The Radio Career of Carlton Moss, pt. 5

Carlton Moss’ final radio series and the second with dramatic content was Meetin’ House, a half hour program that premiered December 24, 1934, at 11 pm on WJZ. New York Times radio schedules indicate Meetin’ House aired for over a year and a half, finally leaving the airwaves on August 25, 1936, after a run comparable in length to Careless Love. Like his debut series, Meetin’ House was the victim of numerous schedule changes, ranging in time from mid-afternoon to late night and on various days of the week. Several months into the run of Meetin’ House, Carlton Moss married Annie L. Savage on July 19, 1935. Perhaps this change in his personal circumstances affected the stability of the young program, leading to the erratic broadcasting times. Schedules further indicate lapses of sometimes multiple weeks between episodes.

While August 25, 1936, appears to be the final regular episode, one minor newspaper, the Poughkeepsie Eagle-News, lists a five-week run of the series in May 1937, over WEAF. Whether these broadcasts used new scripts, re-aired old scripts, or were transcription re-runs cannot be ascertained from the available records. This is the only clue so far to hint that at least some of Moss’ work was recorded, thus preserving the unlikely possibility that samples of his radio work could be discovered in the future.

Performers on this third production included veterans Frank Wilson, Georgia Burke, Laura Bowman, Eva Taylor and the Southernaires along with Isabelle Washington Powell. Some reviews from the New York Amsterdam News, provide our only glimpse into the show’s premise. Like Moss’ prior works the story was centered in the South, this time featuring weekly installments of the adventures of a circuit preacher to the NBC network. It also followed the example of Folks From Dixie and featured at least one recurring character as opposed to using an anthology format similar to his debut effort, Careless Love. Roi Ottley’s reviews were ambiguous at best, hostile at worst. Across two of his “Hectic Harlem” columns he claimed Moss “deserve[d] … sustained and sincere applause for his outstanding work in the field of radio drama” and that he was “the outstanding author of radio script of the race [sic].” Not long after, however, he goes on to blast Meetin’ House as “dull and uninteresting entertainment” with a weak lead character (the preacher). That the series was dramatic in nature is confirmed by at least two other sources which describe Meetin’ House as a drama.

These three series (Careless Love, Folks From Dixie, and Meetin’ House), aired between 1930 and 1936, represent the bulk of Carlton Moss’ literary radio work, but it is far from the entirety of his aural writing. More non-dramatic series and dramatic one-shots can be attributed to his pen.

The first was his project with WEVD in early 1930, mentioned above. In early 1932, as Careless Love approached the end of its run, Moss seemed to have been involved in another ongoing series entitled Slow River, which also featured several players from Careless Love. One source indicates Slow River was broadcast over WABC on Mondays at 5:45 as of January 7, 1932. A review of New York Times radio schedules from this time period, however, indicates that time slot was held by Lone Wolf Tribe, a children’s show. The series does show up in radio logs by March on WJZ at 4:15. Sparse descriptions in the Times simply say “Negro Quartet and Eva Taylor.” A bit more illuminating is a brief write-up in the Pittsburgh Courier: “The ‘Slow River’ feature, heard weekly, starring Eva Taylor, Carlton Moss, Wilson and Georgia Burke, as well as the Southernaires quartet and the Levee Band became a permanent hour on the radio.” In early 1932 this would have been a second weekly writing assignment on top of Careless Love, a task not uncommon in radio annals. Further evidence against giving Moss writing credit for the program is a newspaper note that states “’Slow River’ . . . includes descriptive southern ballads and plantation songs.” No mention is made of dramatic or comedic sketches which characterize Moss’ other work. One contrary piece of information comes from the Baltimore Afro-American which does, however, give Moss writing credit for Slow River. Perhaps he was involved with writing banter in between the featured musical numbers. Even so this would not be considered dramatic work in the vein of the three series above. Nevertheless, these scattered references seem to confirm that Moss had a role with this fourth ongoing production

Later in 1932 Moss hosted a weekly series sponsored by the University Scholarship Foundation, of which he served as the chairman of the foundation’s executive committee. This hour long program was broadcast over local New York station WEVD from eight to nine in the evening. This series may have been billed The Negro Forum Hour based on an early 1933 newspaper announcement of a Moss radio effort. It may have also been called Community Forum, a series credited to Moss by another source. If these sources all refer to the same series, the focus was, in part, on New York celebrities. This is at least the second on-air assignment Moss had with WEVD, assuming this forum differed from the Intercollegiate program aired in early 1930. One source states as of January, 1932, Moss was the director of programs for the station, a post he held for an undetermined length of time.

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