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NPR Senior Correspondent Bob Edwards

Edwards, former host of NPR's Morning Edition, was reassigned just last week and is now a senior correspondent for NPR. He is the author of the new book Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism. Edwards is also the author of Fridays with Red, about his radio friendship with legendary sportscaster Red Barber.


Other segments from the episode on May 4, 2004

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, May 4, 2004: Interview with Bob Edwards; Review of the DVD collection "The Best of Abbott & Costello: Volume One."


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Bob Edwards discusses his new book about Edward R.
Murrow and his future

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

At the end of NPR's "Morning Edition" last Friday, host Bob Edwards had this
to say.

(Soundbite of "Morning Edition")

BOB EDWARDS (Author, "Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast
Journalism"): I have been hosting programs on NPR for 30 years, five and a
half years on "All Things Considered," 24 years and six months on "Morning
Edition." But this program is the last I shall host.

GROSS: Bob Edwards' goodbye did not come as a surprise. NPR had already
announced its decision to reassign him to the position of senior
correspondent, and that resulted in the largest response the network has ever
received from listeners on any one issue. About 35,000 people wrote NPR.
Most of the letters were in protest of the decision. Newspapers around the
country covered the story. We'll talk with Bob Edwards a little later about
his future.

This change isn't the only news in the life of Bob Edwards. He has a new book
about the man he describes as broadcast journalism's patron saint and first
great star, Edward R. Murrow. Murrow became a star by reporting live during
World War II on the bombing of London. Let's start with a reading from Bob's
new book, "Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism."

EDWARDS: (Reading) Murrow's obituaries mentioned that he seemed a courtly
prince who nevertheless championed the underdog, a sophisticated man with a
common touch. Variety said he had brought television to maturity. He was
hailed for his unrelenting search for truth. The tributes pointed out that he
had led CBS to greatness, only to become expendable when his principles
clashed with management.

It fell to Murrow's biographers, however, to explore some of the deeper
contradictions in his life, including the black moods and daylong silences
that frequently haunted a man who had so many reasons to be happy. The man
who oozed confidence on the air was a nervous wreck when about to begin a
broadcast. The shot of whiskey he'd have to calm his nerves at air time
failed to stop his cold sweat or keep him from jiggling his leg in a
continuous nervous tic.

America's foremost broadcast journalist put so much weight on his own
shoulders that he could never be at peace. He was a driven man who demanded
more of himself than he could possibly deliver. Murrow lived by a code too
rigid for mere humans to meet. He expected more of himself and others.
Murrow's glass was always half-empty. He felt the gloom of having his
idealism shattered by reality.'

GROSS: Bob Edwards reading from his new book, "Edward R. Murrow and the
Birth of Broadcast Journalism."

Bob, welcome back to FRESH AIR. You were asked to write a book for this
series of biographies. Why did you choose Edward R. Murrow as your subject?

EDWARDS: He was somebody I could write about and not take time off from work.
I wanted to continue to be on the air every day. And all of this was going on
during the invasion of Iraq, so I definitely didn't want to be away from the
microphone. So I would go home after seven hours of live coverage of war and
write about Murrow and his wars--I guess, plural.

GROSS: Were you aware of him in his own time as a broadcaster, or was it only
after that that you started to be aware of him and admire him so much?

EDWARDS: Oh, no, I listened to him on the radio and saw him on television. I
was a kid, and maybe I didn't understand all of the nuances of his insights
into the Eisenhower administration. But on one level, it was very easy to
relate to him being a kid. He was cool. He was so cool. He looked great, he
sounded fabulous and I wanted to do that because of him. Now later, of
course, I appreciated what he did and his McCarthy broadcasts. And, of
course, all of his wartime reporting was before my time because I'm post-war.
And to get into the transcripts of his broadcasts and see how he wrote and the
imagery, which I'm no good at at all--I mean, he wrote beautiful word
pictures. And the sound of them--he was a speech major in college, and I
think that helped a lot. When he spoke, it was theater. It was--oh, I just
wanted to do that, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: You say in your book that most of the material is drawn from 30 years
of conversations with Ed Bliss, who, among other things, was your teacher in
graduate school at American University, someone you kept in touch with for
years. What was his connection with Murrow?

EDWARDS: He wrote for Murrow. He joined CBS during the war. When Murrow was
over in Europe, Ed Bliss was in New York. And then when Murrow came back and
did a nightly radio program, Bliss was his radio writer and traveled with him.
When they would go on the road, Ed Murrow would have to make speeches or
whatever, and Ed Bliss would go with him to write his newscast for the evening
and edit the commentaries that Ed Murrow would write. And Ed Bliss taught Ed
Murrow; that was his presentation in college. And the real shame is that Ed
Bliss died last year at age 90, just as I was being contacted about writing
this book, and we didn't have this experience to share. This would have been
so great, and he would have been so helpful to me, and I would just--you know,
I wish he were around to enjoy this occasion.

