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  Railroad Hour, Volume 1 - 10 hours [Download] #RA665



 
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The Railroad Hour
Volume 1



The Association of American Railroads stocked passenger trains with this ink blotter to help publicize "The Railroad Hour".In the late 1940s and well into the 1950s, millions of American households had their radios tuned to NBC on Monday evenings for what the network termed their "Night of Music". It was clever programming; following the challenges inherent in the first work day of a new week, NBC realized that prime-time listeners would appreciate the chance to relax in their living rooms with soothing melodies that relaxed them, rather than be given dramas or comedies that required energy and attention. This remarkable evening of entertainment included such long-running radio stalwarts as "The Telephone Hour", "The Voice of Firestone", and "The Cities Service Band of America" - but, as of October 1949, the evening began with a musical program that would soon become must-hear weekly listening for most households: "The Railroad Hour", starring a young and handsome baritone named Gordon MacRae.

Sponsored by the Association of American Railroads, a lobbying organization which represented most of the railroads in the United States, "The Railroad Hour" presented vest-pocket versions of some of the most popular and beloved musicals and operettas of all time - everything from the romantic melodies of Victor Herbert and Sigmund Romberg right through to the modern musical comedies of Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and Irving Berlin. In these lush and tuneful half-hours, star and leading man Gordon MacRae was joined by a host of leading ladies - including MGM and Warner Brothers vocalist Lucille Norman, Metropolitan Opera stars Dorothy Kirsten and Nadine Conner, Dorothy Warenskjold of the San Francisco Opera Company, as well as guest artists like Jane Powell, Jeanette MacDonald, Kenny Baker, Eileen Wilson, and Patrice Munsel.

The rich, room-filling music was provided by maestro Carmen Dragon, an arranger/conductor with vast musical experience in both radio and motion pictures, and the dozen or so members of the Norman Luboff choir; together, these two musical experts gave "The Railroad Hour" a sound that was both distinctive and unique, even in an medium that was known at the time for large-scale musical programs. But it was the expert voice of announcer Marvin Miller that really brought the show together. Setting the scene for each program with the announcement "Ladies and gentlemen, the Railroad Hour!", listeners would then hear the sound of a train whistle in the distance as Miller went on to proclaim "And here comes the star-studded show train!" as the orchestra and chorus struck up the theme "I've Been Working on the Railroad", which increased in speed and intensity to suggest a fast-moving express train while Miller announced that evening's musical or operetta, ending with the introduction of star Gordon MacRae.

Gordon MacRaeIn his role as host and leading man, MacRae generally narrated the programs, giving listeners the basic structure of the plot as the show went along. It helped that the librettos of most popular operettas were little more than bare-bones plots upon which to hang romantic melodies, but large-scale epic musicals sometimes suffered from the truncation required to turn a two- or three-hour show into a half-hour of familiar melodies. The complicated and multi-layered plot of "Showboat", for instance, becomes nothing more than the misbegotten romance of a riverboat gambler and a romantic young lady. Still, many of the familiar Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II melodies are featured - including "Old Man River" which, since "The Railroad Hour" had no deep-voiced black bass in its cast, is given instead to the choir to perform.

Gordon MacRae, conductor Carmen Dragon, and vocalist Dorothy Warenskjold review a score for "The Railroad Hour" in this 1952 NBC photograph.The job of adapting massive musicals and full-scale operettas for the half-hour format fell to Jean Holloway and the writing team of Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. Holloway, who herself was also a singer and musician, had earlier written for such programs as "The Kate Smith Hour" and "Mr. President", while Lawrence and Lee had honed their writing skills as two of the first staff members of the Armed Forces Radio Service during World War II. All three had considerable knowledge of both music and theater; Lawrence and Lee, in fact, would in later years write the Broadway classic "Auntie Mame" and its musical counterpart "Mame", as well as such well-known plays as "Inherit the Wind" and "The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail". The "Railroad Hour's" director was Francis "Fran" Van Hartesveldt, a former professional musician and arranger who had turned to work in advertising agencies in the late 1930s.

Though "The Railroad Hour" is today remembered primarily for its striking musicals and operettas, the summertime broadcasts of the series were equally effective. While most popular network programs left the airwaves between June and September to be replaced by less expensive forms of entertainment, "The Railroad Summer Show Train" continued to offer superior musical entertainment. Rather than presenting adaptations of stage successes, however, the summer programs instead offered musical tributes to various composers, offering selections of their best known works with a bit of history about how they came to be written. Unlike the regular season, the programs were prerecorded (or "transcribed", as they called it in those days); MacRae continued as host, with Dragon and occasionally other conductors taking the baton.

