Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Audio Shows and Theater of the Mind

I discovered the Jack Benny Program, Great Gildersleeve, and Fibber McGee and Molly when I was about fourteen years old. During that time, WVXU in Cincinnati played "When Swing Was King" all weekend long, hosted by Mark Magistrelli. When I tuned in to 91.7 one fateful day during a winter's break from school, I was introduced to music I had never really listened to before.

Being a normal teenager, I listened mostly to pop music and had a vague familiarity with big band music. I found that day that I liked it, and listened all afternoon long. At 5:00, the old time radio shows started, I believe with Great Gildersleeve. That was the first time in my life I had ever heard a radio program. After all, I was raised on television.

I really liked Great Gildersleeve, his funny laugh, his boisterousness, and I thought it was a funny show. I didn't know this was strictly an "audio only" show. You see, I thought I was listening to a stage presentation, a play maybe--however they did it back then, possibly acting the show in front of an audience, with sets and everything. But the voice and sound effects were so well done that I assumed it was a very well-miked stage play. The audience helped create that illusion. I could see in my mind everything that was going on, and visualized Gildersleeve as Ralph Kramden from the Honeymooners. In fact, that's still how I see him.

Jack Benny came next. I can't remember my specific opinions, but I do recall thinking it was easily the funniest thing I had ever heard. Again, it was like listening to a play, but was kind of like the Tonight Show with a funny skit and storyline. I pictured Rochester looking like Scatman Caruthers from The Shining. I still do, too.

I believe Fibber McGee and Molly came next. I didn't like it as much as Jack Benny, but thought it was entertaining.

I tuned in every weekend after that and became a fan of the shows. It wasn't until years later I found out the actors were all radio actors who stood around a microphone holding their scripts. Later I even saw a picture in a Jack Benny book that looked exactly like that.

That's how my interest in theater of the mind audio started. Also, I've been a continuing fan of both Great Gildersleeve and Jack Benny until today.

But when I was first introduced to radio dramas and comedy, I knew I wanted to do something like that myself, create my own radio comedy.

I got the chance in 1993 when I recorded the Adventures of the Galactic Star Force Power Squad! You can read all about that experience here.

In 2005 I recorded a prequel to that episode. Find it here.

Where is all this going, you ask? I'll talk about other audio programs available all over the web.


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