Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Radio in the North

I've always been interested in old-time radio. Growing up in the '60s and '70s, I was a bit too young to have experienced the golden age of radio. But I have read about it, and have heard recordings.

Also, some remnants of that era remain, although they are very few and far between.

There seems to be something about my native state of Minnesota that has worked to preserve some of those remnants. Perhaps it's the climate. They're kept intact, like those neanderthal bodies that have been found encased in ice in the Alps.

One prime example is Garrison Keillor. host of A Prairie Home Companion, performed from St. Paul on public radio. (I'm sure he'd love to be thought of as a neanderthal fossil!)

Another throwback to that earlier era died yesterday. Steve Cannon, the veteran afternoon-drive-time announcer on WCCO Radio of Minneapolis, died of cancer at the age of 81.

Unlike Keillor, Cannon never did national broadcasts. But you can hear some brief excerpts here, and experience his amazing skill in playing multiple characters in a single comedy bit, and switching back and forth effortlessly between the roles. Even those of us who listened to him over a period of years, and knew he was doing all the voices, never lost the impression that there were multiple actors in the basement studio, playing the various parts.

I'm amused by some of the comments about it being un-cool to listen to that radio station. For those of us who were baby-boomer youngsters in those years, that was certainly the case. To have the other kids know one listened to WCCO was like being seen at the mall with one's parents. But after having moved around to a handful of different cities, I've never known a local ratio station that did anywhere near as good a job as that station did in those years.

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