The End of the Golden Age
On this day (September 30) in 1962 CBS radio broadcast the final episodes of Suspense and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and the Golden Age of Radio came to a close.
Radio Drama (also frequently referred to as Old Time Radio or OTR) really began in the 1920s. Before that, there was audio theater which consisted of plays performed for radio broadcast. It wasn't until August 3, 1922 at the Schenectady, New York station WGY that the in-house actors, The WGY Players, broadcast a performance that augmented the drama with music and sound effects, creating a vivid aural tapestry. The result was a worldwide explosion in what was an instantly popular new art form. Within months there were radio dramas being produced across the USA, as well as in Canada, Ceylon, France, Germany, India, Japan, and the UK.
Radio Drama's Adolescence
In 1934, the anthology series Lights Out debuted and exploited many of radio's unique qualities to massive success. The program was penned by Wyllis Cooper and aired at midnight. Cooper employed stream of conscious monologues, multiple first-person narrators and internal monologues which were at odds with the characters' spoken dialog. It's most often remembered, however, for its gruesome and explicit sound effects which attempted to suggest joints being ripped from sockets, skin being eviscerated, heads being decapitated and other depictions of violence that would still be pushing the envelope, even on modern cable television programs.
The details of Walter's personal life are obscure and mostly drawn from one biography (For Corn's Sake), which was primarily based on his thorough scrapbooks. Walter was born Walter Tetzlaff June 2, 1915 in New York City. His career began as an actual child --appearing on The Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air in the 1930s. By the 1940s he was the most prolific child actor on the radio. His tone and cadence are immediately recognizable and helped to define the mid-20th century stereotype of a young boy. Although radio requires the listener to imagine the appearance of the players, Walter Tetley's characters, with their mixture of adult cynicism and smart-alecky childspeak invariably conjure up (in my mind, at least) images of overall-wearing, slingshot-toting, bath-hating, cowlick-sporting lil' brats.
When the popularity of TV began to overtake radio, Tetley still found work by doing voiceover work, most recognizably as the Nerdy Sherman on the Mr. Peabody cartoons. He was 44 years old at the time. He also recorded a children's record for Capitol and commercials for Sunsweet Prunes.