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Raised on Radio Hardcover – October 13, 1998

3.9 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Before it fell victim to the voracious adolescence of television in the late 1950s and early 1960s, American radio was the country's dominant cultural force. It served as a testing ground for new advertising and marketing models, created huge celebritiesAJack Benny and Fred Allen, for exampleAand installed programs such as Amos 'n' Andy and You Bet Your Life in America's cultural pantheon. There have been several attempts to create a popular history of the medium's Golden Age but none quite as successful as Nachman's book. Organized thematically rather than chronologically, the 24 chapters cover everything from radio's domestic comedies ("Nesting Instincts") and the quiz-show phenomenon ("Minds Over Matter") to the medium's dependence on ethnic types ("No WASPS Need Apply"). A syndicated humor columnist and reporter on the arts, Nachman also presents vivid portraits of radio's major figures and a few of its fascinating minor ones, including maverick comic Henry Morgan and horror maven Arch Obler, the Rod Serling of his day. Nachman doesn't shy away from such issues as racism and sexism; throughout he stresses the overarching theme that radio has served as a national conscience and a socioeconomic mirror. He takes such delight in chronicling the medium's rise and fall that even readers raised away from radio will understand why a whole generation projected their imaginations onto this vast sonic canvas. Photos.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A sharp, nostalgic homage to the golden era of radio, told as both a memoir and a social history. Nachman, a columnist for the New York Times syndicate, attempts to explain just how radio came to define American pop culture from the 1920s to the '40s by examining the personalities, genres, and behind-the-scenes politics of network radio productions. As the earliest tycoons (like George Washington Hill of the American Tobacco Company and barn broadcaster Dr. Frank Conrad) contributed to radios availability and mass-market appeal, a boom began that drew talent of varying degrees and generated a patriotic hype not unlike that which surrounds todays information superhighway: radio was to be the American medium that would bring culture and democracy around the globe. Instead, it introduced advertising to the country and created the formatssoap operas, news, sports, variety, sitcom, and dramathat remain in popular entertainment to this day. Nachman recalls the 30 remarkable years of radios reign by remembering the programsinspired first by vaudeville, then by Broadwaythat he enjoyed as a child: from the sassy satirist Fred Allen (the David Letterman of radio) to the fluffy but arousing teen-girl dramas like Junior Miss. Mirroring the countrys domestic politics, radio programs of that era attempted to sweeten immigrant stereotypes and launch antiracist images of blacks (in what Nachman calls a rather thin rainbow coalition): the Italian immigrant comedy Life with Luigi, the blue-collar characters in The Life of Riley, and the Jewish family in The Goldbergs all told the immigrant story with bursts of ethnic humor and staunch American patriotism. Beulah, a show about a black maid, tried to honor black culture (while using white actorsa practice that happily died out early on). Still lovable despite its flaws, network radio through Nachmans eyes is a treat. A humorous account of a radiophiles memory and longing for the return of the lost era. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 535 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (October 13, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037540287X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375402876
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #242,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Nachman's writing benefits from the punchiness of his journalistic training; this book is a pleasantly affectionate tribute to a marvelous era. It does suffer from his personal lack of interest in certain genres -- the adventure serials and soap operas meant as much to many as the sitcoms did to him as a showbiz reviewer, but he whizzes through them with a chuckle as if they were all undiffrentiable. But the main thing: Mr. Nachman, please correct the myriad errors for future editions! Too many people will be reading this book for so many dates and names to be so far off. Jack Benny's show premiered in 1932, not 1934; Harold Peary's second show was called HONEST HAROLD, not THE HAROLD PEARY SHOW; Joan Davis' TV sitcom was called I MARRIED JOAN, not THE JOAN DAVIS SHOW; the TV version of MY FAVORITE HUSBAND was not superseded by I LOVE LUCY but premiered two years after it; THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE's Leila Ransom was played by Shirley Mitchell; not only Ethel Waters but Louise Beavers played BEULAH on TV, and Dooley Wilson was only one of three of her Bills; etc., etc. It's almost impossible for little things like this not to pop up in a manuscript occasionally, but in some sections of this book there is something like this every few pages, and the correct information is widely available in other books of long standing. Without these gaffes this would be a fine piece of work deserving of many reprintings.
