Friday, March 31, 2017

March 31 Radio History

Arthur Godfrey
In 1903...legendary broadcaster Arthur Godfrey was born in New York City.

From the late 40’s into the 1970’s Godfrey was a unique force in daytime radio, at his peak occupying three hours of CBS network time daily. (90 minutes simulcast on CBS TV.)  He also hosted TV’s Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, plus another weekly TV variety show. He espoused & successfully pioneered the concept of talking to just one listener, which was particularly effective in his commercial delivery.

He died of emphysema March 16 1983, just two weeks short of his 80th birthday.

In Les Damon was born in Providence, Rhode Island.

He is best remembered for his nearly 30 years performing on radio; for his roles as Nick Charles on The Adventures of the Thin Man from 1941-1943 and again from 1946-1947, and as Michael Waring on The Falcon from 1950-1953.  He had lead roles in the daytime dramas Lone Journey and Portia Faces Life, and in the fine CBS police series 21st Precinct.  In television he garnered recurring roles on such soap operas as The Guiding Light, As The World Turns, Kitty Foyle, and The Edge of Night.

He died after a massive heart attack July 21st 1962 at the young age of 54.

Henry Morgan
In 1915...comedian/broadcaster Henry Morgan was born Henry Lerner Von Ost, Jr. in New York City.

He started in radio as a page, until he was offered his own 15 minute nightly show on WOR-Mutual.  His familiar opening, “Hello anybody, here’s Morgan” was his answer to big radio star Kate Smith, who opened “Hello everybody.”  Part of his then-novel satirical schtick was to insult his sponsors. He got a weekly half-hour on ABC Radio with a professional cast & a studio audience, but the sponsor insults kept him from achieving greater commercial success.  When TV arrived he became the resident curmudgeon on the I’ve Got a Secret panel.

He died May 19 1994 at age 79.

Earle C. Anthony
In 1922...KFI-AM, Los Angeles, California, began broadcasting.

In 1922 Earle C. Anthony was the founder and owner of what eventually became 50,000 watt KFI- AM 640 radio, a station he controlled until his death in 1961.

From 1929 to 1944, he also owned KECA-AM 790, now KABC. The E.C.A. in KECA stood, of course, for Earle C. Anthony.

He was an early president of the National Association of Broadcasters and, during his term, oversaw the establishment of the organization's first paid staff.

He was also a founder of one of the earliest television stations in Los Angeles, KFI-TV, channel 9, and KFI-FM, both of which were disposed of in 1951.

The original KFI station used a 50-watt transmitter and was made out of a crank telephone. Early on, Anthony operated the station from his garage, and later from atop his Packard automobile dealership. In its early days, it was typically on the air for only four and a half hours a day.

This is the original KFI 50 kW transmitter, an RCA 50B. Installed in 1931, it served as the main until a Continental 317B was installed in 1959. 

From the time of its inception in 1926, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) operated two networks, the Red Network and the Blue Network. The Red Network carried the commercial programs, while the Blue Network carried the sustaining ones (those without commercial sponsors). The red and blue designations came from the colors of the U.S. flag.

Being an NBC affiliate, Anthony operated two radio stations to carry both networks. KFI-AM, 640 kHz, carried the Red Network, and KECA-AM, 790 kHz, carried the Blue.

KFI helped to keep the calm during the dark days of World War II by airing President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Fireside Chats." Later, it carried "Monitor (NBC Radio)," the network's very successful weekend radio service.

As a side note to KFI's participation in World War II, there is a bullet hole in the ceiling of the transmitter building, located in La Mirada, California, where a National Guardsman accidentally discharged his rifle on December 10, 1941, three days following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The bullet hole is still there to this day, preserved as a monument to KFI's wartime service.

The "FI" segment of its call sign was an abbreviation of "farmer's information." Every winter evening between 1924 and 1956, KFI would deliver a frost report at 8 pm that would tell citrus farmers whether to turn on wind machines or light "smudge pots" to keep their orange and lemon groves from freezing. The frost warnings moved to 7 pm until the late 1970s when they were removed from the schedule.

After the end of radio’s golden age, KFI-AM moved toward a full-service format of music, sports and local news.  Cox Broadcasting purchased the station in 1973.

It moved KFI into a Top 40 format in the mid 1970s. That playlist softened in the early 1980s as KFI moved toward a more adult contemporary format.

By the mid 1980s, KFI had slipped in the ratings.  By 1988, KFI dropped music and focused on issue-oriented talk radio.  Chancellor Media acquired the station in 1999.  Clear Channel Communications assumed control in 2000. KFI continues to broadcast a news/talk format.

In 1925...WOWO-AM, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, began broadcasting.

Established in 1925, WOWO began broadcasting at 500 watts of power on 1320 kHz on March 31, 1925 and was owned by Chester Keen of Main Auto Supply Company; the station was originally located upstairs of the Main Auto. The station's callsign was chosen to start with the letter "W" as required by the FCC for all stations in the United States at the time.

During the 1920s, the FCC permitted either three- or four-letter callsigns, with three-letter call signs being preferred for brevity. By choosing WOWO for easy pronunciation as a two-syllable word, in some measure WOWO had a call sign that exhibited even more brevity than even the three-letter callsigns.

