Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Yet Another Blog by Bob: and couple of songs

I've been posting here so infrequently that I ought to mention why: As part of my media history research I've started yet another blog, JHeroes.com -- Newspaper Heroes on the Air, and it's taking most of my blogging time.

I'm exploring how newspaper reporters were portrayed in "popular culture" for a series of articles and maybe a book. The blog will help me sift through and comment on more than 30 years of old time radio: dramatic series, dramatized biographies and historical series.

Why? Partly because I like the storytelling of radio. At its best, it let your imagination paint the pictures, instead of some Hollywood special effects department. Professionally, I'm curious whether any "old media" (newspapers) and "new media" (radio) competition showed up in radio stories, or whether radio simply reflected how important newspapers were in daily life back then.

I also wonder whether radio dramas put newspaper reporters in a better or worse light than Hollywood movies of the same era, including whether radio had strong women reporter characters like the movie portrayals of Hildy Johnson, Torchy Blane and Lois Lane. (For more about the radio version of Lois, and her reaction to that upstart Clark Kent, see this second half of this blog entry.)

So... this old "boblog" blog has slipped off my radar for the past few months. So has music -- the main thing I write about here.

Here's one coincidence: An episode of one of the best old-time radio shows about crime-fighting newspapermen also featured one of my favorite blues singers and guitar players, Josh White.

Listen to "The Prisoner's Song" episode of the series "Big Town," although you may have to carefully copy and paste this address:

Josh sings original blues songs that parallel the story of the radio play; to be part of the scene, he plays a prisoner on death row.
"He's going to the chair..." the guy in the next cell says. "They let him have his guitar. He wanted it instead of his supper."
Incidentally, Josh White's song here is not "The Prisoner's Song" -- that's just the title of the "Big Town" episode.

The other "The Prisoner's Song" was a huge heart-breaking hit in the early days of recorded music, for Vernon Dalhart (a No. 1 hit for 12 weeks in 1925-26).

Since then has been re-recorded many times. I even remember my mother singing it, sometimes just the line, "If I had the wings of an angel..." when she needed a quick escape from whatever was getting her down.