By the early 1930's
radio programs held a place in American culture similar to television shows
today. Families would gather nightly around the radio and listen to the
continuing adventures of Little Orphan Annie, Chandu the Magician, or ~
Tarzan! Hot on the heels of Weissmuller's "Tarzan the Ape Man" the always-enterprising
Joe Neebe broached the idea of a Tarzan radio show to Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Burroughs was excited and the show quickly became a family affair: Daughter
Joan Burroughs would play Jane and her husband - and former movie Tarzan
- Jim Pierce would portray the Lord of the Jungle.
Tarzan made his radio debut
on September 10, 1932, and the show was unique in a number of ways. Rather
than being broadcast live like other radio programs, the Tarzan show was
prerecorded onto phonograph records, which were then shipped off to radio
stations. The show boasted state-of-the-art recording technology and elaborate
sound effects. Burroughs wrote that "They have injected all the jungle
noises, including the roaring of Numa the lion, the screaming of Sheeta
the panther, the cries of the bull apes, the laughing of the hyaenas, the
rustling of the leaves, the screams and shouts." Radio supplied the sound
~ your imagination provided the pictures!
The Tarzan radio show received
a live premiere at the Fox Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. Three thousand
people attended the festivities (even Johnny Weissmuller showed up) and
listened as the first show was aired, certainly a unique "live" broadcast.
The show was sponsored in part by the Signal Oil Company, and at their
gas stations you were able to pick up Tarzan puzzles and other promotions,
while dad filled the car up with Tarzan gas.
Tarzan was broadcast nightly
in fifteen-minute episodes and lasted for two years. Then Burroughs decided
to try his hand at producing his own Tarzan radio show. The result was
"Tarzan and the Diamond of Asher," an elaborate thirteen week serial broadcast
in 1934. A second serial entitled "Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr" was produced,
but apparently was never broadcast in this country! Both of these spectacular
radio serials have been made available from Adventures in Cassettes, and
are unlike anything heard on radio, before or since. Yet another Tarzan
radio show debuted in 1951, this time a weekly half hour show, and this
lasted until 1953. But by this time Tarzan was starting to get a little