Lindsay Graham is a marketing director for Southern Methodist University with an unusual part-time gig. Graham combines voice, sound effects and a bit of acting for the American History Tellers podcast, which debuted at No. 1 this month on iTunes. Wondery, the company behind the Tides of History podcast, backs Graham's weekly podcast, which launched Jan. 3 with three episodes.
“They knew there was a thirst for informative, educational and immersive historical programming,” Graham says. “So this is kind of the genesis for American History Tellers.”
Graham developed a deep appreciation for history in college, where he majored in the subject.
Each segment of American History Tellers goes through several stages. There’s research for the script, which is written by a staff of historians with doctorates. It takes Graham about 90 minutes to get the words out, he says. Then, there are hours and hours of editing and postproduction.
“I haven’t counted up the hours,” he says, “but it’s many.”
Graham believes that podcasting, which started “almost with the internet and certainly with MP3 technology,” has gained momentum over the last few years because of advances in technology that allow people to consume all kinds of content on demand in all sorts of environments — in their cars, at home, in their heads and on their own time.
“It’s just a return to an art form that’s been with us for a long time,” he says. “It’s kind of the old-school radio programs. … It’s the best way to be together with someone while being alone.”
Graham says American History Tellers, which focuses on the Cold War era in its first six segments, doesn’t emphasize a top-down version of history but instead focuses on actual Americans who lived through certain experiences, such as being terrified of nuclear annihilation. Through the proven power of Wondery’s immersive, multidimensional sonic approach, it puts listeners in the shoes of people who lived in those periods, allowing them to truly experience history — not just have it recited to them.
“Just discovered, and I’m hooked,” Facebook user Kim Paine writes on the show's page.
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The popular podcast also reveals little-known historical facts “like how jazz played a major role in promoting positive views of the US abroad during the Cold War,” according to a press release. On the show, Graham relates how the United States used radio stations for a global propaganda campaign that would broadcast programming in conjunction with sending jazz musicians overseas on goodwill tours.
“We were exporting a vision of America as prosperous, as creative and as integrated even though that may have not been the case everywhere at home,” he says. “The jazz musicians were often black and white playing together. And that is what the state department wanted to convey to the world.”
After the Cold War episodes, listeners can hear about Prohibition, the American Revolution, the space race, and the history of national parks and of Texas. Since American History Tellers is a national podcast, Graham says the Texas history segments may focus more on San Antonio and Houston, adding that any future Dallas segments are likely to focus on the JFK assassination.
Graham says he plans to release a new podcast in the spring.