This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
Click here to return to the index of selected articles.
(From Radio Recall, April 2005.)
As a kid, back in the summer of 1949, I first heard Ted Drake, Guardian Of The Big Top on the radio and it became one of my favorites. About 20 years later, in 1966 my mom and myself were sitting in our living room talking about nostalgia in general, and the subject jumped to old time radio shows, and how we wished we could hear them again.
We sat there talking about all those wonderful shows from detective, soaps, comedy, horror, etc., an especially the kids shows like Tom Mix, Sky King, Captain Midnight, Straight Arrow, Roy Rogers, and Ted Drake. We made up a list of over 100 shows we wanted to hear again. As luck would have it, Longines Symphonette Orchestra put out a boxed set of Radio show excerpts collection, narrated by Jack Benny. It was a great start!
Then within a few months, a book club called "Nostalgia Book Club" started selling books about serials, comic books, and several books that got me back into Old Time Radio, such as "Radio’s Golden Age" by Frank Buxton & Bill Owens, "The Pictorial History Of Radio" by Irving Settel, and "Radio’s Greatest Heroes" by Jim Harmon.
Jim Harmon would become one of the earliest OTR dealers whom I purchased my first reel to reel tapes from. He put out a neat OTR catalog that offered several of the kid shows, such as Tom Mix, I Love a Mystery, Captain Midnight, and Chandu The Magician, but no Ted Drake!
For years I ordered from various dealers and I traded shows with other OTR collectors. Several years went by and I had put aside OTR collecting in the early 1980s, to concentrate on collecting other things.
In the late 1990s, MP3 CDs came in, and I decided to resume OTR collecting. Now, I could get hundreds of shows on one CD. So, I went wild, acquiring dozens of Lone Ranger, Superman, Captain Midnight, The Shadow, etc. But sadly, I could find no Ted Drake episodes. So, I became interested in the Internet, thanks to my younger brother, and began searching the Web for those elusive "lost shows." But still no Ted Drake.
I checked with different OTR sites, and asked many people connected with OTR if they had found any of the shows, and had any information on Ted Drake. But no dice! Finally, I read an OTR tome published in 1981 called "Radio’s Golden Years" by Vincent Terrace. Right in the middle of that book was a brief summary of Ted Drake. I learned that Ted Drake was played by Vince Harding, and he had a sidekick, played by Fred Rains. The announcer was Bob Larrimore. It was on the Mutual network and emanated from Nashville.
Up to that point I thought the only show from Nashville was "The Grand Ole Opry." What a revelation! A juvenile show produced from a location other than New York, Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Hollywood, and San Francisco.
More years of searching elapsed and still I found no Ted Drake audio copies. So I decided to try The Museum Of Broadcasting in New York City. In response, they sent me some copies of a 1949 article in Variety where I read that Ted Drake was a 1949 summer replacement show for The Adventures of Superman. This juvenile detective story concerned a traveling circus and it aired on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 5:00 pm.
In the 1990s I found Buxton & Owens’ second book called "The Big Broadcast," but it contained the same information that Vincent Terrace did in his book, "Radio's Golden Years.” I put a notice on some OTR sites, and got a few nibbles. But, the biggest bite came from Jack French. He politely told me that most of the information I shared with him was more than others managed to obtain thus far, and he encouraged me to persevere. At his suggestion, I joined the MWOTRC.
In 2004, I was about to give up on finding any Ted Drake copies but I decided to give it one more try. I went to Google and typed in "Ted Drake" for the umpteenth time, and magically something new came up on the screen. Hank Billings, one of the editors of the newspaper "The Springfield News-Leader" had a small article based on the memories of Fred Rains about a radio writer, Cliff Thomas, who had scripted The Air Adventures Of Jimmy Allen.
Now, where had I seen Mr. Rains name before? Of course... he was the fellow who played Ted Drake's sidekick. Fred Rains told Hank Billings that Cliff Thomas also wrote scripts for Ted Drake, Guardian Of The Big Top.
All right! I hit pay dirt! Here was a fellow who knew Fred Rains! So, I contacted Mr. Billings by mail and kindly supplied me with Fred Rains address and telephone number. I called Mr. Rains, and he was very nice and informative. We talked about Vince Harding as Ted Drake. Rains played Ted Drake’s clown sidekick Eddie Roth, and he was also the circus barker for the beginning and ending of the show.
He said he received ninety dollars a week. He said the series was on in the summer only from June to September 1949. It never came back the next season. He said Vince Harding when he first met him used his real name of Harding Boehm.
They had started off together during WW II in the USO entertaining the servicemen. After the war they went into radio. They were both from the Springfield and Seymour, Missouri area. They moved to Nashville to do Ted Drake, and other shows like a soap opera called Second Spring. All the shows were produced by Charles and Bill Brown, under the Brown Radio Production Company banner. Monogram Radio Production was probably a pseudonym of Brown Radio Production. He said that he doesn't recall Bob Larrimore being the announcer on the show, as did Vince Harding. But, its very clear on the audio portion of the shows that he indeed was the announcer.
The music apparently was canned. It doesn't appear there was a sponsor so apparently Mutual aired as a sustainer. Boehm first used the Vince Harding name when he was an announcer at Springfield radio station KWTO while he was attending Missouri State Teachers College. (It now is named Southwest Missouri State University.) Fred Rains gave me Vince Harding’s address and telephone number and I called him. He indicated he was fully "retired" and had no interest in discussing his radio career or Ted Drake.
So, I respected his privacy and thanked him. He said he was sorry he didn't have any of the scripts or copies of the shows, because he would certainly send them to me if he did. But Fred Rains told me he had audio copies and would send them to me when he could get them transcribed. He said they were on 16" transcription discs.
Rains went on to television in the 1950s and worked through the 1990s. He was everything from an actor, producer, and director at KY-TV, Channel 3 in Springfield, Missouri on radio and television. Some of them were Five Star Jubilee, The Eddy Arnold Show, Checkerboard Fun Fest etc.; He also was on The Smiley Burnette Show in Springfield.
Vince Harding sent me an autographed 8x10 photo and recently I received a small color photo autographed from Fred Rains, plus the long awaited CD with two and a half episodes of Ted Drake. The first episode is called "The Chariot Race" which concerns some thugs trying to fix the races by sabotage. The second was called "The Invisible Thief" but I don't want to give away the plot of this show for you listeners. The third show is the second half only, about a giant spitting cobra. The running time of all full episodes is 30 minutes.
Jim Widener has posted on his web site one episode in mp3 format for you to download so that you can listen to this juvenile series. The episode is "The Case of the Invisible Thief." The file is large (14 MB) and is best captured via high speed. You can find it at: http://www.otr.com/teddrake.shtml
If I should obtain more shows from Mr. Rains, I will surely keep you posted either through Jack French and/or Jim Widener.
This has been very satisfying for me, to discover the people who starred in this series are still living, and be able to hear those shows again. I suppose you might say “Persistence paid off.” Thanks to Fred Rains, Vince Harding, and Jack French, for their help and kindness in my research. And thanks to Hank Billings for being the catalyst that got the ball rolling.
About the author: Bob Slate is a 64 year old retired machine operator in Exeter, CA. He is an inveterate collector and researcher of OTR, military collectibles. western films, autographs and comic strips. He also enjoys gardening, astronomy, European pen-pals, and short-wave radio.