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By A Customer on November 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
This highly entertaining book differs from others in the genre in that it is not a fawning fan book. It is lots of fun and very well written. Some OTR fans have slammed it for its numerous errors (and it's true; it could have used a fact checker), but Nachman is after more important game than radio trivia, and he succeeds,
But I do have to register one strong objection. It's his assesment of Eddie Cantor. Now, Cantor may indeed have been a lousy rat in his personal life, as Nachman's informants report --that I don't know about -- but the book is one hundred per cent wrong about Cantor's show (at least his show from the mid-forties on). Nachman dismisses Cantor as an essentially talentless hack, and his show as depressingly unfunny. A few years ago, back when I first read this book, I accepted Nachman's criticism as probably factual (though I did remember enjoying Cantor's movies on the late, late show many years ago). The fact is that at the time I had never heard any of Cantor's radio shows so I had nothing to compare his comments with. Then about a year ago I ran across a partial episode of one Cantor's shows. It was hilarious and made me hungry for more. A few months ago I was able to obtain six or seven dozen shows dating from WW II and later. Now, it's possible that Nachman was going by Cantor's shows from the thirtes, when radio was much different than the situation comedy oriented 1940s. Whatever the case all I can say is that going by the fifty or so shows I've heard so far, Nachman is wrong, wrong, wrong. Cantor's show is hilarious and every bit as good as Burns and Allen, Jack Benny, Phil Harris, or any other top shows of the period. The writing is first rate.
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Format: Hardcover
I come at this book from an oblique angle. Yes, I was definitely raised on radio shows like "The Great Gildersleeve" and "Fibber McGee and Molly," but I was born in 1971, twenty years after the demise of the medium! Thanks to a nostalgia program called "The Big Broadcast" on the Washington DC public radio station WAMU, however, every Sunday night for years I was drawn out of my 1980s media world (of The Empire Strikes Back and The Dukes of Hazzard) and into the wonderfully different, off-beat universe of vintage radio.
Like my father, forty years before me, I was a kid with a radio hang-up, who's head spun around with the adventures of "The Shadow" (in reality, wealthy man-about-town Lamont Cranston) and who thrilled to stories of "Suspense!" None of my friends...not one...had any idea that this world recaptured from the past existed. That had its advantages: I could use any routine from Jack Benny or Fred Allen and claim it as my own. But it had its disadvantages as well. Radio was filled with loveable characters and great shows...you want to talk about them! Being one of the tiny minority of my generation who knew who Sheriff Matt Dillon was, I was all alone.
Until now! Gerald Nachman's book RAISED ON RADIO is like having a great conversation with the world's biggest old-time radio authority...and enthusiast! I haven't listened to some of these shows in ten years, and yet its amazing how well I remember the VOICES when Mr. Nachman quotes an old gag or piece of dialogue. That's the magic of radio: the voices approach you intimitely, and your imagination takes flight.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really love this book... Its a great read... neither overly scholarly (as in Zzzzzzzzzzzzz...) nor overly wishy washy like some titles that might come to mind. Its just one of those books you can sit back, read and enjoy. In the process you'll get a great overview of the rise and fall of radio... you'll meet the stars and the personality in front of and behind the mic, from the actors and executives, right down to the writers and sound effects men. - - I'm not sure if one could call it definitive... but for sure whether its definitive or not, it tells the story well and is re-readable as many of those classic radio shows are still relistenable. - - All in all, if you're a die hard "OTR" buff and want to know who played so and so in episode 154 of a certain radio show, its original airdate, and when it re-aired... the book probably isn't for you... - - If, however, to hear the story of radio as a whole, relive this golden age, and experience it not only from the perspective of the people who made it, and the generation that grew up on it this is one must have piece of literature - - (...to boot, almost all of my favorite radio shows were covered... atleast in brief !)
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