Sit down, close your eyes and let your mind form the images as you relive the golden age of radio programs. Each week we'll feature a different and exciting program in MP3 format. Just click on the radio image below to be transported back in time.

This Week


The Life of Riley


Special Christmas Present

16, 1944


Fibber McGee and Molly, Burns and Allen, Jack Benny and others had refined broad character comedy in vaudeville and then did it on radio, but none did it with wife and kids characters, intent on portraying the All-American family like Dagwood and later Dennis the Menace did in the funnies. The Life of Riley, and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet were old time radio shows written to celebrate the classic American suburban family.

The Life of Riley is about Chester A. Riley, an aircraft plant blue-collar worker, his family and their neighbors. William Bendix took the title role in 1944, after doing mostly heavies in the films. The show quickly grew in popularity in post WWII America, as thousands of GI's were coming home to find work, buy a house and raise a family. Just like Riley. Riley is stubborn and opinionated, and knows his way is the right way. His family and neighbors think otherwise.

Peg, his capable and charming wife (in spite of it all), was played by Grace Coppin, and then Paula Winslowe. Jack Grimes, Scotty Beckett, Conrad Binyon and Tommy Cook played Junior (Riley's son) through the years, Peggy Conklin, Sharon Douglas and Barbara Eiler was Babs (Riley's daughter). The regulars included John Brown as Gillis, his buddy and Digby "Digger" O'Dell- a pun-loving undertaker that was "creepy" for the kids listening, and a sly swipe at the many "chiller" shows on radio for many adults. Shirley Mitchell was Honeybee Gillis and Francis "Dink" Trout played the wacky Waldo Binny.

TV sit-coms fans will feel right at home, as the Life of Riley went on to become one of the 1950's most popular TV shows, and a model for much of what followed. But it was Riley on the radio who first uttered his classic tag line, "What a revoltin' development this is!" Fans tuned in for laughs, and enjoyed the kids growing up in episodes such as "Babs is born", "Babs First Date" right up to "Babs Moves Out," (telescoped into …this was radio sit-com, after all!)

The idea of a guy getting steamed by the daily grind is still a classic comedy concept, and so is Life of Riley.


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