One of the unfortunate things about the often sorry state of radio show preservation is the sad way that such well-produced programs as "The Railroad Hour" have survived the decades. For years, many of the programs from the series available to collectors existed only in inferior sound, frequently marred by wobbly transfers that turned the wonderful melodies and arrangements into nearly unlistenable exercises in musical torture. Not so with this ten-hour collection of broadcasts from Radio Archives. We've gone directly to the source - the original lacquer master recordings, made for the Benton & Bowles advertising agency - to ensure the best and highest quality sound possible. The disks, cut by Radio Recorders in Los Angeles during the original broadcasts and long stored away in Las Vegas, Nevada, were in excellent condition and required only minimal restoration to sound as fresh and sparkling as if they were recorded just last week, rather than well over fifty years ago. The result is twenty programs that provide not only outstanding entertainment for today's listeners but that also stand as a tribute to the talent and production techniques that went into their creation so many years ago.

If you love Broadway musicals, romantic operettas, or the popular songs of the mid-20th century, you'll love "The Railroad Hour" - especially in this outstanding collection from Radio Archives. Here is the complete content of this ten-hour collection:


#110 Irene
Music by Harry Tierney, with lyrics by Joseph Montgomery and James Montgomery
With Gordon MacRae, Eileen Wilson, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, November 6, 1950 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#164 Jubilee
Music and lyrics by Cole Porter
With Gordon MacRae, Dorothy Kirsten, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, November 19, 1951 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#168 Rosalie
Music by George Gershwin and Sigmund Romberg, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin and P.G. Wodehouse
With Gordon MacRae, Nadine Conner, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, December 17, 1951 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#102 Musical Memories of 1933
With Gordon MacRae, Lucille Norman, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, September 11, 1950 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#53 Showboat
Music by Jerome Kern, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
With Gordon MacRae, Dorothy Kirsten, Lucille Norman, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, October 3, 1949 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#44 A Salute to Ethelbert Nevin
With Gordon MacRae, Lucille Norman, the Sportsmen Quartet, John Rarig and his Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, August 1, 1949 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#56 Music in the Air
Music by Jerome Kern, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
With Gordon MacRae, Jane Powell, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, October 24, 1949 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#46 A Salute to Mack Gordon and Josef Myrow
With Gordon MacRae, Lucille Norman, The Sportsmen Quartet, John Rarig and his Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, August 15, 1949 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#78 Sunny
Music by Jerome Kern, with lyrics by Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II
With Gordon MacRae, Jo Stafford, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, March 27, 1950 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#88 Musical Memories of 1937
With Gordon MacRae, Lucille Norman, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, June 5, 1950 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#83 Sally
Music by Jerome Kern, with lyrics by Gay Bolton and Clifford Grey
With Gordon MacRae, Marion Bell, Jack Kirkwood, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, May 1, 1950 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#89 Musical Memories of 1931
With Gordon MacRae, Lucille Norman, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, June 12, 1950 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#129 Apple Blossoms
Music by Fritz Kreisler and Victor Jacobi, with lyrics by William LeBaron
With Gordon MacRae, Dorothy Kirsten, Francis X, Bushman, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, March 19, 1951 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#93 Musical Memories of 1934
With Gordon MacRae, Lucille Norman, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, July 10, 1950 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#139 Katinka
Music by Rudolf Friml, with lyrics by Otto Harbach
With Gordon MacRae, Annamary Dickey, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, May 28, 1951 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#95 Musical Memories of 1938
With Gordon MacRae, Lucille Norman, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, July 24, 1950 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#162 Rose Marie
Music by Rudolph Friml and Herbert Stothart, with lyrics by Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II
With Gordon MacRae, Dorothy Kirsten, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, November 5, 1951 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#97 Musical Memories of 1932
With Gordon MacRae, Lucille Norman, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, August 7, 1950 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#163 The Bohemian Girl
Music and lyrics by Michael William Balfe
With Gordon MacRae, Dorothy Kirsten, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, November 12, 1951 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads

#100 Musical Memories of 1929
With Gordon MacRae, Lucille Norman, The Norman Luboff Choir, Carmen Dragon and the Railroad Hour Orchestra, and announcer Marvin Miller
Monday, August 28, 1950 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by the Association of American Railroads


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