Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear perform with the Dick Elliot Band

Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear will feature “Pete Kelly’s Blues” at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 30, at the Oak Park Arms, 408 S. Oak Park Ave. The group returns to Oak Park Arms with a show that includes live jazz music from the Dick Elliot Band, along with other sound effects.

Pete Kelly’s Blues was a radio series crime drama with a strong musical atmosphere. It aired from July-Sept., 1951. In it, musician Pete Kelly (starring Jack Webb) heads his own jazz combo, “Pete Kelly’s Big Seven.” The group worked in a speakeasy set in Kansas City in the 1920s. The plots usually centered around Kelly’s reluctant involvement with gangsters, gun molls, FBI agents, and people trying to save their own skins. Paying tribute to the real meaning of “the blues,” the endings of this show were known to often be downbeat and gloomy.

Though the series was short-lived, it inspired both a movie and television version of the show in 1955 and 1959 respectively.

Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear is radio troupe composed of Chicagoland professional actors and voice-over artists who share a common interest – to perform old-time radio programs for the community. Each donates talent and time for free. The group’s founders Ben Dooley and Pam Turlow, husband and wife, established a connection with The Oak Park Arms in September of 2002, when Turlow’s father became a resident. They’ve been performing at “The Arms” ever since.

Dooley and Turlow’s group pours in a lot of effort when creating a show. They browse through thousands of old time radio episodes, select a favorite, listen and type out the script. Many shows are not available in print and have to be painstakingly transcribed. Then they gather sound effects, rehearse and mount the show.

Sound effects were an important part of live radio shows, so the group performs them live. They have a real door for slamming, buzzers, a sound board and shoes for footsteps, and doorbells. In this particular show, a live band will also be on stage.

Dick Elliot started his band in the early 60s. Though there is only one original member left, the 10-piece band is still thriving. Elliot himself plays the bass, while other instruments include the trumpet, keyboard and the drums.

The band will consist of just three players for “Pete Kelly’s Blues.” They will be on stage with the radio troupe for the full performance, joining in periodically with music.

Though no stranger to performing at the Oak Park Arms, this will be the band’s first time on stage in conjunction with Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.

“We really like to entertain seniors,” Elliot said. “So when the radio troupe sent us a copy of the tape, complete with music, we listened to it and we liked it so we jumped on board.”

The shows are very popular with residents and people from the community. Some bring their children to show them what “pre-TV” entertainment was like.

The Oak Park Arms is a rental retirement community which provides independent and assisted living apartments and a full schedule of activities and services. Furnished apartments are also available for a short-term stay – a weekend, a week, a month or longer.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call Jill Wagner at 708-386-4040.


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