GROSS: Well, what are some of the things he told you about Murrow that you
might not have gotten from the biographies of Murrow? And I'm wondering
particular if he offered you insights into Murrow's depressions and...


GROSS: moods.

EDWARDS: He did, indeed. They would be riding around in the car, and Ed
would be driving and maybe getting them lost. And this would be the only time
that Murrow would get upset with him. And you knew Murrow was upset when he
called you `Buster.'

(Soundbite of laughter)

EDWARDS: I've never read this anywhere--that, `Look, Buster.' And then you
knew you were in trouble. And, yes, he would have these long silences that I
guess he would just be off in a world of thought all to himself. And you and
I might consider that rude; that we're in the company of this fellow and he's
just not talking to us. But, you know, those close to Murrow had to get used
to that. And on other occasions he could be the life of the party and buy you
drinks and tell you great stories and sing songs from the lumber camps of the
Pacific Northwest where he grew up. And he had these mood swings.

GROSS: Now Ed Murrow didn't set out to be a broadcaster. He was sent to
Europe to arrange broadcasts by others for the Institute of International
Education, which was part of the Carnegie Endowment. And even in his early
days with CBS, he was supposed to arrange for newspaper reporters to actually
do the reporting. What was the state of radio news at the time Murrow entered
radio broadcasting?

EDWARDS: Announcers would do everything. They would host a program with a
dance band and then the Henley Regatta, and then they would interview a
starlet, and then they would cover a news conference. They did everything.
It was amazing, these people, people like Graham McNamee at NBC, who was Red
Barber's hero, by the way, and Robert Trout at CBS. These guys were amazing,
you know, the variety of things they had to do. But they were not
professional journalists, and that's what Ed Murrow started because the war
broke out, and he needed a professional news staff to tell New York and all of
America what was going on in Europe.

So the first person he hired was William L. Shirer, who was a veteran foreign
correspondent, and thereafter he hired just the most amazing staff as the war
spread, people who had come from wire services, mostly United Press. He just
robbed United Press blind of all their great talent. And some others were
newspaper reporters. But we're talking about Eric Sevareid and Howard K.
Smith and Bill Downs, Charles Collingwood, Winston Burdett, fabulous, fabulous
people who remained in broadcast journalism for decades after.

GROSS: Was it Murrow's idea to put himself on the air?

EDWARDS: No, I think it just kind of happened, and New York didn't complain.
And it was so successful, that first broadcast in the spring of--Was it
March?--of 1938 when the Nazis marched into Austria and annexed Austria.
That's the real beginning of the war. And they had to just go on the air and
do a broadcast. And Shirer wasn't supposed to be on the air either. He was,
you know, Murrow's man on the continent of Europe, and he was to arrange
broadcasts. But, you know, out of this emergency, they became the genesis of
the CBS overseas reporting staff. And they were so good at it that they just
kept on reporting the war and adding these other newspaper reporters to the

GROSS: One of Murrow's now-famous broadcasts was part of a special program
called "London After Dark," that CBS Radio broadcast on August 24th, 1940. He
was reporting from Trafalgar Square. What's the importance, do you think, of
this particular broadcast?

EDWARDS: A couple of things. When Hitler started bombing England, he first
chose military targets, bases and the docks and that sort of thing. And then
he upgraded it and just scatter-bombed all over, all the cities of England, to
terrify the population in hopes that they would ask Churchill to surrender
and, you know, just stop this, stop this awful bombing. And Murrow was trying
to illustrate that it wasn't working. And he's at Trafalgar Square, and he's
recording people calmly walking to the bomb shelters, not running, not in a
panic. He wanted that message out there. So he put the microphone down on
the ground and recorded footsteps. He was very conscious of the--you know,
for a guy with no background in either journalism or radio, he was conscious
of the fact that he was writing for the ear, and this broadcast was to reach
you by ear, sound. So he would let you hear the footsteps of Englanders
walking calmly to the bomb shelter. I thought that was very prescient of him.
He knew he was in radio. This was something different. This was not the
printed page. It was for the ear.

GROSS: Well, why don't we hear some of that report by Edward R. Murrow,
August 24th, 1940, from Trafalgar Square?

(Soundbite of 1940 recording)

Mr. EDWARD R. MURROW: This is Trafalgar Square. The noise that you hear at
the moment is the sound of the air raid siren. I'm standing here just on the
steps of St. Martin's-in-the Fields. A searchlight just burst into action
off in the distance, one single beam sweeping the sky above me now. People
are walking along quite quietly. We're just at the entrance of an air raid
shelter here, and I must move this cable over just a bit so people can walk
in. There's another searchlight just square behind Nelson's statue. Here
comes one of those big red buses around the corner, double-deckers they are,
just a few lights on the top deck. In this blackness, it looks very much like
a ship that's passing the night, and you just see the portholes. More
searchlights come into action. You see them reach straight up into the sky,
and occasionally they catch a cloud and seem to splash on the bottom of it.
One of the strangest sounds one can hear in London these days--or, rather,
these dark nights, just the sound of footsteps walking along the street like
ghosts shod with steel shoes.

