Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) File
for OTR
(Old-Time Radio)

Last Modified: Saturday, July 15, 2006


Older copies of this FAQ are on file at bloom-picayune.mit.edu in the file: /pub/usenet-by-group/news.answers/radio/old-time-faq or http://www.faqs.org/faqs/
The most recent HTML-ized version is at http://www.old-time.com/otrfaq.html




  1. What is "OTR"?

  2. You haven't mentioned OTR music, why not?

  3. Where can I buy recordings of old radio shows?

  4. Which vendors have (lower prices) (higher quality) (faster response)?

  5. Are OTR shows rebroadcast? If so, where and when?

  6. I remember a great show called (x). When was it aired?

  7. Are there any books about OTR?

  8. Does anybody trade tapes of OTR shows?

  9. What's this stuff about Copyright?

  10. How can I get my local radio or TV station to broadcast OTR programming?

  11. I have some old transcriptions and tapes, how can I make them sound better?

  12. Are there any OTR clubs near me?

  13. I have some OTR tapes or CDs of the same program, but their dates are different. Why?

  14. Is there any place where I can get a complete listing of all the episodes in a particular program series?

  15. Is there any place where I can get a written synopsis of the plots or themes of OTR programs?

  16. Is there a World Wide Web page (URL) that I can access for more information?

  17. Is there an email newsletter on OTR? How do I subscribe to it?

  18. What ever happened to the person that played [insert character] on [insert name of show]?

  19. What is the best way to archive OTR programs?

  20. My old reels squeak. Why does this happen, and can I fix it?

  21. What is the best radio / antenna to get distant OTR stations?

  22. Is there a group for modern radio drama ("new-time radio")?

  23. I am interested in re-creating some OTR drama. Where can I get scripts?

  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?

  25. Is there an internet news group for old time radio?

  26. OTR network shows were usually heard at the same local time, no matter what the time zone. How did they do this?

  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?

  28. Is there any information on OTR conventions?

  29. Are there any WWW Bulletin Boards where I can post OTR questions and read OTR information?

  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?

  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?

  32. Were any of the old-time radio personalities interviewed recently? Where can I find these interviews?

  33. Which MP3 player is best for OTR?

  34. I keep reading/hearing about the LOC hoarding a bunch of unreleased OTR episodes. Is this true? How can I get them?

  35. Where can I find OTR to download?

  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?

  37. MP3s have lots of different numbers, like 32/22 or 64/44. What do they mean?



    Go to top
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 imagination.

Go to top
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

Go to top
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.

Go to top
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

Go to top

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

Go to top

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 top
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 acornbks@netcom.com

There are also several "book finding" services that will help obtain old/out of print books for a fee.

Go to top

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!

Go to top
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' (lawyer@world.std.com) (used with his permission):

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.

Go to top

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 ADVERTISERS!!!

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.

Go to top

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: hhoward@mindspring.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 properly aligned.)

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.]

Go to top

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.

Go to top
13. I have some OTR tapes or CDs of the same program, but their dates are different. Why?
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.

Go to top

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 http://www.old-time.com/sponsors/hickerson.html

Jay's address is:

Jay Hickerson JayHick@aol.com 27436 Desert Rose Ct Leesburg, FL 34748 (352) 728-6731



Go to top

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 for inclusion in one of the databases.

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 this material.

Go to top

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 www.otrsite.com

An excellent database of OTR-related WWW sites, with an explanation of the contents of each is at http://www.otr.com/cgi-bin/db.cgi?uid=default

Go to top

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: old.time.radio-request@oldradio.net SUBJECT: subscribe (The body of the message is ignored)

Ryan Ellett produces what might be an OTR "hybrid" fan letter. Each month, subscribers can receive a well-done newsletter (whose appearance is much as the OTR newsletters of times gone by). However, this newsletter is distributed via email, in PDF format. Visit http://www.otterprojectonline.info/newsletter.html to see old issues.

Go to top

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 www.440int.com.

Go to top
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) over time.

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 reel-reel machines:

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: 1-800-300-0733.)

From: andy@vintagebroadcasts.com (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 medium:

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 confusing.

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 hour mode.

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 notwithstanding.)

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.

Go to top

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 also left this helpful info about an alternative method:

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.



Go to top

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 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 http://danhughes.net/loop.JPG

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 13667-0164

(The National Radio Club also has a WWW page, at www.nrcdxas.org/)

Go to top

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 Workshop: http://www.mrtw.org/mrtw



Go to top

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@verizon.net) 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

Go to top

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 allowed over-modulation.

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 there.

Go to top

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 http://dir.groups.yahoo.com/dir/1600851308 or http://groups-beta.google.com/groups?q=old-time+radio to sample some of the messages.

Go to top
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.

Go to top
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 top
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 person info.

Go to top

29. Are there any WWW Bulletin Boards where I can post OTR questions and read OTR information?
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.

Go to top
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 this information:

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.

Go to top

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.

Go to top

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 http://www.old-time.com/sponsors/rhac.html)

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 Winchell.

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/

Go to top

33. Which 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 older CD-ROM players for OTR playback suitability is at www.old-time.com

The easiest-to-transport MP3 player seems to be the thumb-sized memory-chip based players that have a gigabyte or so of storage. Your computer "sees" these devices as external hard drives.

Go to top

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, lizmcl@midcoast.com , who has done much research in the area, gives us this information: 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, http://lcweb.loc.gov/rr/record/

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 separate copyright.

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.

Elizabeth

Go to top

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 the google and yahoo groups mentioned in answer #25, and try your search from there.

Go to top

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 duplicating tapes.

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 possible.

Go to top

37. MP3s have lots of different numbers, like 32/22 or 64/44. What do they mean?
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 128/44 stereo.

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.



Go to top


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 faqmaintainer@old-time.com 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.
Return to FAQs Page.
Return to Program Guide (Table of Contents)


| BBSs | BOOKS | Chat | FAQS | GENERAL INFO | HISTORY | HUMONGOUS OTR DATABASE SEARCH | Mail Gps | News Gps | OTR Logs | Privacy |
PROGRAM GUIDE | REFERENCE | Sights | SoftWare | SoundBytes | SoundSnips | SPONSORS | Us |



The Original Old Time Radio (OTR) WWW Pages
-
Copyright © 1994-
Louis V. Genco
webmaster email