Saturday, March 25, 2017

March 25 Radio History

In 1918...sportscaster Howard Cosell was born. He died Apr. 23, 1995 at 77.

After the war, Cosell began practicing law in Manhattan, primarily union law. Some of his clients were actors, and some were athletes, including Willie Mays. Cosell's own hero in athletics was Jackie Robinson, who served as a personal and professional inspiration to him in his career. Cosell also represented the Little League of New York, when in 1953 an ABC Radio manager asked him to host a show on New York flagship WABC featuring Little League participants. The show marked the beginning of a relationship with WABC and ABC Radio that would last his entire broadcasting career.

Cosell hosted the Little League show for three years without pay, and then decided to leave the law field to become a full-time broadcaster. He approached Robert Pauley, President of ABC Radio, with a proposal for a weekly show. Pauley told him the network could not afford to develop untried talent, but he would be put on the air if he would get a sponsor. To Pauley's surprise, Cosell came back with a relative's shirt company as a sponsor, and "Speaking of Sports" was born.

Cosell took his "tell it like it is" approach when he teamed with the ex-Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher "Big Numba Thirteen" Ralph Branca on WABC's pre- and post-game radio shows of the New York Mets in their nascent years beginning in 1962. He pulled no punches in taking members of the hapless expansion team to task.

Otherwise on radio, Cosell did his show, Speaking of Sports, as well as sports reports and updates for affiliated radio stations around the country; he continued his radio duties even after he became prominent on television. Cosell then became a sports anchor at WABC-TV in New York, where he served in that role from 1961 to 1974. He expanded his commentary beyond sports to a radio show entitled "Speaking of Everything".

Cosell rose to prominence covering boxer Muhammad Ali, starting when he still fought under his birth name, Cassius Clay. The two seemed to have an affinity despite their different personalities, and complemented each other in broadcasts. Cosell was one of the first sportscasters to refer to the boxer as Muhammad Ali after he changed his name and supported him when he refused to be inducted into the military. Cosell was also an outspoken supporter of Olympic sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith after they raised their fists in a "black power" salute during their 1968 medal ceremony. In a time when many sports broadcasters avoided touching social, racial, or other controversial issues, and kept a certain level of collegiality towards the sports figures they commented on, Cosell did not, and indeed built a reputation around his catchphrase, "I'm just telling it like it is."

Cosell's style of reporting very much transformed sports broadcasting. Whereas previous sportscasters had mostly been known for color commentary and lively play-by-play, Cosell had an intellectual approach. His use of analysis and context arguably brought television sports reporting very close to the kind of in-depth reporting one expected from "hard" news reporters. At the same time, however, his distinctive staccato voice, accent, syntax, and cadence were a form of color commentary all their own.

In 1943...Jimmy Durante (actor/singer/comedian) & Garry Moore (actor/comedian/game show host) had their radio debut. They teamed for The Durante-Moore Show . Durante's comic chemistry with the young, brushcut Moore brought Durante an even larger audience.

"Dat's my boy dat said dat!" became an instant catchphrase. The duo became one of the nation's favorites for the rest of the decade, including a well-reviewed Armed Forces Radio Network command performance with Frank Sinatra that remains a favorite of radio collectors today.

Moore left in mid-1947, and the program returned October 1, 1947 as The Jimmy Durante Show. Durante worked in radio for three years after Moore's 1947 departure.

In 1958…Reporting to Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas by bus after his military induction, Elvis Presley had his famous hair cut short by Army barber James Peterson. The pop icon was assigned to the Second Medium Tank Battalion of the 2nd Armored Division, the "Hell On Wheels" division once led by General George Patton, based at Fort Hood, Texas.

In 1967…At the RKO 58th Street Theatre in New York City, the Who and Cream made their American debuts at Murray the K's Easter Show.

In Douglas Evans, who was an announcer at LA’s KFI Radio in the 30’s, and appeared in more than 100 movies, died in Hollywoood at age 65.

In 1971…New York's WNBC became the first U.S. radio station to ban Brewer and Shipley's hit "One Toke Over The Line" because of alleged marijuana references in the song's lyrics.

In 1979...personality Joe Montione started at 93 KHJ in L-A

In 1982…Humorist/radio and television writer (Milton Berle, Perry Como)/radio actor (Easy Aces and other programs with his wife Jane)/Radio Hall of Famer Goodman Ace died at age 83.

In 1998...Bernard Meltzer WOR 710 AM died.

Bernard Meltzer
His advice call-in show, "What's Your Problem?," aired from 1967 until the mid-1990s on stations WCAU-AM and WPEN-AM in Philadelphia, WOR-AM and WEVD-AM in New York and in national syndication on NBC Talknet.

A city planner by training, with a civil engineering degree from City College of New York and a master's degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Meltzer moved from a career as a Philadelphia expert in urban problems to a radio host on WCAU. In 1973 Meltzer's show moved to WOR in New York.

Meltzer's show provided counsel on a wide range of quandaries, ranging from financial to personal: callers were as likely to ask about family crises, parenting issues and romantic problems as they were to ask about plumbing, home improvement or investment problems.

Segments were often bracketed by Meltzer delivering aphorisms or reciting moralizing poetry ("What shall we do with grandma, now that she's old and gray?") in his distinctive smooth, soothing, quiet voice. His show at one time held the highest ratings among adults in his time slot. Thanks to a doctoral degree earned by correspondence from an unaccredited university, listeners usually referred to him as "Doctor Meltzer."

Meltzer learned he had Parkinson's Disease around 1985, continuing on WOR until a brief final stint on WEVD in the 1990s.

His favorite saying was: "Courts are made for judges and lawyers". Another favorite, used to provide some comfort to callers and listeners, was: "The good people in this world far outnumber the bad."

In 2006…Country music singer/songwriter/TV co-host (Hee Haw)/radio station owner (KNIX AM & FM-Phoenix, KUZZ-FM-Bakersfield, California)/Country Music Hall of Famer Buck Owens died of a heart attack at 76.

In 2015…Radio veteran (WSGN, WERC) John Ed Willoughby, a popular morning show personality in Birmingham, Alabama for 37 years, partnered with Tommy Charles and then Doug Layton, died at age 80.

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