Saturday, August 15, 2020

August 16 Radio History

➦In 1922... WEAF NYC (now WFAN) signed-on. The station went on the air from an antenna atop the eleven-story Western Electric Building at 463 West Street.

WEAF Broadcast August 1922
The origins of WEAF go way back to 1919 when original owners, AT&T, inaugurated an experimental radio-phone station, 2XB, at 463 West St. in Manhattan.  Then, on May 18, 1922, the Commerce Department granted a license to AT&T's Western Electric subsidiary to upgrade 2XB.

Original calls, taken from an alphabetical list, were WDAM, however they were deemed too profane. On May 29, 1922, the next available calls were assigned: WEAF.

WEAF stood for "Water, Earth, Air, Fire", the four elements of matter.

On August 16, 1922, WEAF hit the air on 360 meters (or 833 AM on our present AM band.)

WEAF was the first station to offer commercials, with the Queensboro Corp, a real estate company, being its first sponsor on August 28, 1922.

During hours when they had time to fill, AT&T recruited their office personnel who could sing or play music.

In July 1926, RCA took over WEAF as the flagship for the Broadcasting Company Of America, a name soon changed to the National Broadcasting Company. The purchase price was $1 million.

On November 11, 1928, WEAF moved to 660 AM.

The move that solidified WEAF's position as the most pretigious of all broadcasters took place in the autumn of 1933, when NBC moved to 30 Rockefeller Plaza and became the "radio" that gave Radio City its name.

WEAF Transmitter 1932
In October 1943, sister station, WJZ, dropped out of the NBC Blue Network and establshed the American Broadcasting Company and eventually became WABC.

In August 1946, "Buffalo" Bob Smith began hosting WEAF's morning show, then left in 1951 to concentrate on "Howdy Doody."

Later in 1946, NBC came to an agreement with a small station in New Britain CT to relinquish that city's initials from its call letters and on November 2, 1946 at 5:30p, WEAF presented its last broadcast, entitled "Hail And Farewell," and at 6p turned into WNBC

Then on October 18, 1954, WNBC switched calls to WRCA, as a tie-in to their parent company, RCA.

On June 1, 1960, WRCA became WNBC once again.

Today, 660 AM is home to America's first all-sports station WFAN.

➦In 1937....The American Federation of Radio Artists (AFRA) was organized.

Emboldened by the National Labor Relations Act passed by Congress in 1935, radio artists from Los Angeles banded together to form the Radio Actors Guild. About the same time, Broadway actor George Heller began lobbying Actors’ Equity Association in New York for a contract protecting radio artists. This led to the creation of Radio Equity, existing under the umbrella of Actors’ Equity.

The American Federation of Radio Artists was formed, succeeding Radio Equity and the Radio Actors Guild. The Four As – the Associated Actors and Artistes of America – granted a charter to the new union, with 400 members in two locations. Chicago, the center for “soap opera” production, quickly followed New York and Los Angeles, with performers forming their own local chapter. By December 1937, AFRA had more than 2,000 members.

On July 12, 1938, with the support of radio stars Eddie Cantor, Edgar Bergen, Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, and others, AFRA members negotiated the first collectively bargained agreement on a national scale—with NBC and CBS—resulting in a wage increase of 125%. In 1939, after only two years in existence, AFRA covered 70% of live radio broadcasting through collective bargaining agreements.

In 1941, AFRA members negotiated the Transcription Code, providing for programs recorded for later broadcast, and building cost-of-living increases into contracts.

On September 17, 1952, the Television Authority and AFRA merged to create a new union, the present-day American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA).

➦In 1939...“Lights Out,” radio’s “ultimate horror show,” was heard for the last time on NBC Radio.

It returned to the air on CBS in 1942-43. The show’s most familiar trademark, guaranteed to put you under the covers on a dark night was “Lights out everybody!” followed by 12 eerie chimes of a clock.
The success of Lights Out revival was part of a trend in 1940s American radio toward more horror. Genre series like Inner Sanctum, Suspense and others drew increasingly large ratings.

➦In 1977…Elvis Aaron Presley died at age 42.  (Born January 8, 1935).  Regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King".

Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, with his family when he was 13 years old. His music career began there in 1954, recording at Sun Records with producer Sam Phillips, who wanted to bring the sound of African-American music to a wider audience.

Presley, on rhythm acoustic guitar, and accompanied by lead guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, was a pioneer of rockabilly, an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country music and rhythm and blues. In 1955, drummer D. J. Fontana joined to complete the lineup of Presley's classic quartet and RCA Victor acquired his contract in a deal arranged by Colonel Tom Parker, who would manage him for more than two decades. Presley's first RCA single, "Heartbreak Hotel", was released in January 1956 and became a number-one hit in the United States. With a series of successful network television appearances and chart-topping records, he became the leading figure of the newly popular sound of rock and roll. His energized interpretations of songs and sexually provocative performance style, combined with a singularly potent mix of influences across color lines during a transformative era in race relations, made him enormously popular—and controversial.

In November 1956, Presley made his film debut in Love Me Tender. Drafted into military service in 1958, Presley relaunched his recording career two years later with some of his most commercially successful work. He held few concerts however, and guided by Parker, proceeded to devote much of the 1960s to making Hollywood films and soundtrack albums, most of them critically derided. In 1968, following a seven-year break from live performances, he returned to the stage in the acclaimed television comeback special Elvis, which led to an extended Las Vegas concert residency and a string of highly profitable tours. In 1973, Presley gave the first concert by a solo artist to be broadcast around the world, Aloha from Hawaii. Years of prescription drug abuse severely compromised his health, and he died suddenly in 1977 at his Graceland estate at the age of 42.

