If you think old time radio is a thing of the past, think again.
While the “old time radio” label doesn't exactly fit the new programs available (for obvious reasons), there are still a lot of individuals and companies dedicated to the notion that there’s room for exclusively audio entertainment. While entertainers prominent during the Golden Age of Radio – that era that lasted from the early 1920s through the 1950s when televisions took over as the primary source of broadcast entertainment – have achieved legendary status over the years, there are a good number of groups and individuals who still write and produce comedies, dramas, historical broadcasts and other programs that cater to the tastes of a wide range of listeners.
Some of those new programs can be found on National Public Radio (NPR) stations around the United States while others are broadcast on XM Satellite Radio. Other programs are distributed through Internet radio stations, the Internet sites of independent operators dedicated to making their work available to the public and through other places on the Internet.
Here at First Arkansas News, a fair amount of space has been dedicated to old time radio programs and you can count on more posts centered on OTR in the future. Still, there’s plenty of room here for new programs and you can count on seeing some information about that form of entertainment from time to time.
You can expect, then, to see several articles in the months to come covering some of those new programs and the individuals and organizations responsible for them. That series kicks off here and now with a profile of Joe Bevilacqua, a self-described actor, biographer, director, documentarian, dramatist, radio historian, teacher and writer.
The term “jack of all trades” comes to mind, and it certainly fits Bevilacqua. He’s started dabbling with voice acting when he was 12-years-old, developing the Willaby and the Professor (renamed Willoughby and the Professor) series which still figures into his work as a voice actor and producer today.
Through the Willoughby series, Bevilacqua started producing what he describes as “radio cartoons” – episodes featuring comedic scripts, voices and even music common to cartoon programs. His interest in developing those programs prompted him to send a letter to Daws Butler – the voice of Hannah-Barbera cartoon characters such as Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Quick Draw McGraw – featuring some of his drawings and asking for advice on how to break into the cartoon business.
“He wrote back a very discouraging letter,” Bevilacqua said. “He said the business is too hard … and advised me to stay home in New Jersey and open a sign painting shop.”
Bevilacqua, who was 15-years-old at the time, responded by sending Butler a 120-minute tape of his voice acting for the Willoughby characters. Butler, in return, sent him a tape on which he demonstrated how to do cartoon voices. The back-and-forth resulted in Butler effectively mentoring Bevilacqua.
Bevilacqua said that arrangement helped him forge the career he has today, adding that being able to witness Butler at work doing things like adding voices to The Jetsons gave the budding voice actor an invaluable education.
That training shows up in one of Bevilacqua’s Cartoon Carinval series, which he describes as a the world’s first radio cartoon show. The one-hour show – which appears on the Shokus Internet Radio Network and a few National Public Radio stations in the country – features cartoon music, Bevilacqua (who goes by “Joe Bev” during the broadcasts) providing voices for original material such asWilloughby and the Professor and imitating vintage cartoon characters such as Popeye and Yogi Bear.
Bevilacqua said he had produced the show for XM Radio in the past and said he will have soon have some more programming on XM – a network that is a natural for such audio entertainment as the station caters to niche programming and his audio cartoon work certainly falls into that realm.
XM, he added, is a boon to people in the audio entertainment field. A typical radio station’s signal only carries so far, but satellite radio expands around the nation – you might only have a few fans of a particular niche in a community, but that fan base becomes very large and of interest to commercial enterprises when the market becomes global rather than regional.
The same, Bevilacqua said, is true of the Internet – the potential to reach fans through the Web is staggering.
Regardless, he said that radio figures prominently in his plans. Bevilacqua has worked in public radio and has convinced a few NPR stations – such as KITC 106.5 FM in Gilchrist, Ore., and Wisconsin Public Radio WGTD HD3 – to carry his program and is in the process of visiting with more public stations.
Bevilacqua quipped that he’s been more involved in the production end of things than marketing, but believes he’ll be in a position to soon shift gears and expand his programming to other parts of the country.
He added that his programs can always be heard on the Internet at PRX.org.
Cartoon Carnival is just the tip of the ice burg when it comes to Bevilacqua’s activities. He’s produced original comedy and drama series and has been hard at work on a series documenting the history of old time radio featuring voices of those famed actors of yesteryear (many of which are characterized by Bevilacqua) and, well, just a lot of stuff – visit his site at JoeBev.com for more information.
Ultimately, Bevilacqua said he hopes he provides some diversion to people who are looking for a break from the typical bad political, economic and international news of the day.
“I want people to smile when they listen to my show,” he said.