Monday, March 30, 2020

March 30 Radio History

➦In 1922...KGY-AM, Olympia, Washington, signed-on.

KGY has a long history in Olympia, going back to Saint Martin’s College (now Saint Martin’s University). It was there that Benedictine monk Father Sebastian Ruth began experimenting with radio, and when the FCC first started licensing radio stations, KGY was one of the first stations in Washington State to be licensed. “In fact, the three letter call stations are a heritage, the oldest around,” Kerry said.

In 1939 Nick Kerry’s great-grandfather Tom Olsen, an Olympia native, purchased the business. In 1960 KGY moved to its current location on Marine Drive overlooking Budd Inlet and neighbor to Swantown Marina and Hearthfire Grill.

It was built on pilings and has dramatic views of Budd Inlet and the Olympic Mountains. “This was the perfect location for an AM tower. The radials went into the saltwater which they believed created a stronger signal,” said Kerry.

Barbara Olsen Kerry ran the stations until the mid-2000s and today the family continues to remain owners, the majority of whom live in Olympia.

➦In 1922...WWL-AM, New Orleans signed-on.

Circa the '50s

After receiving permission from the Vatican, the Jesuits at Loyola University started WWL on March 31, 1922, with a piano recital and a three-minute request to listeners to support construction of a new classroom building on campus.  The advertisement above says the 10-watt transmitter was “made from $400 worth of spare parts from a Goverment War Surplus Ship.  The studio audience — 20 Loyola students —- gave a spontaneous cheer at [the] conclusion of [the] historic broadcast.”

The advertisement also claims other firsts.  For instance, the 1922 broadcast of a recording of John McCormack singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” is claimed as the first music broadcast in the South.

Over the years, WWL moved to different positions on the dial and steadily increased its power.  In 1938, WWL boosted its signal to 50,000 watts, sending the sounds of New Orleans across much of North America.

WWL became a CBS affiliate in 1935.  During World War II, Loyola University offered WWL’s facilities to train soldiers in radio operations. The station also produced wartime radio programs.  WWL again allowed the government to use its facilities in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

WWL-AM avoided the turn toward rock in the 1950s and became well known in the region for its broadcasts of local Dixieland jazz bands and big band music.  The Leon Kelner Orchestra was popular for its broadcasts from the Roosevelt Hotel’s Blue Room.  The broadcasts were heard far and wide over WWL’s 50,000-watt signal. The LPB radio history site says comment cards were received from as far away as Finland.

In 1971, the station started a long-running overnight country music show targeted at long-haul truck drivers called “The Road Gang.”

Loyola sold the WWL stations to separate companies in 1989.  WWL-AM and WLMG-FM are now owned by Entercom.-Faded Signals

➦In 1936...Backstage Wife, a soap opera radio program that details the travails of Mary Noble, a girl from a small town in Iowa who came to New York seeking her future, moved fro the Mututal Broadcasting System to NBC Radio.

Vivian Fridell had the title role from 1935 until the early 1940s. It was then taken over by Claire Niesen, who played Mary Noble for 14 years, until the end of the series. Mary's husband, Larry Noble, was portrayed by Ken Griffin, then James Meighan and finally, Guy Sorel. The music was supplied by organist Chet Kingsbury.

The program continued on for the next 23 years. Claire Niesen played the title role for the last 17 years.

➦In 1937...Charles Wesley Leonard born (Died – August 12, 2004).  Known as Chuck Leonard. he was a radio personality at 77WABC during the 1960s and 1970s. His deep voice and smoothness resonated across 38 states for 14 years at ABC.

Chuck Leonard
During his over 40-year career in broadcasting, Leonard worked virtually every shift and played all styles of music at stations including WWRL, WABC, WXLO, WRKS, WBLS, WQEW, WNSW-AM and WJUX. He has been inducted in the Museum of Television & Radio and is known as the first African-American disc jockey to work on a mainstream radio station.[1

Leonard began at ABC's flagship New York radio station, Musicradio 77WABC, under program director Rick Sklar in 1965. He broke the color barrier for all who followed — the first African-American to cross over from black R&B radio to (then-mostly white) mass-appeal radio.

Leonard began in the 11 p.m. to midnight slot, and continued working late nights and Sundays at the station until November 27, 1979. He did the 10:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. shift following “Cousin” Bruce Morrow and later George Michael.

Leonard was the host of "Sneak Preview," a five-minute Monday-through-Saturday evening program on ABC's American Contemporary Radio Network, which featured newly released songs.

➦In 1938...Bandleader Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge began a decade-long weekly run on NBC radio, which was followed by a daily series for a year on ABC.

During the late 40’s there was also a TV version on NBC.

➦In 1941...The Great AM Frequency Re-alignment.

