Throughout most of his career he led the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in various capacities from shortly after its founding in 1919 until his retirement in 1970.
Unlike many who were involved with early radio communications, viewing radio as point-to-point, Sarnoff saw the potential of radio as point-to-mass. One person (the broadcaster) could speak to many (the listeners).
When Owen D. Young of the General Electric Company arranged the purchase of American Marconi and turned it into the Radio Corporation of America, a radio patent monopoly, Sarnoff realized his dream and revived his proposal in a lengthy memo on the company's business and prospects. His superiors again ignored him but he contributed to the rising postwar radio boom by helping arrange for the broadcast of a heavyweight boxing match between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier in July 1921. Up to 300,000 people heard the fight, and demand for home radio equipment bloomed that winter. By the spring of 1922 Sarnoff's prediction of popular demand for broadcasting had come true, and over the next eighteen months, he gained in stature and influence.
In 1926, RCA purchased its first radio station (WEAF, New York) and launched the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), the first radio network in America. Four years later, Sarnoff became president of RCA. NBC had by that time split into two networks, the Red and the Blue. The Blue Network later became ABC Radio.
Sarnoff was instrumental in building and established the AM broadcasting radio business which became the preeminent public radio standard for the majority of the 20th century. This was until FM broadcasting radio re-emerged in the 1960s despite Sarnoff's efforts to suppress it.
Sarnoff retired in 1970, at the age of 79, and died the following year, aged 80. He is interred in a mausoleum featuring a stained-glass vacuum tube in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.
In 1922...Commerce Secretary, Herbert Hoover, convened the first National Radio Conference.
In 1940...In Actor Howard Hesseman, Dr. Johnny Fever of WKRP in Cincinnati was born.
In 1942...J. S. Hey discovered that the sun was emitting radiowaves.
By the end of 1964, Murray found out that WINS was going to change to an all news format the following year. He resigned on the air in December 1964 (breaking news about the sale of the station and the change in format before the station and Group W released it) and did his last show on February 27 prior to the format change that occurred in April 1965.
A year later, in 1966, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled that AM and FM radio stations could no longer simply simultaneously broadcast the same content, opening the door for Murray to become program director and primetime dj on WOR-FM — one of the first FM rock stations, soon airing such djs as Rosko and Scott Muni in the new FM format. Murray played long album cuts rather than singles, often playing groups of songs by one artist, or thematically linked songs, uninterrupted by commercials. He combined live in-studio interviews with folk-rock — he called it "attitude music" — and all forms of popular music in a free-form format. He played artists like Bob Dylan and Janis Ian, the long album versions of their songs that came to be known as the "FM cuts". Al Aronowitz quotes Murray as saying about this formula, "You didn't have to hype the record any more. The music was speaking for itself."
Although it was low-key, Murray's WNBC show featured his own innovative trademark programming style, including telling stories that were illustrated by selected songs, his unique segues, and his pairing cuts by theme or idiosyncratic associations. In early 1975, he was brought on for a brief stint at legendary Long Island alternative rock station WLIR, and his final New York radio show ran later that year on WKTU-FM after which — already in ill health — he moved to Los Angeles. The syndicated show Soundtrack of the 60s mentioned below was heard in New York City on WCBS-FM. Gary Owens succeeded Murray as its host.
In 1968...Singer Frankie Lymon, of the group Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, best known for their song, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," died of a heroin overdose. He was 25.
In 1984...WRC-AM in Washington DC changes call letters to WWRC
In 2003...Fred Rogers, creator and host of the PBS children's TV show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, died. He was 74.
In 2008...Pittsburgh journalist/sportscaster/author/National Radio Hall of Famer Myron Cope, color commentator on Pittsburgh Steelers radio broadcasts for 35 years and inventor of the Terrible Towel, died of respiratory failure at age 79.