Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January 31 Radio History

In 1892...comedian Eddie Cantor was born Edward Israel Iskowitz in New York City.  The man known for his “banjo eyes” and his five daughters was the first of the great vaudevillians to hit it big on radio, after an appearance on the Rudy Vallee Show in early 1931.  In 1950 he jumped into TV & was an instant hit in the new medium.  But he never fully recovered from a heart attack two years later, and died Oct 10, 1964 at age 72.

In 1902...eccentric actress Tallulah Bankhead was born in Huntsville Alabama. Her most important broadcast credit was as hostess of NBC Radio’s last hurrah, the star-studded “The Big Show” Sunday night variety extravaganza as the tidal wave of TV was taking effect. Her last screen appearance was in 1966 as The Black Widow on TV’s Batman. She died of pneumonia Dec 12, 1968 at age 66.

In 1915...Emmy-winning broadcaster Garry Moore was born Thomas Garrison Morfit in Baltimore. Best remembered for his TV variety show that introduced Carol Burnett, plus hosting the game shows I’ve Got A Secret & To Tell the Truth.   He first caught the public ear as co-host of the Chicago-based daytime radio show, Club Matinee.  He went on to co-star with Jimmy Durante in a top rated evening variety show, then hosted his own daily daytime one-hour radio show before moving to TV.  He died of emphysema Nov 28, 1993 at age 78.

In 1936...the "The Green Hornet" debuted on WXYZ Radio, the same local Detroit station that originated its companion shows The Lone Ranger and Challenge of the Yukon. Beginning on April 12, 1938, the station supplied the series to the Mutual Broadcasting System radio network, and then to NBC Blue and its successors, the Blue Network and ABC, from November 16, 1939, through September 8, 1950. It returned from September 10 to December 5, 1952.  It was sponsored by General Mills from January to August 1948, and by Orange Crush in its brief 1952 run.

Major Armstrong
In 1954...Major Edwin Armstrong - founder of FM radio - died from an apparent suicide.  He has been called "the most prolific and influential inventor in radio history".  He invented the regenerative circuit while he was an undergraduate and patented it in 1914, followed by the super-regenerative circuit in 1922, and the superheterodyne receiver in 1918. Armstrong was also the inventor of modern frequency modulation (FM) radio transmission.

Armstrong was born in New York City in 1890. He studied at Columbia University.  During his third year at Columbia, Armstrong came up with his first major invention: the first radio amplifier. He had learned how Lee DeForest's radio tube worked, then he redesigned it by taking the electromagnetic waves that came from a radio transmission and repeatedly feeding the signal back through the tube. Each time, the signal's power would increase as much as 20,000 times a second.

This phenomenon, which Armstrong called "regeneration," was an extremely important discovery in the early days of radio. With this development, radio engineers no longer needed 20-ton generators to get their stations on the air. Armstrong's single-circuit design provided the key to the continuous-wave transmitter that is at the core of radio operations today. He graduated with his B.S. in engineering in 1913. He patented his creation and licensed it to the Marconi corporation, in 1914.

Soon after graduation, Armstrong was sent to Paris to serve in World War I. There he came up with his second major invention, the superheterodyne receiver, after he had been put on a project to improve ability to intercept shortwave enemy communications. The superheterodyne receiver is still part of virtually every tuner in today's radios, televisions and radars.

In 1920, Westinghouse bought Armstrong's patent for the superheterodyne receiver, and started up the nation's first radio station, KDKA, in Pittsburgh.

Radio became very popular at about this time, and more and more stations came to the airwaves. The Radio Corporation of America, or RCA soon bought up all of Westinghouse's radio patents, as well as the patents of other competitors.

By then, Armstrong was back at Columbia University working as a professor. In 1923 he married Marion MacInnes, secretary to the president of RCA, David Sarnoff. Later that decade he became embroiled in a corporate war for control of radio patents. This continued through the early part of the 1930s, and Armstrong was unsuccessful in most of his court battles. Meanwhile, however, he pursued a solution to the problem of static in radio. By the late 1920's he had decided the only solution was to design an entirely new system. In 1933 he presented the wide-band frequency modulation (FM) system, which gave clear reception even in storms and offered the highest fidelity sound yet heard in radio. The system also allowed for a single carrier wave to transmit two radio programs at once. This development was called "multiplexing."

In 1940 Armstrong got a permit for the first FM station, which he established in Alpine, New Jersey. In 1941 the Franklin Institute awarded Armstrong the Franklin Medal, one of the science community's highest honors.

Armstrong went on to prove that FM was capable of dual-channel transmissions, allowing for stereo sound. This capability of FM could also be used to send two separate non-stereo programs, or a facsimile and telegraph message simultaneously in a process called multiplexing. He even successfully bounced a FM signal off the moon, something not possible with AM signals.

According to damninteresting.com, AM radio was big business in the pre-television days, and there were powerful people who wanted things to stay as they were. Innovation only meant smaller profits for them. At that time there was no more influential man in radio media than the founder of RCA, David Sarnoff. Known as "The General," Sarnoff controlled all the technical aspects of radio; he also created the NBC and ABC television networks. He was also an important early supporter of television and developed the current NTSC standard for TV that we have used for over 60 years.

