The First and Only Online Fanzine Devoted to the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Edgar Rice Burroughs Signature
Master of Imaginative Fantasy Adventure 
Creator of Tarzan 
"Grandfather of American Science Fiction" 
ERBzine 0141


The development of the Tarzan radio program in 1932 is a good example of the assimilation of most of the popular media of the first half of the Twentieth Century: radio, ET records, pulp magazines, novels, comic strips, Big Little Books, and comic books -- and to a lesser extent even movies and television.
ERB’s business background, unsuccessful as it might have been during the first half of his life, served him well after he had his first success in the writing field. He was in the vanguard of popular culture --.expanding his creations into all media.  He pushed to have his name and book characters exploited in as many ways as possible to maximize profits and to safeguard copyrights. His first efforts saw his creations spring from pulp magazines into the areas of newspaper serials, book publications, art work, lucrative royalty deals, exclusive rights agreements, imaginative promotional schemes, tie-in product merchandizing, phonograph records, advertising schemes, real estate development, special books & clubs for young people, music, foreign licensing, film features and movie serials.

In 1929, TARZAN became one of the first syndicated daily adventure strips, followed in 1931 by a colour Sunday strip. In 1932 ERB took over publishing his own books through ERB, Inc. He then went on to create his own film company and to expand tie-in merchandizing of food, toys and other products. Then came Big Little Book editions of his titles which culled their content from the newspaper strips.

ERB was also intrigued at this time by the new medium of radio which he recognized as yet another avenue for creative expression, as well as an opportunity for great money-making ventures. Noticing the strong interest of the radio-listening public in the top shows of the day, he suggested,

"I have evolved a wild and possibly ludicrous plan of publicity for (my books)...there might be possibilities in the reading of one of my books by myself over the radio for fifteen minutes nightly in conjunction with some program having a national hook-up."

He felt he could overcome professed nervousness if he could read from "familiar copy" and not be required to speak extemporaneously. Apparently the timing and circumstances were not right for this proposal, but this early interest led to other radio projects.

In 1931 Burroughs entered negotiations with Frederick C. Dahlquist of American Radio Features Syndicate to adapt Tarzan of the Apes to a fifteen-minute, chapter-a-day, five-days-a-week radio serial transcribed to 16" discs which could be syndicated worldwide. Burroughs, who had always been on the cutting edge of technology and marketing, had been fascinated with radio for years, having appeared himself on air as early as 1926 in Chicago. In a letter dated January 5, 1932, Burroghs wrote the following to Dalquist:

"We have had opportunities during the past few years to enter into arrangements to put our Tarzan stories on radio. While we have always believed that if Tarzan were properly presented over radio he would win an enthusiastic audience, we have never had presented to us a plan or presentation which met with our approval until you became interested and developed your ideas in the adaptation of the Tarzan stories. To me Tarzan is a real character, as he is, I believe, to several million men, women, and children not only in America but in the many foreign countries where the Tarzan books have had wide sales for a decade and a half. All of us to whom Tarzan has been an old friend and a source of pleasure would experience a sense of distinct loss were the idealism of many years destroyed; and so there are no rewards that could be offered that would tempt me to enter into any arrangement that I felt might relfect other than credit upon the Lord of the Jungle cause regret to his oldest friend or disappointment to the smallest boy. I am happy that you share my opinions on the matter, and it is extremely gratifying to me to know that your staff has so ably constructed the radio presentation of Tarzan that I am confident his broadcasts will cause even greater thrills to his old friends and be the source of winning many new ones. Your method of presentation will, I am sure appeal to everyone whith its swift action and suspense . I think the sound effects are ingenious, and truly believe you will have every boy in America attempting the wild cry of Tarzan in victory and every adult dreaming that he, too, is a giant in strength and character and courage." 

Not everything went as Burroughs had planned, however.  The contract with American stipulated that Burroughs would have the right to cancel if certain terms were not met and he followed through on this option as indicated in a letter sent by ERB, Inc. Secretary, Ralph Rothmund on July 29, 1932 in which he terminated the agreement:

"We are convinced that the program cannot be released on teh air by September 1st and done right. YOu have noting on hand with which to start production, as Mr. Burroughs has not approved any of the scripts recently sent to him. In the space of seven months you have completed but two episodes and have made two records, which is an indication to us that you are not capapble ofd oing the work satisfactorily."

