Behind the Scenes of The Big Broadcast with Ed Walker and Rob Bamberger


David Ferriero:
To flush out 1940 and its neighboring years, we’re honored to have with us this evening,
two of our favorite voices from WAMU, Ed Walker and Rob Bamberger. Rob Bamberger’s interest
in vintage jazz and swing began in 1963 at the elementary school book fair in Shaker
Heights, Ohio where he picked over the remainders on the record table after the crowd had disbursed.
There he found a two record set from the RCA Victor of broadcast performances by the Tommy
Dorsey Orchestra. That fateful acquisition, which cost Bamberger a dime, launched a consuming
and scholarly interest in American music of the ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘40s. Rob came as
a volunteer in 1978 and soon became host of Hot Jazz Saturday Night. Like some of his
WAMU colleagues, Rob has written the notes for more than two dozen CDs on a wide range
of themes and performers including the Boswell Sisters, World War II Love Songs, Duke Ellington,
Ina Ray Hutton, and the Ozzie Nelson Orchestra. He’s given talks on the history of repertory
jazz and jazz in Paris between the wars. Tonight he’ll help us explore the world of the young
man known as Ed Walker. As a child, Ed always dreamed of a career of broadcasting. Listening
to the radio was always very important to him; and while attending American University,
Walker was one of the founders of the campus radio station which was called WAMU AM in
1951 before the present FM station. While in college, Walker met Willard Scott who became
his good friend and radio partner for 20 years, calling themselves “the Joy Boys”. Walker
has also worked at local stations WPGC, WMAL, and WWRC. He worked in television at WJLA
from 1975 to 1980, and News Channel 8 in the early 1980s. Today Ed Walker’s the host
of WAMU’s long running program, The Big Broadcast. The show, just in case there’s
someone in the room who hasn’t heard it, features a collection of vintage radio programs
from the ‘30s, ‘40s. and ‘50s, including Gunsmoke, The Jack Benny Show, The Lone Ranger,
Suspense, Fibber McGee and Molly, and Superman. The Big Broadcast airs Sundays from 7 to 11
and has been the weekly feature on WAMU since 1964; and Ed has been at the mic since 1990.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Rob Bamberger and Ed Walker. Rob Bamberger:
Alright Ed I want to set the scene for you a little bit. Nobody showed. Ed Walker:
This is a, that applause is a record I think. Rob Bamberger:
No it’s a very sophisticated facility to have a laugh track; the pause that can sweeten
it if we’re not very funny, and it’s so you should relax, say anything you want. Ed Walker:
Anything? Rob Bamberger:
We have behind you well first, it’s a great pleasure to be included in this series and
always for me to hang out with Ed, you know he keeps me around on retainer and calls me
and says, we have behind us on the screen, a page from the 1940 census that describes
the families living on Euclid Street in Washington DC. Good, and, oh there we are. We’ve zeroed
in on the Walker family. What was the address 1218? Ed Walker:
1218 Euclid Rob Bamberger: And we see Edward H. Walker
who is age seven, and your sister Ed Walker:
Betty Joann, yeah. Rob Bamberger:
And your folks. I don’t know if I’ve ever asked you about your family, your parents. Ed Walker:
Well my father we came out here because my dad lost his railroad job in the depression,
and he got a part time job or a temporary job at the Railroad Retirement Board, 1936.
He came out here for six months, and we never went home. This became home; and he worked
for the Office of Defense Transportation, then he got out of the government and worked
for the National Lumber Manufacturers Association; and that’s pretty much the story. Rob Bamberger:
So, like you, a long and checkered employment history. Ed Walker:
Yeah, that’s right. Rob Bamberger:
And you mentioned that you lost your sister within the last year. Ed Walker:
Within the last year, yeah. She was about 85 I think. Rob Bamberger:
And you recently, if I might as well spill it all Ed Walker:
Yeah, might as tell everything. We have no secrets. Rob Bamberger:
Okay, you recently turned Ed Walker:
80 Rob Bamberger:
Wonderful. Ed Walker:
I can remember when I was a new kid on the block, you know. No more. Rob Bamberger:
Yeah, there are certain transitions in life, one that always made an impression on me was
about turning 30 and when someone calls and says, “Will you help me move to another
apartment and return for pizza?” And I say, “Hell no.” Rob Bamberger:
That’s when you know you’ve made one, and then when people you wake up once and
you realize you’re institutional memory, which is why I like hanging out with you because
you are institutional memory to institutional memory. Makes me feel better. I do want to thank National Archives staff
member Connie Potter for locating Ed’s 1940 census record. The station keeps somebody
around to go out and locate Ed when we need him. Ed Walker:
And I have no secrets at all. Rob Bamberger:
None whatsoever. Ed Walker:
I need to get in the witness protection program I think. Rob Bamberger:
Well Ed you are always very straight forward that the Big Broadcast for all of its many
years on our station did not begin with you but began with a man that we hear a great
deal about, John Hickman. Ed Walker:
Yes Rob Bamberger:
Tell us a bit about the early Ed Walker:
Well John, I first knew John, I was doing a program at WRC years ago called “Grand
Dad’s Record Shop.” And I would play old records; they were old then, they’re ancient
now. I mean, this was songs out of the ‘20s and stuff, and I did this old man’s voice,
“Hi folks, how are you?”, talk like that, which is now my regular voice. [laughter] Rob Bamberger:
You just use your young man’s voice the rest of the time. Ed Walker:
So Hickman heard, he collected records among other, for a teenager, he was a very interesting
kid; and he came down to the station one afternoon and brought me a Paul Whiteman record of Just
a Memory, ’78, and that began it; and then he started hanging around with Willard and
me when we were doing the Joy Boys; and he was working at WRC in the music library, and
that station was celebrating its 40th anniversary. They sent John up to New York and got into
the, as John called it, the archives of sound up there where they had all the air checks
on discs, transcriptions; and that, he got the bug after that he started collecting radio
shows, and NBC gave all of their transcriptions I believe to the Library of Congress. So,
but you know, they had to make room for other things; and so they’re still at the Library
of Congress. Rob Bamberger:
Yeah, I remember at John’s memorial service there was also a lot of talk about, I think
John’s mother’s cooking? Ed Walker:
Oh, Mama Hickman, she made the best brownies in the world. Now she never gave anybody the
recipe, but she always remembered Willard’s birthday, my birthday, Christmas, everything
with a can full of those brownies which went over very big at the radio station of course. Rob Bamberger:
Well you mentioned John catching a collecting bug which is, can also be quite a curse. I
remember something that our colleague and friend, Dick Spottswood said to me many years
ago when Dick was arranging to actually sell a collection that can hardly be described
of the 78 rpm recordings he had gathered over the years, things that I never thought I would
ever see some of these great rarities, and I said to Dick in the foolishness of youth,
“How can you possibly sell this collection?” And he said, “Well you wake up one morning,
and you realize that instead of keeping a collection, the collection is keeping you.”
And there was wisdom in that because there comes a point when one can be very much overwhelmed
by it. Ed Walker:
Yeah, well I had to get rid of my collection when we moved, when we downsized, and it was
like a part of my life going out the window, but you have to do it. Rob Bamberger:
Absolutely. And it’s one of the great character building exercises of my life not to go and
look at your collection before you disposed of it.