GROSS: That was Edward R. Murrow recorded in 1940. My guest is Bob Edwards.
He's written a new biography of Edward R. Murrow.

Bob, you mention in your book that at a time like during World War II, the
networks had actually banned recording. So even if Edwards R. Murrow had the
technology to record sounds and then produce it within his report, he wouldn't
have been able to do it. Why was this ban on--why did the networks ban

EDWARDS: Well, like everything else with networks, it had to do with money.
The networks felt that if they played recordings of, say, Paul Whiteman's
orchestra or Bing Crosby singing, then you wouldn't need a network. You could
go out and buy that recording yourself, or your local station could provide
that for you. The reason you needed a network was to bring you Paul Whiteman
and Bing Crosby, the actual, you know, in real time, live broadcast of the
great, you know, entertainers of the time. So they just extended that to
news. I mean, for one thing they weren't really in the news business until
the war.

So everything that you heard of Murrow and his team up until D-Day was live.
And they would be in the middle of a war zone somewhere--and this was the most
amazing thing, the technical aspect of their recording, because it was
shortwave. You had to be near a shortwave transmitter and just hope New York
would hear you and stop regular broadcasts and break in and say, you know,
`Here's a report from Charles Collingwood in northern Africa,' and then
Charles would be on. And it was hit or miss. A lot of these reporters were
just talking into the air and were never heard. Their reports were never
heard because, you know, New York didn't get the signal that one of their
reporters was trying to reach them with a live broadcast. So if Murrow had an
interview he wanted to do, he had to take his guests to the microphone and
talk to them live. He wouldn't go record it.

They finally changed their mind on D-Day because Collingwood and some others
had made recordings of landing on the beaches and all that, and they thought
that was so compelling that people needed to hear that. And they couldn't
hear it live, so they replayed the tape. I think, in fact, Richard C.
Hottelet was the only one whose report was actually heard on D-Day. He was
with paratroopers and got back to London on the day, on June 6th, 1944, and
broadcast. The others were just caught up in the war in France and had no
means of being heard that day or for several days thereafter.

GROSS: My guest is Bob Edwards. His new book is called "Edward R. Murrow and
the Birth of Broadcast Journalism." We'll talk more after a break. This is

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Bob Edwards, the former host of NPR's "Morning Edition."
He's written a new book about Edward R. Murrow.

You say that Murrow reported on the bomb shelters, but he didn't usually go to
bomb shelters himself. Why not?

EDWARDS: He was afraid that he would get used to it; that whenever the bombs
fell, he would go running to the shelter if he went that first time. So he
would go and do stories of people in the shelters, but he would not go there
to seek refuge from the bombs themselves. He had enormous courage, not just
from bombs but from other things that came along later, like McCarthy or even
his own bosses. But he would be up on the rooftop in the middle of the
bombing of London so he could report on it. And he would go around town in an
open car so he could see the damage and report on the stories at ground level.

GROSS: Yeah. The reporting from the rooftop, that really amazes me. You
know, German bombers are flying overhead, and he's on a rooftop in London
reporting on what he sees. That really takes courage. It must have been
difficult to get permission to do that because he needed the permission of the
British to do it. What was it like for him to get permission, and what kind
of guidelines did they lay down for him?

EDWARDS: Well, at first they didn't want him to do it at all because they
thought that the Germans could hone in on him or use him as some kind of
beacon locator to direct bombing. He was on the rooftop of Broadcasting
House, a BBC building in London, and they thought that he would make that
building a target. Well, later on, I mean, it got hit a bunch of times, and a
lot of Murrow's colleagues at the BBC were killed as a result. But on this
particular night that he first went up there, you know, he had mixed emotions
about it. He was kind of ambivalent because, you know, it was, again, a live
broadcast, and New York threw the signal to Murrow on that rooftop at, you
know, probably 7:00 in the evening or something like that New York time; five
hours later in London.

And all hell had been going on until a minute to air, and then the bombing
stopped. And he's thinking, you know, `Is this good or bad because they can't
hear the bombs?' They could hear the anti-aircraft fire, and you hear a lot
of that, so you do get some war sounds. And you hear the police whistles or
the air-raid warden whistles and you hear sirens and the like, but you don't
hear actual bombs. But he wanted the bang-bang, of course, because it was
radio. And the British government relented on permission to have Murrow on
the rooftop, and I think it was Churchill's doing personally because Churchill
wanted America to know what was going on and what Britons were taking from
Hitler's Germany. This was good PR, propaganda if you will, for England. And
America, you know--he was really appealing for help and using Murrow to do

GROSS: Let's hear an excerpt of the rooftop report that you were referring
to, the one in which the bombing is temporarily stopped, but you can hear the
anti-aircraft artillery. So this is Edward R. Murrow recorded in
mid-September of 1940.

