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The Old Time Radio Reference Library

Updated on May 26, 2016
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I'm trapped in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. The golden age of radio, comics, cartoon strips. I love it, I collect it, I feel it...

A Magic Time Machine

Transport your imagination to the 1950s
Transport your imagination to the 1950s | Source

Old Time Radio (OTR)

The radio was always on, when I was growing up in the 50s. Arthur Godfrey was on when I left for school. Soap operas were playing when I arrived home. After dinner, there was always Burns and Allen or Dragnet on the air while I did home work or looked at comic books.

Collecting OTR show episodes

Years later I was surprised and pleased to find cassette copies of episodes of these shows in the library. I was delighted to learn that there were mp3 copies of OTR shows available on the Internet and through exchange groups.

A Reference Library for OTR

Some books, like the Dunning book and the Hickerson book, are general sources of series information. Other books cover niches like Mystery Shows. Yet others focus on a specific star or show.

Here are some suggestions for good reference books for the OTR fan or collector. Some may be available in your local library. Browse the local used book shops. Some may be available from online booksellers. These are typically old books on a niche topic, radio shows. So think "used" and be on the lookout.

John Dunning's book

The cornerstone of an OTR reference library
The cornerstone of an OTR reference library | Source

The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio

The Definitive encyclopedia of American radio from the 1920s until the early 60s. Written by John Dunning. 822 pages. Oxford University Press.

The single, most useful book on OTR. If you could only have one book - pick this one. Available at Amazon, Barns & Noble. Your local bookseller can order it for you.

Most valuable book in the reference library

5 stars for On The Air - The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio

Guide to Circulating Shows

episode logs and listings
episode logs and listings | Source

The 2nd Revised Ultimate History of Network Radio Programming and Guide to All Circulating Shows

As the title suggests, this is great coverage of logs and listings for episodes that are circulating or available.

This book was self published in 2001. It's a huge 559 page, spiral bound 8.5 x 11 booklet, with supplements.

It's a great supplemental reference. Great for identifying specific episodes and clarifying miss-labeled shows.

It's probably going to be hard to find.

More General Reference Books

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Radio's Golden Years, by Vincent Terrace. The Great American Broadcast by Leonard MaltinThe Big Broadcast 1920-1950, by Buxton & OwenRadio's First Two Decades, to 1922.This Was Radio, A Personal Memoir, by Joseph JulianRemember Radio by Ron LackmanEmpire of the Air by Tom LewisOf Mikes And Men by Jane Woodfin
Radio's Golden Years, by Vincent Terrace.
Radio's Golden Years, by Vincent Terrace. | Source
The Great American Broadcast by Leonard Maltin
The Great American Broadcast by Leonard Maltin | Source
The Big Broadcast 1920-1950, by Buxton & Owen
The Big Broadcast 1920-1950, by Buxton & Owen | Source
Radio's First Two Decades, to 1922.
Radio's First Two Decades, to 1922. | Source
This Was Radio, A Personal Memoir, by Joseph Julian
This Was Radio, A Personal Memoir, by Joseph Julian | Source
Remember Radio by Ron Lackman
Remember Radio by Ron Lackman | Source
Empire of the Air by Tom Lewis
Empire of the Air by Tom Lewis | Source
Of Mikes And Men by Jane Woodfin
Of Mikes And Men by Jane Woodfin | Source

On The Air - the 5 star OTR reference

Mystery Detection and Suspense Genre Reference Library

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Great Radio Heroes by Jim Harmon Radio Crime Fighters by Jim Cox The Sound of Detection by Nevins and Grams Encyclopedia Mysteriosa by DeAndrea Storytelling in the Pulps, Comics and Radio by DeForest
The Great Radio Heroes by Jim Harmon
The Great Radio Heroes by Jim Harmon | Source
Radio Crime Fighters by Jim Cox
Radio Crime Fighters by Jim Cox | Source
The Sound of Detection by Nevins and Grams
The Sound of Detection by Nevins and Grams | Source
Encyclopedia Mysteriosa by DeAndrea
Encyclopedia Mysteriosa by DeAndrea | Source
Storytelling in the Pulps, Comics and Radio by DeForest
Storytelling in the Pulps, Comics and Radio by DeForest | Source

