Arts & Culture / Mosaic / January 23, 2013

Galesburg ‘archaeologists’ dig up classic radio

Galesburg residents Mike Kemp and Bob McCommons air their radio show “Archeology [sic] of Radio” every Sunday on WVKC 90.7 FM Galesburg. (Jason Deschamps/TKS)

Galesburg residents Mike Kemp and Bob McCommons air their radio show “Archeology [sic] of Radio” every Sunday on WVKC 90.7 FM Galesburg. (Jason Deschamps/TKS)

With televisions broadcasting in HD and movies available in 3-D, IMAX and 480FPS, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like without visual entertainment.

But every Sunday night at 7 p.m., Galesburg residents Bob McCommons and Mike Kemp air  Archeology (sic) of Radio, a show dedicated to old-time radio. Not old music like the golden oldies — but true radio entertainment.

Sixty years ago, families would gather around the radio, enjoying stories of mysterious detectives and Wild West adventures with only audio to capture the listeners’ attention.

“[Radio] was the information highway. Everybody would literally sit around and look at a radio, which seems weird now,”  McCommons said.
It is not unusual for people of our generation to have very little knowledge of old time radio. Both McCommons and Kemp, retired Amtrak conductors, slowly discovered old radio shows. It began with books on tape.

“I went to the library and … I picked up some Sherlock Holmes and [it turned out to be] old radio shows,” McCommons said.
After reading the books, McCommons was intrigued. McCommons and Kemp began seeking out more radio shows, listening to them on the long drive to work.

“It was funny, because you’d start listening to the old advertisements — the cigarette commercials are the absolute most hilarious because ‘nine out of 10 doctors recommend [so and so brand] cigarettes,’” McCommons said.

Archeology of Radio began because of McCommons’ son, a Knox alum who used to host his own radio show.

“I said, ‘Do you have to be going to school there,’ and he said, ‘No, they have townies there.’ So he kind of pushed the ball along and then I called Mike up — because Mike is the only other person I know who listens to old radio — so we got together and I asked, ‘Do you want to do this?’ We’ve been doing this for about four years now,” McCommons said.

In the past, Archeology of Radio has replayed a number of old radio shows spanning from “Fibber McGee and Molly” to “Have Gun — Will Travel.”

During each radio show McCommons and Kemp give some of the background details before playing them. There have been times when the shows were given more than an introduction.

“[War of the Worlds] caused quite a sensation when it was on the air. We kind of did a little take-off on what happened,” McCommons said. “We had the phone [at the station] ring, and we interrupted the show … it worked out pretty good.”

To learn more about old time radio, tune into WVKC 90.7 FM Sundays at 7 p.m., or email McCommons and Kemp at askoldradio@yahoo.com.

Sarah Longfellow

Tags:  Archeology of Radio Bob McCommons Fibber McGee and Molly Have Gun Will Travel Mike Kemp Old-time radio radio Sherlock Holmes wvkc

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  • Nathan Kemp

    Yes, THE Mike Kemp



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