Exploring Old-Time Radio

Before there was cable, satellite and terrestrial television, radio reigned supreme as the main source of entertainment. Families would gather round their radio receivers to tune into broadcasts, typically in the evening hours, which largely replaced fireside readings and other forms of home entertainment popular before the advent of the electronic media.

The golden age of radio is considered to be the period between the 1920s and the 1950s, marked by the creative and innovative development of various genres that would later continue to evolve on television. Almost everything we now enjoy watching on TV had its predecessors on the radio: from newscasts and crime series to soap operas and documentaries. 

Luckily, a lot of old-time radio (OTR) has been preserved, and thanks to the internet you can now easily access countless hours of music, drama, mystery and other types of radio shows. It’s a wonderful way to explore the popular culture of the early-to-mid 20th century and do a bit of time travelling, as it were.

I’ve been hooked on OTR for years now, and in this post I’m going to share with you my go-to resources: the best of 1920s–1940s radio today.


Radio Dismuke

This online radio station is dedicated to popular and jazz music released between 1925 and 1935, featuring original recordings. Occasionally, there are also short authentic commercials played between songs. It was largely to Radio Dismuke that I got to discover the rich musical legacy of that time period, and this remains my favourite OTR station.

Here are some other great online music radio stations:

1940s Radio (1940s)

Radio 1920 (1920s-1940s)

Sunset Palace (1930s-1950s)

The UK 1940s Radio Station (1920s-1940s)


Old Radio World

Old Radio World is a great place to start exploring various radio shows belonging to different genres. At the moment of writing, the available programmes are sorted into the following categories: comedy, drama, mystery, sci-fi, western, detective stories, music, and miscellaneous. All of the available episodes are downloadable and you can listen to them whenever you like.

Other places to visit if you’re interested in radio shows:

Old Time Radio page at the Internet Archive website

Old Time Radio Downloads

Old Time Radio Drama from the Wisconsin Public Radio

If you’ve never listened to the music of the 1920s or 1930s, give it a try—it’s great fun (you’ll soon realise why people still talk about the ‘swinging 20s’). And if you generally enjoy radio, and radio drama especially, you’ll find fantastic old shows from the golden age of radio, timeless classics that are always worth revisiting.


A beginner’s guide to online old-time radio

Head Back to the Past with Old-Time Radio

Old Time Radio Review

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