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Monday, November 24, 2008

War and Fruit...

... another in our ongoing efforts to come up with audience-attracting blog titles. No, no, actually War was last week's episode and Fruit is going to be the theme for the November 26th show according to several Dreamtime correspondents who took the time to write to us (and thank you).

If you were listening to the premiere airing of the War episode last Wednesday you found that the closing credits were missing. The stock Outro was added in later "encore" rebroadcasts, which is how we came to know that Fruit will be this week's show. At least one of our correspondents heard the title as "Fruit Bowl," but I suspect that it is simply Fruit, as that was the title of one of the "lost" episodes from Season 2, announced by XM Radio but never released.

And that leads to several interesting questions. Is Fruit an un-aired show from Season 2, or did the TTRH team never get around to recording it until this season? Will we eventually get to hear the other lost episodes - Streets; Something; and Nothing? I had always figured the last two a joke cooked up by Eddie Gorodetsky, pressed by XM Radio to give them something for their Season 2 press release, and a sideways nod to Seinfeld. But who knows, maybe there will be a TTRH show about nothing.

The fact that XM is airing Fruit and the missing - and then added - Outro, also leads to some speculation about TTRH production, although it's a very trivial thing of interest only to the completely demented like me.

Much of TTRH seems geared to specific times/dates - holidays and seasons and so on. But there are many shows that could be used at any time, and apparently which show that will be is sometimes a last-minute decision by XM. Go back and re-listen to various TTRH episodes, a pleasurable task in itself, and you'll hear several Outros where the name of the next show has obviously been edited in. The fact that the Theme Time home page has still not been fully updated - perhaps they laid off all the Web designers during the recent purge - and the reported turmoil in the XM Washington offices could lead you to believe that the task of adding the War outro fell through the cracks last week. I hope someone over over at XM is still keeping their eye on the ball with TTRH, but the evidence isn't pointing that way.

Outside of having one of the stronger TTRH playlists - although I could have lived without ever having to hear Buffy St. Marie's Melanie-like, wailing Universal Soldier again - the War episode was a unique TTRH in several respects...

* It was the first 90-minute show. There's been three 2-hour specials - 10 points to you if you can name them - and then there's the weird Time show, which ran into overtime, somewhere between 70-80 minutes as I remember, but never a full 90-minute show until War.

* It was the second show not to feature Ellen Barkin's voice (again, I'll leave finding the first as an exercise for the TTRH fan), and the first not to use the "Night in the Big City" intro.

As much as I love hearing Ellen Barkin, I think the intro could use a nice rest after almost 80 variations. Something like the audio collage used for War would be a welcome change - although obviously a lot more work. And what the hell would they do for a show like Fruit?

* Although it's now looking more like a glitch on XM's part, the missing Outro would have made War the second TTRH not to have closing credits (maybe I'll put together a quiz of TTRH production trivia), and I think the first to feature only Dylan's voice alone. There were no telephone calls or additional commentary from actors, comedians, or musicians. Again, kind of refreshing, although I was surprised that there wasn't a def poetry reading given the subject and Dylan's liking for poets such as Stephen Crane. And am I the only listener who misses regular def poetry? Bring it back, Bob! Not all of them have to be as long as The Raven.

* Regular Dreamtime correspondent Heddy points out another oddity that I missed: There was no "... sponsored by Cadillac" announcement before the show. Another XM glitch?

Enough rambling. The Dreamtime team is on holiday for the next couple of weeks, even the under-employed take the occasional vacation, so don't expect the next post or an update of the widget until early December. For those celebrating it, as does Jailbait, Curly, Bear, and Your Host, a very Happy Thanksgiving to our readers, and to all others, may you also have a very happy and productive next couple of weeks. Go hug your loved ones, if you haven't lately. They're the main thing to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Radio Radio - New 4-CD TTRH-based Compilation

Adding to the ever-growing list of U.K. labels offering some sort of TTRH compilation comes Radio Radio, a 4-CD box set from "Mischief Music" containing 112 songs, all from from Season 1 of TTRH, according to a quick glance through the track list.

"Add to this the iconic cover photo by Harry Goodwin and the eight page booklet by Dylan journalist Martin Whittle, you have a very special and collectable release," claims its Amazon blurb. "Collectable" I guess being in the eye and pocketbook of the beholder. Probably only of interest to the TTRH compleat collector. As with all other commercial TTRH compilations, Radio Radio does not contain any Dylan commentary or other Theme Time features.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Reminder: "War" Episode Reportedly 90 Mins.

If you're into taping TTRH, you'll want to give the upcoming November 12 "War" episode an extra 30 minutes.  According to this Rolling Stone article, the show will be 90 minutes long, which would make  it the first hour-and-half Theme Time ever aired. 

As a piece of trivia, which is what Dreamtime is all about, there's been to date three TTRH 2-hour specials - "Christmas and New Year"; "Spring Cleaning"; and "President's Day" - and the unique "Time" show from Season 1, which ran into overtime at around 70 minutes.