I, you know you have to do things to keep your marriage. So back there on Euclid Street,
what was the role that radio played? Ed Walker:
Radio to me, Rob Bamberger
In your house. Ed Walker:
It was everything. I guess my mother and father listened to it some too, but I had most of
the time on the radio because I had, not seeing I did not use comic books or funny papers
or anything like that. So I enjoyed the Jack Armstrong, and the Lone Ranger, Tom Mix, and
all those shows; then I got interested in comedians, and the soap operas which my mother
listened to religiously, and housewives, mostly stayed home in those days and that’s why
the radio soap operas became so popular; and the radio that I grew up with is now at WAMU
and they’re going to show it off, and when they move to the new studios, I think; but
it was bought the year I was born. Rob Bamberger:
Is this a table or a Ed Walker:
A floor model RCA from 1932, and that’s the way most people had it in their homes
then. One radio, much as the early days of television when everybody had one television
set in the living room. In the old days, a family would get together around the radio
and look at the dial, you know. But it was good; radio was great for me because it’s
“the theater of the mind” as William M. Robeson used to call it, and it is that. You
can picture in your mind’s eye just about anything or any description that you want,
and with the technicians, the sound men and everything made it live, they made it come
alive. That was the secret of old time radio. Rob Bamberger:
And you were saying that one of the first programs you recalled listening to was the
National Barn Dance. Ed Walker:
Yeah. That was another one. That wasn’t a dramatic show, but when I was about two
years old, we lived in Illinois then, and we used to listen on Saturday night to the
National Barn Dance. It was on WLS in Chicago, came out of the 8th Street Theater in Chicago,
and they had a, you know, people were applauding and everything, and when they’d do a number,
there was somebody that would ring a cow bell, and so my mother got me a little cow bell
or something. I was dumb kid, I didn’t know any better.
So I’d ring that cow bell along with the rest of them, you know. Rob Bamberger:
Well let’s take a listen to hear what you were ringing it with. Here’s a little selection
from the National Barn Dance. [beginning of clip] Male Speaker:
Alka Seltser for headaches. Alka Seltzer for acid indigestion. Alka Seltzer for muscular
aches and pains. Ask your druggist for Alka Seltzer. Male Speaker:
Hello. Hello. Hello everybody everywhere. How’s mother and dad and the whole family?
Well folks, that old harvest moon is shining extra bright on the old red barn tonight,
and for a very special reason. Yes, the Alka Seltzer National Barn Dance Gang is celebrating
it’s 9th birthday. It’s 470th happy hayloft party from the old WLS hayloft in Chicago.
So come right on in folks, and join our ninth birthday, we’re celebrating it with a harvest
home party. Say, the old hayloft is going to shine tonight, folks. We go back 470 barn
dances, folks, to the first song sung for the first time on your first hayloft party.
The tune Fit as a Fiddle, the singers, Hezzie, Kenny, Frank, and Billy, the Hoosier Hotshots.
Are you ready? OK, lets go. (music) Fit as a fiddle and ready for love, I can jump over
the moon up above. Fit as a fiddle and ready for love. I haven’t a worry. I haven’t a care,
I feel like a feather that’s floating on air. Fit as a fiddle and ready for love. Male Speaker:
The general program [end of clip] Rob Bamberger:
Okay, there we go. Ed Walker:
Jumped the gun. Rob Bamberger:
So you said the host of the program was Ed Walker:
Joe Kelly who later became the host of the Quiz Kids Show; and when I was a kid, he did
a morning show on WLS where he had a dressing contest, he would look in his magic looking
glass, the women, the girls would win one day, the boys would win the next day. That’s
the way radio was in those days. Rob Bamberger:
And that, the National Barn Dance was not all really bucolic I Ed Walker:
No. The Dinning Sisters were on there, Henry Burr, the dean of American ballad singers,
Billy Murray was on there, Eddie Peabody, and it was sort of a Midwestern Grand Old
Opry, if you will, a little more sophisticated. Rob Bamberger:
You said that your mom listened to a program that is conventionally tends to be described
as an early soap opera, although you’ve suggested that might be an entirely fair description
of Clara, Lu and Em. Ed Walker:
Yeah, that was a, I think Martin and Marge was probably the first real soap opera, but
Clara, Lu and Em was out of Chicago. My mother listened to that. It’s about three housewives
and their daily problems, and they would just talk a little bit; and it lasted for a long
time, and this program was from the early 1930s and I believe it was on NBC. Rob Bamberger:
Yeah, apparently I looked it up, it started out as a skit in a sorority house, the three
women of Louise Starkey, Isabelle Carothers, Helen King, and their friends encouraged them
to try to get it on to WGN, and then as you say it was picked up by NBC. We have an excerpt
I guess from, actually a 1930 audition that was prepared for it. Let’s see if we can
catch that next. [clip playing] Male Speaker:
So, let’s meet them now. The most humorous, the most loveable trio that ever settled the
nation’s problems. Here they are: Clara, Lu, and Em. [music playing] Lu:
Oh, dear. Ernest should have stayed home tonight. We got something important we ought to talk
over. I’m so ashamed of him. Female Spear:
Oh, dear. Why, Lu, I ain’t ever been ashamed of Ernest. Female Speaker:
Oh, you have to. Female Speaker:
Why [unintelligible]. Female Speaker:
Lots of times. Female Speaker:
Why, I have not. This is the first time. Lu:
I guess this is the first time you’ve ever spoke right out about it. Female Speaker:
Well yes, Lu, that may be. But my stars! Just as soon as she said she was so ashamed of
Ernest, I wish you could have saw what come up my mind. I always picture Ernest as being
out of work and then turning down a perfectly good job. I remember once, he could have been
a streetcar conductor, but he never took it. I had to stand up, you know, all the time
he took the fares, and then another time — Female Speaker:
Oh my goodness. I never seen the beat of you, girls. I was speaking in a laughing mode about
being ashamed. Female Speaker:
[laughs] Oh well. Female Speaker:
If a person just says something in a laughing mode and you pick it up and shake it. Really,
Clara, I never seen the beat of you for bringing out a person’s skeletons in their closets.
You seem like you just step into my home and open doors and skeletons falls out all over
the house. Clara:
Well, yes. Well, that’s more or less because I know you so good. Female Speaker:
Well, is there any interest in what I was saying laughingly? Female Speaker:
Sure, let’s get back to Em’s joke. Come on now, Em, crack your joke. [laughs] Female Speaker:
Oh, dear, I wasn’t go able to… [end of clip] Ed Walker:
Boy that was, that wouldn’t make it today I don’t think. But my mom thought it was
terrific, you know? Rob Bamberger:
Well apparently, Isabelle Carothers died unexpectedly in 1936, and the other two, her two collaborators
didn’t want to go on, and so it did go on a hiatus for some years. Ed Walker:
Then it came back. Rob Bamberger:
But not for long apropos your comment. Apparently they improvised quite a bit of it based on
things that were in the news and so, but you say your mom was one of its followers? Ed Walker:
Oh yeah, she loved it, yeah. Rob Bamberger:
You said you, Ed Walker:
That was her time with the radio I think then. Rob Bamberger:
Well you said you got interested in soaps. What were some of the early soaps that caught
you? Ed Walker:
You know, oh there was Ma Perkins of course, Aunt Jenny’s Real Life Stories, Helen Trent
who was well past 35 when she found romance I think, and there was, you know soap operas
ran from about nine in the morning, they took a break at noon, and then they ran about six
in the evening. I mean, they were on all day, 15 minute shows, one right after another,
and they kept the actors in originally from Chicago before they got switching capabilities
on the network, all of these shows came out of the Midwest in Chicago; and then they moved
to New York when they got the capability of switching coast to coast with the telephone
lines, and then Chicago ceased to be the capital that it once was. Fibber McGee and Molly came
from Chicago, Vic and Sade originally came from Chicago. A lot of shows started out in
Chicago. Rob Bamberger:
You said something very interesting at the start about how the development and the success
of soap operas was very much a reflection of the American society and women were in
the home and here we find we are bearing witness now to the end of the last of the television
soap operas for the very same reason. Ed Walker:
And soap operas and radio where they use a lot of innuendos, but they never came right
out, Rob Bamberger:
Does anyone have the dictionary? Innuendo. Ed Walker:
Well, on television these days they, you know, they show couples in bed and everything else.
