The Old Time Radio Researchers Group
by Ryan Ellett
Though the newest of the major old time radio (OTR) clubs, the Old Time Radio Researchers Group (OTRR) is one of the most active groups in the OTR hobby. Born in the early 2000's, it has expanded to include a wide variety of OTR projects.
The group's core mission was, and continues to be, the release of old time radio series in mp3 format for the free enjoyment of all. Each series is meticulously researched to ensure that every episode currently in circulation is included and in the best audio quality possible. The group combs not only the field of .mp3 files (which have multiplied seemingly exponentially over the past decade) but accesses cassette and reel-to-reel tape collections, the storage medium of choice for collectors from the hobby's earliest days in the late '60s. Further, members utilize 16 inch transcription discs when possible, the original source for most old time radio programming.
In addition to compiling the best possible audio copies of a series, Researchers try to identify the original, authentic title and broadcast date for each episode, referencing scripts when possible. Also generally included is a first-lines file, a list of the first few lines of every episode which aids in future identification of new episodes that may surface. The group creates audio introductions to each series and the primary cast members who performed behind the mic. Cast pictures, original print ads, and other related materials are often included with each series release.
Our group members include some of the premier collectors in the hobby, giving us access to rare and even uncirculated programs. Similarly, we have working relationships with many other old time radio clubs and traditional dealers that allow us the opportunity to procure a great number of hard-to-find programs. The group's reputation has grown such that individuals with unique material will now contact us because they appreciate the care we put into preserving these pieces of American culture and because we do not profit financially from our work. As older collectors begin divesting themselves of sometimes huge collections, the Old Time Radio Researchers has become one of the primary donation destinations.
The results of these efforts are the group's so-called "certified" sets which are distributed a variety of ways. The sets can be accessed either by more traditional compact disc round-robin distributions or by a variety of peer-to-peer Internet applications. Other groups recognize the quality of OTRR sets and choose to distribute them to their members as well.
In addition to our main work of producing first-class old time radio series sets, the OTRR has many other endeavors. The crown jewel of the Researchers is the OTTER database. Created several years ago by an anonymous OTR fan, ownership of the program has been passed to the OTRR. The OTTER database, used by members and non-members alike, is the largest attempt ever to catalog every circulating old time radio program in a single place.
In 2005 the group launched the monthly Old Radio Times, the hobby's first ongoing e-zine which quickly grew to be the most widely distributed publication in the hobby. This ezine offers news of interest to group members as well as to the general hobby at large. It has featured work by the hobby's most prominent writers in its short existence.
OTRR has started preserving our hobby's history by acquiring and scanning the hundreds of OTR fanzines published since the 1960s. Given the rareness of so many of these early efforts, the group's collection must be considered one of the best in existence and certainly the best available to the public via our scanning efforts.
This year the group unveiled a website with scans of every radio log from the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and New York Times published between 1930 and 1960, virtually the entire time-span of the Golden Age of Radio. This exhaustive effort has been a boon for old time radio researchers everywhere; its value cannot be overestimated.
When possible, the group makes available on its website scanned scripts from a variety of radio shows. These are fun for the casual hobbyist as well as the serious researcher.
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