If RS is correct, "War" should run from 11-12:30 pm this Wednesday, November 12.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

SIRIUS XM Expands/Limits TTRH Listening Options In One Move

Edited 11/30/08 to reflect that "The Village" has been replaced by "Holiday Traditions" programming through December 25th.

The dust continues to settle in the reorganization of the SIRIUS XM channel lineup, but here's where the Theme Time Radio Hour schedule stands as of November 13, 2008.


On the SIRIUS side of the spectrum, TTRH will air on the SIRIUS version of "Deep Tracks," (SIRIUS Channel 16) Wednesdays at 11 am ET.

"Encore" presentations will air Mondays 8 pm ET, Thursdays 12 am ET, and Sundays 8 am ET, all on SIRIUS Channel 16.


The graphic on the "official" TTRH page is still erroneously listing the show as 10 am, and the page still contains the link to the defunct XMX channel's page.  The table under the graphic reflects the correct times and channels as noted below.

On the XM Radio side, TTRH will also air on Wednesdays at 11 am ET on the XM version of "Deep Tracks," XM Channel 40.

XM "encore" presentations on Deep Tracks Channel 40 are on Mondays at 8 PM ET, Thursdays 12 am ET, and Sundays 8 am ET, paralleling the SIRIUS Deep Tracks schedule.

UPDATED 11/30/08

XM is also now listing two additional weekly "encore" shows on "The Village."  However, regular programming has been discontinued on Channel 15 during most of December in lieu of holiday music.  The XM Radio site notes that "The Village" will return on December 26th.

Wednesdays, 12 pm (Noon) ET, XM Channel 15 "The Village"

Mondays at 12 am (Midnight) ET  - XM Channel 15, "The Village"

XMX Channel 2 "Retired" And Listener Response

A reply to an email concerning the fate of XMX Channel 2, which had aired the current TTRH show all day Wednesdays on XM Radio, stated that the channel had been "retired." Currently, there's nothing in the new XM or SIRIUS channel lineup to suggest there will be a replacement for XMX.

Dreamtime received more email on the SIRIUS XM channel changes than we have on any subject since the start of Season 3. We had a few messages from SIRIUS subscribers welcoming TTRH to the SIRIUS line-up, but some noted that the show did not air when they were typically listening in their cars. To a person, XM Radio listeners - whether internet or satellite radio subscribers - complained about the deletion of XMX from the new channel line-up. Several wrote that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for them to continue listening to TTRH at the current times. A few went to the extent of complaining that they would cancel their subscriptions.

Although I don't know the inner workings of SIRIUS XM radio, it seems a counterproductive business move not to have at least one channel whose programming consists of repeating popular shows from other channels. To get all business-speak, it seems like a win-win situation. SIRIUS XM gets more air time for some of its more popular shows, probably at no additional cost (I think it can be safely assumed that the TTRH contract probably allows unlimited rebroadcast). Cadillac gets their sponsorship acknowledged more often. The listening audience grows since people have more options to hear TTRH. Now that I reflect on it, I wonder what percentage of TTRH's claimed 2 million listeners were picking up the show on XMX?

Getting XMX Back On the Air

TiVo, cable DVRs, podcasts, it's an on-demand world. Thanks to their podcasts, I listen to more public radio now than I ever have because I can shift my listening to Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me, Fresh Air and Car Talk to the times I want. Thanks to TiVo, my nightly channel line-up consists of shows I want to watch, rather than what a network programmer thinks I should be watching at that particular time.

SIRIUS XM is missing an opportunity not offering some version of on-demand in their channel line-up. A few of the newer SIRIUS XM radio receivers let you schedule and record shows for later listening, but most don't. We need XMX - or something like XMX - back on the air for Theme Time Radio Hour, as well as for Tom Petty's Buried Treasure, and for other SIRIUS XM shows we would listen to if it was convenient to listen to them.

If you agree, send an email to and express your opinion.

Can we get XMX out of "retirement"? I don't know, but I'm betting that the only way it's going to happen is for us to tell XM we want it back, and we want the all-day TTRH back too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Theme Time Now on SIRIUS. Air Time on XM Moves to 11 a.m. on Wednesdays. XMX Gone?

via a SIRIUS XM Radio Press announcement:

Effective immediately [November 12, 2008], and for the first time, XM subscribers will hear SIRIUS' dynamic and exclusive music, news, talk, sports and comedy shows and channels, and SIRIUS subscribers will have access to XM's equally diverse and unique content.
According to the SIRIUS page here, TTRH will be airing on SIRIUS Channel 16 (Deep Tracks) Mondays 8 pm ET, Wednesdays 11 am ET, Thursdays 12 am ET, and Sundays 8 am ET.

As of 8 am Wednesday, November 12, the TTRH page on XM remains unchanged, and the Deep Tracks page shows the Wednesday air date to have moved ahead an hour to 11 am, paralleling the SIRIUS air time.

XMX Channel 2 - which aired TTRH all day on Wednesdays, appears to have been removed from the XM channel lineup.

