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Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Answers on old radio themes bring even more questions

Some sage once observed that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, but that’s not so.

When I wrote the other day about old radio shows, I got a bunch of truly nostalgic replies.

But first let me clear up an item about theme songs associated with daytime soap operas on old-time radio.

I got some tunes mixed up in my mind (how careless of me), and linked Mary Marlin to “This Is the Story of a Starry Night,” which, it turns out, was not her theme at all.

Donald Miller of Eastlake copied a page out of a publication with a lengthy history of the Mary Marlin program which pointed out, among other things, that her theme was “Clair de Lune,” by Debussy, played in a “haunting rendition by pianists Allan Grant and Joe Kahn,” it said.

Of course. I should have known. And I know very well that Debussy wrote “Clair de Lune.” But I just linked it to the wrong show.

Thanks, Don, for putting my old radio thinking back on track once again.

Here’s something else I know: “The Story of a Starry Night,” a popular song recorded by Glenn Miller and sung by Ray Eberly, was, in its former life, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (Pathetique).

I can hear it in my head at this moment. I just don’t know what soap opera it introduced. That’s my problem. I may never find the answer.

I went through a lot of old Glenn Miller 78 rpm records to find that tune. But the multitude of records in my basement will have to wait for another day as a topic of conversation, because I still don’t know what soap Tchaikovsky had in mind when he composed that haunting theme.

My only hope is that Art Baldwin, the erstwhile (am I the only one around here who knows what that word means?) mayor of Waite Hill, may know.

He sent a note saying he often listens to old-time soaps on satellite radio in his car. Perhaps one day he will hear that theme and link it to a soap.

Art chided me for omitting from my thoughts Ma Perkins, as did Wally Hintz, who also liked the old scary shows, such as Lights Out.

Larry O’Donnell of Willoughby Hills was also fond of scary shows, such as Olga Coal’s Hermit’s Cave.

I liked them too, but let’s get back to Ma Perkins, because her sponsor was Oxydol.

She was introduced as “Oxydol’s own Ma Perkins.” Now that was a real soap opera.

Wally said his entire family sat around listening to One Man’s Family. I remember it, but not well enough to recall who the characters were.

Here’s how Art Baldwin can serve mankind (or womankind, or personkind, if you are politically correct enough to worry about such things):

He has a collection of 450 old radio shows on casette and CD, which he said he is inspired to get organized after reading my ruminations on the subject.

Sharing them would be good, Art.

I possess (dare I say it?) a whole bunch of ancient Amos ‘N Andy TV shows. And I have no  trepidation about watching them, any more than I tremble at the thought of watching “Blazing Saddles,” with Mel Brooks’ introduction of the new sheriff in town.

They are funny, period.

There is a lot of hilarious comedy available on CDs, such legends as Bergen and McCarthy (once referred to by W.C. Fields as “you woodpecker’s lunch”) Duffy’s Tavern and Life with Luigi.

Steve Ambro, sales manager of the Marshall Ford Superstore in Mayfield Heights, sent me a few pages of these comedic listings.

I managed to ascertain that they are available at

What I found most interesting was a reference to Fibber McGee’s closet, which brought up the subject of old radio in the first place after a discussion at our breakfast table about the quote, “Taint funny, McGee,” a comment which the lady of the house occasionally likes to aim in my direction when I say something in which she does not find the humor.

If you ever listened to Fibber McGee and Molly, you know that a highlight of the show was when Fibber opened the door to his famous closet and everything under the sun tumbled out, accompanied by a cacophony of sound effects.

According to the promotional piece, there were more than 1,600 broadcasts of the show, but on only 128 of them did Fibber open the door to his famous closet.

Who knew?

Even more to the point, who counted?


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