An Old-Time Radio Yuletide: Hear 20+ Hours of Vintage Christmas Radio Shows (1938–1956)

As Christ­mas approach­es, we reach for our book­shelves and pull down Charles Dick­ens’ beloved tale of hard­ship, rev­e­la­tion, and a mis­er’s redemp­tion in the hol­i­day sea­son. I speak, of course, of The Crick­et on the Hearth, pub­lished in 1845 as the third of what would be Dick­ens’ five Christ­mas books. (The first, of which you may have heard, was A Christ­mas Car­ol.) From the very year of its pub­li­ca­tion, The Crick­et on the Hearth found great suc­cess as a stage pro­duc­tion, and it con­tin­ued to be adapt­ed even in the age of radio. The sto­ry was a cen­tu­ry old by the time it aired on NBC, in the broad­cast that opens the five-and-a-half-hour com­pi­la­tion of Christ­mas old-time radio above.

That video is just one of three uploaded in the past few weeks by the Youtube chan­nel An Evening of Old-Time Radio. It col­lects a vari­ety of Christ­mas-themed spe­cials and broad­casts from shows like Lux Radio The­atre, The Coro­net Lit­tle Show, and CBS Ceil­ing Unlim­it­ed (an avi­a­tion-pro­mot­ing wartime effort cre­at­ed by Orson Welles).

The sec­ond vol­ume fea­tures more than six hours of hol­i­day episodes from the hit series of the Gold­en Age of Radio, includ­ing sit­coms like Our Miss Brooks, The Life of Riley, Fib­ber McGee and Mol­ly, and its spin­off The Great Gilder­sleeve. Their char­ac­ters, much like their lis­ten­ers, strug­gle to do their shop­ping and orga­nize their par­ties — and amid it all, of course, find their way to the true mean­ing of Christ­mas.

The lat­est video in An Evening of Old Time Radio’s “Yule­tide OTR” series includes radio adap­ta­tions of It’s a Won­der­ful Life, which now defines the genre of the Christ­mas movie, fol­lowed by one of Dick­ens’ Christ­mas Car­ol. Sched­uled for release this Christ­mas day, the fourth install­ment promis­es yet more sea­son­al­ly appro­pri­ate sto­ries — with the req­ui­site gags, com­pli­ca­tions, and final swells of good cheer — from such mid-cen­tu­ry domes­tic come­dies as The Aldrich Fam­i­ly, Lum and Abn­er, and The Adven­tures of Ozzie and Har­ri­et. But as you’ll hear, nei­ther could thriller, mys­tery, and west­ern shows like The Man Called X, The New Adven­tures of Nero Wolfe, and The Six Shoot­er resist telling a Christ­mas tale — nor can we, all these decades lat­er, resist hear­ing one.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Hear The Cin­na­mon Bear, the Clas­sic Hol­i­day Radio Series That Has Aired Between Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas for 80 Years

Bob Dylan Reads “‘Twas the Night Before Christ­mas” On His Hol­i­day Radio Show (2006)

Hear 149 Vin­tage Hal­loween Radio Shows from the Gold­en Age of Radio

Hear 90+ Episodes of Sus­pense, the Icon­ic Gold­en Age Radio Show Launched by Alfred Hitch­cock

Dimen­sion X: The 1950s Sci­Fi Radio Show That Dra­ma­tized Sto­ries by Asi­mov, Brad­bury, Von­negut & More

Free: Lis­ten to 298 Episodes of the Vin­tage Crime Radio Series Drag­net

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Hear 149 Vintage Halloween Radio Shows from the Golden Age of Radio

As Hal­loween radio broad­casts go, it would be hard to dis­place in Amer­i­can cul­tur­al mem­o­ry the adap­ta­tion of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds that aired in 1938. Not every Hal­loween spe­cial can be direct­ed by a young Orson Welles, of course, but that’s hard­ly a rea­son to ignore the count­less oth­er Hal­loween broad­casts from the Gold­en Age of Radio. This year you can tune them in with the Youtube playlist above, which col­lects 149 such spook­i­est-time-of-the-sea­son episodes from such beloved shows as Lum and Abn­er, The Aldrich Fam­i­ly, Fib­ber McGee and Mol­ly, Our Miss Brooks, The Great Gilder­sleeve, The Jack Ben­ny Pro­gram, The Shad­ow, and more.

