Sunday, September 11, 2016

Riders Radio Theater and Me-1998


The only actual radio show I have ever been privileged to see live (besides the trivia shows I actually appeared on and/or hosted or Convention podcasts) was RIDERS RADIO THEATER. On February 13th, 1998, friend and former employee Ginny (still a Facebook bud today) got tickets for my wife, myself and 16 month old bookdave to accompany her to a taping of two episodes of RIDERS RADIO THEATER, the syndicated modern day musical comedy adventure series starring the western retro group Riders in the Sky.

The taping was at Cincinnati's venerable Emery Theater. That was my final visit to the great old, vintage theater where I had spent many a Sunday afternoon in the seventies falling in love with the likes of Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and Claudette Colbert in their classic film revival series.

The series was put on by WVXU, the now legendary college station here which was also where I made my radio debut in 1980. That debut was on the weekly Trivia episode of LIVELINE, a talk show hosted by Larry Ashcraft which is now recognized as the city's first modern day talk radio program.

Along with Jim "Doc" King, the man whose weekly Friday night radio presentations of classic OTR programs stoked my interest there in the late seventies, Larry was one of the folks behind the Riders show. In fact, early on he had offered me passes to see it but for some reason, I had never taken him up on it. By the time we did see it, the series had been running for nearly a decade.

Larry, who passed away in 2000, was an interesting character. He was a large, friendly man highly respected for many years in the field of amateur, ham radio. In the 1960's, however, he had served two stints in Vietnam and was reportedly involved in attempts to clear out the village of My Lai before the legendary massacre there. He was later an interpreter to President Johnson. He had attended Xavier University in the mid-seventies after that already eventful life and volunteered for the fledgeling radio station there. Eventually he would serve as news director, development director, program host and director of community relations and special projects...including RIDERS RADIO THEATER. (The first day we met, he offered to drive me home and during the trip became quite inappropriate--especially considering we had just met-- but that's another story entirely. After that, though, I took the bus when I was on his show).


On the night of the shows, we had good seats only a few rows back from the stage. David had grown up hearing the series in the car and around the house. It consisted of Ranger Doug ("The idol of American Youth"), Too Slim, Woody Paul, Joey the Cow Polka King and Texas Bix Bender ("the voice that sold a million baby chicks over border radio.") They sang like the Sons of the Pioneers, had serial adventures that crossed cowboy heroes like Roy and Gene with MAD magazine humor and wowed radio audiences in countries around the world throughout the nineties.



The stage was set up as if for a play only with microphones at the footlights. There were backdrops and scenery and costumes all around and yet most of the show other than the musical parts was done like the radio broadcast it was. At one point during the second taping, Ranger Doug was alone at center stage playing a soft guitar and singing when suddenly young bookdave--who had been drifting off to sleep a bit earlier--joined in. The acoustics being what they were, his surprisingly melodic harmony attracted the attention of the audience, many of whom looked our way as we tried to quiet him down. Ranger Doug glanced down his big toothy smile and nodded as if to say, "Let him sing," so we did. Sadly, when the episode aired a month or two later you couldn't hear the slightest trace of the boy in the song. Sigh.

Overall, though, a delightful and fun evening with a delightful and fun group. As I said, I knew people. I could have gone much earlier and I could have gone a lot...but I only went that once, and that made it very special!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Gene Autry on the Air


R.I.P. Hugh O'Brian


Actor Hugh O'Brian has passed at the age of 91 after a long and eventful life and career, hopefully a  happy one.


Best known even now for his portrayal of real life Marshal Wyatt Earp in a late '50s TV series, his fame led to various publications around the world spotlighting him including a run of officially licensed Dell comics.



Being a real historical character, though, Charlton also had a Wyatt Earp comic and made it as much like Hugh's version as possible.







Marvel (Atlas at the time) also began a series ostensibly inspired by the real life lawman and originally even bearing some resemblance to him. After a while though, they, too jumped on the bandwagon and gave their guy a shave and a fancy vest like Hugh.




His career would include many other TV appearances, movie, and stage work including one of my favorite 1970s series, SEARCH.


Rest in peace, Hugh O'Brian

Friday, August 5, 2016

Cowboy Copas


Cowboy Copas became hugely popular in the late forties  and was a member of the Grand Ole Opry throughout the next decade. He was killed in the same plane crash that took Patsy Cline.