Radio Production

Strauss House Productions comprises a team of associates from a range of multi media fields. Working independently of each other, as well as together, their combined talents form a highly efficient and creative team which is able to draw from a range of experiences.

We produce special features, documentaries and series for regional and network radio.

BBC Radio 2 logo

Barry’s Forgotten Musical Masterpieces (2019)

BBC Radio 2 in February & March 2019 with a new four-part series.
TX: 10th, 17th, 24th February & 3rd March at 10pm.

Produced for Strauss House Productions by Clair Wordsworth. Themes include Britain’s relationship with Europe, Dance history and Australia’s cultural musical heritage.

Barry says:

“Through these programmes, I’m seeking to give new life to old songs – vintage tracks, which, in my opinion have been undeservedly cast aside, overlooked and forgotten. Many of the songs in these programmes, offer fascinating snapshots of social history and contain advice, which, should any of us choose to listen, is still of great value today. The first half of the 20th century saw great change and challenges, which were reflected upon by many songwriters.”

This vintage music series presented by Barry Humphries refreshes parts other presenters cannot, or dare not, even reach for!

Programme 1: Sunday 17TH March 2019 at 9pm

In this particular programme, Barry offers musical therapy to distressed 21st Century souls on both sides of the Brexit debate. With his Turntable Time Machine spinning at 78 r.p.m., Barry transports listeners back to the sound of the early 20th Century with an exciting assortment of wonderfully quirky British and Continental songs.

Tracks in this programme include: The Eyes of the World Are On You – Louis Levy & His Gaumont British Symphony, Breakaway – Jack Hylton, Rule Britannia A Travestry – Norman Long, Buy British – Clarkson Rose, The Continong & We’re Riding the Tunnel to Gay Paris – North & South (aka Tommy Handley & Ronald Frankau), The Channel Swimmer – Horace Kenney, The Continental – Nat Gonnella, The Cockney Amorist – Sir John Betjeman with music by Jim Parker… 

Plus, Barry uncovers the dark fictional plot of the Gershwins’ 1927 musical ‘Strike Up the Band’ which had America going to war with Switzerland over a trivial trade dispute.

Programme 2: Sunday 24th March 2019 at 9pm

Barry Humphries plays Dance Classics from the first half of the 20th Century.

Barry Humphries urges listeners to dust off their dancing shoes in anticipation of the finest Dance Classics from the likes of Fred Astaire, Victor Silvester, the Nicholas Brothers, Florrie Fored & Jack Hylton et al.

In the 2nd programme in this 4-part series, Barry Humphries urges listeners to roll up the carpet and dust of their dancing shoes in anticipation of hearing the finest selection of Dance Classics from the first half of the 20th Century.

Barry takes a brief look at the history of Ballroom dancing and uncovers the origins of dances like the Grizzly Bear, the Turkey Trot and the Kangaroo Hop. Barry also recalls his own traumatic tales of childhood dancing lessons in a church hall in Melbourne given by Mr & Mrs Meyer during the 1940s…

Programme 3: Sunday 31st March 2019 at 9pm

Barry Humphries presents a his favourite Australian early 20th Century Sounds.

In this penultimate programme in this vintage music series, Barry goes Down Under for inspiration and uncovers an intriguing selection of forgotten Australian musical masterpieces.

With is turntable time machine spinning at a rate of 78 r.p.m., Barry Humphries once again refreshes parts other programmes cannot, or dare not, reach!

Song topics range from penal folk ballads (‘Moreton Bay’, ‘Jim Jones of Botany Bay’ & ‘The Wild Colonial Boy’) to those celebrating the country’s top attractions and landmarks (including the Sydney Harbour Bridge), legendary cricketers (Donald Bradman known as The Don) and ground-breaking explorers and aviators (including Kingsford-Smith).

Barry says:

“I’ve only really fallen in love with Australia later in life. When I was young, it seemed, anything of any great worth lay overseas. I blame my parents, who often said things like, ‘you’ll like the new school, Barry, there’s quite a lot of teachers there who have been overseas…’ Back then, Australia seemed a very boring place. I was constantly hankering after something else. I didn’t know what, but I thought that it might be in this mysterious place which people called ‘overseas’”.

Featured tracks include:
‘The Bridge We’ve Been Waiting For’ – written to commemorate the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932, ‘Our Don Bradman’ – written about Australia’s most famous Cricketer and ‘Let’s Take A Trip to Melbourne’…

Programme 4: Sunday 7th April 2019 at 9pm

In the last programme in the series, Barry recalls his favourite childhood listening.

Barry recalls the soundtrack to his childhood, including Fraser Simpson’s music for ‘Toad of Toad Hall’. Barry says, “to this day, that music has a near-hypnotic effect on me”.

