Behind the Mike


“Radio. With the switch of a dial, radio brings you tragedy, comedy, entertainment, information, education. A whole world at your command. But radio isn’t all on the surface. There are stories behind radio, stories behind your favourite programme and favourite personalities and radio people you never hear of. Stories as amusing, dramatic and interesting as any make-believe stories you hear on the air. And that’s what we give you. The human interest, the glamour, the tragedy, the comedy and information that are… Behind the Mike!”

RadioThis week I’ve been listening to Behind the Mike, a lively magazine show that ran on NBC from 1940 to 1942. The listener finds out how radio is made: what an 1940s studio engineer does, how to warm up a live audience, how an independent production company sells a programme to a sponsor.

The show is nicely interactive – listeners can send in questions by post, sit in the studio audience, or tell their story on-air. 14 year old Johnny fights off a mystery illness with help from his favourite radio serial, Miss Wilma Gray is declared Radio’s Most Loyal Fan and Mr Sidney Anthony is pleased to be able to pay off his bills thanks to radio’s Pot O’ Gold competition.

The format takes some getting used to. Live interviews sound heavily scripted and performed, and often fade out midway through a sentence and turn into dramatised reconstructions. Some of the interviewees play themselves in the dramatisations, but others are played by actors. We seem to drop in and out of the dramatisations as the interviewee describes what happened next. All of which makes it hard to tell what’s “real” and what’s not.

Nonetheless, it’s a fun listen, with plenty of tall tales and bloopers that wouldn’t be out of place on Radio Fail.

32 episodes of Behind the Mike are available on thanks to the Old Time Radio Researchers Group.

One Response to “Behind the Mike”

  1. Wow, these links are amazing, thanks for sharing them! I will have so much fun getting through NBC Radio and RADIOFAIL. That’s genius. The hiccups… Oh, the hiccups. I know it makes me 7 years old to find it so funny, but I really do…