Tuesday, January 12, 2021

January 12 Radio History

➦In 1925...WGBI-AM  (now WBZU) Scranton, PA signed on the frequency of 1250 kHz owned by Edward Megargee.

In 1927, the station moved to 1300 kHz which it time shared with Scranton's other radio station, WQAN (now WEJL). The two stations which were time sharing a single frequency, moved to 880 kHz in 1931,  and then again to 910 kHz by 1941 (the later move, forced by a nationwide frequency reassignment which took place in 1941). WGBI remained at 910 kHz (at 1,000 watts) when WQAN moved on to its own broadcast tower and new frequency of 630 kHz in 1948. This meant that WGBI had full-time use of the 910 kHz frequency where it remains to this day, as WBZU. WGBI was a CBS Radio network affiliated station by the 1940s.

The Megargee family's company, Scranton Broadcasters, spawned an FM station (now WGGY) and northeast Pennsylvania's second television station (now WYOU). The Megargees held on to the radio stations well into the 1990s. By the turn of the century, WGBI had been sold to Entercom and become a repeater of WILK-AM, existing mainly to improve its signal in Scranton. While WILK's daytime signal easily covers most of Scranton, the northern portion of the city only gets a grade B signal. At night, WILK-AM must power down to 1,000 watts, leaving most of Scranton with only a grade B signal.

WBZU in 2007 moved its transmitter to the tower location atop the Times Building at 149 Penn Avenue in downtown Scranton also being used by WEJL's transmitter. The full-time switch over to the new transmitter facility and tower location happened on August 2, 2007.  This tower sharing arrangement repeats an arrangement the stations shared over 60 years ago in their early history. The efficiency of the new transmitter tower location also caused WBZU to slightly reduce its power to 900 watts to keep within FCC rules on signal strength and coverage.

➦In 1926...“Sam ‘n’ Henry” debuted on Chicago’s WGN radio. When they moved crosstown to WMAQ two years later the show was renamed “Amos ‘n’ Andy” and the voices of its creators, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll played to huge depression-era audiences via NBC radio.

Although the players were white, the characters were portrayed as black. The popular radio show would attract over forty million fans at its peak during the depression. In 1943 the daily show became a weekly half-hour with an audience and supporting black actors; and in 1954 Gosden and Correll turned into Monday-through-Friday disc jockeys on the “Amos ‘n’ Andy Music Hall” with skits between records until their final sign off in 1960.

➦In 1932...columnist & future TV host Ed Sullivan joined CBS radio in a program of gossip and interviews.

➦In 1951...Rush Hudson Limbaugh IIII was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Limbugh is the most popular and most listened to conservative radio host in the United States.

Limbaugh began his career in radio as a teenager in 1967 in his hometown of Cape Girardeau, using the name Rusty Sharpe. Limbaugh graduated from Cape Girardeau, Missouri Central High School in 1969. He played football. Because of his parents' desire to see him attend college, he enrolled in Southeast Missouri State University but left the school after two semesters and one summer. According to his mother, "he flunked everything", and "he just didn't seem interested in anything except radio."

After dropping out of college, Limbaugh moved to McKeesport, PA. In 1972, he became a Top 40 music disc jockey on WIXZ, a small AM radio station that reached much of the Pittsburgh area. He started with an afternoon show and later did mornings, broadcasting under the name Jeff Christie. Limbaugh moved to Pittsburgh station KQV in 1973 as the evening disc jockey, succeeding Jim Quinn. He was fired in late-1974, when the station was sold to Taft Broadcasting.

Jeff Christie Aircheck: Click Here (courtesy of Jeff Roteman's radio website)

Limbaugh was reportedly told by management that he would never make it as on air talent, and should consider going into sales.

For the rest of the '70s, Limbaugh took jobs at several radio stations, working in music radio, before settling in Kansas City. In 1979, he left radio and accepted a position as director of promotions with the Kansas City Royals baseball team. There he developed a close friendship with then-Royals star third baseman and future Hall of Famer George Brett; the two remain close friends.

In 1984, Limbaugh returned to radio as a talk show host at KFBK-AM in Sacramento, CA, where he replaced Morton Downey, Jr.  The repeal of the Fairness Doctrine—which had required that stations provide free air time for responses to any controversial opinions that were broadcast—by the FCC in 1987 meant stations could broadcast editorial commentary without having to present opposing views.