In this final programme in the series, Barry Humphries recalls the soundtrack to his early life growing up in Melbourne, Australia during the 1930s & ’40s. Barry’s preferred childhood listening was Fraser Simpson’s music for ‘Toad of Toad Hall’. Barry says: “to this day, that music has a near-hypnotic effect on me. It is utterly charming. We didn’t have a river-bank in Healsville, just outside of Melbourne, but we did have a creek and, in my mind, I somehow transplanted the setting of The Wind in the Willows to where I lived in Australia. The Wild Wood, where the stoats and the weasels lived, brought to my mind, the terrifying Australian Bush.”

In the 1930s and ’40s, inhabitants of Barry’s home city of Melbourne were convinced they were living in a rather remote part of the English home counties. This was reflected in many ways, not least, in the music they listened to on the wireless or gramophone.

Other musical delights on offer in this programme include:
‘Just Like in a Story Book’ – Layton and Johnstone, ‘Other People’s Babies’ – Nora Howard, ‘The Deepest Shelter in Town’ – Florence Desmond…

Barry’s Wireless Christmas (2018)

TX: 23rd December from 9-11pm on BBC Radio 2.

Barry's Wireless Christmas announcement.

In this special 2-hour radio programme, Barry Humphries channels the Ghost of Christmas Past to transport listeners back to the age of the wireless.

Featured artists include:

Judy Garland, Vera Lynn, Arthur Tracy, Tessie O’Shea, Harry Helmsley, George Formby, Max Miller, Fred Astaire, Leroy Anderson, Julie London, Peggy Lee, Jimmy Durante, The Andrews Sisters, Bobby Comber, Billy Williams, Spike Milligan, Dame Edna Everage…

Plus, there is a rare appearance from Santa Claus himself!

In addition:

  • Barry plays the original, rarely-heard opening verse of Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’;
  • Tells how Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was actually born in Chicago;
  • Barry reveals why he came to be sacked from his Christmas job in a top Melbourne department store – perhaps an early indication that his talents lay elsewhere;
  • How he never receives a Christmas card from Dame Edna, who he suspects in holidaying on the Island of Mustique;
  • And how Spike Milligan and Barry Humphries went on nocturnal tours around London in the 1960s.

Barry says:

“I’m looking forward to once again spinning my Turntable Time Machine to transport Radio 2 listeners back to the first half of the twentieth century with a selection of my favourite festive vintage recordings. As well as reliving childhood memories, I shall be paying tribute to the earliest recording starts and celebrating the birth of radio. It was a time before Video Games, Microwaves, Skinny Lattes, Digital Watches and even Darth Vader.”

“For two-hours, I shall be doing my level best to spread joy and festive cheer, through the magic of the wireless – my very favourite twentieth century invention!”

“Listening to music from the first half of the twentieth century is what I most love to do and, sharing my favourites with the Radio 2 audience, especially at this time of year, is an added bonus.”

“I think it’s difficult today for most of us to imagine that there was a time when listening to music at home on some sort of mechanical contraption, or on the wireless, was cutting edge technology.”

“I think I must have started early on the radio, well before the age of ten. Our radio was made of substance called bakelite. It was brown and it was rather chunky in a sort of art deco style. It was a very thirties-looking-thing, perched on top of a corner table in our sitting room at home in Melbourne and when it got heated up, with the valves inside the radio, it gave off a rather interesting smell. We huddled around it all the same to listen to favourite our radio programmes, serials, children’s programmes, even sporting events, although they were of very little interest to me.”

“The wireless is my favourite thing, really. I prefer it to television, even to the theatre, because it was where I first head men, whose job it was, to make people laugh.”

“I first heard comedians on the wireless. Especially at the end of the Second World War, there were programmes intended to cheer us all up, so, there were whole programmes of British comedians. They were called comedians too and not stand ups. I rather resist the title stand up. Although I am a comedian of sorts, I think of myself as a sit-down comedian, even when I’m standing up.”

Barry’s Forgotten Musical Masterpieces (2018)

BBC Radio 2 in January 2018 with a new four-part series.
TX: 2nd, 9th, 16th & 23rd January at 10pm.

The new four-part series is packed full of long-forgotten vintage recordings and is produced for Strauss House Productions by Clair Wordsworth.

Barry Humphries

Barry says:

“I’m very pleased to be back on the wireless with another selection of the finest vintage recordings.  Tragically the music of my youth is rapidly moving towards the periphery of living memory, but these songs from my past and a few from the era preceding my birth are undeserving of oblivion.  Throughout this four-part series, I hope to give the songs and melodies of the first half of the twentieth century a new audience, who I hope will listening to them with pleasure, wonder and astonishment.  These tunes offer many important musical lessons for life.  Personally, I find listening to them more beneficial than drinking a kale and wheatgrass smoothie or visiting any so-called therapist.”

This is the second series of ‘Barry’s Forgotten Musical Masterpieces’, the first was named by The Telegraph as one of the top cultural highlights of 2016.  Also, Antonia Quirke in the New Statesman descried it as, “the best Radio 2 music series in the month or any for as long as I can remember.”

