Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Archives of the Airwaves: A Review

Originally published in the December, 2008, Old Radio Times.(http://www.otrr.org/pg07_times.htm)

Archives of the Airwaves (7 Volumes)
By Roger C. Paulson
Publisher - BearManor Media
Price - $135.00
Reviewed by Jim Beshires

Archives of the Airwaves is a seven volume set of paperback books, with each book addressing radio programs and stars beginning with a particular letter of the alphabet. For instance, Volume One covers the letters ‘A thru C’, and is 323 pages long. There is no index, which makes it a bit difficult to locate subjects. After getting frustrated in looking in several books to find items, my solution to this problem was to tape a small piece of paper to each spine listing the letters the book covered.

According to the publisher, this set has been twenty years in the making, and proposes to be the most complete old-time radio encyclopedia ever written. It does have a good amount of both series and stars that I was not familiar with, and my career in old time radio goes back to the early 60s. I was glad to see this coverage of so many obscure shows.

In its format it’s very similar to Dunning’s ‘On The Air’, in that it attempts to give a synopsis of the series, network affiliation, broadcast dates and times. It also lists sponsors.

Most synopsis’ are short - a paragraph or two, three at the most, so it obviously does not go into the depth of descriptions as some other reference books do, and it does contain a fair amount of mis-information, most that only a serious researcher would catch, and I have heard from some highly respected OTR people on this subject of the errors. Some of them feel the set contains too many. But nearly all other reference books contain some errors, as reference sources are constantly being revised, updated, or new ones being discovered. Researching old time radio is not an easy job, and that’s why it’s very important to cross-check everything. The set boasts that it’s at least seven times the size of Dunning’s book, but this is a real exaggeration. It more likely is twice the size, but remember, Dunning’s book does not include bios of radio stars, and Archives does. The bios are fairly complete, with birth dates, death deaths, and credit lists included.

It is certainly the most comprehensive set ever attempted.

The set can be purchased from BearManor Media for $135.00, but also can be found in many major book stores and also online. Individual volumes can be purchased for around $21.95 each.

Should you purchase them? The price would deter most collectors, but I believe that it would be a good addition to any serious researcher’s reference set, despite some of its mistakes. Many libraries may be interested in having this set, so you might want to inquire into this possibility with your library.

Would I recommend it? Certainly I’m glad to have it to add to my reference library. It provides another tool when I’m researching a series, and we need all the help we can get. I’d also be very interested in hearing from others who’ve purchased this set as to what they think of it.


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