NBC Chimes Old Time Radio Urban Legend

“Bong…BONG…bong. The NBC Chimes”: Quick History of an Elegant Solution of Station Identification

Like so many things in life that are familiar to us all, the NBC Chimes are known by every fan of old time radio shows, but surrounded by myth and legend, some of it true, some of it with no basis in fact.

NBC Chimes

G-E-C. Three simple notes. When we here them we all know that they mean NBC. Their origin is in the Station

Break. According to FCC Regulations, at the top of each hour a licensed broadcaster must identify itself by call sign and the name of the Community where its broadcast license has been issued, i.e.: “This is WEAF, New York.” When stations combine to play network programming, this becomes complicated. The simplest solution is for the network announcer to read the call signs of the individual stations, but this becomes cumbersome if there are more than four or five stations in the network. It is much more efficient to announce “We pause now for ten seconds station identification, this is the NBC Network.” But what happens if the local operator is asleep at the switch, or his clock isn’t synchronized with the network? The familiar three tones are an elegant solution.

There is some controversy over the origin of the G-E-C sequence. One story is that three NBC employees, Oscar Hanson, NBC Engineer, Ernest La Prada, NBC Orchestra leader, and Phillips Carlin, NBC Announcer, were given the task of finding a solution and audio cue to the station break problem. They worked with a set of hand-dinner chimes purchased in Manhattan for $48.50, and during the years of 1927-1928 tried several sequences of notes (as many as seven) before settling on the G-E-C sequence. There is also a claim the WSB, Atlanta, had been using the three notes on their own, using a small hand xylophone, through the late 20’s. After joining the NBC Network, WSB was broadcasting a Georgia Tech football game when the notes were heard in New York. Someone at the network liked them and the notes were adopted. WGY, Schenectady, and KFI, Los Angeles, which both went on the air in 1922, each claim to have originated the G-E-C tones.

There is no evidence that “G-E-C” were chosen to commemorate the General Electric Company, which was a major stockholder in the original National Broadcasting Company. This is an Urban Myth.

Final Episode Fred Foy Obituary Old Time Radio Western

Farewell, Fred Foy, announcer for The Lone Ranger

We are saddened today by the loss of Fred Foy, best known for voicing the most memorable introduction lines from the Golden Age of Radio, The Lone Ranger.

“Hi-Yo, Silver! A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty “Hi-Yo Silver”… The Lone Ranger! With his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early West. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. From out of the past come the thundering hoof-beats of the great horse Silver. The Lone Ranger rides again!”

Foy’s broadcasting career began in Detroit, shortly after graduating from high school, on WMBC and WXYZ. His budding career, like so many others, was interrupted by WWII. Sergeant Fred Foy became the American voice Egyptian State Radio, delivering news and special programs to Allied troops in Cairo. For Stars and Stripes he did “the American News Letter”, a weekly summary of news from home, plus sports flashes and items from the other war theaters. He also announced “Headline News of the Day” in Cairo Cinemas and helped to stage and announce USO Programs, including Jack Benny’s broadcast from Cairo to New York and a concert by Andre Kostelanetz and Lily Pons. He received top honors from Washington for hisChristmas Radio Show “Christmas Overseas” broadcast from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

After the war Foy returned to WXYZ. He became the announcer for The Lone Rangeron July 2, 1948, and held the job through the last lie broadcast on Sept 3, 1954. Radio historian Jim Harmon said of Foy’s introduction: it “made many people forget there were others before him… He pronounced words like no one else ever had- ‘SIL-ver,’ ‘hiss-TOR-ee.’ But hearing him, you realized everyone else had been wrong.” Foy’s enthusiasm for the intro was infectious. His daughter remembers, “Dad would do the intro at the drop of a hat…He loved it.”

Foy reprised the intro for television, and would go on to spend five years with ABC as The Dick Cavett Show‘s Announcer and on-camera commercial spokesman. In March 2000 Fred Foy was inducted in the Radio Hall of Fame. He was awarded the Golden Boot by the Motion Picture and Television Fund in Aug, 2004.

In Aug, 2000, Foy reprised his “Return with us now…” The Lone Ranger Introduction live at the Hollywood Bowl with conductor John Mauceri and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

Foy passed away of natural causes at his home in Woburn, Mass. He was 89 years old. Fred Foy is survived by Frances Foy, his wife of 63 years, three children and three grandchildren.

