there is about [insert name of OTR show]. Is
there a FAQ that covers all the shows ever on the radio?
No. There are many books (Remember them? They have words printed on pieces of
processed dead tree) written about what we now call "OTR". If you would like to
contribute an original article about one or more facets of OTR, many of the
webmasters of on-line OTR sites would be happy to consider archiving it. Go to
28. Is there any information on OTR conventions?
Yes. There are several. Here are some of the larger ones: * Annual OTR and
Nostalgia Convention in Cincinnati, OH (April) * Radio Classics Live, Brockton
MA (May) * Annual Lum and Abner Society Convention (June) * REPS Radio Showcase
(June) * Friends of Old-Time Radio (October) * SPERDVAC (November)
See the convention page at www.old-time.com for specific dates and contact
29. Are there any WWW Bulletin Boards where I can post OTR questions and read
Yes. Try Old Time Radio Bulletin Boards at www.old-time.com/otrbbss.html. That
page contains a list of several old-time radio oriented WWW bulletin boards. You
can also access OTR message boards at http://www.lofcom.com/nostalgia/phorums/
or try some of the USENET groups.
30. I would like to find recordings of [fill in rare OTR show name]. I have seen
the show mentioned in Jay Hickerson's book, but haven't seen the show in any of
the paper or on-line catalogs. How do I get this show?
Jack French, an expert on old-time radio and editor of Radio Recall, gives us
There's good news and bad news....the good news is if Jay's compendium
says they are in circulation, somebody has them. The bad news is there
is no guarantee you'll find them. Let's start at the beginning. If
they're in Jay's book, and there is either the initials of a dealer,
log preparer, or collector with that entry, the assumption is that
person has some or maybe most. If the entry is devoid of such, we push
on. Few dealers list rare shows in catalogs since so few people want
to buy them. Generally the catalog represents a small part of a
dealer's or collector's total holdings. There are at least forty OTR
dealers in the country so you can contact each one with a specific
inquiry. Most collectors belong to at least one OTR club. There are
about 20 clubs. Most will publish your request in their newsletter for
little or no cost. Most of the members of OTR clubs are not on-line so
this is the only way to reach them. There are over 25 state and
college archives that may have the shows. Most have no catalog but
will answer any reasonable inquiry. Contact them all. All of the
contact addresses for OTR clubs, pubs, dealers, and archives are
contained in NARA OTR Source List. Contact me separately if you're
interested in this low-cost research aid.
31. I see a lot of OTR MP3s on the WWW. Are these worth collecting? How about
the OTR CD-ROMs being offered on the WWW, are they worth the money?
Just as with home made recordings of any type, the quality of OTR MP3s varies
considerably. Some of the online MP3s may have been converted from low sample
rate RealAudio(tm) files, others might have been "ripped" from low-generation
masters. Most CD-ROMs for sale on the WWW were recorded using these
varying-quality MP3s. In other words, the MP3s in themselves are "collectable"
only for the enjoyment one might get from listening or further trading. They
have little intrinsic value, and are of unknown quality. It might help to
associate your estimate of quality with the provider's name, to attempt to
predict quality and avoid long downloads of poorly prepared material.
Another point to remember - some OTR is still under copyright protection. Please
observe applicable copyright laws.
32. Were any of the old-time radio personalities interviewed recently? Where
can I find these interviews?
A large number of OTR personalities were interviewed by the author John Dunning.
Stewart Wright, Editor of the RHAC Newsletter gave us the following information.
(You can learn more about RHAC by checking their page at
The Radio Historical Association of Colorado (RHAC) has tapes of many OTR
personalities interviews that were conducted by John Dunning in the 1980's.
Several Radio personalities such as Elliot Lewis were interviewed more than
once. The following is a fairly complete list of the Dunning interviews in
the RHAC library.