On August 1, 1988, after achieving success in Sacramento and drawing the attention of former ABC Radio President Edward McLaughlin, Limbaugh moved to New York City and began his national radio show. He debuted just weeks after the Democratic National Convention, and just weeks before the Republican National Convention. Limbaugh's radio home in New York City was the talk-formatted WABC 770 AM.  Limbaugh now hosts from West Palm Beach.

➦In 1954...Howard Stern born in Roosevelt, New York.

Stern's Class Photo
His first on-air job in radio was WRNW in Briarcliff Manor, NY, where covered shifts in late December 1976. Stern was hired full-time, working a four-hour midday shift for six days a week on a $96 weekly salary. He subsequently became the station's production and program director for an increased salary of $250.

In 1979, Stern spotted an advertisement in Radio&Records for a "wild, fun morning guy" at rock station WCCC in Hartford, Connecticut.  He submitted a more outrageous audition tape featuring Robert Klein and Cheech and Chong records with flatulence routines and one-liners.Stern was hired.

It was at WCCC where Stern met Fred Norris, the overnight disc jockey, who has been Stern's writer and producer since 1981.  According to news reporter and author Paul Colford, Stern was influenced by listening to tapes of Steve Dahl sent from Chicago. In early 1980, Stern left WCCC after he was denied a pay increase.

On April 21, 1980  Stern began a new morning position at WWWW, a rock station in Detroit after management praised Stern's audition tape during their search for a new morning man.

Stern was determined to be more open on the air, "to cut down the barriers ... strip down all the ego ... and be totally honest" to his audience.  However, the station struggled to compete with the city's three more popular rock stations. By January 1981, when Stern's quarterly Arbitron ratings showed no signs of a strong audience, the station changed to a country music format, much to Stern's annoyance. He lasted two weeks on the air as "Hopalong Howie" before his departure.   He declined offers to work at WXRT in Chicago and CHUM in Toronto, Canada.

Following his exit from Detroit, Stern moved to Washington, DC, to host mornings at rock station WWDC on March 2, 1981.  Feeling determined to develop his show further, he looked for a co-worker with a sense of humor to riff with on news and current events. The station then paired Stern with Robin Quivers, a newscaster and consumer affairs reporter from WFBR in Baltimore.

In 1982, NBC approached Stern with an offer to work afternoons at WNBC 660 AM in NYC. After he signed a five-year contract worth $1 million in March 1982.

On April 2, 1982, NBC Magazine aired a news report on "shock radio" by Douglas Kiker that featured Stern in DC. The piece caused NBC executives to discuss the possible withdrawal of Stern's contract; however,  Stern began his afternoon program in September 1982 with management closely monitoring the show and advising Stern to avoid sexual and religious discussions.

In his first month, Stern was suspended for several days for "Virgin Mary Kong", a segment featuring a video game where a group of men pursued the Virgin Mary around a singles bar in Jerusalem. The station also installed a "dump button" that could cut Stern off the microphone should potentially offensive areas be discussed. This became the task of program director Kevin Metheny, who Stern nicknamed "Pig Virus".

In 1985, after hiring his new agent Don Buchwald, Stern signed a five-year contract with WNBC to continue his radio show. Despite management's restrictions, Stern's popularity increased.

In May 1985, Stern claimed the highest ratings at WNBC in four years with a 5.7% market share. In a sudden turn of events, Stern and Quivers were fired for what management termed "conceptual differences" regarding the show on September 30, 1985  Though Stern was not told whose decision it was, Stern believed that Thornton Bradshaw, chairman of RCA who owned WNBC, heard his "Bestiality Dial-a-Date" segment that aired ten days prior and ordered him to be fired.

Stern declined offers to work in Los Angeles, wishing to stay in New York to "kick NBC's ass".  He signed a five-year contract with Infinity Broadcasting worth an estimated $500,000 to host afternoons on its rock station WXRK from November 18, 1985.  Determined to beat Imus and WNBC in the ratings, Stern moved to the morning slot in February 1986.

The show entered national syndication on August 18 that year when WYSP in Philadelphia began to simulcast the program.

October 6, 2004, Stern announced the signing of a five-year deal with Sirius Satellite Radio, a subscription-based satellite radio service exempt from the FCC's broadcast regulations, starting in 2006. It is a move that has been regarded as the start of "a new era of radio." Stern's final live show on terrestrial airwaves aired on December 16, 2005.