They never did on radio, they would insinuate, that’s what they did. Rob Bamberger:
Still in the I’s, insinuating. Ed Walker:
Yeah. It’s sort of like the other word I use. Rob Bamberger:
You’re I think sort of referencing subtlety. Ed Walker:
That’s a good word, yeah, subtlety. Rob Bamberger:
Which you feel was more artful in radio. Ed Walker:
Oh easily. They had censors at the radio networks that were very cautious. When I first went
to NBC, they had a guy in charge of standards and practices. Rob Bamberger:
That was the word for it wasn’t it then? Ed Walker:
Yeah; and then you had to be very careful, and our show being the kind of show that it
was, you, yeah, you had to watch what we did, and we kept the legal department going for
years. Rob Bamberger:
Give us an example if you’re not being all together facetious. Ed Walker:
Well one time we had a spot was sold for I’ll say Charmin’s, it wasn’t, but Charmin’s
toilet paper, and there was a note on the copy to Willard, “No adlibbing.” So we adlibbed,
you know, that’s all. And the one time we were talking, we were filling out, we had
some time to kill, and had some public service announcements. I handed Willard one and it
was for bingo contest, a bingo game, but it was at a Jewish home. You think a bingos at
Catholic churches don’t you? Well somebody who had worked for the FCC got fired and didn’t,
you know, they were taking it out on us, they reported us to the radio station, and the
FCC got involved, and the management of the station got all over us for doing that, and
we were innocent, you know. But that’s what happens. Rob Bamberger:
You were innocent of that particular, Ed Walker:
Yeah, that time. Rob Bamberger:
That time, I just wanted to be clear. When do you remember starting to listen to some
of the prominent radio comedians? Ed Walker:
Oh boy, I’d say about 1940, ’41. I finally got a radio that I had in my bedroom, and
I would listen to Bob Hope of course, Bing Crosby, Bergen and McCarthy, Jack Benny, Phil
Harris, well he didn’t have a show then, he was on Benny’s show. And Fibber and Molly. Rob Bamberger:
Were you there of some very lengthy runs of Jack Benny on The Big Broadcast over the years.
We have a very compelling excerpt from a Jack Benny program from 1937 that speaks to the
long running feud with Fred Allen. Ed Walker:
Oh yes, that was a famous feud, and it all started because Fred Allen had a boy violinist
on his show, and he played a song called “The Bee.” And Fred Allen made the comment, “Jack
Benny ought to be ashamed of himself, he still can’t play that song.” And Benny of course
would listen to the show and write an ad lib for the next week; and so the feud began,
and it went on for, oh a couple years. Rob Bamberger:
Well what we have tonight is an excerpt from a show that’s very, very early in this feud.
Jack had taken the program east and this is only weeks after Fred Allen had made that
comment and about a week or two after Jack had played “The Bee,” himself on the show.
So we’re going to hear a bit of dialogue from that. One thing that really is interesting
about this is that usually the announcers don’t get into any of the feuding, but I
guess they, Ed Walker:
Don Wilson Rob Bamberger:
Yeah but Harry Von Zell was Fred’s Ed Walker:
That’s right, Fred’s announcer. Rob Bamberger:
And there’s some reference and you’ll get to hear how Don reacts to that. There’s
a little bit of audio whistle during part of this, but this is so priceless because
of its being right at the start of the feud. So here is Jack Benny’s program in 1937,
March probably. [beginning of clip] Don Wilson:
The Jell-O Program coming to you from the grand ballroom of the Hotel Pierre, staring
Jack Benny with Mary Livingston and Abe Lyman and his orchestra. We bring you a fellow who
is a big man in Hollywood, a giant in Waukegan, but just another actor in New York, Jack Benny. Jack Benny:
Hello again. This is Jack Benny coming to you from the grand ballroom of the Hotel Pierre.
Now listen, Don, I’m not such a small guy in New York either. Don Wilson:
Well then, Jack, how come they won’t even let you broadcast me in DC studios? First,
the Waldorf Astoria, now the Pierre? Jack Benny:
Well, it’s because NBC is crowded, that’s why. Don Wilson:
Well, how long are you going to stay in New York anyways? Jack Benny:
Until we run out of hotels. I’ve been hanging around so many ballrooms, I feel like a chandelier.
Anyways, it’s still a distinction to be able to do our program from here, not every
entertainer would be granted that privilege. Particularly one that I know of. Don Wilson:
And who’s that, Jack? Jack Benny:
Well, I don’t want to mention any names, but I don’t see how Harry Von Zell can laugh at
him every Wednesday night. [laughter] Don Wilson:
Oh, Von Zell. That announcer. Jack Benny:
Yes. Don Wilson:
By the way, Jack, did you hear Allen call you a bully last Wednesday? Jack Benny:
Better than being a scaredy cat. Don Wilson:
How do you know? Jack Benny:
Oh Don, he’s an awful baby, he’s a grown man taking ether when he gets a manicure. Anyways,
I don’t want Allen’s name mentioned anymore on this program. Fred Allen:
Hey, what’s going on in here? Jack Benny:
Well, as I live and regret. [simultaneous talking] [laughter] Jack Benny:
Now listen Allen, what’s the idea of breaking in here in the middle of my singing? Fred Allen:
Singing? Jack Benny:
Yes. Fred Allen:
Now listen Benny, why you make Andy Devine sound like Lawrence Tibbett. [laughter] Jack Benny:
Now look here, Allen, I don’t care what you say about my singing, or my violin playing
on your own program. But when you come up here, be careful. After all, I’ve got listeners. Fred Allen:
Keep your family out of it. Jack Benny:
My family likes my singing, and my violin playing too. Fred Allen:
Your violin playing? Jack Benny:
Yes. Fred Allen:
You are using that word loosely, Mr. Benny. [laughter] Fred Allen:
Why if I was a horse. If I was a pony, even. Jack Benny:
Yes? Fred Allen:
And found out. Found out that any part of my tail was being used in your violin bow,
I’d hang my head in my oat bag from then on. Jack Benny:
Well, you listen to me you Wednesday night hawk, another crack like that, and Town Hall
will be looking for a new janitor. Fred Allen:
You a lay a hand on me — you lay a hand on me. [laughter] Fred Allen:
Anything we say accidentally will be better than the script. [laughter] [end of clip] Ed Walker:
Writers in those days were just superb; and of course they were masters of adlibbing as
you hear with Fred Allen. I did a commercial one time with Kenny Delmar, who was Senator
Claghorn, and he was the announcer on the show, and I asked him about that. He said,
“You never, Fred Allen would give you all sorts of liberties to do with the character
what you wanted to do, but you never tried to top Fred Allen, he’d kill you.” Rob Bamberger:
One of the things that I think part of the joy of hearing these performers go off script
is just their own merriment. Ed Walker:
Yeah. Rob Bamberger:
And you can hear Mary Livingston. Ed Walker:
And it was live, it was live. Rob Bamberger:
Yeah. At the end of that particular sequence, Jack and Fred make up but they must have realized
there was no upside to that, and they were back at it at, back at it pretty quickly.
One performer that you were, that was very much a part of the scene through much of your
professional life in the early decades, but also one figure who became an object of yours
and Willard’s on satire is Arthur Godfrey. Ed Walker:
Oh yes. Godfrey was the morning man; he did a program called “The Sundial” at WJSV.