Whether com­e­dy, dra­ma, or anoth­er genre besides, old-time radio pro­grams tend­ed to seize upon the theme of every hol­i­day that came down the pike, and Hal­loween — with its cos­tume par­ties, ever-present threat of pranks, and door-to-door demands — offered their writ­ers and per­form­ers a once-in-a-year oppor­tu­ni­ty for unwont­ed degrees of mis­chief.

For nor­mal­ly light­heart­ed shows, it was also a chance to go at least a lit­tle bit dark; for a show like Sus­pense, whose long and often chill­ing run began with an Alfred Hitch­cock pro­duc­tion, most weeks were Hal­loween right up until the end of radio’s Gold­en Age. (This playlist fea­tures a broad­cast from August of 1961 that still enter­tains in Octo­ber of 2022.)

If you’d just like a sound­track straight from the clas­sic Amer­i­can air­waves for next Mon­day night (or a week­end par­ty before­hand), have a lis­ten to the new­ly uploaded vin­tage Hal­loween playlist just above. Its fif­teen tracks include sea­son­al­ly suit­able songs from Tom­my Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Bing Cros­by, Ella Fitzger­ald, Sam­my Davis Jr., and Sarah Vaugh­an (not to men­tion its open­er, a not-exactly-“Monster Mash” num­ber from Bob­by Pick­ett), with vin­tage adver­tise­ments and oth­er broad­cast ephemera in between. It was as true in radio’s hey­day of the late nine­teen-twen­ties through the ear­ly six­ties as it is now: Hal­loween is the time to let blur the bound­aries between light and dark, myth and real­i­ty, the ordi­nary and the grotesque — and to make more than a few corny gags while you’re at it.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Hear Vin­cent Price, Hor­ror Film Leg­end, Read 8+ Hours of Scary Sto­ries

Hap­py Hal­loween! Louis Arm­strong Per­forms Skele­ton in the Clos­et (1936)

Hear 14 Hours of Weird H.P. Love­craft Sto­ries on Hal­loween: “The Call of Cthul­hu,” “The Dun­wich Hor­ror” & More

Hear 90+ Episodes of Sus­pense, the Icon­ic Gold­en Age Radio Show Launched by Alfred Hitch­cock

What Scares Us, and How Does this Man­i­fest in Film? A Hal­loween Pret­ty Much Pop Cul­ture Pod­cast (#66)

Hear Orson Welles’ Icon­ic War of the Worlds Broad­cast (1938)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Harper Lee Gives Advice to Young Writers in One of Her Only Interviews Captured on Audio (1964)

You know the char­ac­ter Boo Radley? Well, if you know Boo, then you under­stand why I wouldn’t be doing an inter­view. Because I am real­ly Boo. 

– Harp­er Lee, in a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion with Oprah Win­frey

Author Harp­er Lee loved writ­ing but resist­ed inter­views, grant­i­ng just a hand­ful in the fifty-six years that fol­lowed the pub­li­ca­tion of her Pulitzer Prize win­ning 1960 nov­el, To Kill a Mock­ing­bird

Go Set a Watch­manher sec­ond, and final, nov­el began as an ear­ly draft of To Kill a Mock­ing­bird, and was pub­lished in 2015, a year before her death.

Roy Newquist, inter­view­ing Lee in 1964 for WQXR’s Coun­ter­pointaboveprob­a­bly expect­ed the hot­shot young nov­el­ist had many more books in her when he solicit­ed her advice for “the tal­ent­ed young­ster who wants to carve a career as a cre­ative writer.”

Pre­sum­ably Lee did too. “I hope to good­ness that every nov­el I do gets bet­ter and bet­ter, not worse and worse,” she remarked toward the end of the inter­view.

She oblig­ed Newquist by offer­ing some advice, but stopped short of offer­ing career tips to those eager for the low­down on how to write an instant best­seller that will be adapt­ed for stage and screen, earn a peren­ni­al spot in mid­dle school cur­ricu­lums, and — just last week — be crowned the Best Book of the Past 125 Years in a New York Times read­ers’ poll, beat­ing out titles by well regard­ed, and vast­ly more pro­lif­ic authors on the order of J.R.R. Tolkien, George Orwell, Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez, and Toni Mor­ri­son.

“Peo­ple who write for reward by way of recog­ni­tion or mon­e­tary gain don’t know what they’re doing. They’re in the cat­e­go­ry of those who write; they are not writ­ers,” she drawled.