Steve Allen, Elvia Allman, Eve Arden, Hy Averback, Parley Baer, Parley Baer
and Georgia Ellis, Parley Baer and Sam Edwards, Parley Baer and Whitfield
Conner, Bill Baldwin, George Balzer, Harry Bartell, Andre Baruch and Bea
Wain, Court Benson & Grace Matthews, Bernice Berwin, Mel Blanc, Ray
Bradbury, Curley Bradley, Frank Bresee, Candy Candido, Hal Cantor, Charles
Collingwood, Whitfield Conner & Haila Stodd, Whitfield Conner and Parley
Baer, Whitfield Conner and Virginia Greeg, Norman Corwin, Mary Jane Croft,
D Day Program J Macvane & Lar, Dennis Day, Rosemary De Camp, John Dehner,
Kenny Delmar, Jerry Devine, Howard Duff and Dick Joy, Richard Durham, Ruth
Duskin Feldman, Sam Edwards, Sam Edwards and Janet Waldo, Alice Faye,
George Fenneman, Morton Fine, Al Flanagan and Dick Mcdaniel, Paul Frees,
Fred Friendly, Alice Frost, Art Gilmore, Roberta Goodwin (Bob Bailey's
Daughter), Gale Gordon, Virginia Gregg, Virginia Gregg and Whitfield
Conner, Phil Harris, Clarence Hartzell, Dennis Horseford, John Houseman,
Bill Idelson, Raymond Johnson, Jack Johnstone, Jim Jordan, Dick Joy, Roland
Kibbee, Sheldon Leonard, Phil Leslie, Larry Lesueur, Elliot Lewis, John
Macvane, Fletcher Markle, Fletcher Markle, Grace Matthews & Court Benson,
Dick McDaniel and Al Flanagan, Dick McDaniels and Pete Smythe, Marvin
Miller, Shirley Mitchell, Carlton E Morris, Morris Kaplan, Frank Nelson, E
Jack Neuman, Nelson Olmstead, Vic Perrin, Michael Raffetto, William N
Robson, Eric Sevareid, Anne Seymour, William L. Shirer, Penny Singleton,
Pete Smythe Collegiate Band, Olan Soule, Berne Surrey, Glenhall Taylor,
Irene Tedrow, Cliff Thorsness, Les Tremayne, Lurene Tuttle, Veola Vonn,
Janet Waldo, Gertrude Warner, Peggy Webber, Anne Whitfield, and Dr. Paul
The Radio Enthusiasts of Puget Sound (REPS) also has interview tapes of many
Old-Time Radio personalities. Most of these interviews have been conducted in
the 1990's. Personalities include:
John Archer, Harry Bartell, Frank Buxton, Chris Conrad (Son of William
Conrad), William Conrad, William Conrad & George Walsh, Stewart Conway,
Norman Corwin, Sam Edwards, Herb Ellis, Charlie Flynn, Jim French, Sandra
Gould, Burl Ives, Peggy Jordan (Granddaughter of Jim & Marian Jordan),
Merrill Mael, Jo Anna March, Les Tremayne, Janet Waldo, Anne Whitfield
Phillips, Rhoda Williams, and Douglas Young.
The REPS web site is located at: http://www.homestead.com/repsonline/index.html
Yesterday USA on the Internet is doing a series of live interviews with OTR
personalities about one every two weeks. They start at approximately 8 PM (ET)
on alternate Sundays and are about 1 hour in length. The interviews are
conducted by John or Larry Gassman. So far they have done Harry Bartell, Herb
Ellis, and Conrad Binyon. Listeners can call in questions.
You can find out more information on upcoming interviews by going to the YUSA
Home page at http://www.yesterdayusa.com/
33. What MP3 player is best for OTR?
MP3s can be played on most computers, memory (RAM)-based players, hard-drive
players, and CD-ROM based players. Each player has advantages and disadvantages.
A chart comparing various CD-ROM players for OTR playback suitability is at
34. I keep reading/hearing about the LOC hoarding a bunch of unreleased OTR
episodes. Is this true? How can I get them?
The Library of Congress (LOC) does indeed store copies of many old-time radio
shows. Any qualified person can access this material, or even get copies. There
are, however, some restrictions on its use. Elizabeth McLeod,
email@example.com , who has done much research in the area, gives us this
LOC material may be listened to at no charge at the Library's Recorded
Sound Reference Center by "qualified researchers" working on a project
intended for public distribution -- from a full length book to an article
for your local OTR newsletter. You cannot, however, make copies of the
material due to the contractural and copyright restrictions which the
Library is required by law to observe. (While the LOC preserves and houses
the material, it doesn't own it.)
It is possible, though, to obtain copies of the material from the LOC by
going thru a process which is neither fast nor inexpensive. But if you
have the patience and are willing to spend the money for material you
can't get any other way, here is what you do:
1. Locate the specific item in the LOC's SONIC database, accessible from
the Recorded Sound Reference Center Homepage,
2. Make note of the LOC Call Number and description of the item you need.
3. Phone, fax, or email the Recorded Sound Reference Center with the items
you are requesting -- contact information is available on site. The
Reference Librarian who handles these things is Brian Cornell.
4. The Library staff will determine what legal permissions will be
required in order to copy the items you want, and will contact you with
the names and addresses of the people who must be approached in order to
get these clearances. If the item is from the NBC Collection, you will
need to clear rights with their Intellectual Property Department in New
York. Additional clearances may be required if the program is under a
5. You must write to the people specified and ask permission to have a
copy made. It's a good idea to specify why you need the copy -- and don't
just say "because Joe Blow is my favorite radio comedian." If you don't
have a professional-sounding reason, make one up.
6. Wait to hear back from the Legal Entities. If you've written to NBC
Intellectual Property, you will get a letter back from them in about four
weeks. Two copies of a legal contract will be enclosed, specifying what
you may and may not do with the recording. Sign both copies, and send one
of them back to NBC.