It's unclear whether the SIRIUS Monday show at 8 PM will be a rerun from the previous week, although that's likely.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

"The He-Man Martha Raye"

Here's Amos Milburn with the first of his boozy smash hits, Bad, Bad Whiskey, from 19 and 50, which he would follow with Thinking and Drinking, Let Me Go Home Whiskey, One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer and in 19 and 54 an answer song to the original, Good Good Whiskey, which would be his last hit.

Outside of the mystery of the "He-Man Martha Raye" moniker, which piqued Mr. D.'s interest in the "Beginnings, Middles, and Ends" episode, Milburn's on-line biographies tend to contradict each other. The Wikipedia article - which the Amos Milburn web page, maintained by his nephew repeats - claims, "there is no evidence that Milburn had a drinking problem," the article itself citing a 1997 book on blues singers as its source. However, Milburn's All Music Guide entry claims, "Alcoholism later brought the pianist down hard, giving these numbers a grimly ironic twist in retrospect..."

That undated All Music Guide article by Bill Dahl also may be the original source for the story about Milburn's nickname, and gives an interesting perspective on how information propagates on the Web. As Our Host alluded to, a dozen articles about Milburn on the Web use exactly the same phrase... "The self-taught 88s ace made a name for himself as the 'He-Man Martha Raye' around Houston before joining the Navy and seeing overseas battle action in World War II..." with no explanation about why Milburn was billed as the testosterone equivalent of Raye.

Milburn enlisted in the Navy in 19 and 42 at the tender age of 15 according to various biographies. By 19 and 42, Raye was established as a wisecracking singer/comedienne and had earned her own nickname, "the Big Mouth," as her mouth seemed disportionately large to the rest of her face, especially when seen on screen. Raye would capitalize on the disadvantage, making her mouth up to appear even larger, and eventually becoming the spokesperson for Polident denture cleanser in the 1970s and 1980s and appearing in innumerable commercials. While Milburn's mouth doesn't appear unusually large, maybe he did some sort of loudmouth Raye schtick as a kid. I've emailed Milburn's nephew about the question to see if I can satisfy both my own and Our Host's curiousity.

To close out, here's an uncensored Raye doing a Red Skelton show rehearsal, which gives you a pretty good sense of what her live act was like...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

You Hit Me Baby Like An Atomic Bomb - Fay Simmons

As I wrote back in 2007,  it's hard to believe that someone with that voice - that voice  - could release almost 30 singles and then disappear off the face of the planet with little notice being taken of her career.

You look at what is known of Fay Simmons' history and you see her coming close - so close - to making it big.  A gig at the Apollo. Promoted by at least two heavyweight deejays. Over two dozen singles. A voice that could at times match Dinah Washington's.  But maybe prophetically, one of the best recordings Fay Simmons did, You Hit Me Baby Like an Atomic Bomb,  recorded at the start of her career one hot August night in 1954, was buried in the Reco-Art Studio vaults for 40 years until finally released on an obscure British label. There's not much other other evidence of Fay Simmons' career now except a pile of brightly-colored 45s from labels with names like Jordan, Rainbow, VTone, Ruthie, and the aptly named Gone. All gone now, as gone as the singer who on stage was Fay Simmons.

She was born Janet Fay Simmons on February 25, 1932 in Philadelphia. Married early, somewhere around age 15. Married to a professional musician, Robert Geter, who would back Fay on several of her singles. That would be around 1947, and not much else is known about the Geters' life for the next seven-odd years. They had three children: two girls and a boy, the last nicknamed "Toughie," or possibly "Tuffy," and lived in the 1200 block of Kater Street in South Philadelphia up till the early `60s.

In the mid-50s, Fay would go into the studio at age 22, a mother already for a half-dozen years. Four 78s in `54.  Two more in `55.  Nothing in 1956.  Then two recordings each year from 1957 through `59.

1960 through  `62 were the push years for Simmons. She released twenty-seven 45s over those three years.  In March of 1960 she appeared at the Apollo in Harlem in a production hosted by  Dr. Jive, New York deejay Tommy Small. Fay was also being promoted by another deejay, one of the big wheels of the Philadelphia scene, Kae “The Jet Pilot” Williams of station WHAT. Williams had a side gig managing local talent, and he took Fay under his wing, writing at least one song for her, Ella Williams.

But those three years were the peak for Fay Simmons' career. She'd record a few more songs that would be released up till 1964, and then, at age 32, closed the door on a 10-year professional career, singing only for family and friends after that time.  At some point, Fay remarried and lived quietly in the Philadelphia area for the rest of her life, passing away as as Janet Fay Flowers on May 17, 2000.

And I'd hear her voice first six years later, singing You Hit Me Baby Like an Atomic Bomb, on a compilation reportedly copied from Bob Dylan's iPod.  "Who is that?" I thought, and would start pursuing the mystery that was Fay Simmons.  A Colorado disc jockey helped fill in some of the pieces.  Eventually her family and friends added a little more information.  It''s still not much.  A few paragraphs about a 10-year singing career, a slice from a 68-year life.  But it's more than I knew back in 2006, when that 22-year-old's sultry voice floated out of my speakers, growling, you hit me baby, like 'n 'tomic bomb.

Rest in peace, Fay.