Now originally, he had worked for NBC and was in a terrible automobile accident in the
early ‘30’s and was confined to the hospital for months, at which time he got a radio and
listened to the radio and he was appalled to hear the formality of the announcers, you
know, “The National Broadcasting Company”, you know, these formal guys who used to come
to work in tuxedos I understand, and he said, “If I ever get back out of here and get
on the air, I’m going to change this.” He got out and he got on the air, and he created
the, I don’t know what you’d call it; the personal approach to radio, and I can
give you one example. He had, he was famous for missing commercials, and locally there’s
a Smith’s Transfer and Storage Company, and the Chambers Undertakers, and he forgot
to, and he said, “I got two spots I didn’t get in here,” he says, “Don’t make a
move without calling Smiths, and if you can’t, call Chambers.” That’s the kind of stuff
he did and this was a morning show WJSV and you can hear him I think the way he originally
wanted to do before he got all the stardom and glamour. This is on a day, it’s September
the 21st, 1939, on WJSV; here’s Arthur Godfrey. Rob Bamberger:
And this is sort of an extraordinary occasion because this was sort of known as the day
that was recorded the entire broadcast proceedings of the day were recorded from Ed Walker:
Sign on to sign off. Rob Bamberger:
Right, and there’s a couple of curious things just a flag before we hear it, Arthur clearly
knew that it was being recorded because you’ll in this sort of cobbled together excerpt,
he does make reference to posterity, though he is very vague about it and certainly listeners
would have had no sense of the reference he was going to be making; and just to make sense
of one or two other things he brings up, he talks about a very big 1939 MGM movie, The
Women which of course TCM screens off and based on a play by Claire, well Claire Booth
Luce wrote the play, The Women, but it has an all female cast which figures in his remarks,
but the most interesting thing, and I know you can add some details to this, is that
you will hear Arthur Godfrey talking about Leesburg Pike. Ed Walker:
Which he lived in Leesburg, and of course they were developing Leesburg Pike. He commuted
every day from his farm down there to the Earl Building where WJSV was located, 13th
and E I think it was; and he’d come in every day, he talks about this pike, turnpike. Rob Bamberger:
And then there’s something else that happens, you hear Ed Walker:
I don’t want to give it away. Listen very carefully, and this was unrehearsed I’m
sure. Rob Bamberger:
Okay, we were debating this. Arthur Godfrey. [beginning of clip] Arthur Godfrey:
6:29 and a half. Good morning, one and all, it’s The Sundial, WJSV, Washington, DC. This
is Thursday morning, September the 21st. If I’m not mistook, took with the mistake, this
is the Autumnal Equinox, isn’t it? Today? Male Speaker:
It would be. Arthur Godfrey:
This is the first day of fall, officially, isn’t it? Male Speaker:
[unintelligible] Arthur Godfrey:
I do believe it is. Mmm-hmmm. [singing]. You know, Pilcher? Arthur Godfrey:
Pilcher? I have a funny feeling this morning that my few words here are being set aside,
so to speak for posterity, I don’t know why. Would you care to say a few words for posterity? Arthur Godfrey:
[singing] Let me see what else is there in here. Which you should know about, what you
should. Oh yes. The little message here from my neighbors out there in Virginia. The council
in the Town of Leesburg, the Leesburg Rotary Club have adopted resolutions urging the state
highway commission of the Commonwealth of Virginia to take steps to improve Virginia
Route number 7. That’s the Leesburg Pike, you know, between Clarks Gap and Falls Church.
Now, the Chairman of the Highway Commission has arranged for a public hearing of all governmental
bodies, civic organizations and their representatives. Let us all inform the Chairman of the Highway
Commission of our interests in the improvement of the Leesburg Pike. The traffic on that
road nowadays is something terrific. Would be nice if we can get it widened, and those
blind hills, curves taken out of it, huh? Says here, Arthur, please announce that there
will be a midnight show tonight of The Women. And how about the women treating the men to
this show? [laughs] It’s just talking about style, wait until you see that gorgeous $250
nightgown, that is part of the Technicolor fashion show, in the new fiction The Women.
Fancy that, paying $250 for a nightie. Huh? Male Speaker:
[unintelligible] Arthur Godfrey:
Mine cost a dollar and a half, and I bet I sleep better than she does, I bet you. [laughter] Arthur Godfrey:
Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell and a 100% female cast. Did you see the play?
Oh boy, they got up in the rumor and the scandal flies on the wings of the wittiest dialogue
you’ve ever heard. Luxury beauty parlors, homes and hotels [sneezes], oh, pardon me,
I’ve always wondered what I’d do if I had to sneeze on the air. Now I know. [laughter] Aruthur Godfrey:
Where was I? The Women, the picture you must see, opens tomorrow at Lowes Palace Theatre.
It’s quite a picture. Quite a picture. $250 for a nightie [whistles]. [end of clip] Ed Walker:
That was the style that a lot of people tried to emulate over the years, but he kind of
created that approach on radio; and it served him very well, you’ve got to admit that. Rob Bamberger:
Well do you think there was anyone any more interested than he was that something be done
about Route 7? Ed Walker:
I don’t know. He drove it every day. Rob Bamberger:
Yeah, he certainly was posturing as if he was doing a real public service putting that
in the show that day, but I was asking Ed; he alludes to the fact that the show is being
recorded, and that’s the same day that he sneezes on the air, and so we were debating. Ed Walker:
Well you notice what he says, you know you can hear the grabbing in his voice when he
says luxury hotel, and you can’t recreate that. He had it. It was real, I’m sure it
was real. Rob Bamberger:
You would know. And as I mentioned earlier, that his reputation began to sort of develop
an edge to it. Some people say that the character that Andy Griffith plays in; let’s see what
is the title of that? Ed Walker:
Face in the Crowd. Rob Bamberger:
Yeah, Face in the Crowd, and then there’s that wonderful film, The Great Man with Jose
Ferrer, and Ed Wynn, but the media characters depicted in those movies that were some resemblance
to how Arthur Godfrey was understood to be. Ed Walker:
He was possessive of his talent and he resented the fact when Julius La Rosa went and got
an agent, Godfrey served as the agent. He never took a fee from them, but like the McGuire
sisters, they got billings by being on his show, and he resented the fact that La Rosa
who was a young singer was getting more fan mail than he was, so he fired Julius on the
air. We don’t have that recording here, but they said it, Rob Bamberger:
It always makes Ed and me nervous to hear someone’s being fired on the air. Ed Walker:
I’ve been there and done that, but, Rob Bamberger:
Oh, I guess I’m doing alright. Ed Walker:
The story goes that La Rosa heard him, he had Julius do the last song on the show before
they were to sign off, and Godfrey says, “After tonight Juli’s going on his own, he’s
going to be,” so forth and so on, and Julius said to somebody, “Did I just get fired?”
Which he did. Rob Bamberger:
What prompted you and Willard to begin to do some satire? Ed Walker:
Well he was such a big figure and Willard did a beautiful Godfrey imitation and Willard
always like Arthur Godfrey, in fact he had Godfrey sign a dollar bill that was the first
dollar bill he earned from NBC. They paid him in those days, he was a page and they
paid him in cash. He saved that first dollar, he had Godfrey sign it, and then one time
David Sarnoff was in town, and Willard went to Sarnoff, he said, “Mr. Sarnoff, I have
the first dollar bill I ever made here, would you sign it for me?” He says, “You’ve
got the first dollar bill you’ve ever made here?” “Yes sir.” He said, “You’re
losing interest.” Rob Bamberger:
Well that explains why he was David Sarnoff and the rest of us weren’t. How did you
start to then begin to carve out a career in radio yourself? Ed Walker:
Well, I started out with a, and Willard started out the same way. I had a little, for Christmas
one year, about eight or nine years old, I got a small what they called a phono oscillator,
and you could hook your phonograph to it and hear it all through the house with no wires;
and I hooked the microphone up to it, and then I figured, well if I put an aerial on
it, it might get further, which I did. And I took it, went down the street and I could
be heard at the neighbor’s house. So I’d go down there a knock on the door, “I’m
going on the air in about a half hour.” Alright kid. So I did that, that’s how I started.
Then we had a dear friend of the family who was an engineer for WOL, and he would take
me with him on remote broadcasts, and that was fascinating to me; and then when I got
old enough to want to decide what I wanted to do, I wanted to be in radio hoping that
there was something I could do, and so I listened to the radio so much, and then I met Willard
in college and of course he opened a lot of doors for me because they wouldn’t have
hired me on my own, but the fact that we were working together made a big difference. In
fact, you have to fill out a log when you do commercials, you know the times, and they
would always say, “Walker did you sign this log or was that Willard that did that?”