Harp­er Lee’s Advice to Young Writ­ers

  • Hope for the best and expect noth­ing in terms of recog­ni­tion
  • Write to please an audi­ence of one: your­self
  • Write to exor­cise your divine dis­con­tent
  • Gath­er mate­r­i­al from the world around you, then turn inward and reflect
  • Don’t major in writ­ing

Lis­ten­ing to the record­ing, it occurs to us that this inter­view con­tains some more advice for young writ­ers, or rather, those bring­ing up chil­dren in the dig­i­tal age.

When Newquist won­ders why it is that “such a dis­pro­por­tion­ate share of our sen­si­tive and endur­ing fic­tion springs from writ­ers born and reared in the South,” Lee, a native of Mon­roeville, Alaba­ma, makes a strong case for cul­ti­vat­ing an envi­ron­ment where­in chil­dren have no choice but to make their own fun:

I think … the absence of things to do and see and places to go means a great deal to our own pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tion. We can’t go to see a play; we can’t go to see a big league base­ball game when we want to. We enter­tain our­selves.

This was my child­hood: If I went to a film once a month it was pret­ty good for me, and for all chil­dren like me. We had to use our own devices in our play, for our enter­tain­ment. We did­n’t have much mon­ey. Nobody had any mon­ey. We did­n’t have toys, noth­ing was done for us, so the result was that we lived in our imag­i­na­tion most of the time. We devised things; we were read­ers, and we would trans­fer every­thing we had seen on the print­ed page to the back­yard in the form of high dra­ma.

Did you nev­er play Tarzan when you were a child? Did you nev­er tramp through the jun­gle or refight the bat­tle of Get­tys­burg in some form or fash­ion? We did. Did you nev­er live in a tree house and find the whole world in the branch­es of a chin­aber­ry tree? We did.

I think that kind of life nat­u­ral­ly pro­duces more writ­ers than, say, an envi­ron­ment like 82nd Street in New York.

Hear that, par­ents and teach­ers of young writ­ers?

  • Nur­ture the cre­ative spir­it by reg­u­lar­ly pry­ing the dig­i­tal device’s from young writ­ers’ hands (and minds.)

Bite your tongue if, thus deprived, they trot off to the the­ater, the mul­ti­plex, or the sports sta­di­um. Remem­ber that iPhones hadn’t been invent­ed when Lee was stump­ing for the ton­ic effects of her chin­aber­ry tree. These days, any unplugged real world expe­ri­ence will be to the good.

If the young writ­ers com­plain — and they sure­ly will — sub­ject your­self to the same terms.

Call it sol­i­dar­i­ty, self-care, or a way of uphold­ing your New Year’s res­o­lu­tion…

Read an account of anoth­er Harp­er Lee inter­view, dur­ing her one day vis­it to Chica­go to pro­mote the 1962 film of To Kill a Mock­ing­bird and attend a lit­er­ary tea in her hon­or, here.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Harp­er Lee Gets a Request for a Pho­to; Offers Impor­tant Life Advice Instead (2006)

Harp­er Lee on the Joy of Read­ing Real Books: “Some Things Should Hap­pen On Soft Pages, Not Cold Met­al”

Writ­ing Tips by Hen­ry Miller, Elmore Leonard, Mar­garet Atwood, Neil Gaiman & George Orwell

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Stream 160 In-Depth Radio Interviews with Clive James, Pico Iyer, Greil Marcus & Other Luminaries from the Marketplace of Ideas Archive

Would you like to to hear a long-form con­ver­sa­tion about the his­to­ry of the vinyl LP? Or about the his­to­ry of human rights? About the plight of book review­ing in Amer­i­ca? The wild excess­es of the art mar­ket? The nature of bore­dom? The true mean­ing of North Kore­an pro­pa­gan­da? What it’s like to live in Bangkok? What it’s like to go on a road trip with David Fos­ter Wal­lace? The answer to all of the above: of course you do. And now you can hear these con­ver­sa­tions and many more besides in the com­plete archive of the pub­lic radio show The Mar­ket­place of Ideas, which has just now come avail­able to stream on Youtube.

How, you may won­der, did I get such ear­ly word of this inter­view tro­ve’s avail­abil­i­ty? Because, in the years before I began writ­ing here on Open Cul­ture, I cre­at­ed, pro­duced, and host­ed the show myself. The project grew, in a sense, out of my dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the radio inter­views I’d been hear­ing, the vast bulk of which struck me as too brief, frag­men­tary, and pro­gram­mat­ic to be of any real val­ue.