Christmas Christmas Carol Christmas Radio Shows Jimmy Stewart Old Time Radio Western

Nontraditional Christmas Shows: Old Western Christmas

Christmas memories are full of chestnuts and open fires, snowy scenes and jingle bells. But Christmas Radio Shows turns up in some unexpected places.

The Old West seems a strange place to find Christmas , but of course it is there. In The Six Shooter, the angular and long legged drifter, Britt Ponsett, spends a chilly winter morning telling a run-away orphan boy the story of  “Old Eben,” a miserly land baron whose eyes are opened to the wonders of the season by a visit from a Christmas Ghost. Even if it isn’t George Bailey, the sound of Jimmy Stewart’s voice at Christmas is somehow just right. This retelling of A Christmas Carol is unexpected, being set on the frontier, but hearts are warmed just the same when Old Eben tells his ranch hand Bob Cratchet to tear down his drafty cabin and to build a proper ranch house for his family. The transcribed story was written by Frank Burt, “in collaboration with… Charles Dickens.”

Christmas Christmas Radio Shows Comedy Great Gildersleeve Old Time Radio

Great Gildersleeve Christmas

Just like at your house, Christmas in Summerfield is a special time. Of course sponsor Kraft Foods would insist that Gildy’s Christmas be extra special!

During the first season of The Great Gildersleeve the 15th episode would occur on Dec 7, 1941, the day of the Pearl Harbor attack. That year would also have the excitement of Gildy’s first Christmas in a new home. The years in Wistful Vista won’t be forgotten. As Gildersleeve is preparing to send Fibber a cheap present that he found in the discount bin, a large and mysterious package arrives from Wistful Vista marked “Do Not Open Until Christmas, signed Fibber McGee.” Now embarrassed by the small gift he was going to send, Gildy hurries to find a better gift for Fibber. Soon Judge Hooker hears about the new present and thinks it is for him. A series of “Gift Inflation” occurs with hilarity until Fibber‘s package is opened to reveal the old lawn mower Fibber had borrowed from Gildy months ago.

In 1945 Gildersleeve is determined that there will be a “Traditional Family Christmas” at home, but the kids have other ideas. Eventually Gildy has his sweet family Christmas, but not until there is a great deal of confusion and “Gift Inflation.” And we can’t forget adventures involving Mrs. Ransom and the mistletoe!  Walter Tetley also appears as the lovable Leroy.

Christmas Christmas Radio Shows Comedy Fibber McGee and Molly Great Gildersleeve Old Time Radio

Christmas in Wistful Vista: Part 2

Today we continue our trip down Christmas Radio Shows Nostaliga Lane with our favorite old time radio comedyFibber McGee and Molly: On Dec 24, 1940 there is confusion in the McGee household when they receive a package addressed to Gildy, an expensive radio/phonograph combo. Of course Fibber breaks the expensive gadget, and the McGee’s desperately try to replace it before Gildy finds out, only to discover that it is Gildersleeve’s present to them.

This episode is from Old Time Radio’s Fibber McGee’s Christmas Collection.

Christmas Christmas Radio Shows Comedy Fibber McGee and Molly Great Gildersleeve Old Time Radio

Christmas in Wistful Vista: Part 1

Any radio sitcom that lasts more than one season is likely going to do a Christmas Radio Shows. I think it may be an FCC rule. It is fun to think about, especially for pre-recorded TV Sitcoms that are probably shot the previous summer.

The Grand daddy of all radio sitcoms, Fibber McGee and Molly had many wonderful Christmas Radio Shows over their 24 year run. Many shows seem to be OK with just one nod to the holidays every season, but Fibber McGee and Molly had many years where they had a Christmas themed radio show most weeks in December. Whether this is because stars Jim and Marian Jordan were an actual couple raising kids who would have wanted more Christmas cheer, or if writer Don Quinn was just a big kid at heart is purely up for guess. Maybe Harlow Wilcox and the Johnson Wax company had a Santa Complex.

In the coming days we hope to feature some of our favorite Fibber McGee and Molly Christmas Radio Shows.

On Dec 10, 1940, Fibber McGee and Molly try to mail their Christmas packages, not only do they have to deal with long lines at the post office, but Fibber is talked into mailing Gildersleeve’s packages as well. Then they find out Fibber has stood them in the wrong line at the post office!

