The month of January is named for Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and
endings. January is noted for New Year’s Eve, an opportunity to reflect and
celebrate both the previous and upcoming years. The January episode of Re-
Imagined Radio offers two stories about this unique opportunity.
“The First Year”
The first is “The First Year,” an episode of The Whistler, first broadcast
December 31, 1947. In “The First Year” a rich uncle decides to teach his
niece, Lydia, the true value of matrimony by changing his will to require her
and her husband, Elliott, to stay married for ten years before they inherit. If
one of them dies, the other inherits everything. The story begins and ends
on New Year’s Eve of “The First Year” of their marriage.
The Whistler was on offer from 1942 to 1955, with 692 episodes broadcast
during this thirteen year run. Ironically, most of America could not hear the
program as it was confined to the eight station CBS Pacific Coast network
and nine Mountain zone stations. Despite this lack of national distribution,
The Whistler was considered one of the most popular of all American radio
mystery anthologies, and its whistled theme was known to millions.
Each episode began with Wilbur Hatch’s 13-note theme, whistled weekly by
Dorothy Roberts for the entire thirteen-year series run. The stories that
followed focused on criminal acts and their surprise undoing, narrated by the
unnamed and omnipresent Whistler who often commented directly on the
action like a Greek chorus.
“Guy Lombardo’s New Year’s Eve Party”
The second story offered in this January episode of Re-Imagined Radio
samples Guy Lombardo’s New Year’s Eve Party broadcast live from The Grill
Room in the Roosevelt Hotel, New York City, December 31, 1957.
Lombardo, born and raised in London, Ontario, Canada, founded his
orchestra in 1914 with brothers Carmen, Victor, and Lebert. They wore
bright red blazers and called themselves “The Royal Canadians.”
In America, Guy Lombardo and The Royal Canadians became synonymous
with New Year’s Eve celebrations, performing live nationwide radio and later
television broadcasts from 1929 (the first nationwide New Year’s eve
broadcast) until 1976. In 1956, Guy Lombardo and The Royal Canadians
began broadcasting their New Year’s Eve Party on both radio and television
with each celebration featuring a televised segment from New York’s Times
From these years of live performances, Lombardo is noted as “Mr. New
Year’s Eve” and is honored as providing the theme song for these
celebrations, “Auld Lang Syne” a traditional Scottish folk song based on the
poem written by Robert Burns in 1788. The poem-song is about two friends
reflecting over drinks about their long and sometimes distant friendship. The
title best translates as “Old long since,” or “For the sake of old times.”