His handwriting wasn’t the greatest, you know. Rob Bamberger:
Let’s talk about sort of the discovery that you and Willard made of the chemistry that
seems to always come so naturally. Ed Walker:
It was natural. The first time I met Willard I was a year ahead of him at American University,
and we had a mutual friend named Roger Gordon who later became Dr. Gordon in audio visual
at Temple. And Roger always talked like Henry Aldrich to me, “Gee Whiz!”. Even when
he was a man, “Hi!”. So he got Willard, Roger talked Willard into coming out and looking
at the University and while he was there we had this little radio station, we were just
trying to get off the ground and he brought Willard in there and he said, “Willard,
go in there and sit across the table from Walker and say something; he can’t see anyway,
so say something smart and see what happens.” And he did, and he responded, and I don’t
remember what was said but that’s how the Joy Boys were born. On the air, literally. Rob Bamberger:
Literally on the air; and some of the sketches you would sort of just have a theme in mind,
and you’d, I mean I say this in such a tentative way because I can’t imagine flying without
a net they way it’s my understanding. Ed Walker:
And we did that. Well Willard would write little notes to himself like names. Rob Bamberger:
Which did you a lot of good with notes. Ed Walker:
No, I counted on him to do that and, yeah. We worked it down to a fairly well, in other
words, my hand would be on the table. If he wanted to cut in, he’d wrap me on the back
of the knuckles with a pencil. In other words, “shut up I’ve got something to say”,
and then he’d jump in the first chance he got; and that’s the way we did it and it
worked. Rob Bamberger:
Except that your hand got kind of, Ed Walker:
Well yeah, my hands were sore, but that’s, Rob Bamberger:
Well it’s remarkable, I mean I think of just some lines from some of the sketches,
you know “Whatever Lola wants, Stan Getz”. Ed Walker: Yes. Rob Bamberger:
And to think that those things were sort of. Ed Walker:
You know that stuff wouldn’t go over today. We’ve talked about this a lot. Rob Bamberger:
You just heard people laugh when I quoted it though. Ed Walker:
Yeah, but you know, I guess, you know, we weren’t suggestive enough. We were naughty,
but we weren’t like Howard Stern, you know. He points it right out there for you, you
know. But we would, there again make innuendoes I guess, and adults would you know, listen
to those guys, and the kids didn’t get it anyway. So we appealed to cross generations.
Old folks, older folks, and the kids. Rob Bamberger:
Yeah, be careful. Ed Walker:
Yeah. They liked the stupid stuff we did, which was most of the stuff we did. Rob Bamberger:
But it was, did you sometimes sort of because you were on five days. Ed Walker:
Four hours a day, five days a week. Rob Bamberger:
So after you got off the air did you sometimes sit and maybe brainstorm a few things for
the next? Ed Walker:
No, no, I didn’t. I’d go home and my wife would give me the dickens because I wouldn’t
talk; and finally I said, I talk all day, I’m tired and I want to listen. So that’s
you know, but no, we’d go our separate ways and Willard would come in, we’d get together
about a half hour, an hour before the show and talk it over; and while the records were
on, we actually played records in those days, we’d come with the order of the, like the
soap opera, As The Worm Turns. We had a throat doctor who was this top 40 DJ had lost his
voice, and when the throat doctor, Dr. Clayton Jackson Durante was his name; and he would
say, “What do you want, junior?” you know. “You got a bad throat?” So we’d get
a whole week out of that just… The set up and the ending, you know how soap
operas are. There’s only about a few seconds of dialogue, and Willard would set it up now,
the sponsor with Scuff No More. You sprayed it on your kids to guard against abrasions. That was Willard’s creation. But I’ll
tell you a story if we’ve got time. Rob Bamberger:
Oh yeah. Ed Walker:
As The Worm Turns, one of the first ones we did we had a doctor named Dr. Kaleo. And Dr.
Kaleo was to say the least, kind of a shyster. He wouldn’t, and so he Dr. Earnest Kaleo,
I’ll never forget it, we did the show and the phone rang and the NBC people upstairs,
“You got to change that doctor’s name. His lawyer just called and he said you’re
prejudicing his case.” And I said, “What case?” Well he’s being up on a malpractice
suit. So a couple of years later… Rob Bamberger:
What are the odds of that? Ed Walker:
Yeah. I’m at WMAL and I met a young intern and she said, “My mother said to tell you
hello.” I said, “I don’t believe I know your mother.” “Well she knows you, she
was Dr. Kaleo’s secretary.” True story. Rob Bamberger:
And had she been looking for a job for a while? Ed Walker:
She didn’t say that. Rob Bamberger:
One genre, well our late friend Jerry Gray used to really bristle if anyone used the
word genre, so I still catch myself sometimes, but certainly one form of radio entertainment
quiz shows; some of which were quiz shows in the standard way, but others that were
not such as “Information Please”. Ed Walker:
Very erudite show. If there had been an NPR in those days, that would have been the network
for it. Rob Bamberger:
Yeah. Ed Walker:
Clifton Fadiman was the narrator, not the narrator, but the host, and he had series
of guests, Franklin P. Adams and a couple of others. Oscar Levant was a frequent guest.
Milton Cross was the announcer; he was one of the dean of American Announcers. “Milton
Cross”, and this was I guess Information Please went on the air in 1938. Rob Bamberger:
Yeah, and it did sort of turn things on its head and so far as instead of asking people
like thee and me questions, people like thee and me sent questions in that would be posed
to a panel of experts. And I gather that Franklin P. Adams was really an extraordinary figure
long standing career in American journalism. Ed Walker:
Yeah and John Kieran. Rob Bamberger:
Who was also… Ed Walker:
One of them is a sports addict and he had to answer all the sports questions. Rob Bamberger:
But he apparently also had knowledge in a number of, number of other areas. Ed Walker:
Yeah. Rob Bamberger:
And of course Oscar… Ed Walker:
Listen to the money that they awarded. I mean $5.00, $10.00, I mean, chump change nowadays,
you know. Rob Bamberger:
And if you send a question in and the panel couldn’t answer it, you would be sent $5.00
and they would even include the sound of a cash drawer as if to be heavy handed about
this $5.00 going out to, but we have a little excerpt from an early Information Please to
run for you now. [clip playing] Male Speaker:
Information Please. Wake up, America. Time to stump the experts. This is the program
in which you the public turn the tables on the authorities. Send us questions with the
right answers. Each question accepted wins you $2. You can win, therefore, as much as
$7 per question if you’re lucky and Information Please is not. Our master of ceremonies is
Clifton Fadiman, literary critic of the New Yorker Magazine. Mr. Fadiman. Clifton Fadiman:
Thank you, Mr. Cross. Good evening, everybody. May I introduce our three wise men and one
wise woman? Our two old faithfuls are with us again: Mr. Franklin P. Adams, columnist
of the New York Post; and John Kieran, sports expert, paleontologist, hi pal, and walking
encyclopedia. Information Please is glad to welcome back Mr. Oscar Levant, musical expert,
composer, pianist. And it takes special pleasure, in announcing as its fourth guest, the star
of stage and screen, whose charm is exactly equal to her ability, both of them being almost
unmeasurable, Ms. Lillian Gish. You were supposed to listen to that, Ms. Gish. And now, Ms.
Gish and gentlemen, the first question comes from Mr. William Haldsey of Boston, Massachusetts.
I’ll ask you to try to give me five typical commonplace remarks or clichés used by the
family and its members in the home. For example, the one I remember best is the one I used
to say always when I was a small boy: “Did I ask to be born?” Let’s have five of
them. Mr. Levant. Oscar Levant:
Hey, are you going to stay in that bathroom all day? Clifton Fadiman:
Very good. Any family that has a bathroom has heard that said. Mr. Adams. Franklin Adams:
He got a bigger piece of ice cream than I did. Clifton Fadiman:
Perfectly true. Two, Mr. Levant? Oscar Levant:
Stop picking on me. Clifton Fadiman:
Had a terrible home life, Mr. Levant. That’s correct, though. Three. Mr. Kieran? John Kieran:
It’s good, but it’s not like what mother used to make. Clifton Fadiman:
Very good. That’s four. Ms. Gish, have you had no home life? Lillian Gish:
Where were you last night? Clifton Fadiman:
Yes, that’s perfectly all right. [end of clip] Rob Bamberger:
John Kieran apparently commented once, and I’ll quote, “A uproarious error, or a
brilliant bit of your reverence was rated far above any dull delivery of truth.” Oscar
Levant was such a, well where are the words, this is after all the guy who said “There’s
a fine line between genius and insanity – I have erased that line”. Ed Walker:
Now he had his problems for sure. Rob Bamberger:
He did, and today we would recognize it as he was bipolar and as so much of his on air
character and personality was rooted in his struggles. Ed Walker:
The times were a lot different then, and it was a gentler age actually, we didn’t talk
about that stuff. Rob Bamberger:
Well he did, but you’re right, no one would have made the point of it that he did. He
did it so charmingly; he no doubt raised some consciousness and awareness of those things.