"Inasmuchas twenty weeks have elapsed since execution of the contract and no royalties have been received by us, we are exercising our option of terminating the agreement. . .  "

This seemed to put a fire under Dahlquist, who informed Burroughs that Signal Oil and Gas Company had signed on as exclusive sponsor for the West Coast states, and he eventually persuaded Burroughs to give him a little more time to work on scripts, find a cast, and record opening shows. World Broadcasting System later signed a contract to sell the show in states east of the Rockies. Amazingly the American Radio Syndicate regained Burroughs' confidence, the author gave his approval for the go ahead,  and the show debuted a few days past the originally planned September 1, 1932 launch. He  is quoted as saying:

“Perhaps in my radio contract I shall insist upon the reservation to me of the interplanetary rights. Why not? Radio rights and sound and dialog rights would have seemed as preposterous twenty years ago... long before my copyrights expire television rights will be worth a fortune...”

The radio scripts, which used a combination of narration, dialogue, sound effects and original music, were closely supervised by ERB who had a special interest in the serial since it starred daughter Joan and her husband James Pierce. He was fascinated with the quality of the sound effects but did not hesitate to criticize the scripts whenever they appeared to be sloppily prepared, or whenever they presented the apeman as showing fear, laughing or exhibiting any other out-of-character behaviour.  The first serial ran 286 15-minute episodes. Tarzan of the Apes was adapted in the first 130 episodes, followed by a partial adaptation of  The Return of Tarzan.


Signal News
Published by the Signal Oil & Gas Co. in the Interest of Its Dealers.
Vol. 1, No. 3,  September 1932.

World Premiere Introduces Radio Tarzan to Thousands

Saturday, September 10th, the first Radio Premiere on record presented to radio fans all over the State the first episode in the thrilling adventures of "Tarzan of the Apes," sponsored by the Signal Oil and Gas Company.

Critics and thousands of motorists who jammed the World Premiere Radio Show at Fox Pantages Theatre in Hollywood proclaimed it the most fascinating and colorful radio program they had ever heard.

Among those who participated in the stage show were Jim Pierce, all-American football player and well-known actor, who takes the part of Tarzan in Signal's sensational radio serial; Miss Joan Burroughs, talented actress and daughter of Edgar Rice Burroughs; Mr. Burroughs himself, internationally known author of all "Tarzan" stories together with the entire Tarzan radio cast, including Lord and Lady Graystoke, Captain Tracy, Cecil Clayton, Yont, Professor Porter, Philander, (Joan Burroughs as Jane Porter and  James Pierce as Tarzan)....

Representing the motion picture fraternity were Johnny Weissmuller, the 'Tarzan' of the recent Metro-Golden-Mayer picture, "Tarzan the Ape Man" who, much to the delight of the 3,000 Signal guests present, gave the famous Tarzan yell. Tom Brown from Universal, Barbara Weeks and Lillian Miles from Columbia, as well as scores of famous stars and Hollywood celebrities, including motion picture directors, editors and writers for motion picture magazines....

Representatives from local radio stations, inlcuding KFI, KHJ, KFWB and the entire staff of KNX were in attendance, while a number of popular radio stars, such as Clarence Muse, composer of  Sleepy Time Down South"; Cliff Arquette, in his characterization, "Aunt Hat"; Mary Rossetti, versatile singer, and the KNX Rangers appeared in the stage show.

Eddie Lambert, star comedian and producer of the "Nine o'Clock Reverie," acted as Master of Ceremonies for the show while Freeman Lang, inimitable Master of Ceremonies, presided over the "mike" to introduce the screen stars as well as the leading lights of radio land.

Included among the guests of the Company were several hundred Signal dealers and their families, Company employees and their families, and representatives from other oil companies, the California Oil and Gas Association and representatives from all the press.

Thousands of radio fans who were unable to attend in person enjoyed the premiere through the courtesy of KNX, who broadcast the entire three hour show.

Tarzan Radio Stars Gale Gordon and Joan Burroughs PierceJames & Joan Pierce: Radio's Tarzan and Jane
Joan Burroughs Pierce with Gale Gordon & James Pierce

Signal Oil launched a successful advertising campaign to promote the Tarzan radio show. Through their service stations they offered a blitz of Tarzan merchandise tie-ins - the first being a Tarzan jigsaw puzzle contest. As the popularity of the show grew across America, they created the Signal Tarzan Club and sent out membership cards, buttons, photos and prizes to members. All over the country, kids were begging dad to fill up at Signal, as one of the membership requirements was to bring a new customer to a Signal filling station. Signal gas sations sponsored baseball teams formed by Tarzan Club members. Club members gained points for persuading customers to buy Signal gasoline products and they could redeem these points for prizes such as radios, rifles, cameras, movie projectors, bicycles, watches and sets of Tarzan books. The Club was wildly successful and within a year it boasted over 100,000 members and soon it grew almost too large to manage. 

