Theme Time Radio Hour (TTRH) was a weekly, one-hour satellite radio show hosted by Bob Dylan originally airing from May 2006 to April 2009. Each episode was an eclectic, freeform mix of blues, folk, rockabilly, R&B, soul, bebop, rock-and-roll, country and pop music, centered on a theme such as "Weather," "Money," and "Flowers" with songs from artists as diverse as Patti Page and LL Cool J. Much of the material for the show's 100 episodes was culled from producer Eddie Gorodetsky's music collection, which reportedly includes more than 10,000 records and more than 140,000 digital files.
Interspersed between the music segments were email readings, listener phone calls, vintage radio air checks, old radio promos and jingles, even older jokes from Dylan ("My grandmother is so tidy she puts newspaper under the cuckoo clock"), poetry recitations; taped messages from a variety of celebrities, musicians and comedians; and commentary from Dylan on the music and musicians as well as miscellanea related to the themes. The show was not live (Dylan taped his portions at various locations and while touring), and the studio location at the so-called "Abernathy Building" was fictitious. Most of the "listener phone calls" and emails were also fictitious, although at least one email read on the show came from an actual listener.
The first episode of TTRH was broadcast on May 3, 2006 on the Deep Tracks channel of XM Satellite Radio, a subscription-based satellite radio service, now called Sirius XM Radio after its purchase and merger with competitor Sirius Satellite Radio. TTRH was originally broadcast every Wednesday at 10:00 am ET on Deep Tracks, with several "encore" repeats throughout the week on various channels, including an all-day airing on what was XMX Channel 2.
On November 12, 2008, Sirius XM revised its channel lineup, providing Sirius and XM listeners with access to programming on both networks. As of that date, TTRH began airing every Wednesday at 11 am ET on Deep Tracks – Channel 40 on XM and Channel 16 on Sirius. Several channels on both stations were discontinued in November 2008, including XMX Channel 2, which had aired TTRH all day on Wednesdays.
The show was simulcast on DirecTV until February 9, 2010.
From 2006 through 2008 AOL Radio offered the show on "AOL Radio featuring XM," a selection of 200 XM radio stations that was available to those with an AOL login and a broadband internet connection. In March 2008, XM Radio and America Online announced that they were ending that relationship "by mutual agreement" and at the end of April, 2008 the XM Radio channels were no longer available on AOL Radio.
From 2007–9 the program aired in the United Kingdom on BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music, and in Ireland on Dublin-based alternative rock station Phantom FM.
Season 3 of TTRH concluded with the show's 100th original episode on April 15, 2009. The theme of that show was "Goodbye." During an April 2009 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Dylan implied that his contract with Sirius XM had ended, and that he had no plans to do additional episodes of TTRH.
Sirius XM continued to air rebroadcasts of Theme Time Radio Hour on the Deep Tracks channel to the end of April 2011. At the beginning of May 2011, TTRH was replaced with the "Earle Bailey" show.
On July 25, 2011, Sirius XM issued a press release announcing the launch of a 24/7 "Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour" internet-only channel. The press release noted that channel would launch on Monday, August 15 on channel 801 on Sirius XM Internet Radio and would feature "every one of Dylan's classic 'Theme Time Radio Hour' shows." The release also noted "Sirius XM listeners will hear a show from the Theme Time Radio Hour vault on Deep Tracks, channel 27, on Mondays at 8:00 pm; Wednesdays at 11:00 am; Thursdays at 12:00 am and Sundays at 8:00 am (all times Eastern)," marking the show's return to satellite radio, if only in rebroadcasts. The internet channel and radio rebroadcasts were discontinued in August 2013.
Season 1 of TTRH consisted of fifty episodes, airing from May 3, 2006 to April 18, 2007.
Season 2 of TTRH ran from September 19, 2007 to April 2, 2008 for a total 25 new shows. Three Season 2 shows, "Halloween," "Leftovers" (Thanksgiving) and the "Christmas/New Year's Special" were repeats from Season 1.
Season 3 of TTRH ran from Wednesday, October 8, 2008, to Wednesday, April 15, 2009 for a total 25 new shows. Three Season 3 episodes, "President's Day," "Christmas/New Year's Special," and "Number One" were repeats from earlier seasons.
In early February 2015, Berlin radio station Radio Eins made a surprise announcement that it would broadcast a heretofore unknown episode of Theme Time Radio Hour, titled "Kiss," as a special episode of the station's Friendly Takeover series. The Radio Eins "Kiss" episode was broadcast on February 11, 2015 and later by SiriusXM and the BBC. Due to time constraints, both the Radio Eins and BBC versions of the "Kiss" episode were edited by the respective stations, and neither broadcast the complete hour-long show.
Although uncredited in the closing credits, actress Ellen Barkin read the opening "Night/Night time in the Big City" introduction for each episode during the first two seasons of the show, with the exception of the Season 1 Halloween episode (read by comedian Steven Wright). Barkin read the "Big City" intro intermittently during Season 3.
The production credits were usually read at the close of each show. The usual theme music played under the closing credits was "Top Cat (Underscore)" which can be found on the CD compilation Tunes from the Toons: The Best of Hanna-Barbera, issued in 1996 and reissued in 2002. The music is an acoustic version of the theme song from the 1960s cartoon Top Cat. The show's usual credits were as follows:Host: Bob Dylan
Producer: Eddie Gorodetsky
Associate Producer: Season 1 – Sonny Webster. Season 2 – Ben Rollins. Season 3 – Nina Fitzgerald-Washington
Continuity: "Eats" (spelling unknown) Martin
Editor: Damian Rodriguez
Supervising Editor: Rob Macomber
Research Team: Diane Lapson, Bernie Bernstein
Additional Research: Season 1 – Lynne Sheridan, Kimberly Williams, Robert Bower. Seasons 2 and 3 – April Hayes, Callie Gladman, Terrence Michaels, Sean Patrick, and Lynne Sheridan
Librarian: Seasons 2 and 3 – Robert Bower
Production Coordinator: Seasons 2 and 3 – Debbie Sweeney
Production Assistance: Jim McBean
Special Thanks to: Randy Ezratty, Coco Shinomiya, Samson's Diner and Lee Abrams (Season 3)
Studio Engineer: Tex Carbone (changed to Director of Studio Operations midway through Season 2 and continuing through Season 3)
For XM Radio: Lee Abrams (Seasons 1 and 2)
Location: Announced as "Recorded in Studio B, the Abernathy Building" – a fictitious location. (Season 2 modified this to "Recorded in Studio B, in the historic Abernathy Building." Season 3 had several variations on the line including "take the tour," "crown jewel of the city skyline," and "on the 8th floor")
A Greywater Park Production in Association with Big Red Tree
Announcer: "Pierre Mancini" (suspected to be the voice of Producer Eddie Gorodetsky)
"To listen to Theme Time Radio Hour is to rediscover the sense of musical adventure that old-fashioned disc jockeys with strongly individual personalities offered in the days before big-money stations pinned their fiscal hopes to the rigid Top 40-style playlists that took the fun out of radio." – Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal
"He's voluble, generous, articulate. He's liable to quote a poem, give tips on hanging drywall, pass along a recipe. In his show on baseball, he broke into 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game' – a cappella." – Linton Weeks, The Washington Post