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FAQ: Old Time Radio (OTR)

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Archive-name: radio/old-time-faq
Posting-Frequency: irregular
Last-modified: 04/20/05

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) File for OTR (Old-Time Radio)
Copies of this FAQ are distributed to rec.answers,,, and other news groups; and are 
on file at in the file: 
/pub/usenet-by-group/news.answers/radio/old-time-faq   or
The most recent HTML-ized version is at

What is "OTR"?

You haven't mentioned OTR music, why not?

Where can I buy recordings of old radio shows?

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

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

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

Are there any books about OTR?

Does anybody trade tapes of OTR shows?

What's this stuff about Copyright?

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

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

Are there any OTR clubs near me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the best way to archive OTR programs?

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

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

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

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

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?

Is there an internet news group for old time radio?

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

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?

Is there any information on OTR conventions?

Are there any WWW Bulletin Boards where I can post OTR questions and read OTR 

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?

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?

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

What MP3 player is best for OTR?

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

Where can I find OTR to download?

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?

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

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 

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 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 

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 site. Many 
public libraries have a small stock for perusal as well. Some vendors and 
collectors even have their own WWW pages. 

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 site 

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 

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 

7. Are there any books about OTR?

Yes, there are many books related to OTR. See the 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

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

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  Remember to observe copyright laws! 

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' ( (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. 

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 

        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. 

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

From: (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)
      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.] 

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, ask a club officer to send a note to the
webmaster with particulars about the club. 

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. 

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 . 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 (Joe 
Coleman) and others).

Jerry Haendiges maintains a VERY complete set of OTR program logs, at his 
Vintage Radio Place:

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
Jay's address is:
        Jay Hickerson Box 4321 Hamden, CT  06514 (203) 
        248-2887        FAX (203) 281-1322

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 or to for inclusion in one of the 

Jim Widner and others have contributed some synopses / introductions to various 
programs. They are on file at and
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. 

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: or or

An excellent database of OTR-related WWW sites, with an explanation of the 
contents of each is at

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: SUBJECT: subscribe (The body of 
        the message is ignored) 

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

Check the "Personality Pages" at for home pages of several 
well-known OTR personalities. Also check the Where Are They Now pages at 

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: 
From: (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 - ed]

Richard Novak wrote this informative note on using Hi-Fi VHS as an archival 
        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 
        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 

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. 

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.

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 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

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  
(The National Radio Club also has a WWW page, at 

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): Atlanta Radio Theatre Company: ZBS Media: LodesTone 
    Productions: Midwest Radio Theatre 

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
Jack French ( 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 

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.
        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 

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

Yes. 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 for more information.
Also try to sample some of the messages. 

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. 

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 

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 for specific dates and contact 
person info. 

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 That 
page contains a list of several old-time radio oriented WWW bulletin boards. You
can also access OTR message boards at  
or try some of the USENET groups. 

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. 

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. 

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

     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 

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:
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 

33. What 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 CD-ROM players for OTR playback suitability is at 

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, , who has done much research in the area, gives us this 

      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,

      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.

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 and try your search from there

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 

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

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 
128/64 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.

NOTE: URLs mentioned in this FAQ may have changed.  For the latest information, 
point your browser to, 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  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.

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:12 PM