The Tarzan of the Apes radio show went on to play on scores of radio stations worldwide. In 1934 Signal Oil didn't renew the Tarzan contract, claiming that the project had been too successful. Membership in the Signal Tarzan Club had ballooned to an astounding 415,000 and was still growing. They just couldn't keep up. ERB, Inc. purchased all rights to the serial and continued to sell it, as well as producing and promoting their own Tarzan radio serials. Burroughs became so excited over the potential of this new cross marketing phenomenon that he started to think of ways he himself could adapt it to the marketing of his books

Signal Tarzan Club Button
Celluloid 1" Button
A few years before Signal's Tarzan Club tie-in, ERB had tried a similar Tarzan Club to promote his Tarzan books. Fired up by the success of Signal's version new club, he immediately started planning to revive his orignal idea and eventually he formed the nation-wide, TARZAN CLANS OF AMERICA.

Even though the radio series was immensely popular, Burroughs, most likely anxious to gain more control of the radio shows for ERB Inc., started to voice great dissatisfaction with the scripts and considered taking on the actual writing of the scripts himself.

“There is one factor that may have more effect on reducing book sales than any number of depressions, and that is radio, to which we are looking for far greater returns than our book royalties ever brought us. Already, with two programs, we are netting more than we do from the sale of all our books, which, taken in connection with the fact that there are hundreds of similar programs on the air, suggests that people are taking their fiction this way instead of through books.”

When the contract with American Radio Features came up for renewal in March 1934, they had not quite finished serializing Return; and Tarzan and Jane were not yet married. ERB did not renew the contract and took over production of the series himself. He had started a Tarzan script with a strong part for Jane which he wrote with daughter Joan in mind but before production could begin, Joan Pierce dropped out (she may have been pregnant) and Jim Pierce announced that he would prefer not to appear without his wife. ERB contacted all the show's clients and promised that the show would go on -- better than ever. He proceded to write another script without Jane. The now-shelved  "Jane" script was subsequently turned into the novel, Tarzan's Quest.

Stage and radio actor Carton KaDell was signed for the Tarzan role and a large group of experienced actors was signed for the supporting cast.. Each story was planned to be a 39-episode serial spread over 13 weeks. Burroughs provided the plot outline for the first series: Tarzan and the Diamond of Asher. ERB's story continued on from the point in The Return of Tarzan where the previous series had been interrupted. For continuity he kept the characters Lord Tennington and Hazel Strong but he wrote Jane out of the script.


Electrical Transcription ET Label

Robert Thompson was assigned the task of expanding the outline into a radio script. Years later he was brought back to help script many of the Tarzan comic books and strips. Production of this debut series was completed at Hollywood’s Radio Recordings Inc. on May 5, 1934. Hulbert Burroughs was assigned the job of salesman for the series and made the rounds of potential markets to which he distributed a full colour brochure.

Tarzan of the Air Booklet
[Click here to read the Tarzan of the Air booklet]

Tarzan and the Diamond of Asher: Radio Spirits Re-issue


Although originally broadcast in 1934, the following introduction was penned by Edgar Rice Burroughs for the announcer to read introducing a 1940 broadcast of Tarzan And The Diamond of Asher.

"We bring you Tarzan, that immortal fictional character of Edgar Rice Burroughs, in a new and exciting serial entitled TARZAN AND THE DIAMOND OF ASHER, which is adapted from the novel, 'Tarzan And The Forbidden City.' Deep in the heart of Africa rises a mighty cone-shaped mountain, an extinct volcano, in the huge crater of which lies The Forbidden City of Asher... To reach this stronghold two safaris endure hardships and perils that bring death to some and high adventure to all... One safari is bent on the rescue of the son of its leader... the other, headed by a wily and unscrupulous Oriental, seeks only the Father of Diamonds... And through the intrigue and mystery and the danger moves the majestic figure of Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle."

The show opens in an African river port, where, while dining with his old friend  D’Arnot, Tarzan is mistaken for a man known as Brian Gregory, who has been missing in Africa. Gregory had found a lost treasure before he disappeared and the expedition looking for him is passing through the region. Tarzan joins the expedition which includes Gregory’s sister, Helen, and later, the villain Atan Thome. The adventures en route to and within the Forbidden make for an entertaining radio series.

