Sometime in the mid-to-late 1980s I discovered KNX-1070’s Radio Drama Hour. As I’ve mentioned in the two previous posts, KNX-1070 is a news radio station in Los Angeles that I listened to now and then when I lived out there. Each night, from 9-10pm, the station would take a break from the news to play classic radio programs. These were programs like “The Adventures of the Saint” with Vincent Price or “The Lone Ranger.” I loved these shows and went through a spell in my teenage years listening to them as frequently as I could.
Years, later, after graduating from college, I was reintroduced to the KNX Radio Drama Hour while making the drive from San Diego to Los Angeles one night after a very long day. I was tired and it was late. I had the windows down to ensure I was getting fresh air as I hurtled north on the San Diego freeway. I switched on the radio for the news, and at 9 o’clock, the news faded and the KNX Radio Drama Hour started. It was a Sunday night, I remember that, because the they didn’t play their usual fare. That night I spent the next hour listening to George Burns and Gracie Allen on The Burns and Allen Show. That was even better than the radio drama.
It got me thinking: why don’t we have radio shows like this today? Why aren’t people entertained by a radio variety show where you, as the listener, must contribute more than just sitting back and listening. You have to imagine in your mind what is happening. One argument might be that people wouldn’t pay for this, but I beg to differ. Isn’t that exactly what people do when they pay for audiobooks? Certainly that is one of the reasons why I enjoy listening to an audiobook that I could just as easily read.
Perhaps podcasts have taken over this niche. In some ways, they are very much like the old radio shows, with episodes paid for by one or two sponsors. On the other hand, you don’t have to tune-in to a podcast, you can listen to it whenever you want. That is convenient, but part of the beauty of the old radio programs was that you had to wait for them. And I imagine you anticpated them the way people today anticipate the next episode of a podcast.
There was one more radio drama that seems to be fading away more and more as time passes. This was a true drama, and there were night in Los Angeles where these dramas could have me on the edge of my seat, crying out with the victors or the vanquished: baseball games on the radio. In Los Angeles, it was always the voice of Vin Scully, and while I was never a Dodgers fan when I lived there, I always enjoyed listening to games called by Scully. When I think back to those night, I hear a kind of tinny voice on the radio, and I could have been listening to a game in 1930 instead of 1990. Baseball is more timeless on the radio than on television.
Written on March 22, 2022.
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