Friday, July 26, 2019

July 26 Radio History

Burns & Allen
➦In 1895...Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen was born (Died of a heart attack at age 69 – August 27, 1964). She was a vaudevillian and comedienne who became internationally famous as the zany partner and comic foil of husband George Burns, her straight man appearing with her on radio, television and film as the duo Burns and Allen.

For her contributions to the television industry, Gracie Allen was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6672 Hollywood Boulevard, while she and Burns were inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1988.

Co-star Bea Benaderet said of Allen in 1966: "She was probably one of the greatest actresses of our time."  Today, the annual Gracie Awards are named in her honor.

The Burns & Allen Show debuted on radio in 1932, and ended on TV with Gracie’s retirement 25 years later.

➦In 1903...Donald Voorhees born (Died at age 85 – January 10, 1989, Cape May Court House, NJ. He was a  composer and conductor who received an Emmy Award nomination for "Individual Achievements in Music" for his work on the television series, The Bell Telephone Hour.

Starting in 1926, Voorhees' orchestra recorded prolifically for Columbia, Edison, Pathe, Perfect, Cameo, and Hit of the Week, playing the piano in early recordings. His recording career mostly ended in 1931, when he approached the bigger opportunities radio offered at the time. His first broadcast work was NBC Radio's The Texaco Fire Chief Show, which starred comedian Ed Wynn. Other of the programs he worked for was the Maxwell House Showboat, appearing in a 1933 "picturization", the short Captain Henry's Show Boat.

From 1935 to 1941, and from 1949 to 1953 (with Ardon Cornwell), Voorhees was the musical director and conductor for the radio and television show, Cavalcade of America.

Voorhees also served as conductor of the Bell Telephone Hour orchestra for 26 years, from its first broadcasts on radio in 1942 until its final television episode in 1968. He was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1966 for "Individual Achievements in Music" for his work on the series.

➦In 1921...Jean Parker Shepherd Jr. born (Died – October 16, 1999). He was a storyteller, radio and TV personality, writer and actor. He was often referred to by the nickname Shep. With a career that spanned decades, Shepherd is known for the film A Christmas Story (1983), which he narrated and co-scripted, based on his own semi-autobiographical stories.

After military service, Shepherd began his broadcast radio career in early 1945 on WJOB in Hammond, Indiana, later working at WTOD in Toledo, Ohio, in 1946. He began working in Cincinnati, Ohio, in January 1947 at WSAI, later also working at Cincinnati stations WCKY and WKRC the following year, before returning to WSAI. From 1951 to 1953, he had a late-night broadcast on KYW in Philadelphia, PA, after which he returned to Cincinnati for several shows on WLW. After a stint on television, he returned to radio. "Shep," as he was known, settled in at WOR 710 AM in New York Cit at the end of February 1955, and on an overnight slot in 1956, where he delighted his fans by telling stories, reading poetry (especially the works of Robert W. Service), and organizing comedic listener stunts.

When he was about to be released by WOR in 1956 for lack of sponsors, he did a commercial for Sweetheart Soap, not a sponsor, and was immediately fired. His listeners besieged WOR with complaints, and when Sweetheart offered to sponsor him he was reinstated. Eventually, he attracted more sponsors than he wanted.

His last WOR broadcast was on April 1, 1977. His subsequent radio work consisted of short segments on several other stations, including crosstown WCBS 880 AM, and occasional commentaries on NPR's All Things Considered. His final radio gig was the Sunday night radio show "Shepherd's Pie" on WBAI in the mid-1990s, which had him reading his stories uncut, uninterrupted and unabridged. The show was one of WBAI's most popular of the period.

Throughout his radio career, he performed entirely without scripts. His friend and WOR colleague Barry Farber marveled at how he could talk so long with so few notes.

He died Oct. 16 1999 at age 78.  In 2005 he was posthumously inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.

➦In 1944...The New York Times took-over ownership of WQXR AM & FM in NYC.

➦In 195?...WCBS 101.1 FM PD Jim Ryan was born.

Jim Ryan
Ryan joined CBS Radio in April 2010 as Program Director of WWFS Fresh 102.7 FM and Vice President, Adult Contemporary Programming. He was named Program Director of WCBS-FM since early 2014.

From September 1996 to April 2008, Ryan worked for iHeartMedia’s WLTW 106.7 Lite-FM. During his time at the station, Ryan programmed and served as Director of Adult Contemporary Programming, went on to become Vice President of AC Programming and was later elevated to Senior Vice President of AC Programming.

Prior to working in New York, Ryan played an instrumental role in establishing WBEB 101.1 FM in Philadelphia. Before joining CBS Radio, he was head of his own consulting company, Jim Ryan Media, where he advised many top radio stations, including market leaders in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston, and syndicated national personalities

Pete Fornatale
➦In 1969...One of the pioneers in FM Rock, Pete Fornatale started at rock WNEW 102.7 FM.

Fornatale hosted a weekly program, "Campus Caravan," on Fordham University's WFUV from 1964 to 1970. He began professionally in 1969 at WNEW-FM and also worked at WXRK. He returned to WFUV in 2001 and was heard weekly on his shows, "Mixed Bag" and "Mixed Bag Radio," which is also on XM satellite radio. He won the Armstrong Excellence in Broadcasting Award in 1983.

Fornatale died in New York City at age 66 on April 26, 2012 after suffering a brain hemorrhage.

➦In 2017...June Foray born June Lucille Forer (Died – July 26, 2017). She was a voice actress best known as the voice of such animated characters as Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Lucifer from Disney's Cinderella, Cindy Lou Who, Jokey Smurf, Granny from the Warner Bros. cartoons directed by Friz Freleng, Grammi Gummi from Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears series, and Magica De Spell, among many others.

She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame honoring her voice work in television.

After entering radio as one of the WBZA Players, Foray starred in her own radio series Lady Make Believe in the late 1930s.   She soon became a popular voice actress, with regular appearances on coast-to-coast network shows including Lux Radio Theatre and The Jimmy Durante Show.

 She was still working well into her mid-90’s.

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