Friday, March 10, 2017

March 10 Radio History

In 1876...Alexander Graham Bell made the first successful test of his new invention, the telephone, in Boston, a month after patenting the device. He transmitted the first intelligible speech, room to room, telling his assistant, ‘Come here, Watson. I need you.' 

In 1920...singer/mandolinist Kenneth C. (Jethro) Burns was born near Knoxville Tennessee.  He was half of the famous country comedy team of Homer and Jethro, who first teamed up at age 12.  They appeared together many times on the WLS National Barn Dance.  He died Feb. 4 1989 at age 68.

In 1922...'Radio Sweeping Country-Million Sets In Use' headlines Variety.

In 1922...KLZ-AM, Denver, Colorado began broadcasting.

Two years earlier, Dr. William "Doc" Reynolds, a dentist, founded Colorado's first experimental radio station, 9ZAF, at his 1124 S. University home in Denver.

The studio was on the front porch and the transmitter was in the back yard.

On March 10, 1922, the station's call sign changed to KLZ, then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover granted Reynolds one of the first commercial broadcasting licenses in the country, and KLZ became Colorado's first commercial radio station.

1920s-Era Radio Receiver
In 1922…Variety magazine greeted readers with the front-page headline that read, "Radio Sweeping Country - 1,000,000 Sets in Use."

In 1934...announcer/disc jockey Gary Owens  was born in Mitchell, South Dakota. At 18 he began working as a news reporter at local radio station KORN, and two years later was made news director.

After several moves in the midwest he became a DJ in Dallas, New Orleans, St. Louis, Denver, Sacramento and San Francisco, before finally settling in Los Angeles. He spent two decades playing music with humorous word play in PM drive at KMPC, and became nationally known as the ear-cupping announcer (above) on TV’s Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. Owens is believed to have recorded some 30,000 commercials.

He died Feb. 12 2015 of complications from his life-long diabetes, at age 80.

In 1949…In 1949, Nazi propaganda broadcaster, 48-year-old Mildred E. Gillars, also known as “Axis Sally,” was convicted of treason following a six-week trial in Washington, DC. Gillars was sentenced to 10-to-30 years in prison; she was paroled after serving 12.

Gillars made her most notorious broadcast on June 5, 1944, just prior to the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, in a radio play written by Koischwitz, Vision Of Invasion. She played Evelyn, an Ohio mother, who dreams that her son had died a horrific death on a ship in the English Channel during an attempted invasion of Occupied Europe.

Gillars' remained in Berlin until the end of the war. Her last broadcast was on May 6, 1945, just two days before the German surrender. Having converted to Roman Catholicism while in prison, Gillars went to live at the Our Lady of Bethlehem Convent in Columbus, Ohio, and taught German, French, and music at St. Joseph Academy, Columbus.

Gillars died of colon cancer ain Columbus on June 25, 1988.

In 1952... WBZ 1030 AM  Boston began 24-hour a day programming.

In 1955..."The Silver Eagle" program was broadcast for the last time on radio. ABC began broadcasting The Silver Eagle during the summer of 1951. The stories centered on Sergeant Jim West of the Canadian Northwest Mounted Police, played by Jim Ameche (Don's kid brother). The show followed the traditions of Fran Striker's The Lone Ranger and Challenge of the Yukon.  Listeners could hear The Silver Eagle every Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.

In 1962...First New York Mets radio broadcast on WABC. Under PD Sam Holman, WABC achieved No. 1 ratings during much of 1962, after WMGM reverted to WHN. By the summer of 1963, WMCA led the pack, with WABC at No. 2 and WINS slipping to third place.  WABC aited the Mets for these two years only.

In 1980…Radio-TV broadcaster/creator of the Ronald McDonald character for McDonald's Corporation restaurants/commercial spokesman Willard Scott became the weather forecaster on NBC-TV's "Today" show. After more than a decade in that role, he is now the substitute for weatherman Al Roker on the program and appears twice weekly to wish centenarians happy birthday.

From 1955 to 1972, Scott teamed with Ed Walker as co-host of the nightly Joy Boys radio program on WRC 980 AM (now Sports-WTEM). (This was interrupted from 1956-1958 when Scott served on active duty with the U.S.Navy.)

Scott routinely sketched a list of characters and a few lead lines setting up a situation, which Walker would commit to memory or make notes on with his Braille typewriter (he was blind since birth).

In a 1999 article recalling the Joy Boys at the height of their popularity in the mid-1960s, The Washington Post said they "dominated Washington, providing entertainment, companionship, and community to a city on the verge of powerful change". The Joy Boys show played on WRC until 1972 when they moved to cross-town station WWDC 1260 AM (now Talk-WWRC) for another two years. Scott wrote in his book, The Joy of Living, of their close professional and personal bond, saying that they were "closer than most brothers".

n late 2015, Walker was diagnosed with cancer and retired from The Big Broadcast on non-com WAMU-FM in DC to focus on his health and spend more time with his family. His last show aired from 7:00 to 11:00 PM on October 25, 2015. It was recorded the week before from his room at Sibley Memorial Hospital where he had been receiving treatment. He died just three hours after that last broadcast concluded.

In 2003...Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines told an audience in London, “Just so you know, we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” That unleashed a firestorm of criticism back home in the US that included radio stations banning their music and protests outside their concerts.

In 2013…Newsman/staff announcer (WGN-TV, WGN-Radio, ABC Radio) Marty McNeeley died at the age of 86.

During 17 years with WGN television and radio, McNeeley took on a variety of roles. He was a weekend TV news anchor, co-hosted a radio sports talk show, delivered on-the-hour newscasts for Eddie Schwartz's overnight radio show and provided the voice-over introduction for Channel 9's weekly horror movie program, "Creature Features."

McNeeley grew up in Youngstown, Ohio. His first broadcasting job, while he was still in high school, was with a small Youngstown radio station, WFMJ-AM.

He studied at what is now Youngstown State University before being drafted into the Navy, where he wound up with Armed Forces Radio in San Francisco. After the war, he took a job as an announcer in Cleveland. He then worked in radio in Detroit and Philadelphia, moving into TV as an anchorman in the 1960s.

McNeeley joined WGN in 1969 as the primary news anchor of the overnight news show "Night Beat," which would last for 20 or 30 minutes before the station signed off at 1:30 a.m.

McNeeley resigned from WGN in 1986 and moved to New York. After brief stints at news stations WNEW 1130 AM and WINS 1010 AM, he found a home as an anchor for ABC Radio, where he worked until retiring in 1993.

In 2014…Radio station and sports team owner (Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Nets) Jospeh Zingale died of Parkinson's disease at the age of 80. Joe was one of the owners of WIXY-Cleveland.

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