OTR Buffet: Jon, thanks for joining me. What can you tell us about OTRCAT?
Jon: Thanks for inviting me, Jimbo. After many years of listening and collecting old time radio shows, the OTRCAT.com (Old Time Radio Catalog) web site opened in 1999. We offer thousands of old time radio shows on MP3 and audio cd for just $5.00 per disk.
OTRCAT.com offers hundreds of show descriptions with images of the original actors and sponsors. We feature original compilations and thousands of free downloads on the OTRCAT.com website including an "Daily Download" section (which has broadcasts from the same date in history).
Proceeds from the OTRCAT.com website offset the price of machinery, supplies, and growing old time radio collection; every month OTRCAT also sends out free CDs of old time radio shows to various low-income retirement homes, centers for the blind, and American field troops based in Iraq and Afghanistan in hopes they will enjoy the nostalgia of these classic radio recordings.
Jon: OTRCAT.com is a family-run business and represents over a decade work & thousands of hours of researching and writing. Many hard-print resources and logs available, but the Internet has made research and correspondence with collectors and contributors more convenient than ever. Researching the individual series and writing about them has been a passion. We’ve recently been working on old time radio articles including texts on Atomic Radio, Soap Operas, Espionage and Horror and Mystery shows. We’ve also had guest authors write about Aimee Semple McPherson, Cathy Lewis, War of the Worlds, Kay Kyser, Hans Conried & Arch Oboler and others which I hope are a compelling and entertaining read.
OTR Buffet: Please tell me how you first got into old-time radio. (I'd like to know some of your first memories of OTR and what were some of the shows you listened to.)
Jon: I missed hearing the golden age of radio when it was broadcast live, but I listened to some comedy and horror radio shows when I was a kid on cassette tapes and father's open-reel player. While living in Los Angeles, I found myself addicted to old time radio during long commutes and subsequently spent a lot of time sitting in the driveway waiting for THE WHISTLER show to end when they broadcast the shows on AM in the evening. With the advent of digital recording, being able to store and listen to the shows on demand is easier than ever. One of the beautiful things about the MP3 format: you can have virtually an entire series stored on a single disk and can fast forward, rewind and resume listening to any episode at any point in time!
OTR Buffet: When we chatted earlier, you mentioned you liked Dragnet. Dragnet is a unique show with it's own style. Can you talk about that style, tell us some fond Dragnet memories?
Jon: Jack Webb's Dragnet are some of my favorite old time radio detective shows. My wife and I have listened to the series many times through. His no nonsense questioning of suspects and witnesses are really entertaining (as are the stories – based on true life crime). The stories are tastefully written and cover some fascinating crime history. The suspects and witnesses are great memorable characters and the plots, delivery, one-liners and sound effects are all top-notch from the golden age of radio!
OTR Buffet: I always thought it was kind of strange that Dragnet's Friday lived with his mom. It's kind of strange, don't you think?
Jon: He's a man dedicated to his job, Jimbo!! In Friday’s defense, there were several episodes where Joe Friday took out a "police woman" to prove he wasn't a Norman Bates-like character in his personal life. I recall one where his mother was shocked that the police woman was "pretty." Joe Friday living at home makes the fodder with his partner (Ben Romero) all the more entertaining; there are a lot of dry-wit skits where Romero bores Joe Friday with his inane troubles and arguments with his wife and mother in law.
OTR Buffet: Another show you mentioned you liked a lot is You Bet Your Life. That was indeed a great show and a classic. Groucho is so very funny. I think it's a shame that the teens today have no idea who Groucho is. Even in this current wacky world of Lady Gaga and reality television, I think You Bet Your Life would still do well if they ran the reruns against other televison shows! How do think Groucho's show would do if it currently ran on CBS on Friday nights at 9pm?
Jon: Every episode of Groucho Marx's YOU BET YOUR LIFE has some laugh out loud moments for me. It's amazing some of the material passed censors--Groucho's wit always won out. Regarding competing on today's television: the duck that falls out of the ceiling is pretty compelling television!! There was only one Groucho Marx, but I'm not sure if it would really appeal to a mass audience. I think there will always be Marx-bros fans out there that will always enjoy Groucho's impromptu one liners although I'm not sure Television format added that much additional humor from the radio broadcasts (there wasn't much visual humor on the television episodes I recall.) The Marx Bros films on the other hand had all kinds of great visual gags, but the time, budge and game-show format constraints made YOU BET YOUR LIFE just as entertaining as an audio radio broadcast as the video version. If I recall correctly Groucho has editing control of the radio broadcasts before they were broadcast where he had them cut out dead air time and condense all the jokes – the end product is a great show that always makes me laugh.
Christine Miller do an interview with me a couple of months back, I hope you will read that on the Buffet. I enjoy Suspense as well. What are some of your favorite episodes of the show and why?
Jon: Indeed - I enjoyed your interview with Christine and share her love for Suspense. Agnes Moorehead’s “Sorry Wrong Number” always comes to mind when I think of Suspense. SUSPENSE is a top-notch series with broadcasts with top name actors of the era including Jimmy Stewart, Gene Kelly, Dane Clark, Cary Grant, and Jack Webb. Episodes like “Donovan’s Brain”, “House in Cypress Canyon” , “The Hitchhiker”, Vincent Price in “Three Skeleton Key”, and “The Doom Machine” are some of my all-time favorites that come to mind. The writing and performances are indeed “well calculated to keep you in Suspense!”
OTR Buffet: Doing the OTRCAT you probably have come across some shows most of us have never heard of. Can you recommend any "under-the-radar" shows that we have never heard before and if so, can you tell us something about them?
Jon: OTRCAT.com has a "rarities" section of the website with some of the lesser known shows. Some of our original genre compilations of Rare Detectives & Rare Soap Operas are fun way to get a sampling of recordings that only have one or two episodes still in known existence. Recordings like Singing Sam (“The Barbasol Man”) and others are a great listen. Other rare recordings like "Lonesome Gal" of interest was a music program from the 40's created by Jean King who starts her program swooning " "Sweetie, no matter what anybody says, I love you more than anybody in the whole world."
OTR Buffet: You also mentioned to me that you like the show, X Minus One. It's a show I have listened to but I haven't listened enough of it to really ask any questions with any kind of authority. Tell me why you like the show and maybe a memorable episode or two.
Jon: The X MINUS ONE adapted short stories of sci-fi writers Ray Bradbury, Philip K Dick, Robert Heinlein and Frederik Pohl are outstanding. Radio is the perfect medium for science fiction as everything in your mind's eye is more realistic than any film you may see. I've always been a big fan of the sci-fi genre in general and we wrote a short primer on Sci-Fi in old time radio. X MINUS ONE episodes like "The Martian Death March", "Cold Equations", "The Roads Must Roll", "Perigi's Wonderful Dolls" are all some of my all-time favorites that come to mind, but almost every episode in the series is outstanding and unique. The sci-fi authors address problems of the 1950s era in a creative format which still are valid and immensely entertaining today.