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, August 2010)
Shortly after RADIO RECALL went to the printer in May, three stalwart OTR personalities died: Rosa Rio on May 13, Art Linkletter on May 26, and Himan Brown on June 4th. All had lived long, productive lives; Linkletter was 97, Brown was 99, and Rio was 107 years of age.
Rosa Rio was born Elizabeth Raub in 1902 in New Orleans but later, when she was a successful movie organist (in the silent era) she changed her name to Rosa Rio so it would fit better on the marquee. She had played piano since age 4 but in her teens switched to the theatrical organ. When silents went out with “talkies” she switched to radio, becoming the only lady musician with NBC’s 100 member orchestra.
At the top of her radio career, she was playing on up to 13 programs per day, including The Shadow, and did all the music on twenty different soap operas, frequently dashing from one studio to the next during the station breaks. In a 2006 press interview, she recalled “I was working every day from 11:30 am to 11 pm and I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world.”
After moving to Florida in 1993, Rio had been accompanying historic silent films on the organ at restored Tampa Theatre. When she died in Sun City, Florida, she was just three weeks shy of her 108th birthday.
Art Linkletter was born in Canada and got his name from the older couple who adopted him. He left them at age 16 and lived as a hobo going around the country, finally settling in California. He got into radio at the campus station at San Jose and was soon hired part-time at KGB. By the time he graduated, he was their program director.
He would go on to produce, narrate, or star in several radio shows, using his infectious personality, glib chatter, and engaging manner.
Linkletter was the star of What’s Doin’ Ladies?, Who’s Dancing Tonight?, People are Funny, Are You a Genius?, What Do You Think?, and House Party. He was equally successful on TV.
Linkletter’s success was bolstered by talent and shrewd investments which made him into a very wealthy man. His books, including Kids Say the Darndest Things, added to his popularity.
Himan Brown, 99, died peacefully at his home in Manhattan on June 4th 2010. In the Golden Age of Radio, he directed and produced The Rise of
the Goldbergs, Dick Tracy, Adventures of the Thin Man, Inner Sanctum Mysteries, Grand Central Station, and much later, the Peabody Award winning CBS Radio Mystery Theater.
His parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia and he grew up in the Brownsville section
of Brooklyn speaking Yiddish, and only learned English upon his entry into public school. Brown attended Brooklyn College and Brooklyn Law School, graduating as valedictorian with a law degree in 1931, but show-biz was his great passion, and he already was producing and performing in live theater and on the fast growing medium of dramatic radio.
Beginning in 1927 with the Hi Brow Readings, he was a one man show, but would go on to direct, produce, and sometimes write, many of the most popular programs on radio. Brown was a founding member of the Director's Guild of America, proud AFTRA member, and founder of The Radio Drama Network.