Thursday, April 7, 2016

April 7 Radio History

In 1897...gossip columnist/broadcaster Walter Winchell was born in Minneapolis.

He was the first to break the journalistic taboo against exposing the private lives of public figures, permanently altering the shape of journalism and celebrity. He broke into radio in 1930, and two years later had his own weekly quarter hour, the Jergens Journal, on the NBC Blue network (which became ABC.) “Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea.”  The Journal, gossipy news mixed with his opinion, was on the air for most of the next 30 years.  Later his star would brighten for a new generation when he narrated the TV series The Untouchables.

He died a recluse of prostate cancer Feb. 20 1972 at age 74.

In 1908...orchestra conductor, arranger and composer Percy Faith was born in Toronto.

He began by playing music for silent films in the city’s movie houses, later turning to arranging and composing when his hands were severely burned in an accident. After a stint at the C-B-C from 1933 to 40, Faith moved to the U-S and became an arranger-conductor for Columbia Records. He worked with Tony Bennett and other singers, plus his own orchestra and chorus. His “Theme From a Summer Place” won the 1960 Grammy for Record of the Year.

Percy Faith died Feb 9 1976 at age 67.

In 1915...Billie Holliday, probably the greatest jazz singer ever, was born Ellinore Harris in Baltimore. Her greatest recordings — “Strange Fruit,” “God Bless the Child” and “Yesterdays” — were made in 1939 and ’40.  Holliday was jailed for a narcotics offence in 1948, and died in a New York hospital of liver failure July 17, 1959 while facing another possession charge. The 1972 film “Lady Sings the Blues” is based on her life.

In 1927
...The first official demonstration of television was presented at the AT&T Bell Telephone Laboratories auditorium in New York City. The live picture and voice of then Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover were transmitted over telephone lines from Washington, D.C. to New York

In 1956…The CBS Radio Network debuted the first regularly scheduled, nationally broadcast rock 'n' roll show, "Rock 'n' Roll Dance Party," with Alan Freed as host.

Jim, Marian Jordon 1937
In comedienne Marian Jordan lost her battle with cancer at age 62. For nearly 30 years she played the wife opposite her husband Jim Jordan on NBC’s hit comedy show “Fibber McGee & Molly.”

Fibber McGee & Molly broadcast 1937

In 1967...KMPX-FM, San Francisco unveiled what became known as the "Progressive Rock" format on Radio.

On December 10, 1959, the station, owned by San Francisco businessman Franklin Mieuli, signed on at 106.9 MHz with the KPUP call letters. In July 1960, the call letters were changed to KHIP and the station aired jazz music programming. Mieuli sold KHIP on July 1, 1962 to Leon Crosby, who had previously owned KHYD in Hayward.

Under Leon Crosby's ownership, the station began operating in multiplex stereo and the call letters were changed to KMPX (for "MultiPleX") the following month. Soon after, Crosby gained authorization by the FCC to increase the station's power from the original 37,000 watts to 80,000 watts. The transmitter was in Marin County on Wolfback Ridge above Sausalito.

By mid-1964, KMPX was airing a middle of the road music format. As the money-strapped station struggled, by 1966 the schedule became dominated by various foreign language and other brokered programs.

KMPX Staff Photo May 1967
Though KMPX's daytime schedule was heavy with ethnic programming, the midnight-6 AM slot was mostly open. On February 12, 1967, on-air personality Larry Miller was given the shift, where he played his preferred folk rock music whenever a foreign language show was not scheduled. But even with this impediment and the station's high-end-of-the-dial position, word spread that "rock and roll is on FM".

Tom Donahue
A month later, Tom Donahue, a former well-known local Top 40 disc jockey on KYA, fledgling record label owner and concert promoter, was looking for an opportunity to do something unique on the radio. According to his then-girlfriend (and future wife) Raechel's recollection, mentioned in Jim Ladd's book Radio Waves, after spending a night listening to The Doors' first album at home, Donahue wondered why radio stations weren't playing it.   He soon started calling around town to local stations on the less-desirable FM dial. When he found that KMPX's phone was disconnected, he decided to approach Crosby with his plan, as he felt the station had nothing to lose.  Donahue proposed to take over some of KMPX's programming and replace the brokered foreign-language shows with freeform album-based rock music, declaring, "no jingles, no talkovers, no time and temp, no pop singles."  Advertisers would come in the form of local businesses serving the local hippie and Haight-Ashbury communities. As Donahue was a well-known and respected person in local radio, Crosby hired him.