One other thing that he quipped that I’ve always liked was something he said about Elizabeth
Taylor, “Always the bride and never the bridesmaid.” Ed Walker:
Was he the guy who said about Doris Day? Rob Bamberger:
Oh yes. Ed Walker:
“I knew here before she was a virgin.” No. Rob Bamberger:
Yeah, Yeah, he was, and of course, it isn’t really a joke. Ed Walker:
Yeah. Rob Bamberger:
He was with her in the very first movie she made, Romance on the High Seas, which if next
time TCM shows it if you have not seen that movie, try to watch the first five minutes
and think of when Doris Day comes on like a saucy wench chewing gum, and calling people
chum, and I mean it is not Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. Her whole persona changed.
I was just reading the other day that she had been approached about taking the role
of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, and she and her husband refused the idea, it could
have really been a role that… Ed Walker:
She was the girl next door. That would be opposite of type casting for sure. Rob Bamberger:
It might have though led to a whole different dimension for her, but she couldn’t, she
couldn’t sort of absorb Oscar Levant’s wisdom I guess, go back, but, if you do, can
see Romance on the High Seas, just the first 10 minutes, that’s all you have to look
at. Some of the major stars that you have a chance to interview over the years, was
Crosby among them? Ed Walker:
On the phone. I didn’t meet him in person, but we were going to do a show, I was doing
a television show then, AM Washington on WJLA, and we were doing a show on Al Jolson, and
Al Jolson had a half brother who lived in Washington, and we’re going to get him on
and I said, “You know we’re having a program meeting,” and I said, “What we need is
Bing Crosby. He knew Jolson pretty well.” And everybody said, “Yeah, get him.” And
I said, “All right, I will.” So I found him, we had a book we subscribed to called
the, it gave the agent’s number of all the actors and their office numbers. So I called
Crosby’s office and I talked to a very nice woman, and I said what I was doing. I said
I’d like to set up an interview with Bing Crosby if we could. Well, she says, “He’s
not in town right now, but I will, give me your number and I will call you when he’s
available.” And the next day, I was out of the office and she called, and I got the
message when I got, a lady called from Bing Crosby’s office and you weren’t here,
and I was really, “oh no I missed him, oh gee”. So she said, “I’ll do something
I very rarely do.” She said, “I’ll give you his home phone number.” I said, “I
got Bing’s home phone number?’ “But you’ve got to call him early in the morning,
he’s an early riser.” I said, “No problem, he’s in California, I’m in New York. If
I call him about 9:00 a.m. here it will be 6:00 a.m. there.” So I called and his British
butler answered the phone, “Crosby residence.” I said, “My name is Ed Walker, I’m calling
from channel seven, so forth and so on, and I’d like to be able to talk to Mr. Crosby.”
“Oh yes, I saw your name on his spindle.” I said, “I’m on Bing Crosby’s spindle?”
These are the things you’re thinking at this time, and I got him on the phone and
I was petrified, you know, “Mr. Crosby,” I said, “For purposes of this interview,
can I call you Bing?” And he said, “Oh yeah, of course, I would not answer if you
didn’t.” He was very nice and he even sent me a letter for interviewing him which
is unheard of. I should have sent him a letter, but I have that somewhere, treasure that. Rob Bamberger:
Yeah. He would apparently sit at his typewriter and tap these things out. Ed Walker:
Then we also interviewed Bob Hope, I met him on a couple of occasions, and, oh gee there
are so many, I, I was talking to Jerry Vale one time on the phone, I was just new at a
little station, and I was talking about his, Jerry’s appearing at the Casino Royal, I’m
sure the food, is Jerry Gray there. Jerry Gray, listen to me, Jerry Vale. He said, “I’m
sure that’s a good place, but I’m at The Lotus.” Was my face red I’ll tell you. Rob Bamberger:
Well Bing Crosby certainly is one of the towering icons of radio, I mean he was huge in everything,
but really dominated the radio for decades. Ed Walker:
Well he started out with Paul Whiteman, of course and The Rhythm Boys, and then he joined
Gus Arnheim’s Orchestra, and he had a habit of getting soused, if you will, and not showing
up, and that’s how Russ Colombo got started, because Colombo was a violinist… Rob Bamberger:
With Arnheim wasn’t he? Ed Walker:
Yeah, and Arnheim would use him as a vocalist while Bing was in absentia. Rob Bamberger:
Yeah, in absentia. Well Crosby goes on the radio network radio
for the first time I guess 1931; Harry Von Zell announcing for him. Ed Walker:
Fifteen minute show. Rob Bamberger:
And then it’s early 1936 that Bing takes over the Kraft Music Hall which was apparently
posted by his previous, one of his prior employers, Paul Whiteman. There’s a lot of interesting
early Crosby that has surfaced in recent years, and some of which has been privately issued
to Crosby collectors. We’ve got just a couple minutes worth by way of example coming up
here. This is from December of 1935, Paul Whiteman is hosting the program from the east
coast, and Bing is brought in from the west coast, and a few weeks later would take over
hosting the Kraft Music Hall and would do so for, what until the mid ‘40s? So we’ll
hear him sing a very appropriate song for the influence that Bing had on popular music,
its “Learn to Croon,” and then something from a very brief performance from a 1932
show from Los Angeles, the Union Oil Dominoes Program. You’ll hear Bing singing “Some
of These Days” which is one of those songs that he sang that really show his jazz chops. Ed Walker:
Yeah. Rob Bamberger:
And I think Ed, you will be the arbiter of this that even in 1935, that it’s Ken Carpenter
who’s announcing for the Music Hall. Ed Walker:
It could very well be because he used, he was very loyal to his announcers. Carpenter
worked with him his whole career. Rob Bamberger:
Yeah, but this is even before Bing took over. Let’s take a listen to this then. [clip playing] Male Speaker:
The Greater Kraft Music Hall. [music playing] Male Speaker:
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Tonight the Kraft Music Hall brings you the first
of a series of shows featuring the popular radio and screen favorite, Bing Crosby. Co-starring
with Paul Whiteman and the brilliant Whiteman Ensemble. And here is Paul. Paul Whiteman:
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, thank you. And welcome to the Kraft Music Hall. Tonight’s
a mighty big night for me and for you too, I’m sure. Because we would have with us
one of Hollywood’s greatest stars, Bing Crosby. As a matter of fact, Bing’s not
really in the music hall tonight, he’s in Hollywood. Ladies and gentleman, here’s
Bing Crosby. Bing Crosby:
In a picture of college humor, I first introduced a little song. If you recognize the melody,
why don’t you hum along? [singing] Male Speaker:
Now, Bing, what are you going to sing next? Bing Crosby:
I’d like to sing that old favorite, Jack. Some of these Days. I’ll stick around till
you sing it. Don’t get hurt. [singing] [end of clip] Ed Walker:
Yeah he was a, he loved musicians and he did have a jazz influence. He was doing scat before
Ella wasn’t he? Rob Bamberger:
Well he was certainly among the early and true scatters. With him on that performance
was guitarist Eddie Lang, who was his accompanist until Eddie’s very untimely death of March
of 1933, and you were speaking about Bing’s loyalty to performers, and the pianist was
Lennie Hayton, but just an incredible, incredible performer, and Bing also had, he had a real
strong sense of broadbill; his sense of comedy, his use of language; and you’ve played a
lot of Bing Crosby, Kraft and other radio series programs on The Big Broadcast. Ed Walker:
Yeah, he had a great, he could articulate very well. He’d been a debater I think in
high school, and that sort of came naturally to him. Rob Bamberger:
It’s interesting to think that while Bing brought so much to radio from I guess my own
perspective, he also too something out of radio because he was the first to insist on
transcribing his weekly broadcast because he did not want to be enslaved to the live
mic. Ed Walker:
He liked to play golf. Rob Bamberger:
Right, he was one of the early investors in the tape recorder, and so his shows after
the, well I wish I knew the exact date. Ed Walker:
1947 I think. Rob Bamberger:
That sounds right. Ed Walker:
That’s when the Philco Series started. Rob Bamberger:
Okay, and those were transcribed and they just don’t quite sound the same because
of the transcribed, the editing as gifted as his editors were, there is something that
one senses to be a little different. With respect to thinking about the lengthy runs
on the Big Broadcast of Jack Benny or Bing Crosby, or Johnny Dollar or Dragnet, what
are some of the things that influence the decisions you make about what to run, just
some of the shows you may run… Ed Walker:
Some of the shows were carryover from when John Hickman did it, of course Gunsmoke is
probably the most listened to the shows I do, and we’ve gone back recently and started
that series all over again, and we try to mix a little comedy and a little mystery,
and everything else; and you never can please everybody. Some people send me emails, “There’s
not enough comedy.” Somebody else said, “There’s too much comedy, more science
fiction.” You know, you can’t please everybody, so in the course of four hours we try to do
it the best we can and the final hour, we run a lot of times the Lux Radio Theater which
is sort of a composite of all sorts of things, because that’s the time when people are
going to bed and you know, I don’t use the prime shows in that time slot. Rob Bamberger:
Well Mr. DeMille might take exception to that, but… Ed Walker:
Goodnight to you from Hollywood, yeah. Rob Bamberger:
What Ed did was just mention brings to mind something I do want to share with everyone.
