Friday, January 20, 2017

January 20 Radio History

In 1896...legendary entertainer George Burns was born Nathan Birnbaum in New York City. After a lengthy apprenticeship in vaudeville, in 1932 George & wife Gracie became a longrunning hit in radio, films & then TV with The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show [“Say goodnight, Gracie.”]  On Gracie’s retirement he returned to a solo act, winning an Oscar with The Sunshine Boys, followed by another hit film Oh, God!  He died Mar 9, 1996 at age 100.

In 1920...Ernst Alexanderson granted US patent for magnetic amplifier.

Ernst Alexanderson
Alexanderson also designed the Alexanderson alternator, an early longwave radio transmitter, one of the first devices which could transmit modulated audio (sound) over radio waves. He had been employed at General Electric for only a short time when GE received an order from Canadian-born professor and researcher Reginald Fessenden, then working for the US Weather Bureau, for a specialized alternator with much higher frequency than others in existence at that time, for use as a radio transmitter. Fessenden had been working on the problem of transmitting sound by radio waves, and had concluded that a new type of radio transmitter was needed, a continuous wave transmitter. Designing a machine that would rotate fast enough to produce radio waves proved a formidable challenge. Alexanderson's family were convinced the huge spinning rotors would fly apart and kill him, and he set up a sandbagged bunker from which to test them. In the summer of 1906 Mr. Alexanderson's first effort, a 50 kHz alternator, was installed in Fessenden's radio station in Brant Rock, Massachusetts. By fall its output had been improved to 500 watts and 75 kHz. On Christmas Eve, 1906, Fessenden made an experimental broadcast of Christmas music, including him playing the violin, that was heard by Navy ships and shore stations down the East Coast as far as Arlington. This is considered the first AM radio entertainment broadcast.

Alexanderson and G.E. continued improving his machine, and the Alexanderson alternator became widely used in high power very low frequency commercial and Naval wireless stations to transmit radiotelegraphy traffic at intercontinental distances, until by the 1930s it was replaced by vacuum tube transmitters.

He also created the amplidyne, a direct current amplifier.

Alexanderson was also instrumental in the development of television. The first television broadcast in the United States was to his GE Plot home at 1132 Adams Rd, Schenectady, NY, in 1927. In 1928, WRGB then W2XB was started as world's first television station. It broadcast from the General Electric facility in Schenectady, NY. It was popularly known as "WGY Television".

Over his lifetime, Mr. Alexanderson received 345 US patents, the last filed in 1968 at age 89. The inventor and engineer remained active to an advanced age, working as a consultant to GE and RCA in the 1950s. He died in 1975 and was buried at Vale Cemetery in Schenectady, New York.

In 1930....1st radio broadcast of "Lone Ranger" (WXYZ-Detroit)

In 1954...America's first black-owned radio network, the National Negro Network, was founded by W. Leonard Evans, Jr. During its brief existence, the network provided up to 45 affiliate stations with programming that included the soap opera, "The Story of Ruby Valentine," starring Juanita Hall and Ruby Dee, as well as the series "It's a Mystery Man," featuring Cab Calloway.

Peter Tripp
In 1959...Peter Tripp’s “Stay Awake Marathon” started. Tripp was a Top-40 countdown radio personality from the mid-1950s, whose career peaked with his 1959 record breaking 201 hour wakeathon (working on the radio non-stop without sleep to benefit the March of Dimes). For much of the stunt, he sat in a glass booth in Times Square. After a few days he began to hallucinate, and for the last 66 hours the observing scientists and doctors gave him drugs to help him stay awake. He was broadcasting for WMGM 1050 AM in New York City at the time.  Tripp suffered psychologically, after the stunt, he began to think he was an imposter of himself, and kept that thought for some time.

His career soon suffered a massive downturn when he was involved in the payola scandal of 1960. Like several other disc jockeys (including Alan Freed) he had been playing particular records in return for gifts from record companies. Indicted only weeks after his stunt, it emerged that he had accepted $36,050 in bribes. Despite his claim that he "never took a dime from anyone", he was found guilty on a charge of commercial bribery, receiving a $500 fine and a six-month suspended sentence.

Even his wakeathon record did not endure for long. Other DJs had quickly attempted to beat it (such publicity stunts being common in radio broadcasting at the time) and Dave Hunter, in Jacksonville, Florida, soon claimed success (225 hours). Six years after Tripp's record, it was smashed by high school student Randy Gardner, who lasted 11 days.

After leaving WMGM, Tripp was unable to re-establish himself in the world of radio, drifting from KYA in San Francisco to KGFJ in Los Angeles and finally WOHO in Toledo, Ohio, before quitting the medium in 1967. Returning to L.A., he had more success working in physical fitness sales and marketing. He diversified into freelance motivational speaking, writing and stockbroking before settling into a Palm Springs, California retirement.

Overall he had spent twenty years in broadcasting: he began with WEXL in Royal Oak, Michigan, in 1947 then on to Kansas City, Missouri in 1953 where he worked for KUDL (where he adopted the nickname "The Bald Kid In The Third Row", apparently a description made by a parent upon spotting him among many rows of new-borns in a hospital shortly after his birth) and then WHB (restyling himself as "The Curly-headed Kid In The Third Row"; he was not, in reality, bald) where he pioneered the Top-40 format. It was in 1955 that he landed his ill-fated job with WMGM in New York, presenting "Your Hits of the Week".

Tripp died at the age of 73 following a stroke, leaving two sons and two daughters. His four marriages all ended in divorce

In 1964...Capitol Records released the album "Meet the Beatles."

In 1965...DJ Alan Freed, (WINS, WABC in New York City, WJW-Cleveland, WAKR-Akron)/concert promoter/movie actor (Rock Around the Clock, Go Johnny Go!, Rock Rock Rock!, Don't Knock the Rock, Mister Rock and Roll), the person credited with coining the term rock 'n' roll, died of uremia and cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 43.

Alan Freed
While attending Ohio State University, Freed became interested in radio. Freed served in the Army during World War II and worked as a DJ on Armed Forces Radio. Soon after World War II, Freed landed broadcasting jobs at small radio stations, including WKST (New Castle, PA); WKBN (Youngstown, OH); and WAKR (Akron, OH), where, in 1945, he became a local favorite for playing hot jazz and pop recordings.

Freed is commonly referred to as the "father of rock'n'roll" due to his promotion of the style of music, and his introduction of the phrase "rock and roll", in reference to the musical genre, on mainstream radio in the early 1950s. He helped bridge the gap of segregation among young teenage Americans, presenting music by African-American artists (rather than cover versions by white artists) on his radio program, and arranging live concerts attended by racially mixed audiences.  Freed appeared in several motion pictures as himself.

Initially interred at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, his ashes were moved in 2002 to their present location in Cleveland, Ohio at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On August 1, 2014, the Hall of Fame asked Alan Freed's son, Lance Freed, to permanently remove the ashes, which he did. The Freed family later announced the ashes would be interred at Cleveland's Lake View Cemetery

In 1996...WPAT 93.1 FM, New York, switched from beautiful music to a English-Spanish format Suave

In 1997...the Howard Stern Radio Show premiered on KKND-FM in New Orleans, Louisiana.

In 2000...the FCC established a new noncommercial licensing category for Low Power FM radio stations (LPFMs), with transmitter power limited to 100 watts, signals reaching from three to five miles, and initially confined to small markets and rural communities.

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