Despite this, disk jockeys on WOWO were prohibited from calling the station "woe-woe" on the air until the late 1960s, when a contest was introduced to identify songs in which the "woe" sound appeared. The WOWO callsign was later backfilled as a tongue-in-cheek acronym: "Wayne Offers Wonderful Opportunities". In 1927, WOWO was made a pioneer station of CBS radio network and remained a CBS affiliate until 1956.

In 1928, Keen sold WOWO to Fred Zieg. In 1929, Zieg received FCC approval to move WOWO to 1190 kHz with a power of 10,000 watts and establish WGL on WOWO's former 1320 kHz. Until WOWO's purchase by Westinghouse Broadcasting in 1936, Zieg managed the advertising sales of both WOWO and WGL through WOWO-WGL Sales Service, Inc.

On July 4, 1929, the station's studio building caught fire. No casualties were reported, and operations were moved to a nearby location.

During August 1936, WOWO was acquired by Westinghouse Broadcasting as its first owned and operated radio station. Westinghouse built new studios for WOWO at 925 South Harrison Street in Fort Wayne, which were completed on May 1, 1937. On that same date WOWO joined the NBC Blue radio network, while maintaining its CBS network affiliation, as multiple network affiliations were common for NBC-Blue affiliates. On March 29, 1941 Westinghouse completed the FCC licensing of WOWO's famous clear-channel broadcasting on 1190 kHz. During and after World War II, these clear-channel broadcasts made WOWO a popular radio super-station of sorts throughout the eastern United States.  WOWO's clear-channel license and resulting large audience permitted various owners over the years to consider WOWO their flagship station.

On April 30, 1952, WOWO's studio and offices were relocated to the upper floors of 128 West Washington Blvd. It was here that the station began its famous "fire-escape" weather forecasts, involving obtaining weather conditions from the fire escape ledge. In 1977, WOWO's studios moved to the fourth floor of the Central Building at 203 West Wayne Street in Fort Wayne, where it would remain for the next fifteen years. When the station relocated to the Central Building, the old fire escape was cut into small pieces, encapsulated in lucite and distributed as a promotional paper weight.

Programming for the station changed several times. After dropping its network affiliations in 1956, the station played modern (for the time) music. During its heyday, WOWO was one of North America's most listened-to Top 40 music stations. WOWO continued playing the hits until 1988, when the station resumed playing oldies. In 1992 the format changed to adult contemporary, and then in 1996, the station switched to a news-talk format which remains to this day.

From 1941 to 1995 WOWO was well-known, in both Indiana and areas to the east, as one of the clear-channel AM stations. This was due to the station broadcasting continuously at 50,000 watts of power both during daylight and nighttime hours. From sunset to sunrise, WOWO's directional antenna was configured to protect only KEX, Portland, Oregon. The nighttime broadcasts were branded as WOWO's Nighttime Skywave Service, the "voice of a thousand Main Streets". During the 1970s, the station's hourly ID (required by the FCC) stated: "50,000 watts on 1190, WOWO, Fort Wayne, Group W, Westinghouse Broadcasting." Listen to WOWO Top Of the Hour Station IDs: Click Here.

WOWO's clear-channel license permitted WOWO's radio personalities to gain some degree of fame throughout the eastern United States. Announcer Bob Sievers, Farm Director, commentator and folk-philosopher Jay Gould, News Director Dugan Fry, meteorologist Earl Finckle, the "In a Little Red Barn (on a farm down in Indiana)" de facto theme song of WOWO, the Penny Pitch charity fund raisers, sports director Bob Chase's Komet Hockey broadcasts, the weather reports from WOWO's personnel taking a smoking break out on its studio's "world-famous fire escape", and husband-wife hosts of The Little Red Barn Show, music director Sam DeVincent and wife Nancy of "Nancy Lee and the Hilltoppers", all were listened to by a total of millions of people from the Great Lakes to the United States' East Coast over the years from the 1940s to the 1990s. Other memorable on-air personalities include Ron Gregory, Chris Roberts, Jack Underwood and Carol Ford.

Because WOWO's Nighttime Skywave Service caused WLIB, also 1190 kHz, in New York City to cease broadcasting at sunset each day and resume broadcasting at sunrise, Inner City Broadcasting bought WOWO in 1994 so that they could reduce WOWO's Class A clear-channel license to Class B, and WLIB, owned by Inner City Broadcasting could thereby increase its class from Class D to Class B.

This reduced WOWO's potential audience—referred to as WOWOland—from much of the eastern United States to a much smaller local region in northern Indiana, northwestern Ohio, and south-central Michigan. Before the power reduction, when WLIB signed off at night, WOWO's air signal came booming through the speakers into the WLIB air studio.

 In 1949…After nine years of development, RCA Victor introduced the first 45 rpm record, a 7-inch wonder promising better sound and easier playability than the current standard, the 10" 78 rpm record. It was also designed to compete with the Long Playing record introduced by Columbia a year earlier.

The first 45 rpm released was "Texarkana Baby" by country & western singer Eddy Arnold. The disc was made of green vinyl, part of an early plan to color-code singles according to the genre of music they featured. Others included yellow for children's songs and red for classical music.

In 1953...the Cavalcade of America was heard for the final time on network radio. It had been the longest-running show of its kind. For 18 years on NBC Radio the weekly Cavalcade of America presented dramatized events in U.S. history

In 2004...Air America Radio began broadcasting, the first US talk-radio network for liberals, led by Al Franken, comedian and author.  The ensuing five and a half years were financially troubled, and the network went out of business in January 2010, without Franken who left to run successfully for the US Senate.

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