What’s more, it was often painful­ly obvi­ous how lit­tle inter­est in the sub­ject under dis­cus­sion the inter­view­ers had them­selves. With The Mar­ket­place of Ideas, I set out to do the oppo­site of prac­ti­cal­ly every­thing I’d heard done on the radio before.

Like all worth­while goals, mine was para­dox­i­cal: to con­duct inter­views of the deep­est pos­si­ble depth as well as the widest pos­si­ble breadth. On one week the top­ic might be evo­lu­tion­ary eco­nom­ics, on anoth­er the philo­soph­i­cal quar­rel between David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, on anoth­er the his­to­ry of Amer­i­can film com­e­dy, on anoth­er the lega­cy of Robert Pir­sig’s Zen and the Art of Motor­cy­cle Main­te­nance, and on anoth­er still the ascent of Cal­i­forn­ian wine over French. (This prin­ci­ple also applied to the polit­i­cal spec­trum: I delight­ed in bring­ing on, say, the grand­daugh­ter of Bar­ry Gold­wa­ter as well as a for­mer mem­ber of the Weath­er Under­ground.) An inter­est­ing per­son is, as they say, an inter­est­ed per­son, and through­out the show’s run I trust­ed my lis­ten­ers to be inter­est­ing peo­ple.

The same went for my inter­vie­wees, what­ev­er their cul­tur­al domain: nov­el­ists like Alexan­der Ther­oux, Tom McCarthy, Joshua Cohen, and Geoff Dyer; sci­en­tists like David P. Barash, Alan Sokal (he of the “Sokal Hoax”), and Sean Car­roll; crit­ics like James Wood, Greil Mar­cus, Jonathan Rosen­baum, Dave Kehr, and J. Hober­man; econ­o­mists like Tyler Cowen (twice), Robin Han­son, Steven E. Lands­burg, and Tim Har­ford (twice); biog­ra­phers of Bri­an Eno, Nick Drake, and Michel de Mon­taigne;  trans­la­tors of Jorge Luis Borges, César Aira, and Robert Walser; broad­cast­ers like Peter Sagal, Robert Pogue Har­ri­son (of Enti­tled Opin­ions), Jesse Thorn, and Michael Sil­verblatt; philoso­phers like Kwame Antho­ny Appi­ah and Simon Black­burn; tech­nol­o­gists like Steve Woz­ni­ak and Kevin Kel­ly; film­mak­ers like Ramin Bahrani (direc­tor of the exis­ten­tial Wern­er Her­zog-nar­rat­ed plas­tic-bag short pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture), So Yong Kim, Andrew Bujal­s­ki, Aaron Katz; and musi­cians like Nick Cur­rie, a.k.a Momus (twice), Jack Hues of Wang Chung, and Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi.

The Mar­ket­place of Ideas aired between 2007 and 2011, and the pas­sage of a decade since the show’s end prompt­ed me to take a look — or rather a lis­ten — back at it. So  did the fact that a fair few of its guests have since shuf­fled off this mor­tal coil: Arts & Let­ters Dai­ly founder Denis Dut­ton, film crit­ic Peter Brunette, lit­er­ary schol­ar Angus Fletch­er, doc­u­men­tar­i­an Pepi­ta Fer­rari, writer and edi­tor Daniel Menaker, cul­tur­al poly­math Clive James. That inter­view with James was a dream ful­filled, due not just to my per­son­al enthu­si­asm for his writ­ing but the ide­al of intel­lec­tu­al omniv­o­rous­ness he rep­re­sent­ed — an ide­al toward which I strove on the show, and con­tin­ue to strive in my pur­suits today.  Even more than our con­ver­sa­tion itself, I fond­ly remem­ber an exchange after we fin­ished record­ing but before we hung up the phone. He thanked me for actu­al­ly read­ing his book, and I told him I’d thought all inter­view­ers did the same. His response: “That’s the first naïve thing you’ve said all hour.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The New Studs Terkel Radio Archive Will Let You Hear 5,000+ Record­ings Fea­tur­ing the Great Amer­i­can Broad­cast­er & Inter­view­er

Enti­tled Opin­ions, the “Life and Lit­er­a­ture” Pod­cast That Refus­es to Dumb Things Down

