Vaudeville on the Road

Posted on Wednesday 17 October 2007

So we did a little dash down to Toronto last weekend to see our daughter and if we had been thinking we would have packed some of the audio CD’s that we have in our collection. Our car stereo holds 5 CD’s of great music that we have listened to ever since we got the car, but we could have replaced them with some of the great Radio Mystery CD’s or better yet our Wingfield Farm collection. But instead we spent most of the 5 hours there and the 5 hours back playing Geography… Which is fine when you’re kids are in school – it keeps them occupied, but by about the 10th country ending in “A” I was ready to pack it all in – except there was nothing else to do. I searched desperately for a good station playing a mystery, but no…. Geography, both ways, was my lot…

For those who aren’t familiar with the game… Someone starts by naming any geographical location or place in the world – for example New York. Then the next person has to name a location that begins with the last letter of that location – so for New York the next person could say “Kentucky.” Whoever goes next needs a place that starts with an ‘Y’ because that’s the last letter of Kentucky. You can’t use the same geographical name twice in a game.

Great with young kids, but I was rather worried by the number of places that I was popping out that either a) no longer existed b) were renamed or c) I had used them already…two hours ago! EEK

So last night I decided… Our car stereo plays MP3 disks, so why not copy a lot of songs on to one disk so that at least we would have a lot more variety in our CD player. So I took our Kingston Trio collection and started converting them to MP3 using a great little free utility that I found a while back called Audio Grabber.

I then used my OEM Nero and copied the songs that I wanted onto a single CD. To be truthful, I never payed attention to just how well an MP3 audio file compresses. I’ve only used it to convert the odd song to an MP3 player for my wife or daughter. So I was really stunned when I found that I could put over 140 songs onto a CD that usually contained 14! Then it hit me…

If I can combine so many songs onto one CD, what can I do with “other” recordings. Like Walt Wingfield, or those few Radio Show recordings AND what if I could find a source of some of those really old shows and combine them onto one CD. Heck I’d have my own Vaudeville on the road. Ready to entertain us when we hit the road again for more than an hour or two.

It didn’t take long for me to Google out what I was looking for. There is thankfully a treasure trove of all the old shows still available both commercially and free for download. A great majority of it already available as either a Podcast and/or MP3 format!

Here are just some of the great sites that I found with some of the best “free to download” material:

  • Old Time Radio Show Downloads – Has a great cross-section of old radio shows covering: Comedy; Westerns; Mysteries; Science Fiction; Drama; History and Music from the 20’s to the 50’s. Each category holds about 20 to 30 recordings. There are also links to all sorts of commercial sites where you can purchase CD’s and other formats;
  • Radio Nostalgia Network – This is yet another amazing site, with everything from mysteries, to complete shows. Radio Nostalgia is actually a Podcasting site and appears to have been online for several years now and is associated with several other podcasts with ads for others. You can subscribe to the podcasts via iTunes or directly download off of the website;
  • BookTalk Radio – Has been in operation for about almost two years and has already acquired/developed a nice selection of stories for all ages and types. They are currently working on a section for younger children as well;
  • Liberated Syndication – After getting two excellent hits off of this podcast provider, I had to take a closer look. Wow – If you are looking for audio to occupy the time during a long drive, flight or just looking to become better educated you should check this site out. It is loaded with every type of audio imaginable. Again you can subscribe via iTunes or just download directly from the web;
  • The Online Archive – This site of course has a huge store of material available. The biggest problem with it is finding it! I had better luck searching the archive via Google than I did using it’s own search engine. This site has been around a long long time and has the depth of material to show for it. The only problem is – getting that material out! The site is really slow, sluggish and prone to timing or errors;
  • Radio Lovers – A lot of people rate this site very highly. Lots of good choices from the early 40’s and 50’s. It too has links that allow you to purchase CD’s from other vendors;
  • Old Time Radio Free Podcast – Is actually a blog with some great titles already and an offer to find whatever old time radio show that you might be looking for. It looks like it has been running since August 2007 and already had over 130 shows in it’s archive. It also has commercial links via the bookzap website to thousands of other commercial music and show archives.
  • Calfkiller Old Time Radio Downloads – Despite the name this site holds a wealth of 100’s of different show recordings. A large portion of their archive is quite unique  and has not been seen on other sites. They also have many archives already zipped for easy download which can greatly speed up your collection building. This site is definitely worth checking out
  • Old Time Radio Web Ring – This is the Hub, or main control of an association of like minded websites (all sites are related to old time radio). A group like this is usually referred to as a web ring. Here you will find many, many listed sites which will include blogs and articles about old time radio, commercial sites and of course those generous enough to share their collections for free. Which led too…
  • Zoot Radio – You need an account to access their archives, but there is no cost. A forum is also included so like minded people can meet and discuss their favorite shows. This is a phenomenal site with more recordings that any I have seen to date. My only complaint is I can’t figure out how to donate what few recordings I have that they do not (and you can count those on one hand!)

After you’ve downloaded your free shows you should play/review them on your computer before burning them to disk. Many times ads and extra comments (usually not offensive) have been added to the original recording. These can always be removed using a good audio editor such as Goldwave and then re-saved as an MP3.

As you can see, there is a lot of good material out there. It just needs to be tracked down and put to disk.

Happy Hunting!

End Article
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