Another installment of The Magic Key this weekend. featuring the celebrated Soprano, Grace Moore as well as a 10 year old Piano Prodigy Byron Janis, commentator Alexander Woollcott, the NBC Studio Symphony conducted by Frank Black.
As I said before, The Magic Key was something of an extravaganza in radio at the time. Since RCA sponsored it and since RCA owned NBC as well as RCA Victor Records and RCA Communications and RCA radios and phonographs, it was a bigger-than-life showcase for what RCA was doing in the 1930s; making records, making record players and becoming one of the biggest broadcasting networks in the country – CBS boasted the same, so it was neck-and-neck for years.
RCA did have an edge in many ways and this program was ample proof of it.
Grace Moore was what you could probably describe in 2019 terms as a Pop Culture Diva. A singer,as well as a broadway and movie performer, she transitioned over to Opera in the late 1920s and could add Diva to her list of credits. She was a figure out of another era — almost a geological age’s distance — in popular entertainment: an opera singer who found success on the silver screen and even charted some hit records. Her story is also one of the most compelling tales of success, defeat, redemption, and tragedy in the history of American entertainment. Born to the family of a traveling salesman (and later department store owner) in Tennessee, she developed a love of music and, fueled by a magnificent voice, bluffed her way onto the Broadway stage. From an eventual star’s berth at the Met, she jumped to motion pictures with the advent of the talkies, was destroyed at one studio by the pressures for success, and was then rescued and given a whole second career onscreen and the concert stage by the politics at another studio, only to die in an air crash a decade later.
This performance on The Magic Key was one of the rare cases she may not have been under contract to RCA Victor at the time. Most of her recordings (few though they are) were done primarily for Decca/Brunswick.
The other interesting performer is the 10 year old Byron Janis along with 10 year old Joyce Hall as duo-pianists. Janis went on to become one of the Great Pianists of the 20th Century, and he did have a long association with RCA Victor.
A full hour of music and variety – exactly as it was heard on February 12, 1939.