There was a day, 'round about the 1940s and early '50s, when radio reigned, and a person's weekly "stories" or show was worth making plans around. A friend wanted to go to dinner or the pictures? You got an invite to a dance? Forget it; the radio in the living room was your date for the night.
Gene Autry's Melody Ranch Radio Show was emblematic of that sort of much-anticipated appointment listening. It generally had a Western theme, as you might imagine from both the host and location, and it contained songs and humor and tall tales and a whole caboodle of gingham-hued goodies that crackled over the airwaves, both literally and figuratively.
So crackling was Mr. Autry's presence, his guests, and his spur-wearin' personality that Melody Ranch ran for over a decade and a half, from 1940 to 1956. And one of the many highlights of the show, for many listeners, was the annual Christmas show, where carols took centerstage and a few tinsel-bedecked trails were mapped out along the way.
Those tinselly trails will be revisited at The Autry on Thursday, Dec. 3, when "The Golden Age of Radio with SAG-AFTRA: Gene Autry's Melody Ranch Christmas Party" clip-clops into the Griffith Park museum for two campfire-sweet performances, at 3 o'clock and 7 o'clock.
The place? The Wells Fargo Theater. The cost? Free. The feel? Vintage ten-gallon glitter, with a dose of down-home-i-ness. The "live reenactments" will present the tunes and the laughs and the holiday hallmarks of the long-ago specials, which played in many a SoCal living room seven or so decades ago.
The re-created radio show serves as a retro-cool trip back to a bygone December day spent close to the wireless, and it involves a host of SoCal icons: SAG, AFTRA, The Autry, Melody Ranch, and the fond memories of Mr. Autry.
Pictured: The Cass Country Boys with Gene Autry at a "Gene Autry Melody Ranch Radio Show" rehearsal circa 1950. Copyright Autry Qualified Interest Trust and The Autry Foundation.