➦In 1955...WTRN 1340 AM Tyrone, PA signed-on.  WTRN's beginnings were part of a boom in local radio station construction in the northern and central part of Pennsylvania that began in 1950. In 1947, Allegheny Mountain Network founder the late-Cary H. Simpson helped build WHUN, where he also would serve as program director, in his hometown of Huntingdon, PA; approximately 20 miles southeast of Tyrone in Huntingdon County. Inspired by the station's success, Simpson built the first station in his group, WKBI-AM in St. Marys, PA. As this was the very first station in his group, WKBI served as the flagship station for the other stations that Simpson would build and put on the air over the next four decades.

courtesy of radio-locator
Desiring to put a station on the air in his newly adopted hometown of Tyrone, Simpson petitioned the FCC for an AM license to be assigned to Tyrone. A construction permit was granted, and Simpson signed WTRN on the air on January 12, 1955. Simpson also successfully applied for an FM license to also be assigned to Tyrone. That station, WGMR (which was sold to Forever Broadcasting in Altoona in 2008), was granted license to operate at 101.1 FM and signed on August 15, 1961.

As WTRN was close to his home, Simpson moved AMN's corporate operations to this station. Many of AMN's properties were in communities that were large enough to make the radio business profitable, but perhaps not quite large enough to support a typical radio station's staff at the time. Thus, many duties were centralized (traffic, billing, upper management) in the Tyrone office, requiring only airstaff and sales consultants at the individual stations. This business model would start to become the accepted standard following the first round of FCC ownership limit changes that began in 1992.

In the early summer of 2009, WTRN began broadcasting in Tyrone on translator W264BZ.

➦In 1956... Frank Sinatra recorded Cole Porter’s 20-year old standard, “I’ve Got you Under My Skin.”  With Nelson Riddle’s swinging arrangement it soon became Frank’s signature song.  The recordings were made at the KHJ Studios in Hollywood.

➦In 1959... Detroit’s Berry Gordy Jr. borrowed $800 from his family to start a record label and rent an eight-room house at 2648 W. Grand Boulevard in Detroit which became known as “Hitsville USA,” the home of Motown Records. His first release, "Come To Me" by Marv Johnson on the Tamla label, came nine days later.

➦In 2003...Singer-songwriter Maurice Gibb of The Bee Gees died after having surgery for intestinal blockage at a hospital in Miami. He was 53.

Keith Jackson
➦In 2007...28-year-old Jennifer Lea Strange of Rancho Cordova, Calif. died after guzzling a large quantity of water as part of Sacramento radio station KDND-FM’s contest.

➦In 2015...Lou Miliano, an award-winning radio reporter who spent most  of his career working for New York’s WCBS 880 and CBS Radio News, died in Pinellas Park FL after  a long battle with lung cancer at age 67.

➦In 2018...Keith Jackson, widely regarded as THE voice of US college football, died at age 89. After a decade at KOMO 4 in Seattle,  Jackson began his national career in 1964 and spent some 50 years calling the action for ABC & ESPN in a folksy, down-to-earth manner that made him one of the most popular play-by-play men in the business.

  • Country singer William Lee Golden of the Oak Ridge Boys is 82. 
  • Actor Anthony Andrews is 73. 
  • Actor Kirstie Alley is 70. 
  • Radio personality Rush Limbaugh is 70. 
  • Country singer Ricky Van Shelton is 69. 
  • Radio and TV personality Howard Stern is 67. 
  • Director John Lasseter (“Toy Story,” “Cars”) is 64. 
  • News correspondent Christiane Amanpour is 63. 
  • Actor Oliver Platt is 61. 
  • Singer-director Rob Zombie is 56. 
  • Actor Olivier Martinez (“Unfaithful,” “Blood and Chocolate”) is 55. 
  • Ella Henderson is 25
    Rapper TBird of B-Rock and the Bizz is 54. 
  • Model Vendela is 54. 
  • Actor Farrah Forke (“Wings”) is 53. 
  • Actor Rachael Harris (“Lucifer”) is 53. 
  • Singer Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine is 51. 
  • Rapper Raekwon of Wu Tang Clan is 51. 
  • Actor Zabryna Guevara (“Emergence”) is 49. 
  • Singer Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay is 48. 
  • Bassist Matt Wong of Reel Big Fish is 48. 
  • Singer Melanie Chisholm (Sporty Spice) of the Spice Girls is 47. 
  • Contemporary Christian singer Jeremy Camp is 43. 
  • Singer Amerie is 41. 
  • Actor Issa Rae (“Insecure”) is 36. 
  • Singer Zayn (One Direction) is 28. 
  • Singer Ella Henderson is 25.

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