(Soundbite of 1940 recording)

Mr. MURROW: The plane is still very high, and it's quite clear that he's not
coming in for his bombing run. Earlier this evening you could hear

(Soundbite of explosions)

Mr. MURROW: Again, those are explosions overhead. Earlier this evening we
heard a number of bombs go sliding and slithering across to fall several
blocks away. Just overhead now, the burst of the anti-aircraft fire.

(Soundbite of explosions)

Mr. MURROW: Still the nearby guns are not working, and the third flights now
are feeling almost directly overhead. Now you'll hear two bursts of luminaire
in a moment.

(Soundbite of explosions)

Mr. MURROW: There they are, that hard, stony sound.

GROSS: So that was Edward R. Murrow recorded from a rooftop of the BBC in
1940. My guest is Bob Edwards, and he's written a new biography of Edward R.

Bob, what was the impact of these broadcasts on Americans? And this is, you
know, before America entered the war.

EDWARDS: That's right, and they were enormously helpful to Churchill and
England. And at one point Roosevelt sent Harry Hopkins, his close aide, over
to London, and he arranged a meeting with Murrow. And Murrow thought, `Oh,
this is great. I'm going to get an interview with Harry Hopkins. This will
be very useful.' No, that wasn't it. Hopkins wanted to interview Murrow.
Murrow was the first guy he talked to when he went to London before he talked
to anyone in the British government. Why? Because he wanted to pick Murrow's
brain. He wanted to know what was going on in England, who to see, who not to
see, who was, you know, really in charge, who were the movers and shakers and
players and who had the best information on what was going on.

That's a tribute to Murrow's influence, command of information, that those
broadcasts--I mean, that's what Roosevelt was hearing. He was hearing
Murrow's broadcasts from the rooftop and everywhere else in London.

GROSS: Bob Edwards will be back in the second half of the show. His new book
is called "Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism." I'm Terry
Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)


(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, more with Bob Edwards on Edward R. Murrow. We listen back
to Murrow's report on the liberation of the Buchenwald death camp, and we talk
with Edwards about his future. Also, Lloyd Schwartz reviews a new DVD
collection of Abbott and Costello films.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Bob Edwards. Last
Friday he hosted NPR's "Morning Edition" for the final time after nearly 25
years in that position. Before he settles into his new position as senior
correspondent, he's going on a book tour. His new book is called "Edward R.
Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism." Let's get back to our
conversation about Murrow. Then we'll talk about Bob.

I want to play an excerpt of one more Murrow report. This is another really
famous one, and it's his report from Buchenwald, the death camp, right after
it was liberated. And this is a pretty incredible piece of reporting. Bob,
you want to say something about it before we hear it?

EDWARDS: Yeah. The war was winding down, and Murrow wanted one last little
bit of action, so he joined up with Patton's Army. And Charles Collingwood
was along, too, so Collingwood tells this story--that they had a night of
poker. And Murrow--it was one of those nights. You know, Murrow just could
not lose, and he's raking in all the dough from all the foreign
correspondents, and he's stuffing bills into every pocket of his war
correspondent's uniform. Next day they go to Buchenwald, and Murrow was just
devastated. And he just started emptying his pockets and handing all this
cash to survivors and--I don't know. At that point could you even call them
survivors? Probably a lot of the people he talked to that day didn't survive
more than a couple more days.

GROSS: He called them the living dead.

EDWARDS: Yeah. And he was angry. He was just angry. And he didn't
broadcast that day; he let others have the scoop. And, by the way, the whole
liberation of Buchenwald was upstaged because Roosevelt died that day. I
mean, it was probably inside every paper and not on the front pages. Murrow
went back to London, and it was three days later before he did this broadcast,
which is now the most famous about the liberation of Buchenwald.

GROSS: Why don't we hear an excerpt of that report from Buchenwald. And this
is Edward R. Murrow?

(Soundbite of 1945 recording)

Mr. MURROW: In another part of the camp, they showed me the children,
hundreds of them. Some were only six. One rolled up his sleeve, showed me
his number. It was tattooed on his arm. B 6030, it was. The others showed
me their numbers. They will carry them till they die. An elderly man
standing beside me said, `The children, enemies of the state.' I could see
their ribs through their thin shirts. The children clung to my hands and
stared. We crossed to the courtyard. Men kept coming up to speak to me and
to touch me, professors from Poland, doctors from Vienna, men from all Europe,
men from the countries that made America.

