Wednesday, March 29, 2017

March 29 Radio History

In 1888... actor Earle Ross was born in Chicago.  He was a pioneer in early radio with his own show, The Earle Ross Theater of the Air, but his most memorable radio roles were that of Judge Horace Hooker on NBC’s The Great Gildersleeve and Howie MacBrayer on Point Sublime.  His unique vocal timbre also won him frequent appearances on radio’s The Billie Burke Show, Lights Out, Lux Radio Theater and The Mel Blanc Show.  Ross succumbed to cancer May 21, 1961 at age 73.

In 1932...Jack Benny made his debut on Radio. Benny, a vaudeville performer, became very successful on both Radio and later TV. His first on-air spiel: "This is Jack Benny talking. There will be a slight pause while you say, 'Who cares?'"

In 1937...the soapy radio serial, Our Gal Sunday, debuted at 12:45 ET on CBS Radio.  The question, “Can this girl from a small mining town in the West find happiness as the wife of a wealthy and titled Englishman?” was asked each day, as the tear-soaked melodrama continued in the same time slot for the next 22 years!  Vivian Smolen played Sunday for the final 13 years.

In 1941...WABC, then known as WJZ moved to 770 AM.  WABC started off as WJZ when it signed on October 1, 1921.

In 1967...The first nationwide strike in the 30-year history of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) began. During the 13-day work stoppage, many familiar faces were absent from the TV screen, including that of Walter Cronkite of CBS News whose temporary replacement was Arnold Zenker, formerly a radio announcer in Wilmington, Delaware.

AFTRA strike begins at WABC NYC.

From March 29 to April 10, 1967 there was a strike called by AFTRA (the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). This meant that all the union talent, including the WABC airstaff, was taken off the air and replaced by management personnel. It was all very strange. But, according to the tribute site,,  PD Rick Sklar could turn anything into a promotion, and the strike was no exception.

Listen to an  aircheck which features a brief montage compiled from hours of tape. It includes:
  • The "strikebound sound" jingle that Rick Sklar ordered from PAMS (Series 31).
  • Hal Neal, president of ABC Radio, filling in as a newsman giving background on the strike.
  • The "super pickets" promo. This was, of course, a take-off on the station's weekly "superhit sounds" promo which featured excerpts from the week's top 5 songs. It's a promotion masterpiece and it worked. Whenever one of the All Americans tried to take part in the picket line outside the ABC building, they'd be mobbed by autograph seekers!
  • Rick Sklar worked as the booth announcer in the evening.
Finally the strike ended. And within 30 minutes of the announcement, Cousin Bruce was back on the air.

In 1974…In Ottawa, the CBC announced that it would gradually remove commercials from its AM radio stations.

Gene Klavan, Dee Finch
In 1983...Dee Finch,  WNEW 1130 AM (Klavan & Finch) NYC died.

Starting in 1952 and for the next fifteen years, Klavan and Finch changed the face of morning radio for commuters and families. New Yorkers were presented a new radio experience.  Children getting ready for school could listen with their parents while eating their breakfast cereal.  Commuters on the parkways could reduce the burden of New York traffic with a little humor. Vaudevillian in style, this format was copied by radio stations across the country.

Klavan commented on Dee Finch in 1984: “He was spectacular. He was more than a straight man. People say a straight man, but he had a marvelous sense of humor.  A great voice and a fetching laugh.  I mean if he laughed even I couldn’t help it, I would break up, basically he was a really good actor.  He adlibbed, we never prepared anything, even though I used to hope we would sometimes.  He had a great understanding of what we were doing.  We were two minds without any.”

Dee Finch retired from WNEW and radio in 1968.

In 1995...Howard Stern's Radio show debuted on WCKG-FM, Chicago, Illinois.

 In 2003…Longtime Portland, Maine radio personality Bob Anderson died after a heart attack at age 59.

In 2005...Dr. Don Rose, one of Top 40 Radio's great DJs, died. He worked at legendary stations like KFRC, San Francisco; WFIL, Philadelphia and other markets.

Rose was born Donald Duane Rosenberg in North Platte, Nebraska, and got his first experience in broadcasting at age 15 while reporting on his trip to the Boy Scout National Jamboree in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, for KODY in his hometown.

He began his career in 1955 at KWBE in Beatrice, Nebraska, while majoring in accounting at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. He moved to KLMN/Lincoln shortly thereafter, and then was hired by KOIL/Omaha, a job that appeared to be so promising that he dropped out of college in his senior year. He was fired by the station four weeks later.

His next job, at KTSA/San Antonio, also lasted only four weeks. Returning to Nebraska, he held an announcing position at KRNY/Kearney for about 15 months before being terminated again. His next employer, the Union Pacific Railroad, offered only manual labor — pounding spikes into the railbed — but he continued to pursue work in radio, and acquired a job at KTUL/Tulsa.

His next broadcasting position was in KWMT/Fort Dodge, Iowa, where he first complemented his jokes with cowbells and other barnyard sounds. His stay in Fort Dodge wasn't lengthy, but it was there that he met his future wife, Kae, to whom he remained married for the next 45 years of his life.

From Iowa it was on to WEBC/Duluth, Minn., followed by his first taste of big-market success, as morning host at WQXI/Atlanta ("Quixie In Dixie"), his fame made ever-lasting by his inclusion as the 1967 entry in the popular series of "Cruisin’" LP records. Originally hired for the nine-to-noon slot, he was shifted to morning drive shortly after his arrival, and soon became the number one deejay in town.

With Dr. Don as morning anchor, KFRC was voted "Station of the Year" four times by Billboard Magazine.

He was considered by many to be the king of radio in the Bay Area during the final decade of AM's musical dominance.

He was named by Billboard Magazine as Disc Jockey of the Year on both the East Coast (while with WFIL Philadelphia) and on the West Coast (while with KFRC San Francisco). One of Rose's characteristic "sound bite" mannerisms when he was at KFRC was to state the words "that's right" in a continuous fashion that was intended to sound "crazy" or funny, which also served to represent the overall morning zoo radio format, style and "feel" of his show.

"I'm married to radio," he told The Chronicle (San Francisco) in 1975, "and I'm thinking about suing it for nonsupport. I would describe my show as therapy, for myself."

Dr. Don Rose raised a total of over $10 million by hosting March of Dimes Superwalks for 20 years. As well, he emceed many golf tourneys, including his own, with proceeds going toward Special Olympics and special education.

Despite his cheerful persona, Rose suffered over three decades of debilitating pain from assorted medical problems. In 1972, he underwent a botched heart surgery, which caused chronic knee infections that required 11 more operations and led to his losing his kneecap. He broadcast his daily radio show flat on his back from his home hospital bed for months. In 1984, after a fall made the knee problems worse, one leg was amputated.

Dr. Don Rose last Top40 Show On KFRC-AM:

Rose had to alter his on-air act in 1986 when KFRC changed its format to Big Band Music and its imaging to Magic 61. He left KFRC permanently by the end of the year.

His departure from KFRC was followed by a short stint at KKIS/Concord-Walnut Creek beginning in 1987, where his son, Jay, was chief engineer. After a failed attempt at buying the station, Dr. Don moved to mornings at San Francisco's K101 (KIOI); four months later, he suffered a heart attack while on the air. He never returned to broadcasting on a full-time basis.

Rose died in his sleep on March 30, 2005, due to complications from pneumonia at the age of 70.

Paul Drew died in 2013 at age 78.

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