Saturday, December 12, 2020

December 12 Radio History

➦In 1896...Guglielmo Marconi gave the first public demonstration of radio at Toynbee Hall, London.

➦In 1901...Marconi sends first Atlantic wireless transmission

Italian physicist and radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi succeeds in sending the first radio transmission across the Atlantic Ocean, disproving detractors who told him that the curvature of the earth would limit transmission to 200 miles or less.

The message--simply the Morse-code signal for the letter "s"--traveled more than 2,000 miles from Poldhu in Cornwall, England, to Signal Hill in Newfoundland, Canada.

Born in Bologna, Italy, in 1874 to an Italian father and an Irish mother, Marconi studied physics and became interested in the transmission of radio waves after learning of the experiments of the German physicist Heinrich Hertz. He began his own experiments in Bologna beginning in 1894 and soon succeeded in sending a radio signal over a distance of 1.5 miles. Receiving little encouragement for his experiments in Italy, he went to England in 1896.

He formed a wireless telegraph company and soon was sending transmissions from distances farther than 10 miles. In 1899, he succeeded in sending a transmission across the English Channel. That year, he also equipped two U.S. ships to report to New York newspapers on the progress of the America's Cup yacht race. That successful endeavor aroused widespread interest in Marconi and his wireless company.

Marconi's greatest achievement came on December 12, 1901, when he received a message sent from England at St. John's, Newfoundland. The transatlantic transmission won him worldwide fame.

Signal Hill, Newfoundland
Ironically, detractors of the project were correct when they declared that radio waves would not follow the curvature of the earth, as Marconi believed. In fact, Marconi's transatlantic radio signal had been headed into space when it was reflected off the ionosphere and bounced back down toward Canada.

Much remained to be learned about the laws of the radio wave and the role of the atmosphere in radio transmissions, and Marconi would continue to play a leading role in radio discoveries and innovations during the next three decades.

In 1909, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in physics with the German radio innovator Ferdinand Braun. After successfully sending radio transmissions from points as far away as England and Australia, Marconi turned his energy to experimenting with shorter, more powerful radio waves.

He died in 1937, and on the day of his funeral all British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) stations were silent for two minutes in tribute to his contributions to the development of radio.

➦In 1913...Longtime CBS correspondent Winston Burdett was born in Buffalo NY.  He was one of the original “Murrow’s boys” who covered Eastern Europe, North Africa and Italy during WWII and afterwards, for 22 years based in Rome. He died May 19, 1993 at age 79.

➦In 1915... Frank (Francis Albert) Sinatra was born in Hoboken, N.J.  As well as an illustrious recording & broadcast career, he won an Oscar in 1953 for his supporting role in “From Here to Eternity.” He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1965. Sinatra died May 14 1998 suffering from a combination of heart & kidney disease, and bladder cancer.  He was aged 82.

➦In 1937...the Federal Communications Commission was upset with NBC radio over a Sunday skit on the Charlie McCarthy Show that starred Mae West.

The satirical routine was based on the biblical tale of Adam and Eve and, well, it got a bit out of hand by the standards of the day. So, following the wrist-slap by the FCC, NBC banned Miss West from its airwaves for 15 years. Even the mere mention of her name on NBC was a no-no.

➦In 1957...KEX, Portland, Oregon Disc Jockey Al Priddy, was fired for playing Elvis Presley's rendition of "White Christmas." He violated the radio station's ban against the song. The station had banned Presley’s interpretations of Christmas carols.

➦In 1968...Actress Tallulah Bankhead died of pneumonia at 65.  She was hostess of NBC Radio’s 90-minute Big Show 1950-52, and the following year, was one of the rotating hosts on NBC-TV’s All-Star Revue.  Her last screen appearances were as the Black Widow on TV’s Batman in 1967.

➦In 1971...The man who headed Radio Corporation of America and put National Broadcasting Company together, David Sarnoff died at age 80.

Throughout most of his career he led the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in various capacities from shortly after its founding in 1919 until his retirement in 1970.

He ruled over an ever-growing telecommunications and consumer electronics empire that included both RCA and NBC, and became one of the largest companies in the world. Named a Reserve Brigadier General of the Signal Corps in 1945, Sarnoff thereafter was widely known as "The General."

Unlike many who were involved with early radio communications, viewing radio as point-to-point, Sarnoff saw the potential of radio as point-to-mass. One person (the broadcaster) could speak to many (the listeners).