Regenerative Circuit 1912
Seeking to kill FM radio before it could threaten his profits, Sarnoff's company successfully lobbied the FCC to have the FM spectrum moved from Armstrong’s frequencies to the ones we use today: 88 to 108 MHz. The FCC ruling said that the 40 MHz band was to be used for the new television broadcasts, in which RCA had a heavy stake. RCA also had an ally in AT&T, which actively supported the frequency move because the loss of FM relaying stations forced Armstrong's Yankee Network stations to buy wired links from AT&T. The deck was stacked against the future of FM broadcasting.

Matters became worse when Armstrong became entangled in a new patent suit with RCA and NBC, who were using FM technology without paying royalties. The cost of the new legal battle compounded the financial burden that the problems with the Yankee Network had caused. His health and temperament deteriorated as the FM lawsuit dominated his life. His wife of thirty-one years, unable to cope with his worsening personality and financial strain, left him in November of 1953. RCA's greater financial resources crushed Armstrong's legal defences, and he was left penniless, alone, and distraught.

On February 1, 1954, Armstrong's body was discovered on the roof of a three-story wing of his apartment building. In despair, he had thrown himself out the window of his thirteenth-floor New York City apartment sometime during the night. He died believing he was a failure, and that FM radio would never become accepted. Through the years Armstrong’s widow would bring twenty-one patent infringement suits against many companies, including RCA. She eventually won a little over $10 million in damages. But it would take further decades for FM radio to reach its potential.

Following Armstrong’s death, television’s emerging popularity ended radio’s golden years. Slowly, listeners learned that FM radio was clearly better for musical high fidelity than AM broadcasts. Radios started to have an FM band included with the AM band in the late 1950s and 1960s. By the 1970s, FM audience size surpassed that of AM, and the gap has been growing ever since.

He held 42 patents and received numerous awards, including the first Institute of Radio Engineers now IEEE Medal of Honor, the French Legion of Honor, the 1941 Franklin Medal and the 1942 Edison Medal. He is a member of the National Inventors Hall.

This is an audio recording of the March 6, 1954 final broadcast of Major Edwin Armstrong's experimental FM station at Alpine, NJ. This broadcast came a month after the inventor of FM radio jumped to his death.

The audio track is accompanied by historical photos and footage

In 1958...U.S. launches its first satellite, Explorer I

In 1992...sportscaster Howard Cosell retired from his few remaining ABC Radio duties at age 73.  He would pass away little more than 3 years later.

In 2000...Peter Tripp, who wowed radio audiences with his mid-1950s Top-40 countdown record shows on WHB in Kansas City, and later at New York City's WMGM 1050 AM, died January 31, 2000, at Northridge California Hospital, following an apparent stroke suffered at his home in West Hills, California.

Tripp was 73 years old.

Tripp became one of the nation's best known Top-40 countdown radio personalities beginning in 1954 at Todd Storz' WHB in Kansas City, and at Loew's Theatres' WMGM in New York City from 1955 through 1960 with his "Your Hits Of The Week" program.

Billing himself as "The curly-headed kid in the third row", Tripp is best remembered for the WMGM promotion where he remained awake for 201 hours during a sleep deprivation stunt benefitting the March Of Dimes.

In 2013…Former radio talk show host (KSFO-San Francisco, KIRO-Seattle, WIND-Chicago) Lee Rodgers died during heart surgery at age 76.

Lee Rodgers
He was born and raised in poverty near Memphis, Tennessee, lost part of a leg at age 13 working in timber industry and then spent years living in different parts of the United States. A self-described part-time coach, referee, catalyst and provocateur, he began his broadcasting career at WIND in 1963 as a disc jockey and sportscaster, followed by stints with radio stations in ST. Louis, Miami and Chicago.

After 10 years with KGO, Rodgers went north to KIRO radio in Seattle. One year later, he returned to the Bay Area where "the most interesting and spirited dialogue in talk radio takes place." He believed, "Even with good guests, it's the simulation of the callers that makes the show."

He spent over 25 years broadcasting from San Francisco and continued making his voice heard even off the air through his blog at radiorodgers.com.

 In 2014…Former San Francisco radio personality (KYA, KSFO) Chris Edwards died at age 72.

Chris Edwards
Born Edward Christian Reinholtz on Nov. 10, 1941 in Mount Vernon, New York. He loved radio from a young age, earning an amateur ham radio license as a teenager, and hosted his first radio show, "Moonglow with Edwards," on WRUF, the in-house station at his alma mater, the University of Florida. It was there that he took the on-air name Chris Edwards, which combined his middle and first names.

Edwards got his start in Bay Area radio with the morning show at the original KYA-AM, a highly rated Top 40 station, in 1968. Later, he hosted the afternoon show from 2 to 6 p.m. at the station.

In the 1980s, Mr. Edwards hosted the "Chris Edwards Solid Gold Time Machine," a program that aired on K-101 Sunday nights from 6 to 10 p.m. He also worked at K-101 as a sales executive.

Mr. Edwards moved to KSFO-AM/KYA-FM as an account executive, also hosting a Saturday morning show until the end of 1991. For the next 20 years, he worked in sales at radio stations including KFRC, KABL and KKSF. He retired from KGO/KSFO in the summer of 2011.

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