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The Big Broadcast is a Sunday night tradition for families throughout the WAMU listening area. Each week, Big Broadcast host Ed Walker offers listeners priceless recordings of popular radio programs from the '30s, '40s and '50s. Priceless, especially, for a man whose first sentence as a child was, "Turn the radio on."
Walker's four-hour program features entire episodes of such vintage shows as Jack Benny, Gunsmoke, Fibber Magee and Molly, Dragnet, Superman and Suspense. Listeners who heard those programs when they were originally broadcast enjoy hearing their old favorites, but the audience is not limited to the older generation.
"It's interesting to note that we have a lot of young people, even children who enjoy old time radio," says Walker. "They all seem to have their favorite programs, but the most popular is Gunsmoke, which was on the air between 1952 and 1961 on CBS. Another favorite is Lum and Abner. I tried to take Lum and Abner off the air a few years ago because the quality of the recordings was so poor. The demand to bring it back was overwhelming, so we did."
The program dates back to February 16, 1964, when vintage radio enthusiast John Hickman launched a half-hour weekly program which was then called Recollections. The program grew in length and in popularity over the years, and today lots of folks just can't get the week going without this Sunday night standard.
Hickman hosted the program until 1990, when he retired because of illness. He later returned to produce one-hour segments of the program, and he gave it a long term boost by donating his vintage recording collection to American University. Walker picked up hosting responsibilities in 1990, and has been entertaining listeners ever since with favorites from the Golden Age of Radio.
Walker has a devoted audience who appreciate his encyclopedic knowledge of radio history. Many of them listen to each program several times. "I have found that a lot of people record the show on Sunday night and play it back in their cars as they go to and from work," says Walker. "I love doing the show because I enjoy sharing those memories with listeners, and I think it's a nice way to end the weekend."