When Owen D. Young of the General Electric Company arranged the purchase of American Marconi and turned it into the Radio Corporation of America, a radio patent monopoly, Sarnoff realized his dream and revived his proposal in a lengthy memo on the company's business and prospects. His superiors again ignored him but he contributed to the rising post-World War 1 radio boom by helping arrange for the broadcast of a heavyweight boxing match between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier in July 1921. Up to 300,000 people heard the fight, and demand for home radio equipment bloomed that winter. By the spring of 1922 Sarnoff's prediction of popular demand for broadcasting had come true, and over the next eighteen months, he gained in stature and influence.

In 1926, RCA purchased its first radio station (WEAF, New York) and launched the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), America's first radio network. Four years later, Sarnoff became president of RCA. NBC had by that time split into two networks, the Red and the Blue. The Blue Network later became ABC Radio. Sarnoff was sometimes inaccurately referred to later in his career as the founder of both RCA and NBC, but he was in fact neither.

Sarnoff was instrumental in building and established the AM broadcasting radio business which became the preeminent public radio standard for the majority of the 20th century. This was until FM broadcasting radio re-emerged in the 1960s despite Sarnoff's efforts to suppress it (following FM's initial appearance and disappearance during the 1930s and 1940s.

➦In 1993...WAQX 104.3 (Q-104) rock format replaces WNCN classic format in NYC

➦In 1995...CBC announces Radio Canada International service to end on March 31

Unkle Roger
➦In 2003...Unkle Roger McCall, a long-time personality on Classic Rock WCMF 96.5 FM, Rochester, New York, was murdered during a gunshot in a suspected robbery attempt.  His killer has never been brought to justice.

McCall was gunned down in December 2003 in his son’s driveway by “just a boy” who disappeared forever under the cover of a darkening night and a sudden snow squall — leaving behind holes in Roger’s stomach, in his family and in a wide circle of close friends, listeners and fellow musicians who knew him as Unk, Unki, Unkle Roger.

Unkle Roger was 52 and despite having a microphone in front of him for 30 years working as disc jockey for WCMF, he had a relatively well-kept secret.  Several years before he was killed, he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and was terminally ill.

➦In 2008...Chicago radio personality Spike O'Dell aired his final show on WGN 720 AM. He spent 21 years with the station, 8 of them doing mornings.

Spike O'Dell
Odell’s first radio hosting position was at WEMO-AM in East Moline at the age of 25.  While working at the factory, he disc jockeyed on weekends there as well as doing some fill-in slots. In 1977 Spike took another part-time job with WQUA radio in Moline Illinois. Following this, he obtained a full-time morning position at KSTT-AM, where he affectionately was referred to as “Spike at the Mic”. This proved to be a significant position, as it allowed O'Dell to move, in 1981, to a Major Market Morning Radio spot at WBT-AM in Charlotte, NC. After a brief stint as "morning guy," he returned to KIIK-FM. In 1987, Billboard Magazine awarded Spike “Top 40 Air Personality of the Year” in a Medium Market.

The Billboard magazine award lead to a call from then program director Dan Fabian to interview at WGN-AM in Chicago. In 1987, O'Dell was hired as the afternoon drive host for the station. Spike would go on to work 21 years at WGN. He remained at the top of the ratings in all the dayparts he hosted while at the station. O'Dell moved around a few times during his tenure at WGN, with notable stints in the afternoon, and ultimately, in the morning drive slot. The move to mornings occurred after the untimely death of then host Bob Collins.  O'Dell now enjoys spending time with his 5 grandchildren, golfing, photography, watercolor and acrylic painting, and sleeping late.

During the course of his career, he worked at:
  • 1976-1977 WEMO-AM East Moline
  • 1977-1978 WQUA Moline, IL
  • 1978-1980 KSTT-AM Davenport, IA
  • 1980-1982 WBT-AM Charlotte, NC
  • 1982-1987 KIIK-FM Davenport, IA
  • 1987 WGN-AM Chicago, IL Spike was hired as afternoon host 3-7pm and moved to mornings on February 9, 2000 after Bob Collins was killed in a plane crash.
  • 2008 Final Broadcast of “The Spike O’Dell Show” at the Metropolis Theater.

