Thursday, September 17, 2015

September 17 Radio History

In 1931...RCA Victor unveils its new invention, the 33 1/3 rpm long-playing or "LP" record, at the Savoy Plaza Hotel in New York.

RCA Victor introduced "Program Transcription" discs, as Victor called them, played at 33 1⁄3 rpm and used a somewhat finer and more closely spaced groove than typical 78s. They were to be played with a special "Chromium Orange" chrome-plated steel needle. The 10-inch discs, mostly used for popular and light classical music, were normally pressed in shellac, but the 12-inch discs, mostly used for "serious" classical music, were normally pressed in Victor's new vinyl-based Victrolac compound, which provided a much quieter playing surface. They could hold up to 15 minutes per side. Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, performed by the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski, was the first 12-inch recording issued.

Unfortunately for Victor, it was downhill from there. Many of the subsequent issues were not new recordings but simply dubs made from existing 78 rpm record sets. The dubs were audibly inferior to the original 78s. Two-speed turntables with the 33 1⁄3 rpm speed were included only on expensive high-end machines, which sold in small numbers, and people were not buying many records of any kind at the time. Overall record sales in the US had crashed from a high of 105.6 million records sold in 1921 to 5.5 million in 1933, because of competition from radio and the effects of the Great Depression.  Few if any new Program Transcriptions were recorded after 1933 and two-speed turntables soon disappeared from consumer products. Except for a few recordings of background music for funeral parlors, the last of the issued titles had been purged from the company's record catalog by the end of the decade. The failure of the new product left RCA Victor with a low opinion of the prospects for any sort of long-playing record, influencing product development decisions during the coming decade.

The new format to lie dormant for years until Columbia revives it in 1948.

Kate Smith
In 1936..the Kate Smith Hour began a decade-long run on CBS radio, presenting weekly a 60-minute mix of music, drama, comedy & human interest.  The show first introduced America to the comedy team of Abbott & Costello, and to the future radio favorite ‘The Aldrich Family.’

In 1964...The Beatles break with established practice and agree to add an extra date to their current US tour after the group is offered a then-record $150,000 by the owner of the Kansas City (Missouri) Athletics to perform a gig in KC's Municipal Stadium. The Beatles cannily add their medley of "Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!" to the setlist, the only time they would play this song in concert in America.

Afterward, their hotel manager sells their unwashed bedsheets to two businessmen from Chicago, who promptly cut them up and sell the pieces for $10 a pop

In 1967...Appearing on CBS-TV's Ed Sullivan Show , the Doors are asked to change the line "Girl, we couldn't get much higher" in their hit "Light My Fire." Lead singer Jim Morrison agrees, then sings the offending words anyway, leading to a lifetime ban from the show.

In 1967...The Who performed on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.  But that's just part of the story.  Drummer Keith Moon rigged his drumset to explode at the conclusion of "My Generation", which he did for every show during the period.  Only this time, the jokester rigged several times the normal amount of explosives, and didn't tell the rest of the group.  The result of the stunt was a massive explosion on stage.  One of Moon's drum cymbals shattered, causing cuts to Moon's leg and arms was cut.  Guitarist Pete Townshend was closest to the blast, which singed his hair.

In 1976...Jay Thomas does first show at WXLO NYC

In 1983...The Hot 100..Michael Sembello remained at #1 with "Maniac" with Billy Joel climbing up with "Tell Her About It".  Men Without Hats were up to #3 with "The Safety Dance" and Bonnie Tyler's great song "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" was going to be a serious factor in the weeks to come.  The rest of the Top 10:  two former 1's--the Eurythmics and "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) and "Every Break You Take" from the Police, Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" at #7, Taco with "Puttin' On The Ritz", Air Supply roared up from 15 to 9 with "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All" and Asia cracked the Top 10 with "Don't Cry".

In 1983...on the Album Charts...Synchronicity returned to #1 for the Police on the album chart, temporarily derailing Thriller by Michael Jackson.  The Soundtrack to "Flashdance" was third

In 1989...WMCA 570 AM NYC flipped format to religious.