We proceeded to the small courtyard. There were two rows of bodies stacked up
like cordwood. They were thin and very white. Some had been shot through the
head, but they bled but little. I tried to count them as best I could and
arrived at the conclusion that all that was mortal of more than 500 men and
boys lay there in two neat piles. It appeared that most of the men and boys
had died of starvation, but the manner of death seemed unimportant. Murder
had been done at Buchenwald. God alone knows how many men and boys have died
there during the last 12 years.

I pray you to believe what I have said about Buchenwald. I have reported what
I saw and heard but only part of it. For most of it I have no words. If I
have offended you by this rather mild account of Buchenwald, I am not in the
least sorry.

GROSS: That was Edward R. Murrow. My guest is Bob Edwards, who's written a
new biography of Murrow. It's called "Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of
Broadcast Journalism."

After World War II, Murrow becomes vice president and director of public
affairs at CBS. He assembles a news team. Most of them go on to become some
of the most famous people in broadcasting journalism. He moves from radio to
television, helps define what television news is. And then, of course, he's
covering things during the McCarthy era. And one of the things he's asked to
do at CBS is to sign a loyalty oath, and I think a lot of his colleagues were
expecting him to refuse, but he didn't refuse. Why didn't he refuse?

EDWARDS: I think he picked his battles, and he thought that one was too big.
And he could fight McCarthyism and the whole anti-Communist hysteria in other
ways, which he certainly did with his broadcast on "See It Now," which was
really the beginning of the end of Joe McCarthy and his demagoguery.

GROSS: What did Murrow do on that broadcast that helped turn the tide against

EDWARDS: Murrow's thing about McCarthy had to do with the Constitution; it
had to do with due process. I think everyone understood there probably were
Communists in the government, and this was not a good thing. But whether
there were or there weren't, the accused should be given due process. So what
Murrow did was to assemble a whole bunch of film of McCarthy illustrating his
methods. And that was a revelation to most Americans who only knew about this
from newspapers, and newspapers can't give you a good account of this. You
know, `Senator McCarthy said this, but somebody else said that.' And, you
know, you really don't get a flavor of what this guy was about and how he
badgered people and just the unfairness of the whole prosecutorial process
that he conducted and how you were, really, guilty until proven innocent and
you had no shot at proving your innocence.

So that's what Murrow did, exposed him in that way, and then showed you a huge
stack of newspapers representing editorials against McCarthy and another stack
of newspapers, you know, that favored him, a much, much smaller stack, and
then did his closing commentary, which was unlike anything television ever did
before and certainly since. It was a one-of-a-kind. It was a blatant
editorial and just devastating. And...

GROSS: What did he say that was so devastating?

EDWARDS: Oh, `No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that
congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before
legislating. But the line between investigation and persecuting is a very
fine one, and the junior senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it
repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind
between the internal and external threat of communism. We must not confuse
dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof
and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not
walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of
unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine and remember that we
are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to
speak, to associate and to defend causes which were, for the moment,

You know, Ed Bliss told me he was in New York once and he saw someone coming
at him that he thought this was not good. This person was going to do him
harm. And he thought of crossing the street and mingling with the bigger
crowd of people and getting away from this guy. And he remembered Murrow's
words, `We will not walk in fear, one of another,' so he didn't cross the
street, and he got mugged.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Oh, gee. What's the moral of that story?

EDWARDS: The moral of the story is be a little more practical...

GROSS: Right.

EDWARDS: ...a little less hero-worshiping.

GROSS: That's great. So what did CBS have to say about this? As you pointed
out, this is editorializing.

EDWARDS: Yeah. For one thing, they didn't promote the program. Murrow and
his co-producer and partner, Fred W. Friendly, bought--they used their
personal money to buy a full-page ad in The New York Times to promote the
program. CBS was not pleased. Of course they said, you know, this was great
and `Thank you so much,' but they didn't promote the program. And they didn't
like controversy. Bill Paley, the founding chairman of CBS, and Murrow were
very close. They had a relationship that was not boss-worker, forged during
the war. But after the war it was different. CBS became this big,
diversified company. Profits and the price of a share of stock were what was
important, and, you know, they were in the entertainment business. And here
was Murrow doing all these controversial programs. Paley told Murrow, `Your
programs give me stomachaches.' And Murrow told Paley, `Well, it goes with
the job.' And ultimately "See It Now," Murrow's great news vehicle, was
canceled, and Murrow was moved to the margins of CBS because he was just too

GROSS: My guest is Bob Edwards. His new book is called "Edward R. Murrow and
the Birth of Broadcast Journalism." We'll talk more after a break. This is

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Bob Edwards, and he's written a new biography of Edward R.

