Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


In Illinois, a Blast From Radio’s Golden Past

Old-Time Radio Antioch is an online network celebrating radio’s Golden Age

ABN Old Time Radio takes amateur OTR playout to a standard worthy of NBC back in radio’s Golden Days. 

The show, produced by Antioch Broadcasting Network, runs on a fully automated 24/7 schedule, with daily blocks dedicated to family comedy, frontier stories, detective stories, science fiction/spy stories, and game shows. There are also dedicated hourly slots for popular programs such as “Suspense” and “The Whistler,” which deliver chills even in this jaded Internet Age.

Every show has been processed to reduce hiss and clicks and maximize audio fidelity. In a bid to make the experience as realistic as possible, shows are selected to coincide with their original date, so if you are listening on April 15, shows being played will be from April 15 in previous years. 

ABN adds license-free music to fill gaps, period commercials and a three-note interval identification reminiscent of the famous NBC Radio signal. It is an immersive blast from radio’s golden past.

“Station of the Imagination”

It isn’t hard to imagine the station broadcasting from an Art Deco low-rise of the 1930s, with spacious, elegant studios and control rooms, and with legendary stars wandering its halls.

ABN actually is housed in the basement of Jay Lichtenauer, its owner, creator and curator, who lives in Antioch, Ill., a mile from the Wisconsin border.

When he is not acquiring tapes of OTR shows and cleaning them up prior to digitizing for playback, Lichtenauer is running, a software business serving Mac users. His custom-built programs include radio automation software Radiologik, which is used to play the content and to run low-power FM station WFEL in Antioch, licensed to a local Lutheran church.

Jay Lichtenauer

Birth of ABN

How did Lichtenauer develop this interest? 

“I became a ham radio operator,” he said. “And some 20 years ago, I went to a hamfest and bought a 1930s-era Stromberg Carlson console radio that worked for an astonishing $20. When I got it home, I was listening to it and thinking, ‘Modern radio content on the AM band does not fit this radio.’ So I started to collect OTR shows to broadcast.”

That was in 2003. Because he worked in software, it only made sense for him to make the content available online. First he did so on his home computer, then he moved ABN streaming to a dedicated distribution service to keep up with demand. Online listenership around the globe can go as high as 2,000, depending on time of day.

You can hear it online via its stream and through aggregation services such as iTunes and TuneIn. If you want to listen on AM radio, you can hear ABN at 1610 kHz — but only if you park outside Lichtenaeur’s house. He broadcasts AM using a micro-power Rangemaster 1000 Part 15-compliant transmitter that provides enough power to deliver OTR to the antique and crystal radios in his home.


At the J-shaped desk that is ABN’s studio, he has an M1 Mac mini running ABN on Radiologik software. Three other computers help him edit and store content, while a venerable Teac X-300R reel-to-reel tape recorder/player is used to access programs from his tape library. ABN has thousands of tapes in its collection, kept in a separate room.

ABN’s tape library.

Beyond the professionalism of its presentation, one of the most striking things is the audio quality of its OTR shows. Unlike vintage shows on many websites, these tend to sound clean, clear and noise-free.

The fidelity is no accident. “I record whole sides of tape from the Teac to Apple Lossless files. I then cut the episodes into new files. Along with other acquired audio, I normalize, speed correct, EQ and reduce noise as needed.”

Those files are saved as Apple Lossless or MP3 and copied into the station Mac’s library so they are available for the automated programming selection. 

“Radiologik DJ then plays those files, while Audio HiJack captures the audio and processes it for EQ, AGC, multiband compression and peak limiting.

“It then encodes the audio into MP3 to send to the offsite Icecast streaming server for listeners to be able to tune in.”

The content — about 16,000 shows — comes from a variety of sources.  “I’ve spent many thousands of hours collecting and working on restoring old-time radio shows I have purchased from different collectors in digital form,” Lichtenauer said. 

“A lot of the audio quality that was circulating years ago was very poor due to mistakes made at analog stages or poor digital encoding choices. Back in the years 2000 and 2001, there were some really bad encoders being used to digitize OTR shows that left hiccups in the audio.”

Lichtenauer also relies on thousands of reel-to-reel tapes he has acquired from other collectors for content. “These guys are getting into their 80s, and many are getting rid of their collections,” he said. Amazingly, most audio tapes that are 50 years or older still work on his Teac, even some had been stored in less-than-ideal conditions.


Lichtenauer does the day-to-day production work that keeps ABN online, along with providing the software and hardware. He asks for donations on ABN’s home page. His target is $6,500 a year from loyal listeners. Year after year, they make online donations to cover bills for streaming and internet access. 

“It has been fully funded by listeners 100% and more ever since 2005,” Lichtenauer said. As of late March, donations for 2024 were almost halfway to the annual goal.

Twenty years on, Jay Lichtenauer sees no reason why ABN can’t keep streaming OTR shows for decades — even after his own demise.

“All the work I put into this is cumulative, so there’s no real daily activity for me to have to do to keep it up,” Lichtenauer said. “If I totally ignored it, it would be fine, except that new content would not be added to the system.” 

Of course, with 16,000 OTR shows cleaned up, stored and ready for automated playout on the Art Deco Station of the Imagination, this isn’t much of a problem.

[Sign Up for Radio World’s SmartBrief Newsletter]