Wednesday, February 18, 2015

February 18 In Radio History

In 1922...WOC-AM, Davenport, Iowa, went on the air. WOC is widely known as the radio station where future U.S. President Ronald Reagan got his start re-creating Chicago Cubs baseball games.

WOC traces its roots to 1907, when Robert Karlowa began an experimental station in Rock Island, Illinois. The station was known under several callsigns, including 9-BC, 9-XR and 9-BY.

On February 18, 1922, the government assigned the fledgling station the WOC call letters, and full-time broadcasting commenced. Historians believe WOC to have been the first commercial radio station west of the Mississippi River, and certainly the first in Iowa.

Karlowa continued to operate the station, but the costs quickly became too great. In March, he sold the station to Col. B. J. Palmer, who operated the Palmer School of Chiropractic, later the Palmer College of Chiropractic, in Davenport. The equipment was moved to a small studio on Palmer's Brady Street campus, and a family connection was started that lasted almost 75 years.

WOC was known for many firsts in the radio industry. A short list might include:
  • Broadcasting from the Iowa Legislature.
  • On-air and studio personnel being required to keep logs of such things as electrical consumption and on-air programming (to the second). The programming log also helped the station begin programs on an absolute "minute-and-second" schedule.
  • Use of a fader panel, allowing use of several microphones in the studio at one time.
  • On January 26, 1925, WOC formed a network and joined forces with radio station WEAF. In September 1927, WOC became a charter member of the new NBC radio network.
In 1933, Ronald Reagan got his first broadcasting job at WOC as a sportscaster. Reagan returned to WOC in 1988, when WOC and FM-affiliate KIIK 104 dedicated its new studios on East Kimberly Road.

Courtesy of Faded Signals
Early radio stations often shared frequencies.  One station often would broadcast during the day and the other station at night.

According to Faded Signals, beginning in 1930, WOC in Davenport, Iowa, shared a frequency with WHO in Des Moines.  In 1933, WHO signed on a 50,000-watt transmitter.  The two stations shared the transmitter until 1934 when the owner of WOC-WHO, B.J. Palmer, was able to move WOC back to a full-time frequency in Davenport.

In 1927...the first United States Radio Broadcast of "Cities Service Concerts" took place, featuring Jessica Dragonette.

The Cities Service Concerts were musical broadcasts which had a long three-decade run on radio from 1925 to 1956, encompassing a variety of vocalists and musicians.

The concerts began with trial broadcasts in the New York area during 1925 and 1926 Graham McNamee was the announcer for the brass group of Edwin Franko Goldman when the hour-long program began February 18, 1927 on NBC, expanding to a symphonic sound with Rosario Bourdon and a 30-piece orchestra that summer along with the Cavaliers quartet.

On January 3, 1930, Jessica Dragonette brought her repertoire of 500 songs to the series, often doing duets with Frank Parker and generating top ratings during the 1930s. She was replaced by soprano Lucille Manners in 1937. Other performers during this period were Robert Simmons and James Melton. Along with the Cities Service Singers, baritone Ross Graham (1905-1986) arrived in 1939. Graham was also heard on Show Boat. Maestro Dr. Frank Black headed the show from at least 1938 to 1942 along with Manners and Graham.

The title changed to Highways in Melody in 1944 when Paul Lavalle was the orchestra leader. Lavalle continued after the show was retitled yet again as The Cities Service Band of America which experimented with simulcasting (audio broadcast separately over the radio) in 1949 and 1950.  The series came to an end on January 16, 1956

In 1949...the CBS Radio Network debuted "Yours Truly Johnny Dollar".

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar was a radio drama of "the transcribed adventures of the man with the action-packed expense account — America's fabulous freelance insurance investigator." The show aired on CBS Radio from January 14, 1949 to September 30, 1962. There were 811 episodes in the 12-year run, and more than 720 still exist today.

Each story started with a phone call from an insurance executive, calling on Johnny to investigate an unusual claim. Each story required Johnny to travel to some distant locale, usually within the United States but sometimes abroad, where he was almost always threatened with personal danger in the course of his investigations. Johnny's file on each case was usually referenced as a "matter," as in "The Silver Blue Matter" or "The Forbes Matter." Later episodes were more fanciful, with titles like "The Wayward Trout Matter" and "The Price of Fame Matter" (the latter featuring a rare guest-star appearance: Vincent Price).

Johnny usually stuck to business, but would engage in romantic dalliances with women he encountered in his travels; later episodes gave Johnny a steady girlfriend, Betty Lewis. Johnny's precious recreational time was usually spent fishing, and it was not uncommon for Johnny's clients to exploit this favorite pastime in convincing him to take on a job.

Each story was recounted in flashback, as Johnny listed each line item from his expense account.

In 1964...While vacationing in Miami during their first trip to America, the Beatles engage in a photo shoot with heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, better known later as Muhammed Ali. Clay: "You guys got to be making a lot of money. You ain't as dumb as you look." John Lennon: "No, but you are." That night the group visits a local drive-in to watch the new Elvis film Fun In Acapulco.

In 1993...Howard Stern's radio program debuted in Rochester, New York.

In 1994...Longtime Toronto radio personality (CHUM, CKFM, CHFI, CKEY, CJEZ) Jay Nelson, also remembered for his work in Buffalo, New York as a midday disc jockey on WKBW 1520 AM Radio and as "Jungle Jay," host of a daily late afternoon television show that featured jungle movies on WKBW-TV, died at the age of 57.

In 1998...Baseball broadcaster (Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals)/restaurateur Harry Caray died after a heart attack at the age of 83.

In 2012...Radio personality Patti Wheeler, a four-decade on-air presence in Birmingham, Alabama, died following surgery to remove brain tumors at age 71.

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