Bob, I think this is the point in the interview where listeners are probably
hoping that we'll discuss the controversy surrounding your new assignment at
NPR. I'll tell you, though, I feel too close to the story because I know so
many of the people at NPR, so I'd just as soon stay away from the whole
controversy surrounding your reassignment from "Morning Edition" to special
correspondent. And I'd like to pick up from where we are now, which is we're
recording this on Monday, May 3rd, and this is your first Monday in nearly 25
years in which you are not the host of "Morning Edition." Now through your
years as the anchor of "Morning Edition," you had to start your day at about 1
AM. What are some of the parts of life you're looking forward to resuming
that were unavailable to you as the host of "Morning Edition"?

EDWARDS: On Sunday night I watched "The Sopranos" in real time; did not have
to videotape. I usually watched it on Monday afternoon on tape, but I get to
stay up with the grownups now, and this is good. Another thing, we got a dog.
We haven't had a dog because when we did have a dog many years ago, I couldn't
take a nap. You know, everyone in the family would leave the house, and the
dog would think the dog was alone and bark, and so I couldn't take a nap. So
when I got word of what was going on, the first thing I said to my wife was,
`You get a dog.'

GROSS: What'd you get?

EDWARDS: She was thrilled. And within 24 hours of my last program on Friday
we had a dog. It's a border collie puppy. He's only eight weeks old, and his
name is Sam. That's...

GROSS: Oh, that's wonderful.

EDWARDS: ...for Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

GROSS: For a lot of people who do one job for a long time, the world starts
to define them by that job, and sometimes they start to define themselves by
that job. And when they leave that job, they sometimes don't know who they
are. You know, there's just a bit of, like, a personal identity crisis. Is
that going to be an issue for you, or do you feel like you have that straight?

EDWARDS: That's exactly where I am. You've just hit it right on the head.
And, you know, I'm at peace with this. And I think now that it's probably a
good thing because I would have stayed there forever, and you had to pry me
away, and pry me they did. And I think it's good. I don't know what's going
to happen now. I'm looking forward to whatever that is. You know, I just
think it's too--I don't want to say too many years. But doing one thing--it's
really 30 years of hosting programs when you combine the five and half from
"All Things Considered." And I had no new challenges. The next challenge was
just the next interview, and so this is probably good.

GROSS: As a senior correspondent you will be reporting as opposed to being in
the studio. Now me--I'm always in the studio, and I think being in the studio
is very intellectually challenging. Physically it's very insular. What are
some of the contrasts you're expecting to find between, you know,
studio-oriented work and reporting from the field?

EDWARDS: I imagine an overcoat when it rains, you know.

GROSS: That's just the kind of introspection I was hoping for.

(Soundbite of laughter)

EDWARDS: I'll be taking taxis. I don't know. I'm new at this. I'll figure
it all out, I guess.

GROSS: Listen, one of the things that I always liked about you in the morning
is that it sounds like tension or anything like that, like, wouldn't faze you.
You know, there's a certain kind of like cheeriness in the morning that really
rubs me the wrong way. You know, there's not...

EDWARDS: I've never been accused of cheeriness.

GROSS: Yes, that's not necessarily how I'm feeling. And just, like,
listening to you, it sounds like, `Well, you know, he's so kind of steady and
calm, like things don't faze him.' How do you handle tension? Like, how do
you handle all the tension of the work? You sound like the kind of guy that
it wouldn't get to.

EDWARDS: I'm probably taking it internally, and I'll die of a severe case of
bleeding ulcers. I don't know.

GROSS: But will you...

EDWARDS: But you're right, I don't, you know, throw things and snap. And I
got a lot of mail after September 11th, people saying, `Well, you know, you
were so calm and relaxed, and this was reassuring.' And they think I--well,
it's not an act. I mean, that's me. That's just who I am. That was a normal
broadcast in the sense of how I sounded. But I always thought that was a good
thing for listeners because--particularly on a story like that or during the
war or any crisis, any breaking story. Outside the studio chaos is going on,
I mean, yelling, screaming, people trying to book interviews and, you know,
getting information to one another, and `I want this' and `I want that.' `No,
don't do that.' But inside, where we are, the listener and me--see? It
should be like this. It should be mellow. It should be businesslike. And
they don't need to know this chaos that's going outside. That's nuts.
They've got enough information to process.

GROSS: Now you have the kind of voice that people describe as a great radio
voice. And I'm wondering if your voice influenced your decision to go into
radio or whether that was just a kind of happy coincidence that you had such a
great voice and you were interested in radio.

EDWARDS: I think it helped. When I was a kid in school they always called on
me to read aloud, and...

GROSS: Did you have a deep voice as a kid?


GROSS: Like before your voice changed...


GROSS: ...what did it sound like?

