Tuesday, March 12, 2019

March 12 Radio History

➦In 1900...Early radio announcer Harlow Wilcox born (Died - September 24, 1960 at age 60).

Harlow Wilcox
Radio shows for which Wilcox was announcer included Amos 'n' Andy, The Baby Snooks Show, Ben Bernie, Fibber McGee and Molly, Frank Merriwell, Hap Hazard, Hollywood Premiere, Suspense, The Victor Borge Show,  Your Electric Servant, Blondie, Boston Blackie and The Passing Parade.

Wilcox came from a show business-oriented family, with a father who played in the Ringling Brothers circus band and a sister who played violin both in vaudeville and in classical concerts. Harlow took vocal lessons and briefly performed on stage. His first radio work was for station WGES in Chicago in 1930. In January of 1934, he was signed as a Chicago staff announcer by NBC.

An April 1944 article in Radio Mirror magazine reported:  Wilcox was one of the masters of the integrated commercial, a technique that was popularized on Ed Wynn's and Jack Benny's shows. Instead of stopping the story for the mid-show commercial, Wilcox would just show up and work his plug into the plot, much to Fibber's consternation. Fibber tagged Wilcox with the nickname "Waxy" for his ability to turn any conversation topic to Johnson's Wax.

➦In 1912...orchestra leader Paul Weston was born Paul Wetstein in Springfield Mass.  First big break was as arranger for Rudy Vallee’s Fleischmann Hour on NBC Radio. On TV Weston was musical director for Danny Kaye, Jonathan Winters, Jim Nabors, and others.  He died Sep 20, 1996 at age 84.

➦In 1917...Georgia Ellis was born. (Died – March 30, 1988). She was an American actress who is best known for her recurring role of Kitty in the Western radio drama Gunsmoke.  Other featured radio credits include Dragnet, Dr. Kildare, Escape, Romance, Yours Truly Johnny Dollar, This is Your FBI, and dozens of lesser known series.

➦In 1923...Radio pioneer Dr. Lee DeForest developed a sound-on-film optical recording system called Phonofilm and demonstrated it in theatres between 1923 and 1927. Although it was basically correct in principle, its operating quality was poor, and he found himself unable to interest film producers in its possibilities. Paradoxically, within a few years’ time, the motion-picture industry converted to talking pictures by using a sound-on-film process similar to de Forest’s.

➦In 1933...President Franklin D Roosevelt spoke to American in his first fireside chat. The chats were a series of 30 evening radio addresses given between 1933 and 1944. Roosevelt spoke with familiarity to millions of Americans about the promulgation of the Emergency Banking Act in response to the banking crisis, the recession, New Deal initiatives, and the course of World War II.

On radio, he was able to quell rumors and explain his policies. His tone and demeanor communicated self-assurance during times of despair and uncertainty. Roosevelt was regarded as an effective communicator on radio, and the fireside chats kept him in high public regard throughout his presidency.  The name 'Fireside Chats' was coined by CBS newsman, Robert Trout.


➦In 1953...Rufus Thomas, an american rhythm-and-blues, funk, soul and blues singer, songwriter, dancer, DJ and comic entertainer from Memphis, signed with Sun Records.

➦In 1985...Orchestra leader Eugene Ormandy died at age 85 (Born November 18, 1899). He was a Hungarian-American conductor and violinist, best known for his association with the Philadelphia Orchestra, as its music director. The maestro's 44-year association with the orchestra is one of the longest enjoyed by any conductor with a single orchestra. Under his baton, the Philadelphia Orchestra had three gold records and won two Grammy Awards.


➦In 2001...Sean Morton Downey died at age 68 (Born - December 9, 1932). He better known as Morton Downey Jr., was an American radio, television talk show host of the late-1980s who pioneered the "trash TV" format on his program The Morton Downey Jr. Show

He was a program director and announcer at radio station WPOP in Hartford, Connecticut in the 1950s. He went on to work as a disc jockey, sometimes using the moniker "Doc" Downey, in various markets around the U.S., including Phoenix (KRIZ), Miami (WFUN), Kansas City (KUDL), San Diego (KDEO) and Seattle (KJR).

Like his father, Downey pursued a career in music, recording in both pop and country styles. He sang on a few records and then began to write songs, several of which were popular in the 1950s and 1960s.  In the 1980s, Downey was a talk show host at KFBK-AM in Sacramento, California, where he employed his abrasive style. He was fired in 1984. He was replaced by Rush Limbaugh, who has held the time slot ever since, later via his national syndication.

Downey also had a stint on WMAQ-AM in Chicago.  His third – and final – attempt at a talk radio comeback occurred in 1997 on Cleveland radio station WTAM in a late evening time slot.  It marked his return to the Cleveland market, where Downey had been a host for crosstown radio station WERE in the early 1980s prior to joining KFBK. This stint came shortly after the surgery for lung cancer that removed one of his lungs. At WTAM, Downey abandoned the confrontational schtick of his TV and previous radio shows, and conducted this program in a much more conversational and jovial manner.

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