(A review and synopsis of this 39-part serial is featured in ERBzin-e 144)

For More Information on this Radio Series See:
ERBzin-e 143 for the Tarzan Serials Cast
ERBzin-e 144 for the Summary of all 39 Chapters
ERB Motes & Quotes v.11: RADIO TARZAN

Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr: Radio Spirits Re-issue

The ERB Inc. serial - Tarzan and the Diamond of Asher - was a definite improvement over the Tarzan of the Apes run but despite featuring much stronger characters, plot, action, acting, announcing, and production values, apparently Asher was a hard sell. Unfortunately, very few stations, if any, broadcast the second of the new series: Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr. Tohr was never novelized but was adapted to comic strip form and ran from February 20 through August 26 in 1937 and later it was adapted by Thompson for a Hogarth 1948 strip.

ERB made only two other serious attempts at radio. One occurred on December 19, 1936, when he submitted an idea for a radio show to be called, "I See by the Papers." Ed planned to play the part of a columnist working at the Tarzana Tribune. A demo was produced but the idea never reached fruition as a series.
Two sample programs of “I See by the Papers” were recorded on one disc and Burroughs prepared a script to go with each. The script was preceded by a note to the announcer: “The two sample programs recorded on this disc contain references to news that was current at the time they were written; when broadcast they will be brought up to date.” The scene is set in the offices of the Tarzana Tribune owned by Herman Gooch. Other characters are Mabel, the stenographer, and Jimmy, the office boy. Burroughs himself is a character in the play; he has been employed by Gooch to write the daily column “I See by the Paper.” Burroughs reads a letter from a reader who describes the new column as the “worst drivel” and also calls him a “tool of the capitalists.” Another letter refers to the Tribune as a “Red sheet… that takes orders direct from Moscow.” The remainder of the script involves jokes and comments about news items. The two scripts, about thirteen pages each, adopt a light, disparaging tone about the new column and Burroughs’ writing. He does launch a serious attack on the shipping strike and the economic effects caused by it and, of course, attacks Harry Bridges. ~~  Porges ~ pp. 764-765

Quiet, Please! --  a 1939 radio show  proposal -- was the other concoction. ERB saw this as a weekly, fifteen-minute, one-character show in which he would comment on, and present listener responses about news events, jokes and verses. The emphasis was on quiet -- ERB vehemently expressed his objections to noise. His ramblings on the topic would include verse, such as:
                      The saddest sound that ere did cut
                                     The silence and disturb:
                               The traffic coppers "putt-putt-putt"
                                    That pulls you to the curb.
He couldn't interest anyone in sponsoring the show and nothing came of it.

The Texaco Star Theater program of October 18, 1939 had as its guest, Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Host Ken Murray tried to talk Burroughs into starring him as Tarzan instead of Johnny Weismuller.  Murray put on his production of "Tarzan" for ERB, entitled; The Home Life of Mr. and Mrs. Tarzan or The Apes of Wrath.  Along with Ken Murray and ERB were Frances Langford, Kenny Baker and Irene Ryan. This skit takes up a portion of the first half of the hour-long program.

The abrupt end to ERB’s dreams of integrating radio into his ‘media conglomerate’ was probably partly the result of problems in his business and  personal life and his personal pursuit of escapism at that time (Refer to the ERB TimeLine excerpts featured in ERBzin-e 140). The next Tarzan radio series ~ Tarzan Lord of the Jungle produced by Commodore ~ did not appear on radio until 1952 – two  years after Mr. Burroughs’ death.
In the early '50s Australian radio imported the Tarzan radio show from America. After they had aired 104 of these episodes they produced 1040 12-minute episodes of their own serial -- Tarzan, King of the Apes. The series started about 1953 and many of the storylines were based upon ERB's books. The most intriguing thing about these shows is that they starred Rod Taylor who soon after became a major Hollywood star.
For More Information On This Series, Visit:
ERB Motes & Quotes v.11: RADIO TARZAN


Father of Diamonds: Family Ties

The Asher serial was expanded and sold to Argosy Magazine as a six-part serial (March 19 - April 23, 1938) with the baffling title, The Red Star of Tarzan.

(See ERBzine 0146: Argosy Pulp Digest)

In the time period from September 2 to 30, 1937, ERB adapted the story into a comic strip version illustrated by Rex Maxon in 1938. Much later, Thompson adapted it into a 1947 Dell comic illustrated by Jesse Marsh and later for the 1948-49 Barry/Lehti/Reinman strip.

