This article originally appeared in Radiogram, January 2016.
Real Folks announcer, Alwyn Bach, was an award-winning speaker with a lengthy history in radio even by the late 1920s. Bach was born to a Danish mother that he felt contrasted with his 6’ 2” frame accented by dark hair and eyes and olive complexion. Bach had very distinct childhood memories of his mother poring over a dictionary and pronouncing words at all times, even while stirring soup on the stove. She insisted on perfection diction from her son, admonishing him “Alwyn, I’m ashamed of you. For heaven’s sake, use your lips.” At 16 Bach began formally studying singing and within a year he was conducting a 32-voice chorus in a local church and singing in the choir of a second church. Bach also directed a number of musical productions.
As a young man Bach served in World War I with the 44th Coast Artillery Corps and saw action on the Somme-St. Mihiel front. After the war he went into the printing business and he learned the ins and outs of English grammar. Bach claimed he got into radio in October 1922 announcing for Springfield, MA’s WBZ where he announced the Boston Symphony broadcasts. A humorous episode in which Bach was involved happened in 1924 at the Democratic Convention in New York City.
Recognizing that the nomination process was going to extend well into the night Bach decided to freshen up and take a bath at 2:00 in the morning. Without warning just as Bach had lathered up in his hotel tub, the WBZ engineer burst in on him, microphone in hand, and Bach began broadcasting the latest updates without hesitation. Bach’s intuition was correct; the convention would be the longest nominating process in election history.
In 1926 Bach moved to sister station WBZA in Boston and then to NBC in 1927. By 1930, after Real Folks had been on the air two years, Bach was announcing a number of shows including The Davey Hour, The Hour With Shakespeare, Reminscences, Around the World with Libby, Enna Jettick Song Birds, Famous Loves, and shows sponsored by Iodent, Enna Jettick Shoes, Beacon Oil, and Natural Bridge Shoes. That same year Bach won the Medal for Good Diction given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an award that would be won over the years by such notables as Edward R. Murrow (1957), Garrison Keillor (1990), and President Bill Clinton (2004).
Real Folks was produced and directed by none other than Raymond Knight who had joined NBC in 1928. He was behind a number of the network’s programs in 1929 such as The Gold Spot Pals, Embarrassing Moments in History, Hello, Mars! Triadamas, Empire Builders, and most famous of all, Station KUKU, also known as The Cuckoo Hour. NBC music director Harry Salter was in charge of the series musical background. He wrote the music and led the Thompkins Corners Firemen’s Band and also the Ladies’ Augmented Orchestra. The Firemen were noted for playing all their songs just a step out of tune.