The North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement, usually referred to as NARBA, is a treaty that took effect in March 1941 and set out an international bandplan and interference rules for mediumwave AM broadcasting in North America. NARBA accommodated much of the U.S. bandplan of 1928, with accommodation to Canada and Mexico.

Listen: A commercial explaining the changes in dial position of radio stations which took place on March 29, 1941. Click Here.

Although mostly replaced by other agreements in the 1980s, the basic bandplan of NARBA has remained to the present day. Among its major features were the extension of the broadcast band from its former limits of 550 kHz to 1500 kHz to its 1941 limits of 540 kHz to 1600 kHz to its present limits of 540 kHz to 1700 kHz and the shift of most existing AM stations' frequencies to make room for additional clear-channel station allocations for Canada and Mexico.

The agreement eventually governed AM band use in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. In accordance with the treaty, clear channel frequencies were set aside across, roughly, the lower half of the radio dial (with a few regional channels thrown in), and regional channels across, roughly, the upper half of the radio dial (with a few clear channels thrown in).

The replacement 1230, 1240, 1340, 1400, 1450, and 1490 kHz local channels (formerly 1200, 1210, 1310, 1370. 1420 and 1500 kHz) were reserved for local channel stations (these are regional channels if located outside the North American continent, in which case regional channel stations could be allocated to those channels).

The agreement also officially reduced the "same market" minimum channel spacing from 50 kHz to 40 kHz, although Mexico elected to enforce a 30 kHz "same market" channel spacing, unless such reduced spacing was in conflict with an abutting nation's "border zone" allocations, in which case 40 kHz was enforced.

It required that most existing AM stations change frequencies according to a well-defined "table", which attempted to conserve the electrical height of the extant vertical radiator(s) and thereby controlling possible interference, while resulting in a wholesale yet predictable shuffling of radio station dial positions.

There were about 100 stations which were not changed according to the "table" and in these cases every attempt was made to move an existing clear channel station to a possibly distant clear channel (and not to a regional channel) and to move an existing regional channel station to a possibly distant regional channel (and not to a clear channel); local channel stations were not moved outside of the "table" as the "table" accommodated every eventuality, including even the cases of stations on the two highest local channels, 1420 and 1500 kHz, an 80 kHz spacing, as the new "same market" spacing of 40 kHz accommodated this case (these moved stations would be allocated to 1450 and 1490 kHz, a 40 kHz spacing).

➦In 1945...the Dreft Star Playhouse aired its last episode on NBC radio. It was a  daytime radio program presenting adaptations of romantic movies in serial form. It was broadcast on NBC June 28, 1943 – March 30, 1945.  In contrast to the evening programs, which limited an adaptation of a movie to a single broadcast, The Dreft Star Playhouse presented its adaptations in the form of serials whose duration varied. Perhaps the longest was "Dark Victory," starring Gail Patrick, which "ran two months in daily quarter-hour doses."

For the prior two years the show had been paying up to $3,000 per week to attract “name” talent to the daytime quarter hour serializing movies & other stories. Dreft, the show’s sponsor, was a popular laundry detergent of the 40’s.

➦In 1946...Radio Personality Fred Winston born. Winston went to WLS in Chicago in 1971 after 3 years at KQV in Pittsburgh. Fred replaced Scotty Brink in the 3 - 6 pm shift when he first arrived at WLS. In 1972, Fred moved to the 12 - 3 pm slot when J.J. Jeffrey moved into afternoons on WLS. In 1973, Fred Winston replaced Charlie Van Dyke in morning drive. In 1976, when Larry Lujack returned to WLS, Fred moved to WFYR. Fred returned to WLS in 1983 for middays. From 1986 until the switch to talk in 1990, Fred was again the morning man at WLS.

Fred worked in Denver as well as in Omaha at KOIL,in Cleveland at WKYC, WING in Dayton,  and KQV in Pittsburgh. Fred has spent much of his career entertaining millions in Chicago. Besides WLS, Fred's Chicago credits also included at WFYR, WMAQ, WJMK, WPNT and WXXY. Fred spent a number of years doing afternoons at WJMK in Chicago before being forced out due to a format change in 2006. Fred returned to 94.7 WLS-FM for a time in 2013. He left again in April 2013. (H/T: Jeff Roteman)

➦In 1946...Academy Award, a CBS radio anthology series which presented 30-minute adaptations of plays, novels or films, first aired.

Rather than adaptations of Oscar-winning films, as the title implied, the series offered "Hollywood's finest, the great picture plays, the great actors and actresses, techniques and skills, chosen from the honor roll of those who have won or been nominated for the famous golden Oscar of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences."