Barry says: “I wonder where Dame Edna is at the moment.  Is she by any chance going to be listening to this series?   To be sitting in some luxurious resort tapping her Jimi Choo to the music?    I hope she’ll be listening”.

Programme 1 overview – TX 2nd January 2018 at 10pm, BBC Radio 2:

Through his unique commentary, Barry demonstrates the songs of the past are still relevant today and offer important musical lessons for life!  Each track offers fascinating (and sometimes astounding!) snapshots of social history. Highlights include: ‘My Wife’s On a Diet’ performed by Jack Hylton and His Band with a vocal by Leslie Sarony and refers to Philip Snowden (who was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1929 during the Wall Street Crash), Rudy Vallee’s atmospheric 1931 version of ‘Brother Can You Spare a Dime?’ is a moving tale of an American ex-solider down on his luck during the Depression, Beryl Davis with Geraldo and His Orchestra perform ‘I’m Old Fashioned’, Layton and Johnstone’s ‘I’m in the Market for You’ is packed-full of economic analogies and Dick Bentley’s song ‘Are You Having Fun?’ poses a question which is as important today as when it was written nearly 80 years ago!  Also, the American Tenor Billy Murray’s 1920 recording of ‘I’ll See You in Cuba’ is a musical time capsule. In prohibition era America, it encouraged Americas to meet up in Cuba for an alcoholic drink…

Programme 2 overview – TX 9th January 2018 at 10pm, BBC Radio 2:

In this programme, Barry celebrates the age of the wireless and the birth of the Disc Jockey.  Christopher Stone was the first British DJ and the job title was inspired by American gossip columnist Walter Winchell, who is name-checked in the legendary song ‘The Lady is a Tramp’.  Barry also plays Noel Coward’s ground-breaking 1932 recording of ‘Mad About the Boy’, which was kept under-wraps until relatively recently because record producers were concerned it could provoke a moral backlash.  Jack Hylton and His Band perform ‘Amy Wonderful Amy’ written in honour of aviatrix Amy Johnson’s record-breaking flight from Britain to Australia in 1930…

Barry says:

“The musicians, singers and comedians I heard every day performing on my parents’ radio gave me such a feeling of warmth that even today, when I’m in the most unwelcoming hotel rooms or dressing rooms, certain tunes can instantly restore my equilibrium and facilitate a kind of home away from home.”

“Christopher Stone’s relaxed, conversational style was exceptional at a time when most BBC presentation was extremely formal, although he still always wore a dinner jacket and bow tie whenever he was on the air.”

Programme 3 overview – TX 16th January at 10pm, BBC Radio 2.

In this third programme, Barry recalls his early trips to the cinema in Melbourne with his Aunty Irene and how as a child he hoped to grow up to be a magician one day.

Barry says:

“When I was a child growing up in Melbourne in the Australian State of Victoria in the 1930s and 40s, going to the cinema was a very special occasion.  We used to go to matinees at the Riverly, Camberwell, which was our local cinema, or the Regal, Hartwell.  They sound so English, don’t they?  I loved it and I looked forward to these cinematic events with tremendous excitement.  The curtains would rise and fall and close and open inexplicitly, and as I gazed upon the figures on the big screen, I had no idea then that I would one day also be an actor.  Of course, not one of those magnificent black and white actors that I saw on the screen.  Acting was not something anyway that I envisaged for myself as a potential future career.  As a child, I hoped I’d become a magician.  There’s a very early home movie of me performing some of my magic tricks in front of an enraptured group of my sister’s friends.  All lovely girls and now lovelier old ladies.  Of course, nothing I did worked.  I was kind of really an early Tommy Cooper.  I was a master of the failed trick.  The egg that I made vanish turned up broken on the lawn.  That sort of thing.  There was a comic strip in the Woman’s Weekly called ‘Mandrake’. It was about a man in evening dress with a little moustache and he could make his enemies disappear and that’s what I wanted to do.  I wanted to have the ability to make people disappear and quite a few boys at my school – bullies – wondered why I was gesturing at them hypnotically.  They did, I might add, refuse to vanish.”

Programme 4 overview – TX 23rd January at 10pm, BBC Radio 2:

In this final programme, Barry celebrates the music the Nazis said was bad.  It includes details on the history of Barry’s favourite group ‘The Comedian Harmonists’.  When the Nazis came to power the group was banned because it had three Jewish members and sang mostly American or American-influenced music.  Those members who fled to Austria re-named the group ‘The Comedy Harmonists’ before being forced again to flee when Austria became part of the Third Reich.   The non-Jewish members of the group stayed in Germany and became ‘Das Meistersextet’.   Barry also plays ‘So Blue’ by the American vocal harmony group ‘The Revelers’ which inspired Harry Frommermann to form ‘The Comedian Harmonists’ in Berlin.

Another highlight of this final programme in Barry’s series of forgotten music for BBC Radio 2 is a radio performance by George Gershwin, one of Barry’s all-time favourite composers.  George Gershwin died unexpectedly in July 1937, when he was just 38 years old of a brain tumour.