This episode is from Old Time Radio’s Fibber McGee’s Christmas Collection.

Christmas Christmas Carol Old Time Radio

An Old Time Radio Christmas Carol

After the Blessed Birth in the Manger and the Guy in Red bringing presents, Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is probably the most frequently told and retold of Christmas stories. (The forth would probably be George Bailey seeing how the world would be if he had never been born, from It’s a Wonderful Life.)

There are many beloved direct retellings of the ghostly tale, such as the classic films with Alistair Sims (1951) and George C. Scotts’ made for television version (1984); as well as several musicals such as Albert Finney’s 1970 film. Just as popular are the adaptations that replace the original characters with the production’s own characters. In film these include Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983) featuring Scrooge McDuck as Scrooge and characters from Disney animated films filling the rest of the tale; 1992’s Muppet Christmas Carol; and Bill Murray’s Scrooged! (1988.) Television has had a more than merry time with the story: Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962) was an animation featuring the voice of Jim Backus as the nearsighted title character; Rich Little’s Christmas Carol (1978) featured the impressionist playing several celebrities in the main roles, notably W.C. Fields as Scrooge and Richard Nixon as Jacob Marley’s Ghost; in An American Christmas Carol (1979) Henry Winkler, at the height of his Happy Days popularity, placed the tale in Depression Era New England; and of course Bugs Bunny’s Christmas Carol (1979) with Scrooged played by Yosemite Sam.

The Christmas Radio Shows was treated well during the Golden Age of Radio as well. Lux Radio Theater, Campbell’s Playhouse, and Globe Theater all did adaptations of the story. Dick Powell’s detective drama, Richard Diamond did a version, and it was even adapted to the horrors of the Korean War in Suspense! Of course the comics had fun with the story, including Burns and Allen in “Gracie’s Christmas Carol”, the Duffy’s Tavern cast presented a version,  even the Bumstead’s got into the act with their version of Scrooge on the Christmas Day broadcast of Blondie.

These great christmas radio programs andmany more can be found at

Jewish Radio Shows Old Time Radio

The Eternal Light Radio Program Begins in 1944

For over forty years, The Eternal Light radio program captured the interest of their listeners. Premiering on October 8, 1944, The Eternal Light series brought hope to an audience still embroiled in World War II. Programming included stories of human perseverance, humanitarian efforts, interviews, debates and Bible story reenactments. The show was produced by the Jewish Theological Seminary, in partnership with the NBC radio-broadcasting network.

Dr. Moshe Davis moderated the weekly program that often included celebrity guests. E. G. Marshall, Joan Crawford, Joseph Cotton and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel are among the list of those who appeared on The Eternal Light show. Although the radio series continued broadcasting into the 1980’s, its popularity led to the development of a televised series in 1952, in which NBC added the televised show to their Sunday morning faith programming line-up.

Enjoy this episode from October 15, 1944 “Emannuel God with Us”:

Insomnia Old Time Radio Sleep Top 5

Top 5 Old Time Radio Shows to Cure Insomnia

Some old time radio fans enjoy listening to old time radio shows at night to help them fall asleep. Some listen to classic comedies such as Fibber McGee and Molly or Jack Benny. Other sleepy snoozers prefer to listen to calm music shows; the top five are:

Sleeping Man

  1. Moon River
  2. Cavalcade of Music
  3. At Ease
  4. Words with Music
  5. Sammy Kaye’s Sunday Serenade

Well, that’s five, but number six would have to be? The Enchanted Hour.? ?Enjoy this episode of The Enchanted Hour as you drift into? a restful state of nostalgia bliss:

What are some of your favorite
old radio programs to fall asleep to?

Charlie Chan Detective Radio Old Time Radio Serial

December 1932 Welcomes Charlie Chan Radio Series

The astute Chinese-American detective, Charlie Chan first hit the airwaves on the NBC Blue Network in 1932. Charlie Chan was the creation of Earl Derr Biggers, who based the Chan character on a real Chinese-American police detective in Honolulu. The composite character first appeared in his novel, House without a Key, in 1925. The popularity of a 1931 film adaption of Charlie Chan led to the development of a serial radio show that aired intermittently between 1932 and 1948. Every week, Chan captured the imagination of his listeners, as he used his wit and pseudo Confucianism to solve crimes from around the world.

Enjoy this episode titled “Case of the Marching Ants”: