Monday, January 11, 2010

INTERVIEW: Jim Dolan talks Audio Theater

Growing up as a kid my parents never let me have a television in my room. Instead they gave me an old General Electric AM radio they weren't using. Playing around with the dial I was able to find a station playing Old Time Radio Audio Theater. As I recall it was a science fiction story about some astronauts that had discovered a planet that was causing them to rapidly age backwards - so quickly that they might not be able to figure out how to get back off the planet. Lying on my bed with eyes closed I found the story as gripping and scary as any movie I'd ever seen.

A few years later I found "Theater of the Mind", a show that played on CHUM-FM every Sunday night. They would play a variety of Audio Theater from yesteryear including Orson Welles' Harry Lime, and my favourite X minus One. Although the show isn't on any longer, through podcasts and Internet radio it's just as easy now listen to these intimate radio plays.

Which is why I was delighted to have Jim Dolan bring his station "Alltime Oldies" to my attention, and henceforth to the TUN3R Dial.

Q1 Neil: Jim, thanks so much for participating in this interview. What's your background with respect to radio? Were you working in radio prior to AllTimeOldies?

A1 Jim: Thanks Neil for having me here today. As a kid in the 60s my dad built a small radio transmitter for me. The neighborhood kids & I were in the radio business and I never looked back in the 70s & 80s I worked on local radio and audio production.

Q2 Neil: How did alltimeoldies get it's start? Was the original vision what it is now?

A2 Jim: Well I did not start alltimeoldies, That station was started by my business partner who runs it today. The alltimeoldies radio theater channel is a joint project to add a professional programmed old time radio station to the web.

Q3 Neil: What are your favourite audio theater shows? Any specific episodes that stand out?

A3 Jim: I dont really have a favorite show. But to me some of the adult westerns stand out especially the ones from the 50's like gunsmoke, have gun will travel. The Fred Allen show & the Phil Harris & Alice Faye show stands out to me as still being fresh today.

Q4 Neil: Apart from audiotheater what other progamming is there on the station ?

A4 Jim: On the theater channel we have some new drama from Jim French & others but the channel is all about comedy, variety & drama. On the website the main channel also called alltimeoldies is programmed with music from the 50' to the 70's and they take requests as well.

Q5 Neil: How do obtain all those vintage recordings? Is there a national archive preserving these shows?

A5 Jim: I've been collecting old time radio programs since the 70's first recording off the air and later buying them on reel to reel tape from sellers. As to a national archive, the Library Of Congress has a large collection but that is largely unavailable. There are large holdings at the armed forces radio and tv network but they are not open to the public. The good news is that there are otr clubs like or if you are a member you can have access to thousands of high quality old time radio programmes.

Q6 Neil: From a collector's perspective, are there any rare gems that stand out in your collection?

A6 Jim: To be honest Neil, I'm so busy programming the station that I have little chance to listen to my collection but on the air I've heard news & interviews from the late 20's through the 60's pretty much everything that happened during those years is in the collection and it makes for some compelling listening at times.

Q7 Neil: Do you listen to any modern audio theater? Does anything stand out for you?

A7 Jim: We air the Jim French Mysteries on mondays on the theater channel. These are radio drama's that was made starting in the 70's and is still being made here in Seattle before a live audience. Also we air on the weekend Treasures Old & New from ART. This group writes and produces their own radio drama.

Q8 Neil: I love the opening for X minus one? So you have a favourite opening an old time radio song that could be a sort if theme song for AllTimeOldies?

A8 Jim: No. Although the opening of The Shadow is a classic and stands out in my mind. We play almost everything that was good on old time radio. The presentation is similar to a tv station without the pictures. It grew out of the Radio Entertainment Network started in 1995 as an audio alternative to tv for the blind. We still run REN and it is on Radio Reading Services around the country.

Q9 Neil: Where do see AllTimeMelodies going into the future?

A9 Jim: Well Neil we are adding hours and are continuing to improve our sound quality of our old time radio shows. We have added the Radioent daily download which is a otr podcast available on itunes & from the website. In short we plan to make the alltimeoldies radio theater channel the primary station programming commercial old and new radio drama on the web.

Thanks Neil for the chance to talk to your listeners today. You can edit this to fit your format. If you have any questions email me.

Jim Dolan