Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook: On the Air

As I’ve mentioned before in the past, I worked a short stint at two radio stations in Amarillo. At FM90, some of the equipment from decades past were stored to show students, like myself at the time, how technology has changed over the years. I couldn’t fathom—quite frankly, I still don’t understand—how they managed to do radio with vinyl records. They even had to do math! In the 21st century, we have a cushion that disc jockeys could only dream of in the past. Our music is lined up through a computer in advance; we throw away and rearrange songs with the click of a mouse. Therefore, I’ve decided if I want to time travel that it will be to the 1930s to see how a radio show was constructed and explicated with antique equipment and technology.

During Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook: On the Air, I learned a thing or two about radio that I’d never heard before. For instance, there used to be a market for classical music… above pop music. I love Strauss and Mozart… but if I were alive in the 1930s, you better believe I’d be swinging to some Cab Calloway or Bing Crosby first and foremost. I also really enjoyed seeing the radio archive in Sandy Hook, CT (of all places!). Preservation is near and dear to my heart and I appreciate so much that Michael Feinstein added that segment to the show to make viewers aware of archives available to our country.

Before the show, I’d heard of Bing, Cab, and Baby Rose Marie… but I’d never heard of Kate Smith. The fact that I have never even heard of her is shocking to me! She had a radio, television, and motion picture career. Her performance of “God Bless America” on the radio actually has a colourful history with the Philadelphia Flyers (yes, the hockey team). In 1969, the team played her rendition of “God Bless America” before their game— supposedly, her version gave the team an unusual winning streak or success. Eventually, Kate made a surprise performance for the team in a game against the Maple Leafs in 1973.. and the Flyers won! Outside of the Spectrum in Philadelphia, a statue was dedicated to Kate Smith. Personally, I’m glad Tom Collins took a chance on a “bigger” lady and gave her a radio career! It’s kind of like The Butterfly Effect… the world might be a different place without her.

Overall, I’ve loved the episodes of American Songbook. Feinstein always asks the proper questions and the subject matter is genuinely interesting. I find myself slightly bored when he takes a hunk of time out of the programming to sing a song… but hey, at least he’s not Roseanne Barr singing the National Anthem! (P.S. I love Roseanne, she just shouldn’t sing). I’ll be back next week with more for you to watch, learn about, and absorb! Until then… here’s some Judy and Bing on the radio!

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One comment

  1. Whatever Michael Feinstein does, he does well. Love the PBS show!

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