EDWARDS: I was always getting calls--people calling for my dad and thinking
that I was him, and, `No, no. You want my dad. Let me get him.' In church
I was asked to read aloud, so I think that helped. That gave me a lot of
confidence and made me think, `Well, you know, I ought to find a career in
which I can do this.'

GROSS: So your voice did influence going into radio?

EDWARDS: I think so, yeah. I mean, as a little kid I always was intrigued by
radio and loved radio and wanted to be in radio. And Ed Murrow--you know, I
wanted to be cool like Murrow and then reading aloud in class. And they would
always call on me, and I could read pretty well. You know, kids have trouble
reading aloud in class. I never did. I was on--and so, you know, put all
that together. And in the '60s--the '60s definitely focused me on news as
opposed to any other jobs in broadcasting because look what was going on while
I was in college from '65 to '69: civil rights, cities were on fire, Vietnam,
the Democratic Convention of '68, assassinations of, you know, Kennedy and
King. And it was just such an awful--the invasion of Czechoslovakia...

GROSS: Yeah, sure.

EDWARDS: the Soviet Union.

GROSS: Sure.

EDWARDS: I wanted to be part of the discussion but not a participant, not a
partisan, and news was the way that I could do that. I've always said that we
are voyeurs. We like to watch.

GROSS: And how did you first get into radio? Like, what was your first

EDWARDS: Well, all through high school I was knocking on doors in Louisville,
Kentucky, where I grew up. And I had a friend at one station who was a
newscaster, and he would give me wire copy and take me to a production studio
and have me do a newscast on tape, and then he would critique the tape. And
that was enormously helpful. And I was working my way through college and had
a lot of jobs, but they wouldn't hire me because, you know, Louisville thought
it was just too big time for a rookie. And then in my senior year in college,
I hung out at a little station across the river in New Albany, Indiana, and I
just decided I wasn't going to take any other jobs; I was going to sit there
and, for nothing, just hang out and learn how to do radio. And one day the
police came in...


EDWARDS: ...and busted the guy on the air for non-support, and they had
nobody else to go on, and so I went on. And that was 1968.

GROSS: What a great story.

EDWARDS: Boy, am I old.

GROSS: Did you see the guy again after that?

EDWARDS: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I can't talk about him 'cause he's still around.

GROSS: On the air?

EDWARDS: I don't think so. I don't think so. So I never mention his name.
It'd be embarrassing to him.

GROSS: Well, Bob, good luck with the new book, and good luck with your new
role as senior correspondent at NPR. And thank you. It's really been a
pleasure to talk with you.

EDWARDS: It's been great fun, Terry. Thank you.

GROSS: Bob Edwards' new book is "Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast
Journalism." After his book tour he'll return to NPR as a senior

Coming up, Lloyd Schwartz reviews a new DVD collection of Abbott and Costello
films. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New DVD titled "The Best of Abbott & Costello: Volume

One of America's favorite comedy teams of the 1940s was Abbott and Costello.
Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz says their comedy routines were music to
his ears. But on a new DVD compilation of the duo's first eight films, Lloyd
found some good music by real musicians, too.


Bud Abbott and Lou Costello's best routines involved a kind of verbal music.
In their classic ode to misunderstanding, "Who's on First?," the names of
baseball players are as intricately interwoven as a Bach fugue.

(Soundbite of "Who's on First?")

Mr. LOU COSTELLO (Comedian): Mm-hmm. Look, all I'm trying to find out is
what is the fella's name on first base.

Mr. BUD ABBOTT (Comedian): Aw, now wait a minute. Let's straighten that out.
What is on second base.

Mr. COSTELLO: I'm not asking you who's on second.

Mr. ABBOTT: Who is on first.

Mr. COSTELLO: I Don't Know.

Mr. ABBOTT: Oh, he's on third. Now we're not talking about...

Mr. COSTELLO: How did I get on third base?

Mr. ABBOTT: You mentioned his name.

Mr. COSTELLO: I mentioned his name?

Mr. ABBOTT: Yes.

Mr. COSTELLO: If I mentioned the third baseman's name, Who did I say is on

Mr. ABBOTT: Oh, no. Who's on first.

Mr. COSTELLO: Never mind first. I want to know what's the fella's name on
third base.

Mr. ABBOTT: But What's on second.

Mr. COSTELLO: Who's on second?

Mr. ABBOTT: Who's on first.

Mr. COSTELLO: I don't know.

Mr. ABBOTT: He's on third.

Mr. COSTELLO: There I go, back on third base again.

Mr. ABBOTT: Well, I can't help that.

Mr. COSTELLO: Let's you and I stay on third base. Don't go off it.

Mr. ABBOTT: Well, what is it you want to know?

Mr. COSTELLO: Who is playing third base?

Mr. ABBOTT: Why do you insist on putting Who on third base?

Mr. COSTELLO: Now who am I putting on third base?

