By H. P. Oliver


For three decades (1930s - 1950s) radio was the medium that brought news, music, comedy, adventure, and drama into American homes. During those years entire families would often gather around the big console radio set in the living room to enjoy their favorite programs--Amos and Andy, Dragnet, The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, Gangbusters, and hundreds more.

Actor/producer Jack Webb as he was imaged by millions of radio listeners--Los Angeles Police Department Sergeant Joe Friday, badge number 714.

And just as the movies had their stars, radio had its own celebrities--men and women whose voices were instantly recognized by millions of fans. Among them were Jack Benny, William Boyd (Hopalong Cassidy), Arthur Godfrey, Jim and Marian Jordan (Fibber McGee and Molly), George Burns and Gracie Allan, Fred Allen, and Orson Welles, along with familiar announcers like Don Wilson, Art Gilmore and Don Pardo.

The Cast of the Jack Benny show (left to right): Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, singer Dennis Day, bandleader Phil Harris, Mary Livingstone, Benny, announcer Don Wilson, and the man of a thousand voices, Mel Blanc. You may also know Mel Blanc as the voice of Bugs Bunny and many other Warner Bros. cartoon characters.

A few motion picture stars also became radio celebrities, including Gene Autry, James Stewart, Groucho Marx, Eve Arden, Bob Hope, and Red Skelton. Even Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart were heard in their own short-lived series. Many movie stars also made guest appearances on dramatic shows like Lux Radio Theater. In the case of the Lux Radio Theater, film actors often recreated their movie roles for hour-long radio adaptations.

Seen here in the 1936 Lux Radio Theater production of The Virginian are (left to right): Cecil B. DeMille, an unidentified supporting actor, Gary Cooper, and Helen Mack.

In many ways, however, the most wonderful thing about old time radio was it's magic. Magic? Yes, magic. You see, unlike television, radio had no pictures. Radio listeners were forced to imagine the characters and locations in the stories they heard just as they did with books they read. That simple fact helped kindle creativity in entire generations of artists and novelists. Radio helped teach writers to see with their minds' eyes, enabling them to create clear word pictures for their readers. Sadly, the same cannot be said of television, movies, or of video games--the latest generation of entertainment media.

The magic of old time radio: using words and sounds to create images in the mind's eye. (1930s era broadcast of the popular true crime series, Gangbusters.)

Our Quiz

The purpose of this feature is to challenge your knowledge of old-time radio, and maybe to bring back a few memories for those who were fortunate enough to be around during the glory days of radio. We might even inspire a few young folks who've never heard a radio drama or adventure program to give them a try at one of the websites that stream free MP3 versions of old programs. Three such sites are:,, and

I would like to add two more thoughts before you begin our quiz. Long running radio programs often changed sponsors, networks and actors during their time on the air. These changes, especially those involving sponsors, sometimes resulted in shows being known by different names at different times. For the purposes of this quiz we used the names by which these shows are most commonly known today.

You should also know that we used the most reliable resources we could find for this quiz, and whenever possible, we verified the information through multiple sources. Despite these precautions, however, we cannot absolutely guarantee all of the details provided with the questions. Historical information, especially dates, for some shows are vague or nonexistent. However, none of these potential inaccuracies will affect your ability to select correct answers.

Have fun and good luck!


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