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Glory Days: Golden and Nostalgic Radio

Updated on August 7, 2016

1920 - 1930

Before 1923, there was no “real” radio programming as we have come to know, such as paid talent, a formal introduction or closing, no timed or weekly scheduling. There were no series of shows - programming was a one-time event. If a studio broadcast a show, it was usually talking, and music was minimal - usually a vocalist or trio or quartette. On occasions, there would be broadcasts of baseball, football, polo, and boxing.

Weather forecasts were the only broadcasting done on regular schedules. News had not even yet been developed, and stations were on the air for only four to five hours a day.

An improvement in the programming field came around 1923. It was the largest of the stations that began to form a “set program”, which would run 30 to 60 minutes. These shows developed a formal beginning and ending, used announcer-narrators, and, more or less, had a “theme”.

Successful shows included

  • Specialty orchestras
  • Concert music
  • Talks
  • One or Two-act plays
  • Variety shows, usually one or two hours, once a week, using local vaudeville acts, a studio orchestra, and announcer, were performed ad-lib.

Between the years of 1926 and 1930, sponsored networks took hold. They were at least 30 minutes long, with many of the evening programs, a full hour. Popular programming during this time was:

  • Using a “different” type of program each week. One week, a musical program, one week, a dramatization, another week, a debate, and so forth.
  • Dramatized short stories from books, or original material. These were an hour-long “drama” show, or 30-minute “thrillers”.
  • Informative, historical talk.
  • Comedy-variety shows consisting of a four or five single comedy acts in a 30-minute period.

Another popular programming was called the “song-and-patter” This consisted of a two-person “act” for 15-30 minutes, followed by “patter” held between songs. Eventually, around 1930, the “patter-only” programming filled the airwaves. The earlies of these was the famous “Amos ‘n’ Andy”.

Old Time Radio


During these 5 years, competition was strong among networks, and network sponsors and national advertisers. They all poured extreme amounts of dollars into network programs, which resulted in the development of more new program forms than any other 5-year period. Popular shows were:

  • Late afternoon children's adventures.
  • Women’s daytime serial dramas.
  • Public affairs programming such as “Town Meeting” or round-table talks - 5 times a week, 15-minute network news programs.
  • Amateur contest variety shows.
  • Human-interest such as “interview and advice”.
  • Hillbilly variety shows.
  • Comedy variety shows featuring one main comedian.


Popular Formats:

  • News commentary.
  • Quiz programs with audience participation.
  • “Crime-does-not-pay” dramas.
  • First and telephone give-away programs - 1939.
  • Comedy audience participation.

Drama Radio 1938-1950


This was the period during World War II when radio programming took a backseat to war efforts. Electronics were needed for war production, the supplies of tubes and broadcasting equipment; programming costs rose; and employees were being called to war.

In 1947, Bell Labs produces the transistor radio.

In the early 1950’s, many new radio stations emerged, but radio would meet its match in television.


This period saw television become the favored and dominant medium. The popularity of radio “shows” started a decline, and the larger radio stations playing them subsided, however; a great number of smaller radio stations grew nationwide with new and successful formatting.

You thought you only knew Agnes Moorehead as the intrusive Mother from the television show, "Bewitched"?..Take a listen to..."Sorry, Wrong Number"...

For A Creepy, Chillin', Good Time....Tune Into...Suspense...

Check out Jack Benny with guest stars Allen and Gracie Burns, Orson Wells, and much overwhelming selection of golden and old time radio shows! See links below.

Absolutely Tops in Golden and Old Time Radio Shows...

Calling all nostalgic radio fans, here is a fabulous collaboration made by that brings you something you do not want to miss! Check out these very, very, cool links! Be ready to be T-H-R-I-L-L-E-D...and maybe a little overwhelmed - there is so much music, and so many shows and dramas to choose from!

Available on Old Time Radio - and this is just the tip of the iceberg:

  • Gaucho Marx
  • Westerns
  • Vintage commercials
  • Mystery
  • Detective
  • Tommy Dorsey
  • Orson Wells
  • Decades radio
  • Adventures of Superman
  • Benny Goodman
  • Bob Hope
  • Children's series

Selections from 78 RPM's - plus much more!

  • Collected works by Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Billy Murray, Gene Autry, and more.
  • Golden Age Classical
  • Blues, Classical
  • Swing
  • Jazz Age
  • Decades
  • Banjo
  • Scores of "miscellaneous" such as Helen Kaneas as Betty Boop
  • Andrew Sisters

"And That...Is The Rest Of The Story..."

Radio Personality, Paul Harvey Aurandt (September 4, 1918-Febrarury 28, 2009) receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2005.
Radio Personality, Paul Harvey Aurandt (September 4, 1918-Febrarury 28, 2009) receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2005.

Nostalgic Radio - Songs Inspired by or involving DJ's and Radio - "Clap For the Wolfman"

Disco Duck

Life Is A ROCK but the radio ROLLED me...


Thank You For Stopping By...

I hope that you enjoyed going down memory lane, and that you checked out a spooooky radio show. I try to imagine what it must have been like to sit around the radio, before the dawn of television, listening to voices and sound effects, and tuning in on a scheduled basis for 'the continuing saga'.

How times have changed for radio. The popularity of shock jocks, the talk/music morning shows, the rise of satellite and internet radio - all made significant changes to the way we listen to music and other music mediums.

Hopefully, we never lose appreciation of these golden-oldies!


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    • EsJam profile image

      Essie 2 years ago from Southern California

      Hi Suzette,

      I, too, had a transistor...I took it to bed with me when I was a was "cool"!

      It is amazing how many awesome oldie shows there were from years gone by. I still get a big kick out of them!

      Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by! essie

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 2 years ago from Taos, NM

      What an interesting history of radio. I was born too late for the radio period but my parents and grandparents would talk about listening to it. I thought I was pretty cool when I got my first transistor radio in the 60's. I did not kn0w it had been around since 1947.

    • EsJam profile image

      Essie 2 years ago from Southern California

      Nell Rose,

      Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to give a few moments to the golden age of radio!

      And I agree....each era was distinctly different, and it is interesting to see how improvements were made along the way!

      How different radio has become. Standard radio, playing the same songs over and over....thank goodness for internet radio and satellite. Still, there is just something mystical about old time radio programming! I very much enjoy the nostalgia!

      Thank you for the vote and share! Essie

    • EsJam profile image

      Essie 2 years ago from Southern California


      Thank you for walking down the lane of golden memories. And I agree with you in regards to standard radio programming, I get so bored of listening to the same songs over and over and get the point. Thank goodness for iHeart and internet, for me. I enjoy the opportunity to choose what me, myself, and I like!!

      Thank you, also, for the vote!!

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      Before the internet got big I used to enjoy both the older and newer entertainment programs on radio. Now radio is just occasional background noise. And when I need to think I have to turn even that off. Nice walking down memory lane with you. Voted up.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

      How fascinating! Its not something I would have thought of before, but listening to the various videos its amazing how different they are into each era, interesting stuff! voted up and shared, nell