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.
What to do, where to go and what to see
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.