7. NBC will advise the LOC that it has granted permission, and in about
three weeks you will get back a requisition form from the Library's
Phonoduplication Lab. You'll need to check it over, sign where specified,
and send one copy back to them with your check for the lab fee -- which
starts at $86 per hour, not including the cost of tape stock. Then, fax
the other copy of the form, and a photocopy of your check to the lab, and
they'll begin processing your duplication request. (Yes, the fee is
outrageous -- but there are worse places to spend your money than with the
entity which has done more for the physical preservation of broadcasting
history than any other organization in the United States....)
8. In about four weeks, FedEx will deliver your tape. Needless to say, you
may not make any commercial use of the recording in whole or in part --
and you had to sign a contract to that effect in order to get access to
it. Commercial permissions are a whole separate case.
Like I said, this is not for everyone -- but if you're working on a
serious project, it can be a valuable resource for getting access to
material that simply isn't available anywhere else and which is unlikely
ever to be released on the commercial market.
35. Where can I find OTR to download?
The number and location of FTP sites that provide OTR changes more rapidly than
does this FAQ. Your best bet is to check the backissues of the various
alt.binaries.sound(s).radio.oldtime groups on USENET.
Hint: point your browser to www.groups.google.com and try your search from there
36. I bought some CDs with OTR MP3s. Some of the programs sound pretty bad. Why
is this, and how can I make them sound better? If I make an audio CD from the
MP3s, will it be better?
Wow. The answer to that question could fill a whole FAQ by itself. I'll try to
keep it short.
Poor-sounding audio can be due to several causes. The audio on the tape from
which the MP3 was made could have been poor, or the person that converted the
analog audio to digital audio could have done a bad job. The statement:
"remastered to digital audio" doesn't mean much, if the person doing the
remastering does not pay attention to enhancing the source material.
MP3 and other digital compression techniques are lossy. That means the encoding
process throws away data in order to make the file smaller. Although digital
copies may not have noticeable loss, re-encoding, or encoding in a different
digital format will lose even more data. Example: If somebody took a 32/22 MP3
and encoded it as a 64/44, it would sound no better than the 32/22, since data
was lost in the original encode. Similarly, making a 128/44 MP3 out of an old,
high-compression RealAudio(R) file would not improve the sound. The advantage to
the higher bitrate is the possibility that the new encode will play in a larger
number of MP3 players.
Some people record their RAs or MP3s onto cassette, and then trade the
cassettes. At some time in the future, somebody else might try making an MP3
from the cassette. This analog - digital - analog - digital conversion results
in a very quick deterioration of the sound because of the lossy compression I
mentioned before. The new encode is a "sample of a sample". The sound
deteriorates much more rapidly than does the "generation loss" experienced when
How can one tell if an MP3 was originally made with a high bitrate, or merely
upsampled to a high bitrate? Listen to it, and compare it with a low bitrate
sample. After all, the objective is to get as good an audio rendition as
37. MP3s have lots of different numbers, like 32/22 or 64/44. What do they
Way back in the reel-reel days, folks could record audio at 1 7/8, 3 3/4, 7 1/2
or 15 inches per second. The faster speeds gave better fidelity. Today's MP3
recording does something similar. Two measures of MP3 quality are "bitrate" and
"sampling frequency". Lets take a look at each:
Bitrate used to mean the transfer speed of the file. Much OTR is encoded at a
bitrate of 32 Kbps (Kilobits per second). That meant that OTR could be sent
along a relatively slow internet link at 32 Kbps without breaking up. It also
means that the digital OTR file is severely compressed when compared to the
original analog file.
The lower the bitrate, the smaller the file, and the greater the compression.
Since MP3 is a "lossy" compression format, greater compression means lower
"fidelity" and more digital artifacts. Since OTR is pretty low-fi to start, and
is monaural, 32 Kbps usually worked pretty well.
Sampling frequency is the number of times a second the audio is sampled or
stored. Audio CDs, for instance, are sampled at 44.1 KHz/second (over 44,000
samples per second). The great majority of OTR is sampled at 22 KHz, which is
quite good enough for voice and lo-fi music.
So, the typical monaural OTR file is encoded at "32/22", or 32 Kbps bitrate and
22 KHz sampling rate. Remember, it is the bitrate that determines the file
size, so a file encoded at 32/22 is pretty much the same size as the same file
encoded at 32/44.
So-called "standards" have evolved for internet use. OTR is either 32/22 or
64/44 ("Hi-Q"). Audiobooks are usually 64/44. AM-quality music is around
Some OTR listeners "upsample" their OTR so the shows will play on different MP3
players. They take a 32/22 OTR show, and re-encode it at 64/44. This is
usually NOT a good idea, because the encoding process loses more information.
Once data is lost, it can't be restored.
NOTE: URLs mentioned in this FAQ may have changed. For the latest information,
point your browser to www.old-time.com, or join one of the internet mailgroups
mentioned above. Email addresses listed here may have changed as well.
If you find errors in this document, please report them with this link or via
email to firstname.lastname@example.org Make sure you use the subject "FAQ Error"
to pass spam filters!
Copyright © Lou Genco. All rights reserved. Not-for-profit distribution
encouraged as long as this document is reproduced in its entirety, unedited, and
with this copyright notice intact.