Beginning in the early 1940s and for more than 50 years, the U.S. armed services produced long-form radio programs on vinyl disc to broadcast to troops overseas.
These were usually recorded by the top voice talents in Los Angeles and were heard over the American Forces Radio TV Service. Many of the same talent later created other shows specifically to aid the military with recruitment. The latter programs were then distributed to American radio stations for free on-air use.
Until recently, this trove of historical programming had been M.I.A., but now thousands of hours are available for online streaming, thanks to Army veteran Thom Whetston, who served in Panama and Korea.
“For years, AFRTS recorded many hours a week of personality-oriented music shows, and these were sent all over the world,” Whetston said. “The guys that hosted them got complimentary copies, and luckily one air talent in particular, Roger Carroll, saved most of his albums in his garage. For the last 10 years I had been writing a blog about AFRTS, and about a year ago, with Roger’s help, I began building a website where people can hear these shows again.”
ROGER THAT …
Today, at age 89, Roger Carroll is long retired, but happy that so many hours of what he and others created can now be heard again via the internet. He shared some of his broadcast memories with Radio World.
“I had an older brother who worked at WCAO(AM) in Baltimore,” he said. “He was killed in World War II, but I always wanted to be an announcer like him. I got my chance while I was still in high school at WFMD(AM), a station in Frederick, Md., at age 15.”
From the East Coast, Carroll moved across the country to attend school. He inquired about a job as a page at NBC in Los Angeles. At the time, NBC Radio had just been forced to sell off one of its two networks, so NBC Blue was renamed ABC. NBC Red continued for many years as the NBC Radio Network.
Because a woman there saw potential in Carroll, she sent him over to the ABC side, and through a set of fortuitous events, Carroll found himself doing summer relief work on the ABC Radio Network at age 18.
“Sixteen guys auditioned for the job,” said Carroll, “but I got it because I was the only one who could pronounce ‘calliope.’”
His career then took him to KMPC in Los Angeles, where he spent 22 years working for owner Gene Autry, whom employees affectionately referred to as “The Cowboy.”
During the late 1950s, Carroll served in the army and began recording shows for AFRTS as part of his regular duties. About six years later, after his release from service, he heard about an opening for recording more of these programs, and he took the job to continue to serve his country. His last shows were recorded in the early 1980s.
“The announcers who hosted these programs all received copies of their own AFRTS shows, and they were told they could use them as they pleased,” said Thom Whetston. “Thus we are able to post these on our website for the public.”
Whetston has been handling the massive project of digitizing these vinyl discs so that they can be preserved and played on the website. But how much of this material was produced?
“Take about 80 hours a week times 52 weeks per year, times 30 years,” said Whetston. “The Library of Congress has all of it, but that place is like that warehouse in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ In 200 years, it’ll still be there in crates, but that doesn’t do anyone any good now. That’s why I’m putting it online.”
Whetston enjoys connecting with other people who served in the military and particularly those who worked for service-run radio stations all over the world. He said he has met hundreds of them thanks to his blog and now the website.
To keep the site fresh, Whetson rotates various programs in and out, and he is even beginning to record a few similar shows of his own, updating the music slightly to include more of the 1980s and ’90s.
In addition to programs hosted by Roger Carroll, the site offers entertainment from other announcers including Gene Price, Roland Bynum, Wink Martindale, Jim Pewter, Chris Noel, Robert W. Morgan and Frank Bresee. Hear what it all sounded like at http://rogercarrollbestsoundsintown.com.
Ken Deutsch salutes anyone who served his or her country and appreciates what they do every day.