The WMCA Good Guys Meet The Beatles
Throughout the 1960s, WMCA beat other radio stations on most Beatles' promotions, scoring firsts, causing headaches in particular for rival WABC - most notably when Capitol Records printed a photograph of the "Good Guys" line-up - on the back of a limited edition record sleeve for the single, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (Side 2: "I Saw Her Standing There"). WMCA's Good Guys were also featured at both of the Beatles' concerts at Shea Stadium, on August 15, 1965 and on August 23, 1966.

WABC responded in different ways, scoring a success during the Beatles' second New York visit in August 1964 - when the band stayed at the Delmonico Hotel, rousing thousands of teenage fans into a frenzy - while broadcasting from one floor above the Beatles' rooms.  WABC later went against its own music policies, promising promoter Sid Bernstein that it would play a new group he was handling before any other New York City radio station - if it could get exclusive access to the Beatles. WABC never added records "out of the box" - but it did for Sid Bernstein when it played The Young Rascals' "I Ain't Going To Eat Out My Heart Anymore" - before other radio stations.

Since WABC knew WMCA already had a relationship with the Beatles, with tapes of the group promoting the station - what could WABC do to achieve the same? In August 1965, WABC came up with what it thought was a brilliant idea - issuing "medals" called "The Order of the All-Americans" - tied to its own DJs.[18] The strategy was to present the medals to each of the Beatles the next time they were in New York. Everything was set.

WABC's Bruce Morrow interview The Beatles August 1965
The goal was to get each Beatle to comment on the "medal" - and then to get each to say the station's call letters, "W-A-B-C." These in turn could be used in station IDs and promotions, etc. - thus matching WMCA's success at getting the Beatles to promote WMCA and its Good Guys. But WABC's plan backfired. The station got its interviews, but none of the band's members would utter WABC's call letters. According to Beatles' historian Bruce Spizer, manager Brian Epstein ordered the Beatles to stop "giving away valuable promotional spots to radio stations for free."

In 1997…Comedian/radio and TV host Red Skelton died of pneumonia at age 84.

Red Skelton
Skelton's first radio appearance on Rudy Vallée's The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour on August 12, 1937. Vallée's program had a talent show segment and those who were searching for stardom were eager to be heard on it. Vallée also booked veteran comic and fellow Indiana native Joe Cook to appear as a guest with Skelton. The two Hoosiers proceeded to trade jokes about their home towns, with Skelton contending to Cook, an Evansville native, that the city was a suburb of Vincennes.

On October 1, 1938, Skelton replaced Red Foley as the host of Avalon Time on NBC; Edna also joined the show's cast, under her maiden name.  She developed a system for working with the show's writers: selecting material from them, adding her own and filing the unused bits and lines for future use; the Skeltons worked on Avalon Time until late 1939.  Skelton's work in films led to a new regular radio show offer; between films, he promoted himself and MGM by appearing without charge at Los Angeles area banquets. A radio advertising agent was a guest at one of his banquet performances and recommended Skelton to one of his clients.

Skelton went on the air with his own radio show, The Raleigh Cigarette Program, on October 7, 1941. The bandleader for the show was Ozzie Nelson; his wife, Harriet, who worked under her maiden name of Hilliard, was the show's vocalist and also worked with Skelton in skits.

In 2011…TV entertainment reporter (E! News Live)/sports reporter (ESPN)/radio show host (WCCO-Minneapolis)/actress Eleanor Mondale, daughter of former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale, died of brain cancer at 51.

In 2012…Fashion model/actress/radio personality (Miss Monitor on the NBC weekend radio series Monitor) Tedi Thurman died at the age of 89.

Tedi Thurman
Tedi Thurman, NBC radio’s Miss Monitor Weather Girl extraordinaire, posing in the '50s as a femme fatale seductress, costumed in a sun hat with batteries hanging off the side so that no one needs miss a word of her double entendre laden weather reporting.  With the tongue in cheek sash reading “Miss Portable Radio,” take that baby with you everywhere!

Her gig on Monitor made her the most recognizable female voice on radio during the 1950s-1960s. Notably, not only does Tedi have one of the most iconic voices in radio history, and her weather girl antics influenced the entire profession.

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