An Archive of 1,000 “Peel Ses­sions” Avail­able Online: Hear David Bowie, Bob Mar­ley, Elvis Costel­lo & Oth­ers Play in the Stu­dio of Leg­endary BBC DJ John Peel

The 135 Best Pod­casts to Enrich Your Mind: An Intro­duc­tion to Our New List

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Radio vs. Podcasting: A Discussion with Jason Bentley (KCRW, The Backstory) on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #81

Jason was music direc­tor at KRCW, the LA NPR sta­tion, is also a DJ with a lot of expe­ri­enced inter­view­ing musi­cians, and now hosts a new pod­cast, The Back­sto­ry. He joins Mark and Eri­ca to dis­cuss the cre­ative and busi­ness pos­si­bil­i­ties of pod­cast­ing in com­par­i­son to radio, what their futures may hold, and his own jour­ney between the two media.

Fol­low Jason @thejasonbentley. Lis­ten to his Back­sto­ry inter­view with Kris­ten Bell and his cur­rent radio show, Metrop­o­lis.

Here’s some com­par­i­son data and oth­er basic infor­ma­tion on radio and pod­casts:

Hear more of this pod­cast at This episode includes bonus dis­cus­sion that you can access by sup­port­ing the pod­cast at This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast is the first pod­cast curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts.

Stream 48 Hours of Vintage Christmas Radio Broadcasts Featuring Orson Welles, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, Ida Lupino & More (1930–1959)

The Gold­en Age of Amer­i­can Radio began in the 1930s and last­ed well into the 50s. That makes near­ly thir­ty Christ­mases, not one of which passed with­out spe­cial broad­casts by the major net­works. This Christ­mas, thanks to The World War II News and Old Time Radio Chan­nel on Youtube, you can expe­ri­ence the Gold­en Age’s three decades through 48 straight hours of hol­i­day broad­casts. Strung like an audio gar­land in chrono­log­i­cal order, these begin with an episode of NBC’s Empire Builders, quite pos­si­bly the first-ever West­ern radio dra­ma, first broad­cast on Decem­ber 22nd, 1930 — a rare year from which to hear a record­ed radio show at all, let alone a Christ­mas spe­cial. The com­pi­la­tion ends one day shy of 29 years lat­er, with a Top 40 broad­cast from WMGM in New York.

Through­out this all-Christ­mas lis­ten­ing expe­ri­ence, old-time radio enthu­si­asts will rec­og­nize many of Amer­i­ca’s very favorite shows: Lum and Abn­erAmos and AndyFib­ber McGee and Mol­ly and The Great Gilder­sleeveThe Jack Ben­ny Pro­gram and The Char­lie McCarthy Show. For many sea­son­al­ly appro­pri­ate episodes of those series as well as one-off vari­ety broad­casts, net­works would wran­gle as many big names as they could into the stu­dio, from Bob Hope and Lionel Bar­ry­more to Gary Coop­er and Frank Sina­tra to Car­men Miran­da and Ida Lupino (direc­tor, film noir fans know, of The Hitch-Hik­er).

In 1947, CBS’ Lux Radio The­ater put on a full pro­duc­tion of It’s a Won­der­ful Life with Jim­my Stew­art and Don­na Reed, stars of the film that had come out just the year before. Even U.S. pres­i­dents like Franklin D. Roo­sevelt and Dwight D. Eisen­how­er turn up to deliv­er Christ­mas address­es.

Open Cul­ture read­ers may well remem­ber CBS’ 1941 pro­duc­tion of Oscar Wilde’s “The Hap­py Prince” fea­tur­ing Orson Welles and Bing Cros­by, but even those of us who know our clas­sic radio will hear a good deal in these 48 hours of broad­casts that we’ve nev­er heard before. Though all of them cel­e­brate the sea­son in one way or anoth­er, they do so in a host of dif­fer­ent forms and gen­res, even beyond the broad divi­sions of dra­ma, com­e­dy, music, and celebri­ty chat. In grad­u­al­ly pass­ing from liv­ing mem­o­ry, the gold­en age of Amer­i­can radio comes to seem a longer era than it was. But through that rel­a­tive­ly brief win­dow, opened by the house­hold adop­tion of radio and closed by the rise of tele­vi­sion, came an abun­dance of cre­ativ­i­ty that can still sur­prise us — and indeed inspire us — here at the close of the year 2020.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear The Cin­na­mon Bear, the Clas­sic Hol­i­day Radio Series That Has Aired Between Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas for 80 Years