With that as a guideline, any drama could be presented as long as the cast included at least one Oscar-nominated performer.

The first show featured Bette Davis, Anne Revere and Fay Bainter in Jezebel. On that first show, Jean Hersholt spoke as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, welcoming the E.R. Squibb & Sons pharmaceutical company {"The House Of Squibb"} as the program's sponsor. It was an expensive show to produce since the stars cost $4000 a week, and another $1,600 went each week to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the use of their name in the show's title.  This eventually became a factor in Squibb's decision to cancel the series after only 39 weeks.

The series ended December 18, 1946, with Margaret O'Brien and one of the series' frequent supporting players, Jeff Chandler (appearing under his real name, Ira Grossel) in Lost Angel.

Gabriel Heater
➦In 1972...Gabriel Heatter died at age 81 (Born September 17, 1890) .  He was a radio commentator whose World War II-era sign-on, "There's good news tonight", became both his catchphrase and his caricature.

The son of Jewish immigrants from Austria, Heatter was born and raised in Brooklyn. Young Heatter, who found school difficult but had a passion for reading, became a sidewalk-campaigner for William Randolph Hearst during Hearst's 1906 mayoral campaign. After his high school graduation, Heatter became a society reporter for the tiny weekly, The East New York Record before joining the Brooklyn Daily Times, which led to his being offered a job with Hearst's New York Journal.

In December 1932, he was invited by Donald Flamm, owner of New York's WMCA, to debate a Socialist on radio, and when the Socialist was unable to make the date, Heatter had the program almost to himself. His performance impressed both Flamm and listeners. A few months later, he went to work for WOR, as a reporter and commentator. His audience expanded when in 1934, WOR became the flagship station of the newest network, Mutual Broadcasting.

Heatter covered the trial of Bruno Hauptmann, the man accused of kidnapping the infant son of aviator Charles A. Lindbergh. In 1936, he had to report on Hauptmann's execution. It was delayed, forcing Heatter to continue ad-libbing while awaiting word of when it would occur. His professionalism under pressure and his ability to keep the audience informed without resorting to sensationalism earned him critical praise.

Heatter was well known for trying to find uplifting but absolutely true stories to feed his commentaries.

➦In 1985...Harold (Hal) Peary died from a heart attack at age 76 (Born - July 25, 1908).  He was an actor, comedian and singer in radio, films, television, and animation remembered best as Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve, a supporting character on radio's Fibber McGee and Molly that moved to its own radio hit, The Great Gildersleeve, the first known spinoff hit in American broadcasting history.

Hal Peary as 'The Great Gildersleeve'
Born as José Pereira de Faria in San Leandro, California, to Portuguese parents, Peary began working in local radio as early as 1923, according to his own memory, and had his own show as a singer, The Spanish Serenader, in San Francisco, but moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1937.

In Chicago he became a regular on Fibber McGee and Molly, where he originated the Gildersleeve character as a McGee neighbor and nemesis in 1938. ("You're a haaa-aa-aard man, McGee" was a famous catch-phrase.) The character actually went through several first names and occupations before settling on Throckmorton Philharmonic Gildersleeve and his ownership of the Gildersleeve Girdleworks. He also worked on the horror series Lights Out and other radio programs, but his success and popularity as Gildersleeve set the stage for the character's own program, which became the peak of his career.

Peary's Gildersleeve proved popular enough that it was thought to try the character in his own show. It premiered August 31, 1941 and became a steady hit for the rest of the decade,

➦In 1992...WNSR 105.1 FM NYC changed it scall sign to WMXV.  Today 105.1 FM is iHeartMedia's WWPR.

  • John Astin (actor, The Addams Family's Gomez Adams) (90)
  • Warren Beatty (actor, Splendor In The Grass, Bonnie & Clyde, Bugsy, Reds, Dick Tracy) (83)
  • Astrud Gilberto (singer, "The Girl From Ipanema") (80)
  • Eric Clapton (rock singer and guitarist) (75)
  • Piers Morgan (British TV personality, winner of Celebrity Apprentice in the U.S.) (55)
  • Paul Reiser (actor-comedian, Mad About You) (64, disputed)
  • Ian Ziering (actor, Steve on Beverly Hills 90210) (56)
  • Norah Jones (singer) (40)
  • Donna D'Errico (Baywatch actress and former wife of Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx) (52)
  • Tracy Chapman (singer, "Fast Car", "Give Me One Reason") (55)
  • Robbie Coltrane (actor, Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies) (70)
  • Graeme Edge (drummer, the Moody Blues) (79)
  • MC Hammer (rapper) (57)
  • Mark Consuelos (actor, husband of Kelly Ripa) (49)
  • Anna Nalick (singer, "Breathe (2 AM)") (35)

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