One of the things that I remember when after John Hickman died, there was a very nice memorial
service and the program director at the time at WAMU, Steve Martin, Steve Palmer, and I
don’t know which to call him, Palmer, Martin. Steve stood up and said that the Big Broadcast
delivered to him what every program director of a radio station wanted on Sunday nights,
and that was an audience. It is a very narrow time for radio listeners, not a large Sunday
evening radio audience, but the Big Broadcast has over its lifetime delivered with exceptional
consistency a very strong and a very loyal listenership, and indeed we would note that
since the means mechanism by which audience numbers are measured was changed a few years
ago. Just looking at WAMU’s Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 book, the Big Broadcast is, Ed
can’t see what I’m doing but I’m putting, holding up one finger, number and not, it’s
an okay finger. Ed Walker:
Which finger is that? Rob Bamberger:
I’ll speak with you later. Ed Walker:
Oh, all right. Rob Bamberger:
Number one. Number one. Ed Walker:
But I can’t take the credit for, it’s the programs that the people listen to. I
just tie them together, so I can’t take a lot of credit for it, lest to have a lot
of material to use. Rob Bamberger:
Well, and I grant what you say because of the, to the extent that anyone has ever talked
about my own show, I also will give full credit to the musicians and usually people will say,
“I hope you would.” But still, Ed, as you’ve heard me say on many, many occasions,
and I never can find any other way to say it, you personify so much of the history of
radio, you help us forge a connection to us to it, you created so much of that history,
you are part of it, and the connection that you feel with the programs is so apparent
that I think everyone here would probably agree with me that there is a point at which
we cannot completely separate you from the Big Broadcast. Ed Walker:
I appreciate that. Rob Bamberger:
And I see that time and time again. One story if I may tell on myself with respect to what
Ed said about Gunsmoke. A few years ago, Ed, you were sidelined by some back difficulty,
and I was there the night of the membership campaign with Sam Litzinger during to encourage
people to become members at , you don’t want to hear that language, but, we could
recite a phone number for everybody. But anyway… Ed Walker:
2885… Rob Bamberger:
That number again… Ed Walker:
202-885-8850. It’s etched in my mind. If they ever changed the phone number, I’m
dead. Rob Bamberger:
Ran long the first hour and started Gunsmoke about 10 minutes after 8:00. Well I don’t
know, Eddie, whether you were there that night, came in and told me the irate calls that were
coming in because I had let the start of Gun Smoke slip 10 minutes, and of course, my repast
to that was if it’s so important to you, then you should be a member. Ed Walker:
Yeah. Well that’s appointment listening, it really is, that show would not go every
day of the week, but on Sunday night, it’s a perfect time in the week to do this because
people are unwinding from the weekend, getting ready for the upcoming week and it’s kind
of a nice time. Rob Bamberger:
Yeah and the great thing is that the music fills, that’s when you can run the faucet
or do other things. Yeah, and you turn it off and, yes, yes, I always thought that what
was this American life was so great at 6:00 p.m. on Sundays when you were fixing dinner,
because there was all these music, you know, that you could cut the onions during it and,
I lost that battle. We want to slip in maybe just one more program excerpt because I certainly
want you to have an opportunity to ask some questions of Ed as I’m sure you have of
him. The Lone Ranger. Ed Walker:
The Lone Ranger, it goes back to 1933 and created by Fran Striker, George W. Trendle
who owned WXYZ in Detroit started that as sort of an experiment. From that came the
Green Hornet, Challenge of the Yukon, and countless shows; and there were several Lone
Rangers. The one that is most familiar is Brace Beemer, who originally was the announcer
on the show. The guy that you hear at the beginning of this is Earle Graser who was
the Lone Ranger until 1941, and he was killed in an automobile accident in April of that
year, and then they got Brace Beemer to take over the part of the masked man, and he did
it actually longer than Graser, for the whole rest of the show. Rob Bamberger:
It’s interesting, we suggested finding an excerpt where there’s a passage in which
the Lone Ranger is expressing kind of value system we associated with the Lone Ranger,
and what we have here is almost eight stories over the top from what even I had been imagining,
so a little bit of the Lone Ranger. [clip playing] [music playing] The Lone Ranger:
Hi ho, Silver, away! Male Speaker:
A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty hi ho, Silver. The Lone
Ranger. [music playing] The Lone Ranger:
Dan, your grandma was a fine woman. It’s too bad she had to go. Male Speaker:
She was certainly good to me. The Lone Ranger:
She and your father left you a great heritage. Male Speaker:
A heritage? The Lone Ranger:
Yes. They and others like them have handed down to you the right to worship as you choose,
and the right to work and profit from your enterprise. They have given you a land where
there is true freedom, true equality of opportunity, a nation that is governed by the people, by
laws that are best for the greatest number. Your duty, Dan, is to preserve that heritage
and strengthen it. That is a heritage and duty of every American. [end of clip] Rob Bamberger:
202-885-8850. Ed Walker:
Now you notice that the beginning of the show was Earle Graser and the dramatic part was
Brace Beemer who you could tell the difference probably, but that was the Lone Ranger. Rob Bamberger:
Well as I said, we do want to open it up to questions. There are microphones at either
side, and while you make your way to that I just want to thank everyone who has joined
us tonight, but it is always such a great treat for me to hang out with Ed, I mean it
sort of happened by false pretenses. Ed said to me several years ago, you know, “Kid,
you’re no Joy Boy, but you stick with me, there is big money in public radio.” What you didn’t tell me is it’s somebody
else’s, But we’ll start on this end, Ed there are a number of people that want to
ask you some things. Male Speaker:
I came from Chicago; I lived in Chicago as a little kid. I used to, in fact I was about
five or six years old, and I used to go to bed at 6:00 on Sunday night, and I would spend,
if I could stay awake, I would spend the next three, three and a half hours listening to
one show after another. It was just wonderful; and then in about 1954, something called Monitor
came along in Chicago. I don’t know whether it was any place else, and you could address
that, but it wiped out all of these shows. It replaced them; and to be honest, the radio
was never really the same for me again. My question is what was this? Did it extend across
the country? What was the purpose of this thing? What were they trying to accomplish
with it because I don’t think it lasted very long. It wasn’t very successful apparently.
Do you know anything about it? Ed Walker:
Monitor was carried nationally, it was a creation of Pat Weaver, who also created the Today
Show and he was the head of NBC at the time, and this was an idea that local stations other
than the big cities, could carry this show on the weekends with only a board operator
on duty. It was a cheat for the station’s to run and they could get some big names on
it. It was a different form, more of a magazine type radio, but radio changed then, and you
know the network, like Johnny Dollar and Suspense and those shows, all went off by 1962, so
you could see the pattern was there; radio is changing. Everybody, the advertisers were
putting the big bucks into television, so radio had to fend the best way they could.
