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Oh, my Papa…

Every third Sunday in June, we celebrate Father’s Day—a national holiday recognizing the importance of fatherhood, paternal bonds and really, the societal influence of fathers in general.  Here at Radio Spirits, we had a nice tie picked out for our dads this year…and then we thought: why not take a little time on the blog to recognize those old-time radio fathers that made a tremendous difference in our listening lives?

Because there are so many radio “Pops” worthy of recognition, like Inspector Richard Queen on The Adventures of Ellery Queen and patriarch Henry Barbour of One Man’s Family fame, I decided for the purposes of this post to concentrate on fathers that you can become acquainted with on programs from our voluminous inventory here.  (I’ve even included links to the collections in case you’re trying to narrow down the gift choice between CDs and a pipe.)

Chester A. Riley, The Life of Riley – One of our most popular collections, Loveable Lug, succinctly sums up the appeal of an OTR dad who may not have been the sharpest knife in the drawer…but he was definitely one of the most beloved.  When Riley was wrong, he was bullheadedly wrong…and he wasn’t going to admit this until the latest complication he had blundered into had reached a satisfactory conclusion.  Even then he would throw up his hands and mutter his famous catchphrase: “What a revoltin’ development this is!”  Despite his lack of brains, he loved his wife Peg and children Babs and Junior, and if he did something stupid, it was for their benefit.  In addition to Lug, check out our Riley collections Blue Collar Blues and Magnificent Mug.

Phil Harris, The Fitch Bandwagon/The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show – Another patriarch who may not have been the best role model where children were concerned, musician Phil Harris nevertheless had a bit more on the ball than Chester A. Riley. His trouble was that he had a best friend (Frankie Remley) who managed to get him into hot water all the time.  Phil Harris was best known for his baton-waving duties on The Jack Benny Show but after he tied the knot with movie star Alice Faye in 1941, he became more and more of a family man, devoted to his wife and two daughters.  Phil began his fatherly duties on The Fitch Bandwagon in 1946, and those shows are featured on A Song and a SmileStepping Out, and Buried Treasure.  Two years later, the family Harris introduced The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show, spotlighted on our collections The First 20 EpisodesThe Circus, and Smoother and Sweeter.

Abner Peabody, Lum & Abner – It’s funny how we tend to forget that one-half of The Jot ‘Em Down Store was a dutiful family man, isn’t it?  I guess that’s because ol’ Abner, bless his heart (buh-less his little heart!), spent so many working hours playing epic games of checkers or getting involved in other wacky shenanigans he didn’t seem to make much time for his wife Elizabeth and daughter Pearl.  Oh, that’s not really being fair; truth be told, we rarely heard from either woman during the many years the comedy serial was broadcast, but we can state categorically that they were the most important things in life to Abner—his bachelor buddy Lum surely had to be jealous.  If you’re curious as to what’s going on down in Pine Ridge, spend an hour or two listening to Lum & Abner volumes 123567891011, and 12.

Mr. Piper, The Couple Next Door – The Couple Next Door was another serial that celebrated the comedic joys of domestic bliss.  We’re not being formal with the “Mister,” either—during the show’s run on CBS from 1957 to 1960, the husband and wife had no first names other than “Dear” and “Darling.”  But they did have daughter Suzy and newborn Bobby, and Piper proved to be an exemplary father when it came to ensuring that the children were brought up properly.  Radio Spirits features the Piper family in multiple CD sets: The Couple Next DoorMerry Mix-UpsMoving OnBusiness & Pleasure, and Family Fortunes.

Victor Gook, Vic & Sade – Listeners during the Golden Age of Radio made this program (not a serial, though it was broadcast five days a week) a popular one, with its devoted audience tuning in religiously to the adventures of the family occupying “the small house halfway up in the next block.”  The curmudgeonly Vic, whose bark was worse than his bite, made certain that between his nine-to-five job working for J.K. Ruebush and his duties as the Exalted Big Dipper of Sacred Stars of the Milky Way (Drowsy Venus Chapter) he was there for his wife Sade and son Rush.  If you’ve never heard this classic program, do what you can to slip Vic & Sade in your shopping cart.

Osgood Conklin, Our Miss Brooks – I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult life must have been for young Harriet Conklin growing up.  Your entire high school existence is stymied by the fact that your autocratic father is the principal and referred to fondly by both faculty and students as “Old Marblehead.”  We may have been grateful that we didn’t have to call Osgood Conklin “Pop”…but the fact that he provided us with endless laughs as he matched wits with his nemesis, English teacher Connie Brooks, more than made up for his shortcomings.  If you’re skeptical, check out Boynton BluesGood EnglishFaculty Feuds, and School Spirit.

Jim Anderson, Father Knows Best – The old-time radio dad that everybody wishes they had.  Jim Anderson started out in the “Daddy’s-an-idiot-but-we-love-him” mold until star Robert Young used his muscle to transform his patriarch into an all-knowing sage who gently but firmly prodded his children to follow the right path in life.  Most folks remember Father Knows Best as a long-running TV show, but its roots are in radio, as witnessed on the Radio Spirits collection Maple Street.

Radio Spirits also has on hand a pair of potpourri collections with samples of comedy hits from radio’s past, Great Radio Comedy and Great Radio Sitcoms.  You’ll find many of the Dads discussed above on Comedy, along with visits to the patriarchs of The Aldrich Family (Sam Aldrich—attorney-at-law!), The Baby Snooks Show (Lancelot “Daddy” Higgins), A Date with Judy (Melvin Foster), A Day in the Life of Dennis Day (Dennis’ landlord, Herbert Anderson), and Meet Corliss Archer (Harry Archer).  Sitcoms spotlights some of these same favorites and adds Ethel and Albert (the original Couple Next Door), Blondie (Dagwood Bumstead), My Little Margie (Vern Albright), and of course, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet (super dad Ozzie Nelson and his family)!

Happy Father’s Day to the Dad in your life!

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