The Rockford Files hit the airwaves in September 1974, and until the show ended in 1980, each episode began in the same way. During the title sequence, you’d hear a phone ring, and then an answering machine would start to play, “This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and message. I’ll get back to you.” With each new episode, a caller would leave a different message after the beep:
“It’s Norma at the market. It bounced. You want me to tear it up, send it back, or put it with the others?”
“It’s Laurie at the trailer park. A space opened up. Do you want me to save it or are the cops going to let you stay where you are?”
“It’s Audra. Remember last summer at Pat’s? I’ve got a twelve hour layover before I go to Chicago. How about it?”
“This is the message phone company. I see you’re using our unit, now how about paying for it?”
“I staked out that guy only it didn’t work out like you said. Please call me. Room 234. County Hospital.”
“Hey Rockford, very funny. I ain’t laughing. You’re gonna get yours.”
The short messages told you pretty much everything you needed to know about Jim Rockford. He’s a private detective living paycheck to paycheck. He cuts corners and bends rules when he needs to. He has friends among women, and enemies among men. He’s a quintessential private dick.
In total, 122 different answering machine messages were left during the run of the series. (Apparently, many featured the voices of 1970s celebrities and public figures.) You can play Season 1 above, and the remaining seasons below.