A Christ­mas Car­ol, A Vin­tage Radio Broad­cast by Orson Welles and Lionel Bar­ry­more (1939)

Bob Dylan Reads “‘Twas the Night Before Christ­mas” On His Hol­i­day Radio Show (2006)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

Take a Virtual Drive through London, Tokyo, Los Angeles & 45 Other World Cities

When asked once about his beliefs, This Amer­i­can Life cre­ator Ira Glass replied that he believes “the car is the best place to lis­ten to the radio.” That seems to be a cul­tur­al­ly sup­port­ed per­cep­tion, or at least it has been in over the past half-cen­tu­ry in Amer­i­ca. But does it hold true in oth­er coun­tries? Does lis­ten­ing to the radio in the car feel as good in Lon­don, Buenos Aires, Mum­bai, and Tokyo as it does in Chica­go, New York, Mia­mi, and Los Ange­les?

You can see and hear for your­self with the wealth of vir­tu­al urban-dri­ving-and-radio-lis­ten­ing expe­ri­ences on offer at Dri­ve & Lis­ten, where you can take your pick from any of the afore­men­tioned cities and 40 oth­ers besides. The site makes this pos­si­ble by bring­ing togeth­er two forms of media that have come into their own on the inter­net of the 21st cen­tu­ry: stream­ing radio and stream­ing video.

In most every major met­ro­pol­i­tan area, radio sta­tions now make their broad­casts avail­able online. At the same time, Youtu­bers have by now shot and uploaded a great many through-the wind­shield views of all those places, cre­at­ing the once-unlike­ly enter­tain­ment genre of the dri­ving video.

Here we’ve includ­ed some prime exam­ples from pop­u­lar Youtube dri­ver J Utah, whose scope includes Amer­i­can cities large and small as well as such world cap­i­tals as Tokyo, Paris, Sin­ga­pore, Hong Hong, and São Paulo. All in 4K video.

Click on one of the cities on Dri­ve & Lis­ten’s menu, and chances are you’ll see one of J Utah’s videos. It will come with a stream­ing-radio sound­track, sourced from one of the sta­tions in the city or coun­try on dis­play. Your vir­tu­al Havana dri­ve may be accom­pa­nied by announce­ments of the news of the day, your vir­tu­al Istan­bul dri­ve by Turk­ish rock, your vir­tu­al Chica­go dri­ve by an NPR affil­i­ate (per­haps even WBEZ, home of This Amer­i­can Life), your vir­tu­al Guadala­jara dri­ve by soc­cer scores, your vir­tu­al Mia­mi dri­ve by straight-ahead jazz, your vir­tu­al Berlin dri­ve by Pat­ti Smith.

Each time you select a city, you’ll get a dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tion of radio sta­tion and dri­ving footage. As every dri­ver knows, day dri­ving and night dri­ving — to say noth­ing of rush hour ver­sus the wee hours — feels com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent, and so the dri­vers of Youtube have shot at all pos­si­ble times. Some of their routes thread right between down­town sky­scrap­ers, while oth­ers stick to free­ways along the out­skirts. As a res­i­dent of Seoul, I can tell you that Dri­ve & Lis­ten accu­rate­ly con­veys the expe­ri­ence of rid­ing in a cab through that city — pro­vid­ed you first crank the video speed up to 2x.

Enter Dri­ve & Lis­ten here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Take a Dri­ve Through 1940s, 50s & 60s Los Ange­les with Vin­tage Through-the-Car-Win­dow Films

Time Trav­el Back to Tokyo After World War II, and See the City in Remark­ably High-Qual­i­ty 1940s Video

Lon­don Mashed Up: Footage of the City from 1924 Lay­ered Onto Footage from 2013

A Trip Through New York City in 1911: Vin­tage Video of NYC Gets Col­orized & Revived with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence

Pris­tine Footage Lets You Revis­it Life in Paris in the 1890s: Watch Footage Shot by the Lumière Broth­ers

Read­ing While Dri­ving, Seri­ous­ly?

