As a pre-teen, convalescing from complications following what was supposed to be a routine appendectomy, radio constantly supplied entertainment. And re-connected me with jazz, still not knowing the word when Duke Ellington hosted a program, sponsored by Pio Wine. The singing jingle: “Bob-adda-be-bop Pio Wine, Bob-adda-be-bop Pio Wine. Ask for Pio Wine each time. There’s port, sherry and muscatel, Jack, the flavor sure is swell, a wine that no one can decline, keep some handy all the time.”
Then announcers started to sound almost significant. Listening to day- time disc jockeys nearly convinced me. From Glenside, PA, WIBG’s Doug Arthur (born Lexington Smith) for example, every day said the same thing: “Doug Arthur. Danceland. Records, ” introducing his show. No further words. That was polish. That was modesty. Over the years many d.j’s would do the same kind of thing: little signature phrases or sentences to start or end their shows. I did something like that myself eventually.
And there were transfixing radio serials with Pierre Andre making the most of “Captaaan Midniiiight, brought to you by Ohhhvaltine.” Or Del Sharbutt’ s creaminess making rich, hearty Campbell’s Soup sound resonantly nourishing. And there was The First Nighter. He hung out with actors! Going to plays at a little theatre off Times Square where he mingled with such stars as Barbara Luddy and Les Tremayne. Another performing future seemed glamorous: radio actor.
Aunt Fanny knew how I loved the radio and bought me a radio play set with scripts and a wooden microphone. Plus sound effect equipment: a wire brush to scrape on a table, simulating moving train wheels, a rack of wooden pegs to move up and down suggesting a marching army, little rubber plungers to bang on the chest and conjure horse hooves, pieces of plastic to crinkle and make a sound like fire. And I developed quite a repertoire of voices: French accents, old ladies, tough guys, faking a man’s deep voice before I hit puberty. My New York family got regularly startled by getting phone calls from strange people they didn’t know, until I revealed the boy behind the vocal curtain. Were they humoring me? Maybe.
(I wrote about how I loved performing for my New York family, Dad’s mother and sisters Marion and Erminie as well as Mother’s sister Fanny.)