It later appeared in the '60s in a Gold Key two-parter comic adaptation: Issues 190 & 191 in February and March, 1970.

(See ERBzine 0147: Comics Summary)

The expanded hardcover book version, Tarzan and the Forbidden City, was written by ERB from October 10 to November 18, 1937 and published in 1938.

Novel/Radio Differences
 A great many differences exist between the radio, magazine, strip and novel versions.
For example, some of the differences between the radio serial and the novel include:

RADIO: Tarzan is already in Loango when the radio serial opens and he is introduced to the Gregorys by D’Arnot.
BOOK: Helen is kidnapped by Atan Thome and taken by boat to Bonga. Tarzan, D’Arnot, Gregory and Magra and white hunter Wolff are flown by Lt. Lavac to try to head them off but they make a forced landing.
RADIO: Tarzan, D’Arnot, Magra, the Gregorys, and their two white guides Wolf and Larson travel by boat to Bonga. Villains Atan Thome and Lal Taask follow them in a later riverboat. From Bonga, Tarzan’s party push through the jungle in search of Tuen-Baka while Atan Thome trails them and keeps in touch with their spy Wolf. Magra finally becomes convinced that Tarzan is not Brian Gregory after he saves her from a lion.

BOOK: The villains and the kidnapped Helen are ahead of Tarzan’s party. Helen escapes only to be captured by cannibals. Tarzan rescues her but meanwhile Magra is kidnapped by great apes. Tarzan rescues then rescues her, becomes king of the ape tribe, and brings the apes back to camp.
RADIO: Helen rather than Magra, is kidnapped by the apes. The bearers desert Tarzan’s party and join the villains who lead them in an attack on Tarzan’s camp. Gregory and Lal Taask are killed in the ensuing battle during which Tarzan’s force is overwhelmed. They then agree to help Thome in his search for Tuen-Baka and Asher. Helen disappears again and Tarzan embarks on another search. Larson falls into what turns out to be a tunnel to Tuen-Baka. Here they find a message from Helen and Tarzan leads them toward Tuen-Baka. Along the way Tarzan battles a dinosaur and a flying snake and they are captured by Hesi-Harians. The party is transported up the side of the extinct volcano Tuen-Baka via tracks in a “senhoot” which is powered by the magnetic pull of a lodestone on the crater’s rim.

NOVEL: The inside of the crater contains two warring cities with priests in underwater temples.
RADIO: The crater contains only one city but it is full of many warring factions.
Wolf is killed by the apes who guard the Father of Diamonds and Larson (a character not found in the novel) is killed defending Helen. Magra dies after she is hit by the bullet that Thome fired at Tarzan. Thome is then returned to Asher where he is put into perpetual suspended animation after gazing at the mystical Father of Diamonds gem.

Pulp/Radio/Novel Differences
The pulp revisions also include a great many changes in plot, background, local colour, and characters, in fact, it appears to have been completely rewritten by the Argosy editors, possibly in an attempt to modernize the Burroughs style. ERB usually made few objections when magazine editors made changes in his material but he was adamant that no changes be made in his original text for hardcover book release.

Novel/Strip Differences
The novel and strip stories are remarkably similar except for the substitution of Lavac for the D’Arnot character and the elimination of Larson and Wolf – probably an editorial decision to cut down on the number of characters. Most of the text is found verbatim in the novel. The great many differences between the pulp and novel versions are discussed in the pulp magazine section of ERBzin-e.

Tarzan and the Forbidden City then, although not one of ERB’s best… or best known works, is certainly one of his most adapted stories.
Directory of Archive: Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Fantasy Adventure and the Grandfather of Science Fiction
A Radio Guide
Edgar Rice Burroughs Biography
Return with us now to those thrilling ERBzines of Yesteryear:
Electrical Transcription ET Label
Visit our other ERB of the Air OTR Sites
ERBzine 0011
Tarzan in Radio's Golden Age
ERBzine 141
ERB of the Air
ERBzine 0142
Tarzan of the Air Radio Promo Handout
ERBzine 143
Tarzan Radio Casts
ERBzine 0144
Tarzan and the Diamond of Ashair
39-Episode Radio Serial
Summarized by Bill Hillman
ERBzin-e 659
Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr
Dell Comic & Radio Serial Comparision
By Duane Adams
ERBzin-e 660
Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr
Radio Serial Episodes 1-18
Summarized by Duane Adams
ERBzin-e 661
Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr
Radio Serial Episodes 19-39
Summarized by Duane Adams


INTRO to 39 Episodes
WEEK 1 ~ 99.05,14


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