Mr. ABBOTT: Yes, but we don't want him there.

Mr. COSTELLO: You don't want Who there?


Mr. COSTELLO: So what's the guy's name belongs there?

Mr. ABBOTT: What belongs on second.

Mr. COSTELLO: Who belongs on second?

Mr. ABBOTT: Who is on first.

Mr. COSTELLO: I don't know.

Mr. ABBOTT: Third base.

Mr. COSTELLO: Third base.

SCHWARTZ: "Who's on First?" was already so famous Abbott and Costello did
part of it in their very first film, "One Night in the Tropics," a 1940
romantic comedy in which they didn't yet get top billing.

But the musical use of language isn't the only music in their films. "One
Night in the Tropics" actually has songs by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields,
who wrote "A Fine Romance" and "The Way You Look Tonight" for Fred Astaire and
Ginger Rogers in "Swing Time." This is one of my favorite obscure Kern songs,
sung in the film by Peggy Moran. I had no idea it was written for an Abbott
and Costello comedy.

(Soundbite of applause; song)

Ms. DOROTHY FIELDS: (Singing) Remind me not to find you so attractive.
Remind me that the world is full of men. When I start to miss you, to touch
your hand, to kiss you, remind me to count to 10. I had the feeling when I
met you...

SCHWARTZ: The musicians who turned up most often in Abbott and Costello
movies were The Andrews Sisters. Patty, Maxene and LaVerne Andrews were icons
of the 1940s, three sisters with instantly recognizable harmonies and a
slippery sense of rhythm. They introduced one of their biggest hits in the
Abbott and Costello Army satire "Buck Privates." Before Bette Midler was even
born, the movie trailer calls them `songsational.'

(Soundbite of song)

THE ANDREWS SISTERS: (Singing) He was a famous trumpet man from out Chicago
way. He had a boogie style that no one else could play. He was the top man
at his craft. But then his number came up, and he was gone with the draft.
He's in the Army now a blowing reveille. He's the boogie-woogie bugle boy of
Company B. They made him blow a bugle for his Uncle Sam. It really brought
him down because he couldn't jam. The captain seemed to understand because
the next day the cap went out and drafted a band. And now the company jumps
when he plays reveille. He's the boogie-woogie bugle boy of Company B. A
toot, a toot, a toot...

SCHWARTZ: The military was certainly on America's mind before we entered the
war. The Selective Service Act was newly in place, and among Abbott and
Costello's biggest hits were comedies about military life. Even The Andrews
Sisters' dance steps were often like a flipped out military drill. And some
of their most-popular songs, like their revival of Harry von Tilzer's "(I'll
Be With You In) Apple Blossom Time," which they also sang in "Buck Privates,"
were about distant travel and separation.

The most surprising song in an Abbott and Costello movie was not by The
Andrews Sisters but by Ella Fitzgerald in her first feature film, a Western
spoof from 1942 called "Ride 'Em Cowboy." The song itself, "A Tisket, A
Tasket," her first number-one record, has nothing much to do with the plot. I
love Ella Fitzgerald from any period, but some of my favorite recordings of
hers are among her earliest. Before she became a dignified jazz artist, the
first lady of song, she had a kind of pouty, little-girl cheekiness that I
find irresistible.

(Soundbite of "A Tisket, a Tasket")

Ms. ELLA FITZGERALD: (Singing) Oh, gee, I wonder where my basket can be.

Group of Men: (Singing) So do we. So do we. So do we. So do we. So do we.

Ms. FITZGERALD: (Singing) Oh, dear, I wish that little girl I could see.

Group of Men: (Singing) So do we. So do we. So do we. So do we. So do we!

Ms. FITZGERALD: (Singing) Oh, why was I so careless with that basket of mine?
That itty-bitty basket was a joy of mine. Tisket, tasket, I lost my yellow
basket. Won't someone help me find my basket and make me happy again, again?

Group of People: (Singing) Was it red?

Ms. FITZGERALD: (Singing) No, no, no, no.

Group of People: (Singing) Was it green?

Ms. FITZGERALD: (Singing) No, no, no, no.

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Was it cerise?

Ms. FITZGERALD: (Singing) No, no, no. Just a little yellow basket.

SCHWARTZ: Maybe because most Americans shared the same feelings about the
world, it was a good time for comedy and popular music. When I was a kid
watching Abbott and Costello movies on television, I resented the intrusion of
music that interfered with the jokes and slowed down the story. Now I can't
wait to listen to the great and even not-so-great tunes that more vividly than
history books capture the flavor of wartime America.

GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of the Boston Phoenix. He
reviewed the new DVD "The Best of Abbott & Costello, Volume One." I'm Terry

(Soundbite of song)

THE ANDREWS SISTERS: (Singing) ...will be mine. When? In apple, in apple
blossom time.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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