Presley is the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music. He was commercially successful in many genres, including pop, country, blues, and gospel. He won three competitive Grammys,received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36, and has been inducted into multiple music halls of fame.

According to, around 2:30 on the afternoon of August 16, Elvis' girlfriend Ginger Alden was wandering around Graceland looking for Elvis. The King of Rock and Roll was supposed to be preparing to leave for his latest tour, but Alden was growing concerned, as she hadn’t seen him in a while.

Alden saw no sign of Presley until she realized his bathroom door was cracked open. She looked inside the room and, as she later recalled in her memoir, “I stood paralyzed as I took in the scene.”

According to Alden, “Elvis looked as if his entire body had completely frozen in a seated position while using the commode and then had fallen forward, in that fixed position, directly in front of it.” Alden rushed forward and detected a hint of breathing, although the singer’s “face was blotchy, with purple discoloration” and his eyes were “staring straight ahead and bloodred.”

➦In 1995...Radio personality Joseph Priestley "J-P" McCarthy died at age 62.

McCarthy was best known for his over 30 years of work as the morning man on  WJR in Detroit.

He got his first radio job at Flint radio station WTAC. While at WTAC he frequently auditioned for WJR, a leading radio station in Detroit, with a 50,000-watt clear-channel signal that could be heard in much of the Eastern United States and Canada. After frequent auditions, McCarthy was hired by WJR as a staff announcer in 1956.

The position of staff announcer was merely straight forward announcing, and McCarthy aspired to do more in radio. When Marty McNealy, the host of WJR's Morning Music Hall, left for WKMH in 1958, McCarthy was chosen to replace him. The station promoted him heavily, and he was soon the #1 rated radio show in Detroit.

WJR did not pay particularly well, and J.P. was offered the opportunity to do commercials for Stroh's, the top brewery in Detroit. Station management would not allow it, and after some discussion McCarthy left Detroit for KGO in San Francisco, where he took the morning show from #6 to #3.

In 1964, Goodwill Stations sold WJR to Capital Cities Broadcasting and the president, Dan Burke, asked station manager Jim Quello why they lost McCarthy. After explaining the situation, Quello re-recruited McCarthy to return to WJR, with a raise and the right to do commercials for anybody he wanted. J.P. returned to WJR in December 1964.

Upon his return to Detroit, McCarthy not only hosted the Morning Music Hall from 6:15 to 9, but also the Afternoon Music Hall from 3:15 to 6. Eventually, McCarthy's duties were relegated to morning drive, and a noontime interview program, "Focus". It wasn't long before McCarthy's morning show was #1 in Detroit, a perch that he held for about 30 years until his death, a feat unmatched in Detroit radio.

J. P. McCarthy was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1992, the first Detroit broadcaster to be inducted.

While at the peak of his career he contracted Myelodysplastic Syndrome, a very rare blood disease.  J.P. McCarthy died of pneumonia in his sleep on the afternoon of August 16, 1995.

➦In 2003...Radio General Manager and personality, Dick Pike, died at age 78 (Born - November 7, 1924). Pike is best known for his work at WNOP 740 AM, a 1,000-watt, jazz-formatted Radio station licensed to Newport, Kentucky, that became legendary.

Madonna is 62
  • Actor Gary Clarke (“Hondo,” ″The Virginian”) is 87. 
  • Actor Julie Newmar is 87. 
  • Actor-singer Ketty Lester (“Little House on the Prairie”) is 86. 
  • Actor Anita Gillette is 84. 
  • Actor Bob Balaban (“A Mighty Wind,” ″Best In Show”) is 75. 
  • Ballerina Suzanne Farrell is 75. 
  • Actor Lesley Ann Warren is 74. 
  • Bassist Joey Spampinato (NRBQ) is 72. 
  • Actor Marshall Manesh (“How I Met Your Mother,” ″Will and Grace”) is 70. 
  • Actor Reginald VelJohnson (“Family Matters”) is 68. 
  • TV personality Kathie Lee Gifford is 67. 
  • R-and-B singer J.T. Taylor is 67. 
  • Director James Cameron (“Titanic,” ″The Terminator”) is 66. 
  • Actor Jeff Perry (“Scandal,” ″Grey’s Anatomy”) is 65. 
  • Guitarist Tim Farriss of INXS is 63. 
  • Actor Laura Innes (“ER”) is 63. 
  • Actor Angela Bassett is 62. 
  • Singer Madonna is 62. 
  • Actor Timothy Hutton is 60. 
  • Actor Steve Carell is 58. 
  • Actor Andy Milder (“Weeds”) is 51. 
  • Actor Seth Peterson (“Burn Notice,” “Providence”) is 50. 
  • Country singer Emily Strayer of The Chicks is 48. 
  • Actor George Stults (“Seventh Heaven”) is 45. 
  • Singer Vanessa Carlton is 40. 
  • Actor Cam Gigandet (“Twilight”) is 38. 
  • Singer-guitarist Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes is 35. 
  • Actor Cristin Milioti (“How I Met Your Mother”) is 35. 
  • Actor Shawn Pyfrom (“Desperate Housewives”) is 34. 
  • Country singer Ashton Shepherd is 34. 
  • Singer Dan Smyers of Dan+Shay is 33. 
  • Actor Cameron Monaghan (“Gotham”) is 27.

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