Investigating A "Little" OTR Mystery
by Stewart Wright © 2015
(From Radio Recall, October, 2015)
The Old-Time Radio hobby abounds with "little" mysteries. Here's one that took nearly seven years to solve!
On Friday, July 4th, 2008 Old-Time Radio Collector and Historian Rand Riddle released an MP3 file that he had converted from an Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) Disc. The disc contained a rebroadcast of a Rocky Jordan episode "The Nile Runs High," program 7 in the AFRTS run of Rocky Jordan, series IED-557. This AFRTS run occurred in 1956-57. This recording was significantly different from the 09/18/1949 CBS version that had been in circulation for many years.
This new version of "The Nile Runs High" caused much speculation in the OTR community. Was it an alternate recording of the 09/18/1949 version, a rehearsal recording for that 1949 broadcast, a test disc for a new opening and replacement of orchestral music with that of an organ, an undiscovered audition disk for the 30- minute, weekly Jack Moyles 1948-50 CBS West Coast run, a previously unidentified audition show for a proposed 1955 resumption of the Rocky Jordan series, a totally new production, or was it something else?
Initially, progress on investigating this "little mystery" was minimal. I had been able to determine that Jack Moyles starred in Rocky Jordan during its 1952-53 run. I recognized that Dan Cubberly was the announcer in Rand's AFRTS rebroadcast. Cubberly was an announcer on several CBS series including Broadway Is My Beat, The Line-Up, and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. I knew that Larry Thor was the announcer for the CBS broadcast of 09/18/1949 of "The Nile Runs High" and for most of the Rocky Jordan episodes broadcast during 1948-50.
In the years since Rand's discovery of this AFRTS show, I had done a lot of research involving the reuse of scripts and changes in radio show production methods during the Golden Age of Radio. I had found indications in newspaper radio programming listings that some of the episodes broadcast in 1952-53 might have reused scripts that were initially aired in 1949 and 1950. I had come to believe that this mysterious AFRTS broadcast of "The Nile Runs High" was a 1952 or 1953 production using a modified script that had originally been broadcast on 09/18/1949. However, I had no real proof to back up my theory.
Starting in 2012, additional scripts and CBS documentation on the series had become available for the 1948-50 and 1951 portions of the series?run. During my visits to the archive where these materials reside, I collected lots of new information on Rocky Jordan. but found nothing that provided any significant enlightenment on Rand's mysterious production of "The Nile Runs High."
The proof that I had been seeking for years that Rand's recording of "The Nile Runs High" was a 1952 or 1953 broadcast of a reused script from 1949 began to surface in December. 2014. I received an email from an archivist at Thousand Oaks Library mentioning that Rocky Jordan scripts and CBS documentation for the 1952-53 run of the series had been found.
Follow-up correspondence with the archivist in early 2015 provided a nearly complete list of scripts broadcast in 1952-53 and their airing dates. This list indicated that almost all of the scripts used during the 1952-53 portion of the Rocky Jordan run were new productions of scripts initially aired from 1948-50. (I would fully investigate these Primary Sources during an April, 2015 research trip as part of my efforts to produce a Rocky Jordan broadcast log.) While none of these scripts were titled "The Nile Runs High," there were a few dates for which scripts did not exist.
While planning my April, 2015 research trip, I remembered that in the closings of some Rocky Jordan episodes a short teaser was given for the next week's episode. I went back to Rand's AFRTS MP3 file to see if it had one of those teasers. It did! Here it is:
"Next week's story is about a friend of mine, my bartender Chis. I caught him holding out on me; only I couldn't do anything about it. You see what he was holding out wasn't money; it was information about a girl."
This teaser fits the plot line for the 09/25/1949 and 3/13/1953 broadcasts of "Memento from Adelaid." This was a good indication that a new production of "The Nile Buns High" was broadcast over the CBS West Coast Columbia Pacific Network on 03/06/1953, one of the dates for which a script didn't exist!
A reasonable start, but not conclusive evidence. I knew that the broadcast of 02/27/1953 was "The Word of a Bishop." An email request to the archivist provided me with the teaser from the script for that broadcast. Here it is:
"The setting for next weeks story is the Nile Valley, one of the most fertile spots on Earth. Everything grows there - Trouble - Religious Fanatics - cotton and a girl named Farahda…"
This teaser matches the plot for Rand's AFRTS copy of "The Nile Runs High." We now know that this new production of "The Nile Runs High" was a CBS regional broadcast on 03/06/1953. The knowledge gained by this investigative exercise helped me to correctly date nine additional misdated Rocky Jordan AFRTS rebroadcasts that had been in circulation for many years!
Another of those little OTR mysteries had been solved. Once I was certain that I had indeed unraveled this mystery, I shared my results in an email with Rand Rliddle. After ail, it was only fitting and appropriate that Rand would be the first person to know that his "little" OTR mystery now had a solution.
Want to learn more about the Rocky Jordan series? You can find my broadcast log, Rocky Jordan1948-1955 in Adobe Acrobat PDF format at:
While there you might want to take a look at some of the more than 250 additional Old-Time Radio and New-Time Radio broadcast logs that reside on the website.