Saturday, December 31, 2016

December 31 Radio History

In Dick Kollmar was born in Rigewood NJ.

He starred as Boston Blackie in the long-running radio show, and co-hosted a WOR New York chat show with his wife, gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen.  On TV he hosted the series Broadway Spotlight & Guess What.

He died Jan. 7 1971 from an overdose of pills, an apparent suicide at age 60.

In 1914...Roy Rogers’ sidekick Pat Brady was born in Toledo Ohio.

He appeared in more than 100 episodes of TV’s Roy Rogers Show, after hooking up with Roy in films & on radio.   He also sang with the western group Sons of the Pioneers.

He died in a motor vehicle accident Feb. 27 1972 at age 57.

In 1923...In London, the BBC first aired the chimes of Big Ben.

In 1923...the first transatlantic radio broadcast of a voice occurred between Pittsburgh and Manchester, England.

In station KOMO signed on the air in Seattle at AM 980.  Today the longtime Fisher Broadcasting outlet has an all-news format at AM 1000.

KOMO Control circa 1948 (Photos courtesy of

In July 1926, KOMO was founded on Harbor Island as KGFA 980 by two owners: Birt F. Fisher, whose lease on Seattle radio station KTCL was about to run out, and the Fisher brothers of Fisher Flouring Mills, who had been on the island since 1911. (The Fisher Brothers and Birt Fisher were not related.) In preparation for the switch to the new station, Birt Fisher changed KTCL's call sign to KOMO.

In December, his lease ended, and he took the call letters with him to KGFA. KOMO 980's first broadcast was December 31, 1926. The studios moved to Downtown Seattle in 1927. The station also began a long-running affiliation with NBC Radio that year as well, primarily with the Red Network, but also with the short-lived West Coast NBC Orange Network from 1931 to 1933. Over the following years, KOMO's frequency would go from 980 to 1080, back to 980, down to 920, up to 970, then back to 920, and settled at 950 after the NARBA frequency shakeup in 1941.

Circa 1948

Fisher's Blend Station, owner of KOMO, bought NBC Blue Network affiliate KJR from NBC in 1941. In 1944, KOMO switched frequencies with KJR (then at 1000 kHz) and sold KJR off two years later. At its new frequency, KOMO began broadcasting with 50,000 watts of power from its current transmitter site on Vashon Island in 1948. New studios at the corner of Fourth and Denny, near what is now the Seattle Center, were dedicated in February 1948.

In 1929...Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians played "Auld Lang Syne" as a New Year's Eve song for the first time during their first annual New Year's Eve Party at the Hotel Roosevelt Grill in New York. The show was broadcast on the CBS Radio network and became the longest-running annual special program in radio history.

In 1940...ASCAP prevented the radio industry from playing any ASCAP-licensed music. The ban lasted for ten months. It was in reaction to a dispute between the radio networks and ASCAP, the American Society of Composers and Publishers.

In 1943...Country singer John Denver was born Henry John Deutschendorf. He died in a crash of an experimental plane he was piloting on Oct. 12, 1997 at 53.

In 1948...Disco diva Donna Summer was born. She died on May 17, 2012 at 63

In 1951...The "Wild Bill Hickok" TV series was replicated on radio following its success on television.

In 1961...for $300, LA radio station KFWB hired the Beach Boys, appearing under that name for the first time, to perform at their Ritchie Valen’s Memorial Dance in Long Beach.   Previously the group had played California nightclubs as The Pendletones, as Kenny and the Cadets, and as Carl and the Passions.

In 1963...the "Dear Abby Show" premiered on the CBS Radio network. It ran eleven years. On this day in 1966, "Pirate Radio 390" (Radio Invicata)an off-shore station near England, resumed broadcasting.

In 1967...Radio stations across the nation had to comply with an FCC mandate that AM/FM outlets in major cities had to air non-duplicated programming.  The limit was 50 percent for simulcasts. Here's a NY Times story dated January 31, 1966 concerning NYC stations...

In 1970...Paul McCartney sued the other members of the Beatles for a legal dissolution of their "partnership." On the same day, the British magazine Melody Maker announced that the Beatles were looking for a new bass player. Four years to the day later, the four of them came to terms and made the separation final.

In 1972...TV producer Dick Clark initiated a new holiday tradition with "Three Dog Night's New Year's Rockin' Eve" on NBC. The headliners, along with Blood, Sweat & Tears, Helen Reddy, and Al Green, appeared in performances that had been pre-taped in the Grand Ballroom of the Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach, California. Clark himself did not appear on the initial program. In 1973, he began hosting the special, its name shortened to "New Year's Rockin' Eve." The show moved to ABC-TV in 1974.

In 1982...the "CBS Mystery Theater" aired its final episode after 8 years on radio.

In 1982...the NBC Radio network cancelled practically all of it's daily features.

In 1985...Singer/actor Ricky Nelson, his fiancé Helen Blair, and five members of the Stone Canyon Band, died in the crash of his private DC-3 airplane (which was previously owned by Jerry Lee Lewis) near DeKalb, Texas, while en route to a concert appearance in Dallas. The pilot was attempting an emergency landing after a fire, caused by a malfunctioning gas heater, broke out on the plane.

Nelson was 45.

In 1989...the final edit was added to the annual WLS Music Montage.

Every New Year's Eve, the "Top 89" songs of the year were counted down on WLS-AM (and FM). After the #1 song was played at about 4 minutes before Midnight, the radio station wished listeners a Happy New Year!

Then...this wonderful montage was played. Each year added about a minute of the previous top songs in Chicago. The montage originally started short, as you can guess, and ultimately ended up as this 27+ minute marathon.

After WLS-AM changed to all-talk in 1989, this montage was no longer heard in Chicago. But thanks to Scott Childers, this "rebuild" version can be heard exactly as it was played every year. Kudos to Scott for putting this together!

This is an appreciation to the production work that Scott, Tommy Edwards (the originator) and the production staff created over the years.

Thanks to Scott Childers for the permission to post this. Check out his site at

In 2013...Veteran talk radio personality (WOR, WABC, WMCA in New York, KABC, KNX in Los Angeles, WBBM-Chicago, WWDB-Philadelphia) Bob Grant died at the age of 84.

Grant graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in journalism. He began working in radio in the 1940s at the news department at WBBM (AM) in Chicago, as a radio personality and television talk show host at KNX (AM) in Los Angeles, and as an actor. During the Korean War, he served in the Naval Reserve.

He later became sports director at KABC (AM) in Los Angeles, where after some substitute appearances he inherited the talk show of early controversialist Joe Pyne in 1964 and began to build a following. Grant hosted three shows on KABC (AM) in 1964 titled, "Open Line," "Night Line," and "Sunday Line."

Grant was approached to come to New York by executives at WMCA when WMCA was going to become a talk station. He was recommended to them by Jack Thayer, who had been the station manager of KLAC. Grant was opposed to the move, as he hated what he knew about New York i.e. the subways, crime, and congestion. He also had four children and a home in Los Angeles.

Grant was convinced to come to New York when an executive said to him at the end of a meeting, "It's just too bad that the number-one talk-show host in America doesn't want to come to the number-one market in America."  Grant came to New York and did his first show on WMCA on September 21, 1970, where he worked for station manager R. Peter Strauss.

 After being in New York for a short time, Grant wanted to go back to Los Angeles. He was contacted by the former news director at KLAC, who was now a program director at another station to join his station, but Grant declined, because he had signed a two-year contract with WMCA.  Grant's unhappiness being in New York led to him becoming angry with the callers. He hoped to get fired by R. Peter Strauss, however his ratings soared as he got angrier.

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