The Radio Ballads were a genre of programme mixing in recorded
interviews from the 'man in the street' interspersed with folk songs -
trad. and specially composed.
There are threads about them on Mudcat.org and there is a Wiki page here:
There is some controversy as to whether these originated in the UK or USA.
At this page
it suggests that Alan Lomax first thought of creating a documentary
using 'man in the street' interviews with his pioneering programme
"People Speak to the President" just after the attack on Pearl
Harbour. "He was one of the first, if not the first American
broadcaster to employ this now common technique."
Then during World War II, as an employee of the Office of War
Information, Lomax collaborated with the BBC on Douglas Geoffrey
Bridson’s program, Transatlantic Call: People to People, which again
featured man on the street interviews on both sides of the Atlantic
from diverse regions of Britain and the US.
And in 1944, Bridson conceived of a series of ballad operas with folk
music, “much in the eighteenth-century tradition of John Gay and Henry
Carey,” as a way to promote cultural and interracial friendship
between the peoples of Britain and the United States.
One of the first Bridson / Lomax Radio Ballads was the now sadly lost
to the public domain was "The Man Who Went to War" starring Paul
There were two follow-ups: "The Martins and the Coys" and "The Chisholm Trail."
The former is available on CD from Amazon at
The latter is at:
I digress, back to the UK:
More information about the MacColl, Seeger, Parker partnership can be
found at the excellent programme on Archive.org
Free University Day 5_5 - Resonance 104.4 FM
Peter Cox: The Radio Ballads. The series of landmark radical works
made fifty years ago for British radio are discussed by .the author of
"Set Into Song: Ewan MacColl, Charles Parker, Peggy Seeger and the
Recently two long-missing Radio Ballads by members of Ewan MacColl's
'Critics Group' commissioned by the BBC have been found and are now
available in the public domain. They are "The Iron Box" and "Off
A thread of discussion mentioning them is at:
"The Iron Box"
Aired on BBC Radio 4 - 16 November 1971 20.30
A Story of Our Time - The Iron Box
The Prison Life and Death of George Jackson, author of Soledad
Brother, shot down in San Quentin, 21 August 1971.
'Failure ... means our crowbar has struck the iron box containing the
treasure.' ALEXANDER SOLZHENITSYN
Compiled and introduced by Godfrey Hodgson from tape and documentary
records of the events which led up to his death, including interviews
with the Soledad Three, their relatives and counsels, and with the
Prison Authorities, made available by Pacifica Radio, Berkeley,
Producer CHARLES PARKER of the BBC
Radio Ballad - Off Limits 2
(use a SoundCloud Downloader to extract the file)
1970 Anti-war radio programme by MacColl's 'Critics Group,' aimed at
GIs in Vietnam. Produced by Charles Parker, with Peggy Seeger, Jack
Warshaw, Buff Rosenthal, Brian Pearson, Steve Mooring. Songs by Jack
Warshaw, Rod Shearman, Brian Pearson.
Still on the topic of black culture, race, and folk song - there is
another Radio Ballad worth listening to:
This is a favourite Radio Ballad of mine as part of the BBC's
Abolition season in 2014. As Pete Seeger once remarked "The Power of
Song" ... indeed.
You can listen to the programme via the website (**) above.