Saturday, October 31, 2015

October 31 Radio History

In 1912...actress & singing cowgirl Dale Evans was born (Frances Butts) in Uvalde Texas. She was Roy Rogers’ partner in life, the movies, radio & TV.  Dale wrote Roy’s theme song, Happy Trails to You. She died at 88 on Feb 7, 2001 of congestive heart failure.

In 1942..."White Christmas" by Bing Crosby hit No. 1 on the pop singles chart, where it stayed for 11 weeks.

In 1942...CBS radio debuted Thanks to the Yanks, a wartime themed game show starring Bob Hawk, the quizmaster who had introduced Take it Or Leave It to radio, the original $64 Question show.

In 1968..The War of the Worlds was a radio drama, originally aired by Buffalo, New York radio station Top40 WKBW 1520 AM on October 31, 1968. It was a modernized version of the original radio drama aired by CBS in 1938.

WKBW program director Jefferson Kaye (d. 2012), a big fan of the original Orson Welles version from three decades earlier, wondered what The War of the Worlds would sound like if it was made using up-to-date (for 1968) radio news equipment, covering the "story" of a Martian invasion. Up until this point, most radio renditions of the 1938 broadcast were simply script re-readings with different actors or had minor variations to account for significantly different geographical locations. Kaye decided to disregard the original script entirely, move the action to Grand Island, New York, and use actual WKBW disc jockeys and news reporters as actors.

Other changes reflected the changing state of the industry: instead of the old-time radio programming fare of the 1930s, WKBW's War of the Worlds broadcast was interwoven into the station's Top40 programming.

Initially, a script was written for the news reporters to act out; however, upon hearing the rehearsals, it was evident that the news reporters were not adept at scripted radio acting. So instead, Kaye wrote an outline based on the events that were to occur, and the news reporters were then asked to describe the events as they would covering an actual news story. The results were much more realistic for its time, and this was the process used for the actual broadcast.

Jeff Kaye
Despite an exhaustive advertising campaign by WKBW for this show, several people were still convinced upon listening to it that the events unfolding in the show were genuine. Among those fooled included a local newspaper, several small-town police officers and even the Canadian military, which dispatched troops to the Peace Bridge. Although the public concern over the legitimacy of the broadcast was not as great as in 1938, creator Kaye and director Dan Kriegler feared that they were going to lose their jobs as a result of the broadcast; Kaye claimed that he actually submitted his resignation, certain that he was going to be fired the next day. However, no one involved in the broadcast was fired and the resignation was not accepted.

It was a generally conceived notion before the broadcast that a mass hoax, even one as unintentional as the 1938 program, could never be duplicated again by a lone radio broadcast. The rise of television as a preferred news medium was a factor in this notion that radio could no longer produce such a drastic response from its audience. The fact that the WKBW broadcast could unintentionally re-create that response on a smaller scale surprised many people and garnered a lot of post-broadcast attention on the radio station. In this way, it was a successful marketing gimmick.

The original and longest airing broadcasts. featured Sandy Beach during the opening.

In 1988...prominent network radio announcer & commercial spokesman Ken Niles died, aged 81.  He had numerous assignments from the late 1920′s through the 1950′s, as announcer for Abbott & Costello, Judy Canova, Danny Kaye, Louella Parsons and Kay Kyser, plus such shows as A Date with Judy, Life of Riley, Beulah, Camel Caravan and Suspense.

In 2008...Chicago author/actor/radio host Studs Terkel died at age 96. He broadcast on WFMT/Chicago for 45 years.

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