Stars of Radio Reference Books

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sunday Nights at Seven by Jack and Joan BennySay Goodnight, Gracie by Blyth and SackettGracie, A Love Story by George BurnsThis is Orson Welles by Welles and BogdonovichLadies and Gentlemen-Easy Aces by Goodman AceFlywheel, shyster, and flywheel
Sunday Nights at Seven by Jack and Joan Benny
Sunday Nights at Seven by Jack and Joan Benny | Source
Say Goodnight, Gracie by Blyth and Sackett
Say Goodnight, Gracie by Blyth and Sackett | Source
Gracie, A Love Story by George Burns
Gracie, A Love Story by George Burns | Source
This is Orson Welles by Welles and Bogdonovich
This is Orson Welles by Welles and Bogdonovich | Source
Ladies and Gentlemen-Easy Aces by Goodman Ace
Ladies and Gentlemen-Easy Aces by Goodman Ace | Source
Flywheel, shyster, and flywheel
Flywheel, shyster, and flywheel | Source

OTR Reference Library Details

Title
Author
Publisher
Type
Description
Date
Pages
On The Air - The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radiio
John Dunning
Oxford
General Reference
The Definitive encyclopedia of American radio from the 1920s until the early 60s
1998
822
The 2nd Revised Ultimate History of Network Radio Programming and Guide to All Circulating Shows
Jay Hickerson
Self Published
General Reference
Logs and listings. Comprehensive.
2001
559
Radio's Golden Years
Vincent Terrace
A.S. Barnes
General Reference
Short, basic data on each series
1981
306
The Great American Broadcast
Leonard Maltin
Dutton
General Reference
Discussion of shows. More personality, less details.
1997
324
The Big Broadcast 1920-1950
Frank Buxton and Bill Owen
Viking
General Reference
Short overview of each show.
1972
301
Radio's First Two Decades
Unk
Cologne Press
Historical Background
Radio's beginning to 1922
1942
63
This Was Radio
Joseph Julian
Viking
Memoir
A peronal story of radio as viewed by a radio actor.
1975
238
Remember Radio
Ron Lackman
Putnam
General Reference
Overview of shows and actors.
1970
128
Empire of the Air
Tom Lewis
Harper
Historical Background
The social, technical and political settings and radio's impact.
1993
421
Of Mikes And Men
Jane Woodfin
McGraw Hill
Humorous Memoir
A peronal story of the early days of radio by a West coast radio insider.
1951
246
The Great Radio Heroes
Jim Harmon
Doubleday
Show background
Heroes and Iconic figures from radio shows.
1967
265
Radio Crime Fighters
Jim Cox
McFarland
Show Information
The book covers over 300 syndicated radio mystery and adventure serials through 1962.
2002
323
The Sound of Detection
Nevins and Grams
OTR Publishing
Episodes
Ellery Queen's Adventures in Radio.
2002
242
Encyclopedia Mysteriosa
DeAndrea
Macmillan
Every author, every character
A comprehensive guide to the art of detection in radio and other media.
1994
405
Storytelling in the Pulps, Comics and Radio
DeForest
McFarland
Analysis
How technology changed fiction in America.
2004
229
Sunday Nights at Seven
Jack and Joan Benny
Warner
Memoir
The Jack Benny Story
1990
302
Say Goodnight, Gracie
Blyth and Sackett
Prima
Biography
The Story of George Burns & Gracie Allen
1989
304
Gracie, A Love Story
George Burns
Putnam
Biography
Gracie
1988
319
This is Orson Welles
Welles and Bogdonovich
DaCapo
Memoir
Orson Welles story as told through Interviews by PB
1998
550
Ladies and Gentlemen-Easy Aces
Goodman Ace
Doubleday
Scripts
Selected scripts
1970
210
Flywheel, shyster, and flywheel
Barson
Pantheon
Scripts
The Marx Brothers Lost Radio Show
1988
329

Stars of OTR

Click thumbnail to view full-size
George Burns & Gracie AllenFibber McGee & Molly
George Burns & Gracie Allen
George Burns & Gracie Allen | Source
Fibber McGee & Molly
Fibber McGee & Molly | Source

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