Friday, May 17, 2019

May 17 Radio History

➦In 1903
...comic actor Artie Auerbach was born in New York City.  He became famous as “Mr. Kitzel”, first on the Al Pearce radio show in 1937, then as a regular on Jack Benny‘s radio & television shows for 12 years. He suffered a fatal heart attack Oct. 3, 1957 and died at age 54.

➦In 1938...the Radio quiz show "Information Please!" premiered on the NBC Blue Network.

Information Please was one of the most popular radio shows in the 1930s and 1940s. Oscar Levant, Franklin P. Adams and John Kieran were regulars with Clifton Fadiman acting as host. RKO produced a series a films of the radio show and most of them have been lost.

➦In 1939...nearly 1800 fans crowded into the Glen Island Casino in New Rochelle, New York to attend an unusual dual-network dance remote radio broadcast of the suddenly very popular Glenn Miller and His Orchestra that was aired on both NBC and Mutual.

➦In 1943...The Jack Kirkwood Show made its NBC debut, after 5 years locally on San Francisco radio.  A very funny man, Kirkwood would eventually become second-banana on the Bob Hope radio show, and continue with his own various network radio features through early 1953.

➦In 1971...In the NYC Market, Country WJRZ 970 AM became Top40 WWDJ..The station was hampered by a directional signal that covered Manhattan and parts of New Jersey well but suffered in the rest of the Five Boroughs and was virtually nonexistent on Long Island and western New Jersey. Eventually, FM competition from WCBS-FM and adult top 40 station WXLO (now WEPN-FM), and an evolution to adult Top 40 by WNBC (now WFAN), began to eat into WWDJ's ratings.

According to, the station first began as WAAT in Jersey City around the late 1920's (it was once at 940 kHz, shifted to 970 around 1941; relocated to Newark around the mid-'40's). In 1958, WAAT and its FM sister (94.7 MHz) were sold to National Telefilm Associates, which changed the call letters to WNTA. In 1961-62 NTA sold the stations to Bergen Broadcasting; '62 was when the WJRZ calls were first used. (The 94.7 frequency would end up going by the calls of WFME, now Entercom's WNSH.) WNTA also had a TV outlet (previously WATV) which NTA unloaded around the same time as it sold the AM and FM stations; the TV station is today PBS outlet WNET/13. It was around 1969 that Pacific & Southern Broadcasting took over WJRZ.Beatles, Beatles, and more Beatles.

WJRZ played all Beatle songs for a few days before becoming WWDJ top 40.When WWDJ started, it looked like it would fill the AM gap left by the demise of WMCA and in many ways it was (especially to those who only had AM in their cars).  Although 97DJ was no 'MCA, they still played more of a variety music than 77 WABC. Unfortunately, as in the case of WMCA, it was another AM station with signal problems.

They were directional 5 kw both day and night.WWDJ was owned by Pacific & Southern, who also operated KKDJ about the same time in Los Angeles, which was an FM station. KKDJ used the same jingle package as its sister station WWDJ. Another problem that DJ had an idenity crisis in that it did not know whether to be a New York station or a New Jersey station.

In November 1973 it was ranked 15th in the Arbitron ratings.WWDJ changed format to Religious on April 1, 1974.

➦In Tony Randall, who began in radio as “Reggie” on I Love a Mystery, then starred in TV’s Mr. Peepers & The Odd Couple, and was an entertaining guest on hundreds of TV talk shows, died of pneumonia following heart surgery at age 84.

➦In 2006...NYC and Philadelphia radio personality Long John Wade died at the age of 66.

From the early '70s, listen for a Wade audio clip on 56 WFIL in Philly at the :30-second time mark:

"Long John" was, in reality, Carl Wehde. He worked at WDRC 1360 AM in Hartford, just before coming to WFIL. It was there that Long John worked with another WFIL Boss Jock, Jim Nettleton. Jim did 10 am to 1 pm and Long John did afternoon drive.

Long John wasn't an original 56WFIL Boss Jock when the station flipped format in September of 1966.

However, by Thanksgiving of that same year, Wade had replaced Frank Kingston Smith on the 2 to 6 am overnight shift. He then moved to the 10 pm to 2 am time slot where he became a Philly fixture. He stayed with the station for five years.

Wade said that he got the nickname "Long John" because of his height (6 foot, 4 inches tall). He could always reach the top shelf in the record library.

In August of 1964, the WDRC's PD sent him on tour with the Beatles. Only two U.S. radio people were on the entire Beatles tour, Larry Kane and Long John Wade.

It cost WDRC five grand, in expenses, to have Long John join the whole tour. The station turned that money into a profit when they sold Wade's reports to 11 other radio stations. Long John reported that the young weren't the only ones that loved the Beatles. He said, "I saw newsmen picking up the cigarette butts discarded by Ringo, or an old coffee cup that Paul used."

Wade said that during his stay at WDRC, he was consistenly drawing a 50 percent share in a market of 16 stations. One out of every two radio listeners were tuning in his program.

Long John became radio’s Beatles information expert. He developed a personal friendship with each of the group. The tempermental John Lennon, it has been reported, once punched Long John for asking an impertinent question. The two remained close for years, with John Lennon inviting Wade to join himself and Yoko Ono for their infamous bed-in in May of 1969 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.

Of the Beatles, Long John Wade once said: “Personally, I would say John Lennon is the ‘thinker.’ Ringo is the funniest, Paul the friendliest, and George is the quiet one.”

Before his WFIL days, Long John worked at these stations in Massachusetts (some while attending Boston University): WHIL, Medford; WAAB, Worcester; WHAV, Haverhill; WORL, Boston; WTAO, Boston; WSPR, Springfield (where he used the name "Johnny Midnight.") During his prep school days, he ran the campus radio station in New Hampton, NH.

Long John had later stops at WIFI and WCAU in Philadelphia (he did morning drive on FM and then had a talk show on AM). Then, we went to WCBS-FM in New York City.

In 1979, Wade was diagnosed with a bi-polar disorder and left the business he loved so much.

Long John Wade suffered a stroke in 1996 which left him with speech problems. He also lost the total use of his right hand. He battled bad health for a decade.

Long John had two brothers, Tom Wehde and Don (known as Don Wade on the air). The late Don and his wife, Roma, former co-host the morning show on WLS-AM Chicago.

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