Ray Briem
➦In 2012...Ray Briem died from cancer at age 82 (Born - January 19, 1930). He was best known as an L-A personality who worked in Los Angeles most of his career, most notably at KABC.  He was noted for his conservative viewpoints, historical knowledge, polished delivery and love of Big Band music. He was especially capable of debating liberal callers and guests, but his shows were not limited to politics. He interviewed a wide range of celebrities primarily from the golden age of radio, music, movies and television. He worked the overnight shift for 27-years. He worked as a nationally syndicated host for a number of years, a time which he has recalled fondly for the variety and quality of callers.

On his overnight program he was able to persuade many news and opinion makers to stay up late, or, if on the east coast, get up early, to make appearances. A frequent guest was Howard Jarvis, the attorney and political activist, who used the show as a platform to promote California's property tax limitation initiative, Proposition 13, in 1978.

Briem received a number of honors, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

➦In 2013…TV quiz host Mac McGarry, host of "It's Academic" on Washington DC's WRC 980 AM for 50 years died of pneumonia at 87. In addition to his hosting duties in Washington, Mr. McGarry emceed the educational quiz show on NBC’s Baltimore affiliate from 1973 to 2000.

With an easy-going baritone that sounded like a throwback to the days of fedoras and big bands, Mr. McGarry thrived well into the Internet age. As host of “It’s Academic,” which launched in 1961 and became the longest-running quiz program in TV history, he liked to describe himself as the area’s most inquisitive man.

He carved a multifaceted career spanning six decades. He covered presidential inaugurations and the start of the Korean War. He also hosted a big-band radio show, was an early TV sparring partner of Willard Scott and appeared with a young Jim Henson and his Muppets.

He was working for a radio station in western Massachusetts before a Fordham classmate, the celebrated baseball announcer Vin Scully, urged him to apply for a summer announcing job at WRC-TV in 1950.  During his first five years at NBC affiliate, he was a general staff announcer, providing voice-overs for all occasions.

He covered presidential inaugurations and the start of the Korean War. He also hosted a big-band radio show, was an early TV sparring partner of Willard Scott and appeared with a young Jim Henson and his Muppets.

Among the many teenage contestants who competed for scholarship money on the Saturday program were future First Lady Hillary Rodham, Washington Post Chairman Donald E. Graham, political commentator George Stephanopoulos, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon, and actress Sandra Bullock.

Jim Lowe
➦In 2016…Jim Lowe died at age 93 (Born - May 7, 1923).  He was singer-songwriter, best known for his 1956 number-one hit song, "Green Door". He also served as a disc jockey and radio host and personality, and was considered an expert on the popular music of the 1940s and 1950s.

Born in Springfield, Missouri, he worked for several radio stations in Springfield, Indianapolis and Chicago, before moving to WCBS in New York City in 1956.

A million-seller and gold record recipient, Lowe's 1956 hit "The Green Door" was written by Marvin Moore and Bob Davie.

Lowe earlier wrote "Gambler's Guitar", a million-selling hit for Rusty Draper in 1953. His most notable run as a disc jockey was with WNEW 1130 AM in New York, from 1964. Lowe also worked at WNBC 660 AM in New York where he was heard both locally and on the coast-to-coast NBC Radio weekend program Monitor.

He retired in 2004 at the age of 81.

  • Mayim Bialik is 45
    Game show host Bob Barker is 97. 
  • Singer Connie Francis is 83. 
  • Singer Dionne Warwick is 80. 
  • Singer-guitarist Dickey Betts (Allman Brothers) is 77. 
  • Actor Wings Hauser is 73. 
  • Actor Bill Nighy (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) is 71. 
  • Actor Duane Chase (“The Sound of Music”) is 70. 
  • Country singer La Costa is 70. 
  • Actor Cathy Rigby is 68. 
  • Singer-percussionist Sheila E. is 63. 
  • Actor Sheree J. Wilson (“Walker, Texas Ranger,” ″Dallas”) is 62. 
  • Guitarist Eric Schenkman of Spin Doctors is 57. 
  • Bassist Nicholas Dimichino of Nine Days is 53. 
  • Actor Jennifer Connelly is 50. 
  • Actor Madchen Amick (“My Own Worst Enemy,” ″Twin Peaks”) is 50. 
  • Actor Regina Hall is 50. 
  • Actor Mayim Bialik (“The Big Bang Theory,” ″Blossom”) is 45. 
  • Actor Lucas Hedges (“Boy Erased,” ″Manchester by the Sea”) is 24. 
  • Actor Sky Katz (“Raven’s Home”) is 16.

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