That’s what happened. Male Speaker:
Thank you. Male Speaker:
Hi, I’m one of those faithful listeners who make the Big Broadcast number one on Sunday. Ed Walker:
Thank you sir, bless your heart. Male Speaker:
I love the show, I listen to it every Sunday, but I do have questions about a couple of
radio personalities that I seldom hear on the show; Orson Welles and Groucho Marx. For
the Campbell Playhouse and the Mercury Theater, Orson Welles created 56 hours of programming,
not just War of the Worlds, and did his own adaptation also of Les Miserable. And Groucho
Marx of course was the longtime host of You Bet Your Life. So I’m wondering why not
Orson Welles and Groucho Marx on the Big Broadcast? Ed Walker:
We have run them. Orson Welles, we did run Les Miserable several, few years ago, and
we’ve run some Mercury Theater, we’ve run Dracula, and I can’t quote you offhand.
We don’t run them every week because a lot of the listeners I don’t think, if we did
we’d run it later in the show, but I will try to find some more Orson Welles, and Groucho
Marx, I don’t know how much radio he has, we have of him because that was a television
show that was edited for radio, You Bet Your Life was predominately a TV show. Rob Bamberger:
So the radio show used the actually… Ed Walker:
Actual footage, actual audio from the TV show. Rob Bamberger:
I see, very good, well thank you for mentioning those. Ed Walker:
We shall try. Rob Bamberger:
Sir. Male Speaker:
At the time was radio strictly racially segregated, and if that was the case, what were black
performers, what were their outlets as a venue? How did they get to be heard? What sort of
famous shows, what did black performers have? Ed Walker:
Rochester’s a perfect example on the Jack Benny Show, and if you notice that when you
listen to, Rochester always gets the last laugh many times, and somebody was criticizing
Benny once about the way he treated his servant, and said that’s just not fair, and Benny
said, “I’ll have you know that Rochester, Eddie Anderson, happens to be the wealthiest
black actor in Hollywood these days.” So he was well paid. Others had the stereotypical,
Amos and Andy on radio were two white men. Now we can’t run that now because that’s
been a no no ever since I’ve been at the station, and I think Amos and Andy are hilarious,
you know, and they get by on television for a while with black actors, but there were
limited black actors on radio in those days, but I can’t even think of some of the names
of them but they did, like on Johnny Dollar they have black actors who do like hotel porters
or something like that, type casting. They don’t do that so much anymore. Rob Bamberger:
But they weren’t comparable opportunities is really sort of the bottom line. Let’s see, was that from this… Male Speaker:
I’ve always liked the one liner that the true definition of an intellectual is someone
who can listen to Rossini’s Overture to William Tell and not think of the Lone Ranger. Ed Walker:
You are right, you are right. Male Speaker:
But my question, actually I’m a big fan of the Big Broadcast, but also of Hot Jazz
Saturday night, and my question is to Mr. Bamberger, what are your sources or records?
Are the all from your collection or from the Library’s collection, or a whole mixture? Rob Bamberger:
Never from the library, you mean the Library of Congress, when I worked there, no no no,
no no it’s personal collection. Remember what I said about collections keeping you
instead of the other way around? Ed Walker:
I just applied for food stamps last week. Rob Bamberger:
We need a second basement, but thank you very much sir, yeah. It’s the curse of collecting,
yeah. This side. Male Speaker:
Thank you. I don’t know if there would be any way to quantify how much of old time radio
has been preserved versus what was broadcast, you know the way we hear sometimes about early
silent movies, X percent has been preserved. I kind of wonder about that, and also like,
to Mr. Walker, are the particular shows or particular broadcasts that hasn’t been preserved
that you know of but you would really love to turn up somehow? Ed Walker:
Well the broadcast from the ‘30s, the early ‘30s are limited because they had no tape
then, and they had to do them on transcriptions, and I know in the case of Vic and Sade which
was a very popular program sponsored by Proctor and Gamble. Proctor and Gamble was moving
a facilities of something, somebody got the bright idea of throwing out all those discs;
little did they know what they had done; and that’s how a lot of the old radio stuff
comes to being. Guys at radio stations, they might have recorded stuff off the air to run
on the air delayed, and they throw them out and every once in a while some engineers rummaging
around the trash bin will see those disks and take them, and of course we get a lot
of stuff from Armed Forces Radio which theoretically you’re not supposed to run, but they carried
a lot of the old radio shows on the Armed Forces Radio Service cutting out the commercials. Rob Bamberger:
What Ed says is absolutely true. A lot of material was disposed of, but it’s something
that I’m fond of saying is that you can never completely despair of what a finite
universe will cough up. That sort of is an odd way to put it, but the fact that you can’t
go back and capture anything that wasn’t captured, but yet there are stories like the
Crosby material we heard earlier, some of it was belonged to Georgie Stoll who was leaving
the orchestra of the Woodbury program. Some of the Benny Goodman Camel Caravans from 1939.
Johnny Mercer who was side kick on that program had them record it off air, his family had
the discs. Fortunately, Johnny played most the parts where he was singing so the Goodman
parts were, had less surface noise, but I meant there’s stuff out there and it keeps
surfacing with respect to film versus radio, it’s hard to know because film is such a
more finite universe and there’s enough documentation you know what films were produced,
but radio was hours and hours and hours all over the country, a lot of it local, so it’s
hard to know how much was lost. Ed Walker:
What’s happening, you know, after the ‘50s and the radio is mostly on tape, and tape
has some of the same characteristics as movie film, it dries up after a while and is not
usable; and that’s why it’s vitally important to get this stuff digitized, put on CDs. Now
I don’t have a big collection; we’ve moved and I had to downsize, but I got a fellow
in Baltimore who has a tremendous collection, and I confer with him on the phone, and we
talk about shows and like one show that’s very good that Jack Webb did was Pete Kelly’s
Blues which had a Dixieland band in it too, Rob, and it only ran for 13 weeks, and I’m
trying to get my hands on those. I’ve had one or two of them, and they’ve made a movie
from that later on in the ‘50s you know. But that was a very good show. Every once
in a while you come across a show that you’ve been looking for. Rob Bamberger:
Yeah, I think we have time for one more question. I think I’m obliged to go on this side but… Male Speaker:
Thank you. I’d like to thank Ed for bringing back so many memories, not of the ‘30s,
but my case, late ‘40s when radio was still a very viable media that we did huddle around
and listen to these mysteries and comedy shows, but I also, you almost gave me a good segue
there talking about Armed Forces Radio. I don’t know if he knows this, but the guy
that turned me on to your program, Ed, is Adrian Cronauer of Good Morning America fame
and he’s a very, very big fan whom I’m sure wishes he could be here tonight. Thank
you so much for all you’ve done. Ed Walker:
Thank you. I interviewed him. I had him on television when I was doing a show on channel
eight, and he was famous for “good morning Vietnam,” and, oh really? Very good. Thank
you. Rob Bamberger:
I’m going to take one more question, just to be civilly disobedient. One last one. Male Speaker:
Hi, well I have listened to the Big Broadcast for a few years now, and I also really love
it when you play Jack Benny and, you know, he’s always making fun of on the show how
he played the violin, and I was just wondering if he ever actually had any jobs playing the
violin, whether he was actually good at playing the violin? Ed Walker:
Near the end of his career he did a series of concerts for charity, and he did play legitimate
violin. Rob Bamberger:
His daughter, Joan and her book Sunday Nights at Seven, writes about, if I’m not mistaken
Ed I think it’s in that book she writes about how very seriously he was working at
the violin. Ed Walker:
Yeah. And the way he scrapes the strings and everything, that’s you know… Rob Bamberger:
It’s art. You have to be artful to play that. Ed Walker:
It’s like Spike Jones’ musicians, they were that way too. You have to be very good
to be very bad. Rob Bamberger:
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.

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