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

The Original Star Wars Trilogy Adapted into a 14-Hour Radio Drama by NPR (1981–1996)

When it opened in 1977, Star Wars revived the old-fash­ioned swash­buck­ling adven­ture film. With­in a few years, Nation­al Pub­lic Radio made a bet that it could do the same for the radio dra­ma. Though still well with­in liv­ing mem­o­ry, the “gold­en age of radio” in Amer­i­ca had end­ed decades ear­li­er, and with it the shows that once filled the air­waves with sto­ries of every kind. Radio dra­mas seemed extinct, but then, before George Lucas’ space opera turned block­buster, so had movie seri­als like Flash Gor­don and Buck Rogers. The episod­ic nature of such source mate­r­i­al res­onat­ed with the sim­i­lar­ly episod­ic nature of clas­sic radio dra­ma, and that must have brought with­in the realm of pos­si­bil­i­ty a bold and near-scan­dalous propo­si­tion: to re-make Star Wars for NPR.

The idea came from a stu­dent at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, who sug­gest­ed it to USC School of the Per­form­ing arts dean and radio-dra­ma enthu­si­ast Richard Toscan. There could have been no insti­tu­tion bet­ter-placed to take on such a project. Since Toscan had already pro­duced dra­mas on the school’s NPR-affil­i­at­ed radio sta­tion KUSC, he made an ide­al col­lab­o­ra­tor in the net­work’s effort to breathe new life into its dra­mat­ic pro­gram­ming. And as Lucas’ alma mater, USC inspired in him a cer­tain gen­eros­i­ty: Lucas sold KUSC Star Wars’ radio rights, along with use of the film’s music and sound effects, for one dol­lar. Found­ed just a decade ear­li­er, NPR still lacked the expe­ri­ence and resources to han­dle such an ambi­tious project itself, and so entered into a co-pro­duc­tion deal with the BBC, which had nev­er let radio dra­ma go into eclipse.

When the Star Wars radio dra­ma was first broad­cast in the spring of 1981, fans of the movie would have heard a mix­ture of the famil­iar (includ­ing the voic­es of Mark Hamill as Luke Sky­walk­er and Antho­ny Daniels as C‑3PO) and the unfa­mil­iar. With sci­ence-fic­tion nov­el­ist Bri­an Daley brought on to add or restore scenes to the script of the orig­i­nal dia­logue-light fea­ture film, the sto­ry stretch­es out to thir­teen episodes for a total run­time of six hours. The series thus stands as an ear­ly exam­ple of the expan­sion of the Star Wars uni­verse that, in all kinds of media, has con­tin­ued apace ever since. An Empire Strikes Back radio dra­ma fol­lowed in 1983, with Return of the Jedi fol­low­ing, after pro­longed devel­op­ment chal­lenges, in 1996.

You can hear all four­teen hours of these orig­i­nal Star Wars tril­o­gy radio dra­mas at the Inter­net Archive (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi), or on a Youtube playlist with fan edits com­bin­ing the orig­i­nal­ly dis­crete episodes into con­tin­u­ous lis­ten­ing expe­ri­ences. NPR’s gam­ble on adapt­ing a Hol­ly­wood hit paid off: the first Star Wars radio dra­ma drew 750,000 new lis­ten­ers, many from the youth­ful demo­graph­ic the net­work had hoped to cap­ture. It was the biggest sci­ence-fic­tion event on Amer­i­can radio since Orson Welles scared the coun­try with his adap­ta­tion of H.G. Welles’ The War of the Worlds more than 40 years ear­li­er — a broad­cast pro­duced by John House­man, who in his capac­i­ty as USC’s artis­tic direc­to­ry in the 1970s, encour­aged Toscan to bring radio dra­ma back. In recent years, NPR’s audi­ence has con­tin­ued to age while the Star Wars fran­chise has in the­aters, on tele­vi­sion and else­where, gone from strength to strength. Has the time come for radio to use the Force once again?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Sci-Fi Radio: Hear Radio Dra­mas of Sci-Fi Sto­ries by Ray Brad­bury, Philip K. Dick, Ursu­la K. LeGuin & More (1989)

30 Hours of Doc­tor Who Audio Dra­mas Now Free to Stream Online

Hear Five JG Bal­lard Sto­ries Pre­sent­ed as Radio Dra­mas

Dimen­sion X: The 1950s Sci­Fi Radio Show That Dra­ma­tized Sto­ries by Asi­mov, Brad­bury, Von­negut & More

The Com­plete Star Wars “Fil­mu­men­tary”: A 6‑Hour, Fan-Made Star Wars Doc­u­men­tary, with Behind-the-Scenes Footage & Com­men­tary

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.