Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rosa Rio, Pt. 5

Originally published in the February, 2009, Old Radio Times.(

Rosa Rio: the Music of the Air
Thomas P. Honsa

As a new broadcast era dawned, Rio left radio for television. Her TV credits include Appointment with Adventure, The Brighter Day, The Guiding Light and The Today Show. Her talents seemed particularly well-matched to daytime dramas (she hates the term “soap operas”), and the format welcomed her.

Remarriage and a move to Connecticut in 1960 hardly meant retirement for Rio. Her new home included a large music room and recording facility and she taught, recorded and published music from there. She arranged a command performance for United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld. The IMDb says Rio recorded organ music for 375 silent films released on the Video Yesteryear label in the 1980s. She still performs near her home in Sun City, Florida. She’s especially well known for accompanying films at Tampa’s fully restored movie palace, The Tampa Theater.

But even after such a rich, full life in so many facets of the entertainment field, people today still associate Rio with the golden age of American radio. After all, she occupies a special place in its history. And those old shows are making a comeback, thanks to the internet and MP3 recordings. A Google search of “Old Time Radio” uncovers over 1,300,000 entries.

There is one final, fitting bit of biographical information people should know about Rio. She doesn’t like to talk about her age. For years, in fact, she sidestepped the issue with both interviewers and audiences. And so she should. Rio is, after all, representative of a radio past that still, like her, engages and delights audiences. That makes her story, like the stories she accompanied and like Rio’s legacy itself, timeless.

- Tom Honsa is an adjunct professor of History at Eckerd College and Manatee Community College in Florida. He recently interviewed Rosa Rio, who is still performing at the age (unofficially) of 105.


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