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Welcome to Down These Mean Streets, a weekly trip back to the Golden Age of Radio where we rub elbows with the era's greatest private eyes, cops, and crime-fighters. Since 2013, I've been podcasting everything from cozy mysteries to police procedurals, spotlighting characters ranging from hard boiled gumshoes to amateur sleuths. 

Be sure to tune in each Sunday for adventures of a radio detective and the behind-the-scenes stories of their shows. Join me as we spend time with Sam Spade, Johnny Dollar, Sgt. Joe Friday, and more!

Happy Birthday, Les Damon

Mar 31, 2017

Mike Waring – the private eye with “a hand for oppressed men and an eye for repressed women,” and Nick Charles – the retired detective and full-time boozehound. Les Damon, born March 31, 1908, gave voice to both of them during the Golden Age of Radio. Before he stepped up to the microphone, he walked the boards on stages in his native Providence, Rhode Island and – in 1934 – as an apprentice at the Old Vic in England. When he returned to the United States in 1938, Damon got into radio. Some of his earliest roles came in soap operas churned out by the factory of Frank and Anne Hummert (the prolific radio writers behind Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons).

On July 2, 1941, Damon had the unenviable task of filling William Powell’s shoes as Nick Charles when The Adventures of The Thin Man went on the air. Claudia Morgan played his wife, Nora in the series that followed Dashiell Hammett’s married detectives on new adventures. Damon and Morgan had terrific chemistry as Nick and Nora, a couple you could believe in during those very chaste days of early radio.

Damon’s stint on The Thin Man was interrupted when he was drafted in 1943. David Gothard and Les Tremayne stepped in to co-star with Claudia Morgan during the war years. After serving in the Pacific (and earning a Bronze Star), Damon returned to the role and stayed in until December 1947. Three years later in 1950, he had his second shot at radio sleuthing when he took over the title role of The Falcon. Damon starred as gumshoe Mike Waring until 1953, including a run of episodes where the Falcon traded his private eye license for the cloak and dagger world of American intelligence. The Falcon went from facing down gangsters to enemy agents abroad.

His radio detective career came full circle in 1954 when he reunited with Claudia Morgan as another pair of married sleuths – insurance investigator Pat Abbott and his wife Jean in Adventures of the Abbotts. Damon was ultimately succeeded by Mandel Kramer in the show’s short run, but he worked elsewhere on radio on many of the programs originating from the East Coast: Dimension X, X Minus One, and the later years of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and Suspense. In fact, his final radio appearance came in the June 17, 1962 episode of “radio’s outstanding theater of thrills.” He passed away just over a month later at age 54.