Saturday, January 7, 2017

January 8 Radio History

KGO Building circa 1926
In 1924...After several late-night test broadcasts, using the experimental call letter 6XG, radio station KGO signed on the air from General Electric's Oakland, electrical facility (the original two-story brick building, constructed specifically for the station on East 14th Street, still exists on the site), as part of a planned three-station network comprising WGY in Schenectady, New York, and KOA in Denver, Colorado.

The General Electric Company had been one of the giants of the electrical industry since its founding by Thomas A. Edison in the nineteenth century. After conquering the worlds of power generation and electric lighting, the company became one of the pioneers in the radio field as a partner with Westinghouse in the new RCA manufacturing conglomerate. As a major early manufacturer of radio receivers, they, like Westinghouse, saw the value in operating broadcast stations to promote the sale of radio receivers. General Electric constructed and operated WGY at its manufacturing facility in Schenectady, New York in 1922.

With the success of WGY, General Electric began making plans to build two other high-powered radio stations. One station was to cover the mountain and plains states, while the third was to be heard on the Pacific Coast. They immediately began investigating the San Francisco area as a base for the Pacific station, because of its location midway along the coast, and because of the ample supply of musical talent in the area. Originally, General Electric announced plans to build the station on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, and had drawn up plans for several ornamental antenna structures to be built there. However, they finally settled on a site in Oakland, at a G. E. power transformer manufacturing facility there, located at East 14th Street and 55th Avenue. At the time, what is now known as East Oakland was only sparsely populated, and G. E. had just completed their sprawling plant on a 24-acre site earlier that year.

Construction was begun on the studio and transmitter buildings in June of 1923, about a year before the company's third station, KOA in Denver, was begun. The license was applied for and the call letters KGO assigned. Those call letters had previously been held by a radio store in Altadena, near Los Angeles. That station had gone off the air after less than a year of operation.

Meanwhile, newspapers in the area were heralding the coming of a great new super-station to the Bay Area. The "Examiner" headlined, "Plans Ready for Biggest Radio in the West". It announced that the new thousand-watt station would be strong enough to "throw the human voice one third around the world ... more powerful than any station west of Schenectady, New York," referring to G. E.'s eastern operation.

KGO was first known as the "Sunset Station"; at that time it operated with a then-impressive 1000 watts.  As was the custom with early radio stations, the programming consisted of performances by local talent, including the KGO Orchestra which provided some of the music; and a dramatic group known as the KGO Players, which performed weekly plays and short skits, often under the direction of Bay-area drama instructor Wilda Wilson Church. The station's music, which was also performed by other local orchestras and vocalists, would include classical selections as well as popular dance music the next night. Due to GE's involvement in RCA and RCA's launch of the NBC radio network, KGO was soon operated by NBC management as part of the NBC network.

Click Here for 1950 Program Schedule

KGO Transmitter Room - Date Unknown
By the 1928 Band Plan, 790 kHz was allocated to Oakland, California, and to KGO, which was then owned by General Electric, on an internationally cleared basis. In order to obtain a clear channel in Schenectady, New York, for what would become the present-day WGY, GE effected a breakdown of 790 kHz, whereby WGY would assume the maximum permissible power, and KGO would be lowered in power to 7.5 kW, which was then lower than the minimum permissible power for a clear channel station (10 kW), but higher than the then maximum permissible power for a regional channel station (5 kW). Both stations retained omnidirectional antennas. Therefore, GE effectively removed from the West one of its eight clear channels and added an additional clear channel to the East thereby giving the East nine clear channels and the West only seven. The other "regions" in the Band Plan all retained their allotted eight clear channels. In 1941, stations on 790 kHz were moved to 810 kHz. On December 1, 1947, KGO was directionalized, and power was increased to 50 kW, the new minimum (and maximum) power for a U.S. clear channel. An article in Broadcasting magazine noted that the increase "retired the nation's oldest regularly operating transmitter -- a 7,500-watter ... in use since Jan. 8, 1924."

KGO's tower falls after the Loma Prieta earthquake (1989)

In 1926...Soupy Sales, an American comedian, actor, radio-TV personality and host, was born.

He was best known for his local and network children's television show, Lunch with Soupy Sales; a series of comedy sketches frequently ending with Sales receiving a pie in the face, which became his trademark.

Sales hosted a midday radio show on WNBC 660 AM in New York from March 1985 to March 1987. His program was between the drive time shifts of Don Imus (morning) and Howard Stern (afternoon), with whom Sales had an acrimonious relationship. An example of this was an incident involving Stern telling listeners that he was cutting the strings in Sales' in-studio piano at 4:05 p.m. on May 1, 1985. On December 21, 2007, Stern revealed this was a stunt staged for "theater of the mind" and to torture Sales; in truth, the piano was never harmed.  Sales' on-air crew included his producer, Ray D'Ariano, newscaster Judy DeAngelis, and pianist Paul Dver, who was also Soupy's manager.

When Soupy's show was not renewed, his time slot would be taken over by D'ariano. Near the end of his contract, Sales lost his temper on the air, and began to speak very frankly about how he felt he had been treated poorly by the station, and how he felt betrayed that D'ariano would be taking over the show. The show went to break after a commercial - Sales was off the air, replaced without comment or explanation by program director Randy Baumgarten. Soupy would not return to the air. He died October 22, 2009 at age 83.

In 1929...the CBS Radio Network purchased WABC in New York City. The WABC calls were once used previously on CBS Radio's New York City outlet, before adopting their current WCBS identity in 1946. Network founder William S. Paley appeared for the first time on the Columbia Broadcasting System to announce that it had become the largest chain of stations in radio’s short history.

In 1935...Elvis Presley was born. He died Aug. 16, 1977 at 42.

In 1944...Billboard magazine published the first country music chart under the name Juke Box Folk Records. "Pistol Packin' Mama" by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters was its first #1 song.

In 1946...For his 11th birthday, Elvis Presley was taken by his mother to the Tupelo Hardware Company. Instead of the rifle he wanted for a birthday gift, Elvis received his first guitar, priced at $7.75. 

In 1995...Eddie Vedder from "Pearl Jam" played host to a national Radio broadcast called "Self Pollution Radio" which originated from Seattle, Washington.

In 2004...John A. Gambling, heir to a WOR-New York morning radio dynasty begun by his father and continued by his son, died of heart failure at 73. Gambling worked at WOR radio from 1959 until 1991 when he retired. He succeeded his father, John B. Gambling, who began the show in 1925. After an eight-year stint at crosstown WABC, John R. Gambling (son of John A., grandson of John B.) continued the family business on WOR until his retirement on December 20, 2013.

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