On Friday, April 7, 1967, Donahue went on the air at KMPX for the first time, working from 8 PM to midnight, leading into Miller's show. The station's programming evolved over the weeks and months that followed, and Donahue sought out air personalities who fit what he envisioned for the format. Early staffers included Edward Bear (1967 aircheck: Click Here), Dusty Street, and even future actor Howard Hesseman. Donahue's rock music format expanded to full-time on August 6, 1967, as the last of the foreign-language program contracts expired. The station at the time employed an unheard-of all-female studio engineer staff. The presentation of music on the station stood in stark contrast to most other stations of the day. Instead of a hit music-dominated playlist, KMPX played more album cuts, local, emerging and cutting-edge artists, and a wide mix of genres such as rock, blues, jazz and folk music. Some of the music played in the Spring of 1967 included Jefferson Airplane's album Surrealistic Pillow, the first Grateful Dead album, Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced and The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which KMPX played uninterrupted in its entirety.

Today 106.9 FM simulcasts the All-News format of KCBS 740 AM.

In 1972..Toronto radio-TV host Al Boliska, whose unpredictabilty made him a breakfasttime star on first 1050 CHUM and then CKEY 1010 AM, choked to death on his own vomit at the much too young age of 39.

In 1976...Broadcaster/author/syndicated newspaper columnist Mary Margaret McBride, a popular radio interview show host on various networks for more than four decades, died at the age of 76.

McBride first worked steadily in radio for WOR in New York City, starting in 1934. This daily women's-advice show, with her persona as "Martha Deane", a kind and witty grandmother figure with a Missouri-drawl, aired daily until 1940.

In 1937, she launched on the CBS radio network the first of a series of similar and successful shows, now as Mary Margaret McBride.

She interviewed figures well known in the world of arts and entertainment, and politics, with a style recognized as original to herself. She accepted advertising only for products she was prepared to endorse from her own experience, and turned down all tobacco or alcohol products.

She followed this format in regular broadcasts on
  • CBS until 1941
  • NBC (where her audience numbered in the millions) from then until 1950
  • ABC from then until 1954
  • NBC again until 1960, and
  • The New York Herald Tribune's radio broadcasts with a wider audience via syndication.

In 1997...the "Howard Stern Radio Show" debuted on WRXK-FM, Fort Myers, Florida.

In announcer/TV newsman/game show host Mike Wallace, for 38 years the main man at CBS-TV  “60 Minutes,” died at age 93.

In 2015...Stan Freberg, a humorist whose sprawling imagination fueled a multifaceted career that included pretty much inventing the idea of using satire in commercials, died at age 88 on Tuesday in Santa Monica, Calif.

Freberg, born Stanley Friberg in 1926. was an American author, recording artist, animation voice actor, comedian, radio personality, puppeteer and advertising creative director, whose career began in 1944. He remained active in the industry into his late 80s, more than 70 years after entering it.

He made hit comedy records, voiced hundreds of cartoon characters and succeeded Jack Benny in one of radio’s most prestigious time slots. He called himself a “guerrilla satirist,” using humor as a barbed weapon to take on issues ranging from the commercialization of Christmas to the hypocrisy of liberals.

“Let’s give in and do the brotherhood bit,/Just make sure we don’t make a habit of it,” he sang in “Take an Indian to Lunch,” a song on the 1961 album “Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America,” a history lesson in songs and sketches. Time magazine said it may have been the “finest comedy album ever recorded.”

His radio sketches for CBS in 1957 included some of the earliest put-downs of political correctness (before that idea had a name). One sketch entailed a confrontation with a fictional network censor, Mr. Tweedlie, who insisted that Mr. Freberg change the lyrics of “Ol’ Man River,” starting with the title. He wanted it renamed “Elderly Man River.”

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