“Little broken-hearted Sammy,” the tune begins:
Sitting on his daddy’s knee
Listening to the radio
But his heart was aching so
Alas, Sammy’s mother has died, the song explains, and so when his father falls asleep, the boy turns to the device for solace:
Mister Radio Man
Tell my mammy to come back home
Won’t you do what you can?
For I’m so lonely . . .
You can find versions of the 1924 hit tune “Mister Radio Man” by going to the Library of Congress’ just launched, National Juke Box. One is performed by Lewis James. The other by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, (it’s an orchestral dance version). The LOC’s programmable site includes 10,000 acoustic recording hits released from 1901 through 1925 by the Victor Talking Machine Company.
The last five years of that output took place during the formative years of broadcasting. KDKA in Pittsburgh famously began in 1920. By 1927 there were at least 700 radio stations streaming AM content across the nation. No big surprise that some of those songs would be referential to radio.
And no surprise that at least one would feature a child trying to reach a lost parent via the technology. “Mister Radio Man” is reminiscent of “Hello Central, Give Me Heaven,” a 1901 song about a little girl trying to reach her mother via the telephone.
Hello central give me heaven
For I know my mother’s there
And you’ll find her with the angels
Over on the golden stair
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